Tags: copenhagen



Ice cold in Copenhagen

I went to Copenhagen last week for the Coldfront conference. It was lovely to be back in Denmark’s capital. I used to go over there ever year when the Reboot conference was running, but that wrapped up a few year’s back so it’s been quite a while since I had the opportunity to savour Copenhagen’s architecture, culture, coffee, food, and beer.

Coldfront was fun. Kenneth has modelled the format of the event on Remy’s Full Frontal conference—one day of a single track of front-end dev talks in a comfy cinema.

Going to a focused conference like this is a great way of getting a short sharp shock of what’s hot—like a State of the Union address for the web. At Coldfront there were some very clear themes around building for resilience, and specifically routing around the damage of inconsistent connectivity. There was a very clear message—from Paul, Alex, and Patrick (blog imminent)—that the network is not always on our side. Making our sites work offline should be much more of a priority than it currently is.

On a related note, the technology that was mentioned the most was Service Workers …and Jake wasn’t even there! Heck, even I mentioned it in glowing terms in my own little presentation. I was admiring the way it has been designed specifically to be used in a progressive enhancement kind of way.

So if I were Mr. McGuire in The Graduate, my line to a web developer equivalent of Dustin Hoffman would be “I want to say one word to you, just one word. Are you listening? …Service Workers.”

Scandinavian sojourn

I’ve been on a little trip to Copenhagen. Usually when I go to Denmark, it’s for Reboot but alas, there is no Reboot this year. Instead, I was there for Drupalcon.

I have to admit, it was quite a surprise to be asked to speak at a Drupal event. After all, I don’t use the Drupal framework. To be fair, I don’t use any framework—though I did dabble with Django once. Clearleft is a backend-agnostic company: we do UX, IA, front-end, but we’ve deliberately avoided committing to one particular server-side solution.

Anyway, I was kinda nervous about addressing a large group of programmers devoted to a PHP framework that I’m not that familiar with. I needn’t have worried. Everyone was incredibly welcoming and I got a very warm reception.

I had been asked along to speak about HTML5 but rather than just run through a whole bunch of features in the spec, I thought it would be more interesting to talk about why features have been added to HTML5. So I concentrated on the design principles driving the development of the specification.

I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. The whole thing was streamed live and it’s all been recorded and posted online.

The Drupal community is clearly very vibrant: the 1000+ people gathered in Copenhagen were very enthusiastic about their chosen platform. That said, I did sense some frustration from the theming community—it isn’t always the easiest to change the markup and CSS that’s output by Drupal. This is something that Dries acknowledged in his keynote and people like Jen Simmons are fighting the good fight to improve Drupal’s front-end output.

The Drupal community also know how to party. This was the first conference I’ve been to that had its own beer; the rather excellent Awesomesauce from the world-renowned Mikkeller.

All in all, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. And I had enough time before my flight back to Blighty to nip across to Malmö in Sweden, where Emil showed me the sights.

Then it was time to catch a ludicrously comfy train across a remarkable bridge, past a stunning wind farm to the snazilly-designed airport to catch my flight home.

The Copenhagen Report

Reboot 10 was everything I thought it would be: chaotic, stimulating, frustrating and fun. It’s an odd conference, pitched somewhere between TED and a BarCamp, carried off with a distinctly European flair.

The speakers delivered the goods on a wide range of subject matter. Howard Rheingold was as thought-provoking and interesting as you would expect, Jyri shared his thoughts on social interaction online and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to David Weinberger riffing on and . With at least three tracks of simultaneous talks at any one time, and with plenty of catching up to do in the corridor, I didn’t get to see all the talks but a superb round of micro-presentations gave me the opportunity to get the quick versions of talks I missed.

My presentation seemed to go down fairly well although I thought I was just rambling on. Maybe the fact that I was accompanying myself on mandolin meant that the audience was more forgiving. I didn’t really have slides, just a few hyperlinked documents to tie the narrative together.

The theme of this year’s Reboot was Free. Fittingly, my presentation resulted in my receiving two free gifts. Michael Rose, a local piano player, gave me a CD on which he accompanies a series of Irish tunes. Nikolai—who was introducing the speakers and taking care of the sound in the room where I was presenting—was reminded by my mention of Lawrence Lessig that he had boxes full of The Future of Ideas that were originally destined for the Danish parliament. They were distributed amongst the attendees of Reboot instead.



I’m off to Copenhagen for Reboot 10. Reboot is always a fun gathering. It might not be the most useful event but as part of a balanced conference diet, it’s got a unique European flavour.

