Tags: atmedia

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Hot topics, transcribed

As ever, I had a lot of fun moderating the hot topics panel at this year’s Web Directions @media in London. Thanks to all of you who left questions on my blog post.

I had a great line-up of panelists:

We discussed publishing, mobile, browsers, clients and much much more. The audio is available for your huffduffing pleasure and I’ve had it transcribed. I’ve published the transcription over in the articles section of this site, so if you prefer reading to listening, I direct your attention to:

Web Directions @media 2011 Hot Topics Panel

Web Directions @media 2011: Jeremy Keith — Panel: Hot Topics on Huffduffer

Newcastling

Usually when I go to a conference it involves crossing a body of water to arrive on foreign shores, often in Europe or America. But the last two events I attended were much closer to home.

Two weeks ago there was Web Directions @media in London. Thank you to everyone who provided questions for the Hot Topics Panel. It went swimmingly, thanks to the eloquence and knowledge of the panelists: Brian, Relly, Bruce and Douglas Fucking Crockford. There was a surprising lack of contentiousness on the panel but I made up for it by arguing with the audience instead. Once the audio is available I’ll be sure to get it transcribed like I did last year.

I just got back from another conference that didn’t involve crossing any international boundaries: DIBI in Newcastle.

Tyneside

It was an excellent event …with just one exception. It bills itself as “the two-track web conference” and that’s the problem. As with Web Directions, I found myself torn between the “design” and “development” talks (a fairly arbitrary distinction for me). The first thing I had to do was choose between Yaili in one room and Jake in another. An impossible choice! I went for Jake in the end and he was absolutely bloody brilliant (as usual) but I’m sure Yaili’s talk was also excellent …and I missed it.

Apart from that heavy dose of FOMO it really was superb. The venue was gorgeous, the quality of the talks was really, really high, the attendees were super friendly and the organisers did a fantastic job of looking after everyone and making sure everything ran like clockwork. I doff my hat to Gavin and his gang.

Jake Mike Faruk Brian Jared Jeffrey

I was nervous about my talk. It was material I hadn’t presented before. But once I got on stage I just reverted to ranting, which people seemed to enjoy. I had fun anyway. Again, once the audio or video is available I’ll be sure to get it transcribed.

It was also my first time in Newcastle …or Gateshead, whichever. It was certainly showing its best side. It really is quite a lovely place.

My next destination is bit further afield. I’m off to Atlanta for An Event Apart which kicks off on Monday. If you’re going too, be sure to say hello.

Topically hot

I’m heading up to London for the next few days to soak up all the knowledge being distributed at this year’s Web Directions @media. I wish it weren’t a double-track conference—no-one should have to choose between Lea Verou and Douglas Crockford—but I’ll be doing my best to maximise my knowledge acquisition while fending off feelings of FOMO.

As well as attending, I’m also going to be facilitating. So I’m not just going there as an fomo-ing attendee; I’m also going to be a mofo-ing facilitator.

Yes, it’s that grand ol’ @media institution: The Hot Topics Panel (sszzz!):

A popular @media tradition, hosted by Jeremy Keith, the final session for day one will feature a selection of speakers discussing questions posed by conference attendees. A lively conversation and some passionate debate will occur, so bring along your questions and enjoy the robust discussion.

Last year’s panel was a blast. Now I am rubbing my hands in gleeful anticipation. I get to play Wogan again. I have no idea who I’ll pulling up on stage but I’ve quite a stellar list to choose from.

I also have no idea what we’ll be discussing/debating/arguing/quibbling about but I hope that by the time the panel actually starts I will have amassed some suggestions. Conference attendees can provide burning questions on the day, through whatever medium they choose; a tweet, a scrap of paper, a sandwich board.

I’d like to get a head-start on gauging the relative mean temperature of various topics. After all, the nature of the topics should probably influence my decision about who to coerce into getting up on stage with me.

That’s where you come in. What burning web design and development topics are keeping you awake? Is there something that really grinds your gears? Vent for me. Vent into my comment form.

(Yes, comments are open. No, you shouldn’t just write “First!”)

Londoning

The @media conference has been a constant star in the UK web standards community since 2005. This year, the baton was smoothly passed to those awesome aussies, John and Maxine of Web Directions, creating the hybridly-titled Web Directions @media that took place in London last week.

Before the conference proper, there were two days of workshops in the Hogwartsian location of the superbly-named Goodenough College. I spent a day on Getting semantic with microformats and HTML5. I think it went pretty well. I came to the conclusion that it’s easier to explain everything about microformats than to explain the new outline algorithm in HTML5. Luckily everyone had pocket books on hand. It took quite a while to fold them all but I think they helped.

The conference itself was of the usual high standards, although there was only so much I could see, given its dual-track nature. Everything was recorded though so the podcast will help take the sting out.

For my part, I moderated the now-traditional Hot Topics panel. It wasn’t quite as controversial as recent years but it was a thoroughly enjoyable discussion. My heartfelt thanks to the panelists, John, Hannah, Simon and Christian.

