Tags: atmedia07



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.


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

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>

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>

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>

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>

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>

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.