As usual, I’m going to use the opportunity to talk about something a bit different to my usual web development spiels. This time I’ll be talking about The Transmission of Tradition, a subject I’ve already road-tested at BarCamp London 3:

This talk will look at the past, present and future of transmitting traditional Irish music from the dance to the digital, punctuated with some examples of the tunes. This will serve as a starting point for a discussion of ideas such as the public domain, copyright and the emergence of a reputation economy on the Web.

At the very least, it will give me a chance to debut that mandolin I picked up in Nashville.

This will be my third Reboot. My previous talks were:

I recently discovered the video of that last presentation. Jessica was kind enough to transcribe the whole thing. She also transcribed my talk from this year’s XTech. Go ahead and read through them if you have the time.

If you don’t have the time, you can always mark them for later reading using Instapaper. I love that app. It does one simple little thing but does it really well. Hit a bookmarklet labelled “read later” and you’re done.

Here’s a little sampling of documents I’ve marked for later reading:

Maybe I should fire them up in multiple tabs and read them on the flight to Denmark. Or I could spend the time brushing up on my Danish.

If you’re headed to Reboot, I’ll see you there. Otherwise …Farvel!

City Hopping

Now that I’m done travelling for pleasure, it’s time for me to travel for business again. I’m heading out to San Francisco for the Supernova conference. Tantek has roped me into moderating a panel called Bottom-Up Distributed Openness.

I’ll be showing up in SF next Friday. Until then, I’ll be in Nashville for the somewhat embarrassingly-titled Voices That Matter conference where I’ll be delivering a half-day workshop on Ajax and a presentation on microformats.

While I’m in the heartland, I’m planning to treat myself to a new mandolin. Then I can bring that mandolin with me when I go to Copenhagen at the end of the month for Reboot 10 where, if my proposal is accepted, I’ll be talking on The Transmission of Tradtion. The video of my talk from last year, the pretentiously-titled Soul is available for your viewing pleasure. I’ll see about getting it transcribed and added to the articles section here.

All that’s ahead of me. Right now I need to prepare myself for the long and tedious trip across the Atlantic. See you in Nashville, San Francisco or Copenhagen.


The ninth Reboot wrapped up in Copenhagen on Friday. It was a really enjoyable experience for me.

This was the second year I attended so I had a good idea of what to expect. I remember sharing many of Andy’s frustrations with the philosophical nature of the presentations last year. This year I was positively wallowing in the blue-sky thinking—it made a nice change from the usual tech conferences I attend. Warning: Reboot should only be taken as part of a balanced conference diet.

With that said, I did find myself gravitating towards the more technical end of the spectrum of talks: Anne and Håkon both gave fairly meaty presentations on the tools of our trade: markup and CSS. With my tech appetite satiated, I was able to enjoy the more hands-off stuff a bit more.

I was really looking forward to hearing Leisa’s talk but a last-minute impromptu discussion of OpenID, microformats and portable social networks meant I had to give it a miss. It was, by all accounts, excellent. Methinks we have chosen wisely for dConstruct.

There was a lot of talk about social networks. Most of the discussions were psychological in nature but it was gratifying to see that a lot of people are sharing my frustrations and getting behind the concept of portable social networks using OpenID and XFN.

The nice thing about Reboot is that it can act as a platform for talks that are unlikely to show up on the agenda of a more commercial conference: Stephanie’s talk on multilinguilism and Tom’s discussion of energy consumption, for example.

Reboot had an almost Barcampesque feel to it at times. The micro-presentations and five-minute demos were especially fun in an ad-hoc kind of way.

Mostly, as with all the best meatspace events, the real pleasure came from meeting people. Some of the highlights of the conference involved sitting outside in the Danish sunshine chatting with smart friendly geeks. I had a lot of fun catching up with the great people I met last year as well as adding rel="met" to:

…and many others who were most excellent company and provided me with a surplus of inspiring conversations.

Even when the conference itself was over, I was luckily enough to share the plane ride home with some fellow geeks… fellow geeks also called Jeremy: Jeremy Ruston and Jeremy Stone. To avoid confusion, let’s address the latter by his geological nom-de-plume Jem Stone, the name under which he wrote a nice write-up of Reboot on the BBC website.

Reboot slides

The first day of Reboot 9 in Copenhagen is at an end. It’s been quite an inspiring day: lots of good talks but, more importantly, lots of great conversations with smart interesting people. This is my second year here so today has been a nice mix of meeting up with old friends and getting to meet new people.

This year’s theme is “human”, a typically philosophical subject for this blue-sky conference. Getting into the spirit of things, I gave a presentation called soul. It wasn’t quite as pretenscious as last year’s talk but it was certainly a rambling, haphazard affair. I really just wanted to tie in a bunch of ideas that I’ve been thinking about lately: lifestreams, portable social networks, online activity as gaming… but mostly it was a recruitment drive for Hack Day.