Now I’m back in Brighton but I’ll be heading back up to London on the weekend for Science Hack Day. It’s all set to be an excellent event. All of the requisite pieces are in place: bandwidth, food, drink, prizes, and plenty of smart people in a superb venue. If you haven’t added your name to the list of who’s coming, do it now.

Keep an eye on the website for more details in the run-up to the weekend—subscribe to the RSS feed. You can also follow @sciencehackday on Twitter but then you won’t get all the juicy details about playing with pollution data, documenting fictional APIs and developing synthetic biology.

T minus five days. I’ll see you on the launch pad.

June

by Camper Van Beethoven—one of my all-time favourite albums—features the song June wherein David Lowery asks:

Are you weary of the lengthening days?
Do you secretly wish for November’s rain?

Not in the least, David, not in the least. In fact, I’m really looking forward to June, both for its lengthening days and its avalanche of geeky goodness. To whit:

Web Directions @media comes to London from June 8th to 11th. It is pretty much guaranteed to be awesome.

I’ll be fanning the flames once again for the Hot Topics panel. I’ll also be running a workshop on getting Semantic with microformats and HTML5. I love the fact that there are two workshops on HTML5 and yet there’s absolutely no overlap between the two—I’ll leave you to decide whether that’s a testament to the breadth of the HTML5 spec or an indication of just how much is encompassed by the word ‘HTML5’.

The price for the conference goes up on May 15th so you’d better get in there and grab a ticket now if you haven’t already. And just between you and me, if you use the promo code KEITH then you can get a whole hundred squid off the asking price.

If you’re already in London for @media Web Directions, consider sticking around that weekend for the BarCamp. Nothing has been announced other than the dates but .

A week later, on June 19th, is when the geekery really hits the fan: Science Hack Day at The Guardian offices in London! If you haven’t already done so, add your name to the list of potential attendees. Trust me: you won’t want to miss this.

Needless to say, I’ll be updating both here and on the wiki as the event comes together. And it is coming together very nicely: we have a great venue, we have plenty of bandwidth, and we have lots of interested geeks, hackers and programmers. The only thing I need to make sure I can get covered is the hackfuel: food and drink.

The total cost for food and drink will probably be somewhere between £2,000 and £3,000 but I’m hoping to spread that cost amongst a bunch of sponsors. I think £500 should be a nice sweet spot for sponsorship.

If you work for someone—or know of someone—that wants to support a fine event such as Science Hack Day and would consider £500 a small price to pay for the resulting , please get in touch and let me know.

Thatmedia 2009

It’s been a great month for conferences; UX London, An Event Apart in Boston, and wrapping it all up, @media 2009.

The two day event was filled with great talks. The first day was filled with design-led topics and the second had more of a developer-based approach. You can check out Colly’s slides and Malarkey has published the slides and words from his talk called Walls Come Tumbling Down.

The conference finished with the traditional hot topics panel, moderated by yours truly. My guests were Jason Santa Maria, Jon Hicks, Douglas Crockford and Chris Wilson. They were wonderful. Thanks to them, I had a really enjoyable time debating the burning issues of the day, like HTML5 and @font-face. I thank them sincerely for being such gracious panellists, stoicly enduring my snarky barbs.

This year’s @media had a similar feeling to the very first event back in 2005. But this year’s @media has one distinguishing characteristic; it is the last one being organised by Patrick. Never fear! The conference isn’t going to go away. Far from it. My splendid friends at Web Directions will be running @media next year, ensuring that the high standard of the conference will be maintained.

Thank you Patrick, not just for @media 2009 but for all the work you’ve put into this annual London geekgasm.

From Boston to London

The second day of An Event Apart in Boston kept up the excellent standard of the first day. Alas, I couldn’t keep the liveblogging up for two straight days …I blame the Media Temple opening party.

Other attendees were far more motivated than I. There’s the Django app A Feed Apart that collates Twitter and Flickr posts from the conference. Then there’s the very cute A Seat Apart which allowed attendees to point out their place in the seating arrangement. In fact, all the attendees I met at the event were an exceptionally enthusiastic and lovely bunch.

The content was, of course, superb; Zeldman, Heather, Derek, Dan, Aarron and Scott all gave superbly inspiring talks. The event closed with Malarkey giving a rousing talk wherein he backed up the assertion already made by myself and Dan that no, for fuck’s sake, websites do not need to look the same in every browser!

That was certainly an emerging hot topic at An Event Apart. Now I’m in London for @media 2009, where it is beholden upon me to track the hot topics for the closing panel. So far, from an excellent first day, the topics I’m seeing are:

  • Process
  • Icons and metaphor
  • @font-family

And that’s just after one day of design-related talks. There’s a whole swathe of developer-focused hot topics still to come. I’m riding a wave of inspiration from two back-to-back conferences; I hope I can harness some of that energy in the closing panel.

June

This is a busy month for conferences.

UX London just wrapped up. I went along on Monday to listen to the stellar line-up of speakers before the subsequent two days of workshops kicked off. It was, as expected, fantastic. Judging from the scuttlebutt on Twitter, a good time was had by all for three straight days.

