Tags: atmedia2007



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.