I had an all-too brief chat with Jared but I knew I’d be seeing him again soon. We’re both going to be speaking at . See you next week in Boston, I said.

The last time I was in Boston was back in November for Jared’s UI13 conference. I had a great time. Boston is definitely my kind of town. But then, as an Irishman, I would say that.

I’ll be bringing my mandolin along with me but I don’t know if I’ll be brave enough to actually play at any of the sessions. Still, if you live in Boston and fancy meeting up for a pint and a tune, let me know. If you don’t live in Boston but you’ll be attending an An Event Apart, then a Sam Adams or two is definitely on the cards.

I’m excited but nervous. Excited because An Event Apart is always such a great, great conference with excellent speakers. Nervous because… well, it’s a great, great conference with excellent speakers. The bar is set very high. I’ve been agonising over my talk—entitled Future Shock Treatment—and I keep vacillating between thinking it’s going to be quite good and thinking that it’s going to completely suck. I guess there’s only one way to find out for sure.

Once An Event Apart finishes, I’ll be heading back across the Atlantic to London …like, literally the moment that An Event Apart finishes. That’s because I need to get straight back for which starts right after An Event Apart. And I won’t be alone. Stan and Malarkey will be on the same flight, winging their way from Massachusetts to Blightly to reprise their talks.

For my part, I’ll be moderating the closing Hot Topics panel. I am rubbing my hands in gleeful anticipation. I love moderating panels. I get real kick out of being the .

See you in Boston, London, or wherever else I happen to end up this month.

Rambling

One of my resolutions for this year (and the year before) is to try reduce the amount of jet fuel I’m responsible for pumping into the atmosphere. So far, my speaking schedule for the year looks reasonably in-keeping for that aim.

Next month I will be flying to Austin for South by Southwest. I wouldn’t miss that for anything. Like last year, my plan was to go but not speak. Like last year, that plan has changed. Tantek asked me to join him on his microformats panel to talk about some of the things I’ve been doing on Huffduffer.

I can’t resist the opportunity to ramble on about my newest toy. I’ll be blabbing on about Huffduffer closer to home when I give a talk here in Brighton on the third of March at £5 App. The last £5 App event was amazing, featuring a crowdsourced adventure game, fighting sumo robots, duelling bluetooth phone lightsabres, and augmented Christmas reality.

When I get back from Southby, I’ll be popping over to Frankfurt at the end of March for the European Accessibility Forum where I’ll be wearing my moderator hat for a panel on accessible web applications.

In April I don’t even have to leave the country. I’ll be speaking at an inaugural grassroots event called Bamboo Juice down at the Eden Project in Cornwall. What a great location for a geek gathering! And the event is priced at a very affordable 99 quid too.

June is when things get a little crazy. First of all, there’s UX London in the middle of the month. I won’t be speaking but I will be helping out and doing my bit to make sure that everything goes smoothly. I’m excited, and slightly intimidated, to be involved in such an intense, intimate three-day event. If you’re thinking about going, I suggest you sign up by February 25th, when the early bird pricing ends.

Shortly after UX London, I’ll be popping over to Boston to speak at An Event Apart, a conference where the bar is set scarily high. I’m already panicking about meeting the event’s very high standards.

Then, literally right after that I’ll be going straight back to London for @media. I’ll be fulfilling my now-traditional duty as moderator of the closing hot topics panel—always a good opportunity for some mischievous fun.

I know that looks like quite a hectic schedule but compared to last year, it’s positively relaxed. And most of those events are reachable by train rather than plane.

I do have one other long-distance flight lined up but it’s for pleasure, not business. Tomorrow Jessica and I are flying to Seattle. It’s going to be a short trip but I hope to meet up with some of my Seattle-ite buddies while I’m there. Get in touch if you’re going to be around.

Thatmedia Ajax

The @media Ajax conference has wrapped up in London and a most excellent gathering it was. Kudos to Patrick and his orange-clad helpers for putting together a schedule filled with excellent presentations. I’ve written up individual summaries of day one and day two on the DOM Scripting blog.

The closing “hot topics” panel went pretty well. I could really get used to this moderation business. Instead of agonising over slides for days and weeks in advance of the conference, my preparation consisted of chatting with my fellow attendees in the pub to find out what questions they wanted answered. Seeing as beer-lubricated discourse is my favourite activity at any geek gathering, I didn’t have to modify my existing behaviour.

I did feel somewhat out of my depth on stage with the likes of Brendan Eich and Douglas Crockford. I hope I didn’t make too much of an idiot of myself.

All the presentations were recorded and a podcast will be available soon. As usual, I’ll transcribe the panel I moderated and post it with the other articles.

Local activity

It’s been a busy few days for geeks gatherings here in Brighton.

On Thursday, I was too knackered from band practice to make it along to the Brighton Web Awards (part of the Digital Festival) so I missed seeing my Clearleft cohort Sophie win the award for best blog. Mazel tov!

The next day at the Clearleft HQ was spent trying not to let slip to Paul that a surprise birthday party was being planned for him. Said party was a most enjoyable affair. I think I enjoyed myself a little too much because I’ve spent most of the subsequent day nursing a sore head. That’s why I didn’t make it along to the local Hack Day.

Now I’m going to leave my seaside town for a few days. I’ll be up in London for on Monday and Tuesday. I’m very much looking forward to seeing Derek, John and all the other geniuses who will be in town. I’ll be moderating the conference’s closing panel. If you have any ideas about what I should be asking the panelists, leave a comment over on the DOM Scripting blog.

Hot topics transcribed

If you cast your browser over to the articles section you’ll find the latest conference transcript. This time it’s the Hot Topics Panel from @media 2007 in London.

I had a lot of fun moderating the panel with Joe, Dan, Drew and Richard. I still wish there was a recording of the Hot Topics panel in San Francisco with Joe, Tantek, Andy and Cameron—that one has a special place in my memory.

As usual I used Casting Words to get the initial transcript done. The quality wasn’t too bad. I still had to do some tweaking to correct misheard words and misattributed sentences. The real problem was how long the transcription took. Casting Words gives a rough delivery time of 7 to 14 days but this one took closer to a month. They do offer a faster but much more expensive expedited service. I hope that the long wait for the normal service isn’t intended as an incentive to push the expedited service.

Don’t forget that the RSS feed of the articles section doubles up as a podcast so you can subscribe with iTunes and take the original recordings with you on your iPod. If you want to check the accuracy of the finished article, you can always listen along to the mp3. Curiously, Joe’s announcement of his retirement from Web accessibility doesn’t make an appearance.

Bedrolling

One of the great things about having an international event like @media taking place in London is that I get to see so many of my North American friends without having to cross the Atlantic. I made the most of the opportunity to hang out with Dan, Tantek and Shawn while they were in town. I even went so far as to abduct Jason and Joe and bring them down to Brighton.

Before bundling them on a coastbound train, Jessica and I showed them the treasures of the British Library, a collection to warm the heart of any typography geek. We browsed through documents ancient and new, peering at the letters written down for posterity (Scott’s journal always give me the heebie-jeebies, opened as it is on the last page which reads “For God’s sake look after our people.”)

Once we reached my adopted hometown, they engaged in all the usual tourist activities, mostly involving tea and beachfront promenading. Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t convince Jason to try jellied eels.

I have a tradition here at adactio.com. Whenever I have a guest over, I add them to my bedroll; kind of like a blogroll but with a higher barrier to entry. Needless to say, this bedroll is marked up with XFN to describe my relationships to each guest, and hCard to supply contact information.

Usually when I mark up somebody’s name, I can use fn optimisation, like this:

<li class="vcard">
<a rel="friend met colleague"
href="http://joeclark.org/" class="fn url">
Joe Clark
</a>
</li>

Technically speaking, the n property is required in a vcard (and hCard is a 1:1 representation of vcard) but when fn is applied to a string like this, parsers can assume that the string before the space is the given name (Joe) and that the string after the space is the family name (Clark). This pattern fits the 80/20 rule pretty well: it works for about 80% of use-cases. There is an implied n value.

This will work as long as there is a string with a single space in the middle of it. Jason’s name throws up an interesting case. There are two spaces in “Jason Santa Maria.” How should parsers interpret this? Is it safe to assume that “Santa” is a middle name? Clearly not in this case.

So I have to explicitly mark up Jason’s given and family name like this:

<li class="vcard">
<a rel="friend met colleague"
href="http://jasonsantamaria.com/" class="n url">
<span class="given-name">Jason</span>
<span class="family-name">Santa Maria</span>
</a>
</li>

Mind you, “Jason Santa Maria” is his formatted name so I can still add the fn value:

<li class="vcard">
<a rel="friend met colleague"
href="http://jasonsantamaria.com/" class="fn n url">
<span class="given-name">Jason</span>
<span class="family-name">Santa Maria</span>
</a>
</li>

Jason has one of those double-worded family names, like Thomas Vander Wal. But it’s completely different to other three-word names such as “Mark Norman Francis”:

<li class="vcard">
<a rel="friend met colleague"
href="http://cackhanded.net/" class="fn n url">
<span class="given-name">Mark</span>
<span class="additional-name">Norman</span>
<span class="family-name">Francis</span>
</a>
</lI>

See, Norm!’s middle name is defined as additional-name.

hCard still has enough semantic richness for me to add Jason’s middle name—which I happen to know is “Andrew”—should I wish to:

<li class="vcard">
<a rel="friend met colleague"
href="http://jasonsantamaria.com/" class="fn n url">
<span class="given-name">Jason</span>
<span class="additional-name">Andrew</span>
<span class="family-name">Santa Maria</span>
</a>
</li>

So hCard scales up pretty well to some edge-case scenarios. That said, there is no confirmation-name property so I can’t easily add that particular bit of extra information. Jason’s confirmation name is… Andrew.

That’s right: his full name is Jason Andrew Andrew Santa Maria.

See, it’s traditional at confirmation time to choose a new middle name. But Jason obviously felt that he had enough words in his name. So his logic runs like this… “If, for my confirmation name, I choose the name Andrew—which is already my middle name—then it won’t actually count as a new name.” Alas, the system doesn’t quite work that way. And so Jason ended up with the same name (Andrew) repeated twice in the middle of his name.

I suppose I could double up both Andrews into a singe additional-name field like this:

<li class="vcard">
<a rel="friend met colleague"
href="http://jasonsantamaria.com/" class="fn n url">
<span class="given-name">Jason</span>
<span class="additional-name">Andrew Andrew</span>
<span class="family-name">Santa Maria</span>
</a>
</li>

But that’s probably overkill and anyway, Jason probably doesn’t want to broadcast his full, somewhat repetitive name. So it’s probably best if I don’t even mention the whole “Andrew Andrew” thing. Forget I ever said it.

In any case, it’s my pleasure to add Stan to the bedroll. Joe was already on there: he has the distinction of being the only one to have stayed over at my previous flat as well as my current abode.

I wonder if I should make the bedroll more like a tag cloud: the more often you stay, the larger your name appears. Brian, Joe and Norm!—all of whom have stayed more than once—would then all appear in a larger font size while Elsa—who just napped on the sofa—would be rendered smaller.

Nah… silly idea. But I will keep the bedroll going when I move into my next flat which hopefully won’t be too traumatic a move. I’ll be looking at some more potential properties tomorrow. Wherever I lay my sofa-bed—and unfold it when my fellow geeks come to visit—hat’s my home.

That media

@media Europe is all wrapped up. And a very fun experience it was too.

The high standard set at @media America was maintained for the British version. Mind you, I did find the double-track programme a little off-putting. I think that the San Francisco event had more of a communal feel. Of course, that could be down to its more intimate nature—150 people instead of 700—but the fact that everyone was seeing the same presentations meant that everyone had plenty in common. When a conference is split over multiple tracks, there’s an inevitable corresponding fracture in the audience too.

As far as audiences go, the @media crowd may have been fractured into designer and developer factions but there’s no escaping the fact that these people are savvy… really savvy. They know their stuff when it comes to web standards and accessibility. I’m sure I was teaching grandma to suck eggs but I addressed the issue of Ajax, specifically Bulletproof Ajax (Hijax in other words). It seemed to go over pretty well. The fact that the material had already been road-tested in San Francisco probably helped. If you’re curious, you can see the slides (PDF). Once the podcast is ready, I’ll get the audio transcribed.

My duties weren’t done when my presentation was finished. As with the American leg of @media, I had the pleasure of moderating the hot topics panel that traditionally closes the show. I had been really looking forward to this and putting a lot of thought into which of my fellow speakers should be in the line-up. I definitely wanted Joe: he’s like Statler and Waldorf rolled into one. I also really wanted to have Hannah Donovan on board. I thought it would be great to have someone who isn’t so well known on the speaker circuit fielding questions—especially someone so passionate and entertaining.

Well, Patrick wasn’t having any of it. Despite my strong protestations, he insisted on a more well-known constellation of panelists. I pointed out that this meant that the resulting panel would be a very homogenously male affair but he said he accepted full responsibility for that.

Well, alrighty then. If he was willing to stand behind that decision then I made sure to let everyone know that they could direct all queries about the all-male line-up to PTG.

Afterwards, a lot of people—including Patrick—told me that they thought I was being a bit harsh. Well, I’ll probably never get asked back to speak at @media again but feck it… I’ve had enough of the same heads talking at every conference (yeah, I know that’s rich coming from me).

But just let me have my little rant…

I’m not suggesting that someone should speak “just because they’re a woman”—that would be tokenism and we can all agree that that is a bad idea. But I think that diversity can be a factor in choosing speakers.

It’s naive to suggest that choosing a line-up for a conference is as simple as just getting the best possible speakers. It’s more complicated than that. The truth is that many factors go into the choice of speakers. For instance…

  • How good is this person at public speaking?
  • Is the subject matter relevant?
  • Did this person speak recently in the same geographical area?
  • How far would they have to travel to get here?

All of these questions are addressed in the choice of any speaker for any conference. All I’m suggesting is that the diversity question be just one more to add to the list. So that’s a far cry from suggesting that anybody should be chosen purely based on gender alone, okay?

Anyway… I wanted Hannah on the panel ‘cause she kicks ass and she deserves a wider audience. Still, the final line-up of the panel—Joe Clark, Richard Ishida, Dan Cederholm and Drew McLellan—was pretty darn stellar. We had a lot of fun; fun that was lubricated with the addition of a long-overdue bottle of wine I got for Dan to thank him for the use of the word “bulletproof.”

Again, once the podcast is available, you’ll be able to hear it for yourself and yes, I will get it transcribed.

As usual, the social events were the real highlight of the conference. I had a blast meeting up with old acquaintances and meeting new people over a beer or two. ‘Twas a pleasure to converse with such knowledgable and friendly peers.

Update I think I need to clarify why I had my little rant here. I’m not trying to pick on Patrick: Patrick put on a kick-ass conference featuring such kick-ass female speakers as Molly Holzschlag, Shawn Lawton-Henry and, of course, Hannah Donovan. My rant is aimed is at all the people who came up to me in the pub afterwards and accused me of wanting Hannah on the panel just because she’s a woman. That’s not the case at all, hence my explanation above (which I’ve broadened out to a wider defense of factoring in diversity as opposed to choosing speakers just because of anything).

I’m probably conflating two different rants here: lack of female speakers and lack of new faces. But let me make it clear again that Patrick specifically told me that he would take full responsibility for the all-male line-up of the panel: that’s why I mentioned it (and, no doubt, embarrassed him) at the beginning of the panel. Frankly, I thought it was very brave of Patrick.

Anyway, for those of you think I’m bashing Patrick, I’m not… or at least that’s not my intention. I’m bashing all the people who think that factoring in gender into a conference or panel line-up is immediately equal to tokenism. I hope now I’ve made that clear.

In any case, the hot topics panel and the whole conference was a roaring success. Yeah, I know this post sounded like I’m a real nitpicker but that wasn’t my intention. I just wanted to clarify my comments and my feeling about diversity… feelings for which I make no apology.

So I tried to make a well-meaning point but I got misread as simply being mean. Damn. I’ve been hanging out with Joe too much.

Settling down

As you may have noticed, I’ve been doing a lot of travelling recently. In the space of one month I’ve been to Paris (for XTech), San Francisco (for @media America) and Copenhagen (for Reboot). I’ve had a lot of fun but I could do with a rest now.

I was looking forward to spending June and July relaxing in Brighton. I figured I could finally get ‘round to doing all those things that I just haven’t had time for. Maybe I could dust off the bike or just spend time out in the sunshine somewhere far away from airports.

That was the plan. But that plan was dealt a deathly blow when I arrived home from work the other day to find a letter from my landlord waiting for me. Jessica and I have been given two months to move out of the flat that we both love so much. I’ve been through the various stages of grief—denial, anger, etc.—and now I’ve reached acceptance. I’m just going to have to accept that I’ll be spending my Summer trying to find somewhere to live, doing all the necessary paperwork, and packing my worldly belongings into boxes.

On the plus side, at least I won’t be skipping out to go to any conferences in distant locations (I was going to be speaking at an event in Seville but that’s fallen through). I am speaking at one more conference but it’s mercifully nearby: I’m at the European leg of the @media roadshow in London.

The shoe is on the other foot now. All the North American speakers are wandering around in a jet-lagged daze, complaining about the time difference. All I had to do was hop on a train from Brighton to London.

As with the American edition, @media Europe kicked off with Jesse James Garrett delivering a keynote entitled Beyond Ajax. He managed to resist the urge to expose himself this time.

A lot of the talks here in London will be ones that I’ve already heard in San Francisco. I was originally going to do a different talk but, at Patrick’s request, I’m repeating the Bulletproof Ajax presentation. I’m not complaining. It means less work for me and I’m guessing there won’t be too many people here who were also in San Francisco.

This is a double-track conference. I was hoping that I would be going head-to-head with one of the other San Francisco presenters so that I wouldn’t feel like I was missing anything new. But fate and the schedule has conspired against me. I’m going to be up against a double-whammy presentation from the awesome Hannah Donovan of Last.fm and the ever-entertaining Simon Willison who seems to be able to naturally synthesise amphetimines when he’s on stage.

@media San Francisco 2007

Before this week, Jesse James Garrett was known for many things. His name was associated a style of diagrams, a book about The Elements of User Experience, and of course he coined the term Ajax. But from on, the name Jesse James Garrett will remind me of just one thing.

He opened up proceedings at @media here in San Francisco. I was sitting in the front row next to Joe. Joe leaned over and said “His fly is open.” My immediate thought was “I must Twitter this.” My second thought was “How am I going to subtly let Jesse know.” Joe solved that dilemma by simply declaring for all to hear, “Jesse, your fly is undone.”

Surely that must be a nightmare scenario for any speaker. Now that Jesse has lived the dream and played out the scenario, I feel it only fair to we commemorate and honour that contribution. From now on, if you hear my refer to someone doing a JJG, you’ll know what I mean.

Having recovered from his wardrobe malfunction, Jesse proceeded to deliver a superb and inspiring presentation. Amazingly, the high quality set by his talk was maintained for the entire conference (only plunging when I took to the stage).

Seriously, the quality of the presentations was staggeringly good, not just in times of subject matter but also delivery and execution. I would be very, very hard-pressed to choose a favourite though I probably got the most from Richard Ishida’s eye-opening discussion of internationalisation issues (a thread that ran through a number of presentations).

The real highlight of the conference program for me was undoubably the closing hot topics panel. Once again I had the privilege of playing Letterman to a stellar line of panelists: Joe Clark, Cameron Moll, Andy Clarke and Tantek Çelik. Boy, did they ever deliver the goods! The tone veered from comedy to tragedy with everything in-between By the end of an hour that passed by far too quickly, I felt that I had been party to something very special.

I thanked all the panelists afterwards but I just want to do it again in public so… thank you guys.

Sliding away

A few people have asked me lately if I could send them the slides from presentations I’ve given. I’m more than happy to pass on the slides but I feel I have to add a big caveat: they don’t make much sense out of context. With that said, here are some PDFs exported from Keynote (and despite Joe’s feelings on the matter, all of these presentations are licensed under a Creative Commons attribution license):

I’ve found myself developing a certain style in my presentation slides. I avoid bullet points like the plague. Often the most effective slides are the ones with a single word or image.

Something else that you don’t get from the PDFs is the arrow of the time. I like to gradually layer up my slides rather than presenting everything at once. I like the way that Keynote allows me to introduce words as I’m introducing ideas. I only ever use one transition: dissolve. I find it has a soothing feel to it.

I’ve also found myself using typography to communicate. The position, relative size and colour of the words can really help to explain a concept. Combined with the disolve effect, that’s pretty much all I need. I’ll throw in the occasional image where necessary (usually gleaned from the advanced search on Flickr where I can specify Creative Commons licensed content) but mostly I stick to the same formula: large greyscale tightly-kerned bold Helvetica Neue.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of speaking lately and there’s a fair bit still to come. Whenever I’m asked to speak on a subject that I’ve spoken about in the past, I’m perched on the horns of a dilemma. Should I create an entirely new presentation or should I recycle old material?

I don’t like the idea of giving the same presentation more than once. At the same time, if I know from experience that I can make a point clearly, shouldn’t I go ahead and do that even if it means repeating something from an earlier presentation?

Usually, I compromise. I recycle some tried and tested parts of previous presentations but add something new. It all depends on the circumstances: if I’m being paid well to deliver a presentation, then I feel obligated to come up with something entirely original… though I’ll still end up recycling a good slide or two if I know they’ll work well. But it’s important to remember that the payment for speaking is not just for the 45 or 60 minutes that you’re on stage: it’s for all the preparation time too.

Next week, I’ll be in San Francisco for @media America. The subject of my talk is Bulletproof Ajax—a topic on which I’ve presented many times before. This conference is being run on a fairly tight budget so I don’t feel obliged to come up with an entirely original talk. At the same time, I don’t want to repeat verbatim a talk I’ve given in the past. In this age of podcasts—and I try actively to transcribe as many as I can—I don’t want any audience member to think “Hey, this sounds kinda familiar.” But without the financial renumeration required for an entirely new talk, what’s a speaker to do?

In the end, as always, the final result is compromise. Some of the material I’ll be presenting in San Francisco will be new but some of it will be road-tested. I’m fairly confident that hardly anybody in the audience will have seen me present this stuff before but I still can’t help feel a pang of guilt.

But, y’know, the real reason why I’m out there talking about Ajax or microformats or whatever, is because I want the message to reach as many people as possible. Sometimes that means that I have to repeat myself. I feel bad about that. But even in this connected age, a certain amount of redunancy is probably inevitable.

Anyway, I’ve more or less got my slides ready for @media America. I’ve still got a few days to agonise over them so maybe they will change drastically before the day of the presentation dawns. Right now, I should probably prepare for my trip from England to California. An eleven our flight in the economy class belly of a United Airlines flight awaits. Tomorrow I’ll get the hellbus to Heathrow where I can try asking “I can has bulkhead or exit rowz?” After that, the only decision I’ll have to make is choosing between “I can has chicken” or “I can has beef.”

Do not want!

The good book

I’ve had a white iBook literally since the day they were first released. By today’s standards my first iBook was a primitive G3 affair. Since then I’ve upgraded to more powerful models but I’ve always had an iBook and I’ve always been more than happy the sturdiness and portability.

My last iBook is a few years old now and it’s beginning to show signs of laptop dementia. Intermittent freezing and kernel panics are telling me that it’s time to put the ol’ white thing out to pasture.

In the past I would have simply invested in a new iBook. That’s not an option anymore, more’s the pity. So I got myself a Macbook (well, technically it’s a Clearleft purchase but you know what I mean).

This looks like being a great machine—I’m certainly going to enjoy the larger hard drive, bigger screen and extra RAM—but I can’t help but feel a twinge of sadness for the passing of the iBook era. Me and my little white Turing machines have been through a lot together; travelling to foreign climes and joining faraway networks.

Now it’s time to break in my pristine new Macbook. I’d better start collecting some sticker schwag. Flickr, Technorati, Creative Commons… if you guys want to some free advertising, just send some sticky love my way.

I’ve spent the last couple of days migrating all my data and operating system foibles over to the new laptop. Soon I’ll take it with me on the road and find out how it holds up.

The Macbook didn’t show up in time for a workshop I did in Rochdale last week so I borrowed Jessica’s iBook instead but I’ll giving the new Macbook its first field test at an Ajax seminar in Dublin next week. It’ll get a good workout this month when I lug it to Paris for XTech and San Francisco for @media (and maybe I’ll make it to Copenhagen for Reboot).

I’m sure it’ll feel weird at first, like wearing a new pair of shoes, but by the end of this month I hope to form a bond with my new portable computing device.

Back from @media

@media 2006 is over. All in all, it was a great event.

As Ben noted, there wasn’t much blogging going on during the conference itself. That was partly due to the crappy WiFi situation — provided in theory, but not really in practice — but also there was just so much going on that there wasn’t much time for blogging. As well as the twin tracks of the event itself, there was a whole lot of socialising going on in the evening. Having a pint and a chat takes precedence over a blog post for me. Besides, the hotel I was staying at, though lovely in every other respect, didn’t have free WiFi. There seems to be an inverse relationship between the swankiness of a hotel and the connectivity options available.

Apart from the network issues, the conference itself was pretty slick and professional. Most importantly, the subject matter was engaging and well presented.

Eric kicked off with a great trip down memory lane in his Thursday morning keynote. After that, the room was divided in two and the schedule was forked. I had to forego the design panel with Jon, Veerle and Cameron because I was speaking at the same time on Using DOM Scripting to Plug the Holes in CSS.

The slides from my presentation are now online. The presentation itself went pretty well. I got a lot of positive feedback from people afterwards but I didn’t feel I was knockin’ ‘em dead. I think I nailed it at last year’s @media so it was always going to be a tough act to follow. Still, I did have fun getting the crowd to identify Buck Owens, explain the Kobayashi Maru scenario and recite Jabberwocky.

I stuck around for Dave’s talk on Typography on the Web which I thoroughly enjoyed. During the Q&A, he was getting grilled with lots of specific questions about sIFR that made me want to ask a nice straightforward question like, “What’s your favourite typeface?”

After lunch, the accessibility panel discussed the merits and shortcomings of WCAG 2.0. There was a Joe-shaped void that dominated proceedings — his presence loomed large.

Jeffrey Veen finished off the day in typically superb style. He remains one of the best public speakers I’ve ever seen. Once Jeff had finished speaking, the very first question from the audience was, “Where do we go to watch the match?”

Through the power of planning ahead, Patrick was able to avert a riot and provide a venue for all the @media attendees to watch some men kick a ball around a field. Jessica and I took advantage of the fact that the whole country was glued to the gogglebox and got a table at one of our favourite restaurants in Soho.

The high quality of presentations was maintained on day two. Dan got the day off to a great start when he walked us through some tips and tricks for Bulletproof Web Design.

The panel on JavaScript Libraries: Friend or Foe? was tremendously entertaining. I’m not just saying that because I have a soft spot for JavaScript. The panel was superbly moderated by Cameron and featured larger than life characters like ppk, Stuart, Simon and Dan.

The other Cameron turned out to be a very smooth talker indeed. I missed his presentation on Mobile Web Design at SXSW so I was very glad to be given a second chance to catch it. It was slick. While I admired Cameron A’s audacious use of Cooper Black for his slides, Cameron M’s slides featured the nicest use of Trajan I’ve ever seen.

For the afternoon, I listened to Nate give a behind-the-curtains look at three different projects from Yahoo Exclamation Mark: the Yahoo Exclamation Mark homepage, Yahoo Exclamation Mark Photos, and the new Yahoo Exclamation Mark Mail. The hands-on approach was continued with Tantek’s presentation on microformats.

As the day progressed, attendees were encouraged to fill out little cards with questions for a mysterious closing panel on Hot Topics. Sounds like my kind of panel. During one of the breaks, I asked Patrick if I could join in. It turns out he was going to ask me anyway. In fact, he asked if I’d like to moderate.

Would I like to moderate a panel? Of course I would! I’m a power-hungry dictator at heart. Panel moderators are the Dungeon Masters of tech conferences.

It turned out to be more fun than should be legally allowed. It was a dream panel of Molly, Jon, Eric and Tantek covering a nice range of high-temperature topics. I had a ball and, from the feedback I got later, a lot of the audience really enjoyed it too. I think it wrapped up the conference nicely.

Even though the official event was over, there was still time for eating, drinking and socialising with my fellow geeks. Thanks to Andy’s organisational efforts, we commandeered a pizza express before steamrolling onto one of the bars officially nominated for the evening’s carousing.

By Saturday morning, people were beginning to disperse. There was still time to hang out in St. James Park and watch the colour being trooped before heading off to the @media social on the other side of town.

After an afternoon in the pub immersed in geekery, I figured it was time to hit the road. I said some goodbyes (but, as usual, there were far more people I didn’t get to bid farewell to) and I caught a train back down to Brighton.

I had fun. I took pictures. Other people took pictures. I think they had fun too.

Off to @media

I’m just heading out the door to catch a train to London where I’ll spend the next few days enjoying the @media conference.

If you’re going to be there, let’s get together for some geekery and beer at one of the many social events orbiting the conference.