You can download the slides of “soul” as a PDF (with notes).

I was in the first speaking slot and I was very happy to get it over and done with. I had been slightly panicking over this talk and only really got it together during an extended stay at Stansted airport on the way to Denmark. Thanks for the two hour delay, Easy Jet.

Even with the main talk done, I had one more task to accomplish. I foolishly agreed to do a micro-presentation—we can’t call them Pecha-Kucha, donchyaknow—of 15 slides with exactly 20 seconds per slide. I finished the slides for that shortly beforehand and then started psyching myself up for it by hyperventilating and increasing my heart-rate.

I think it paid off. I had an absolute blast, people seemed to enjoy it and Andy asked if I had been possessed by the spirit of Simon Willison.

Oh, and the subject of the rat-a-tat talk was Hypertext: a quick list of tips for improving your links with rel, rev and various microformats. Help ourself to a PDF of the slides.

Update: Here’s a video of my micro-presentation. I was even more incoherent than I feared.


I made it back from Copenhagen using one plane, three trains, a tube and a lot of time.

Reboot was good fun. I met some nice people, had some pleasant conversations and watched some invigorating presentations. All in all, a cool little conference.

It’s interesting to read some of the post-reboot blog posts. Most first-time attendees were blown away while some people who were there last year said that this year’s event didn’t quite have the same “wow” factor. While it wasn’t South By Southwest, I certainly enjoyed myself although some of the pre-reboot hype may have raised my expectations higher than was warranted.

Reboot was a fairly hands-off sort of affair, more talk than code. It made for an interesting counterpoint to XTech. After two days though, I was itching to cry “show, don’t tell!” There was a lot of talk about what an exciting time we’re living in and how world-changing our work can be, but I would have welcomed a practical workshop on changing the world in ten easy steps.

I think the presentation I enjoyed the most was from Steve Coast of Open Street Map. He didn’t stand up and talk about how amazing the project is. Instead, he just showed what they were doing and Jessica and I both thought “Wow, this is amazing!”

I also really enjoyed Jean-Francois Groff’s t-shirt illustrated stroll down memory lane. His first hand recollections of CERN and the invention of the Web got me all fired up for my own historical overview.

But, as usual, the daytime schedule tells only half the story. A good conference, like the Web itself, is all about people. It was really nice to meet so many people of varying nationalities. After the pre-conference boat ride on the first night, I had dinner with five people from five different countries. Stick that in your pipe, Paul Graham.


The deed is done. I had the pre-lunchtime slot at Reboot to speak about a very simple subject: the hyperlink.

It was fun. People seemed to enjoy it and there were some great questions and comments afterwards: it was humbling and gratifying to have Håkon Wium Lie and Jean-Francois Groff respond to my words.

Unlike any previous presentations I’ve done, I had written out everything I wanted to say word for word. I began by describing this as a story, a manifesto, but mostly a love letter. For once, I was going to read a pre-prepared speech. I still had slides but they were very minimal.

I ended up using two laptops. One iBook, controlled from my phone using Salling Clicker, was displaying the slides done in Keynote. I used the other iBook as a teleprompter: I wanted large sized text continually scrolling as I spoke.

I looked into some autocue software for the Mac but rather than fork out the cash for one of them, I wrote my own little app using XHTML, CSS and JavaScript. I bashed out a quick’n’dirty first version pretty quickly. I spent most of the flight to Copenhagen refining the JavaScript to make it reasonably nice. I’ll post the code up somewhere, probably over on the DOM Scripting site in case anyone else needs a browser-based teleprompter.

If you’d like to read a regular, non-scrolling version of my love letter, I’ve posted In Praise of the Hyperlink in the articles section.

Reboot 8, day 1, second part

Having ensconced myself in a comfy corner to write my last update, I only managed to rouse myself for one final talk. I listened to Rebecca Blood and it was, yes, you guessed it, inspiring. Mind you, there’s only so often I can hear how amazing and revolutionary these times we’re living in are: at the end of a day of being told how world-changing everything is, I was starting to feel a little jaded.

After that it was time for beer (which wasn’t free, alas) and a nice buffet meal (which was).

The events are going to keep going ‘till midnight. It sounds like there are some fun things planned but I’m not sure how long I can hold out. I’ll certainly stick around to listen to Ben Hammersley talk about how to be a Rennaissance man (he’s just about to take the stage now).

I should really get back to my hotel and get down to doing some serious worrying about my presentation tomorrow. It’s going to be quite, um… compact. I sure hope people ask questions or contribute to the discussion somehow or else I’m going to go down like the proverbial lead balloon.

Reboot 8, day 1, first part

Jessica and I flew into Copenhagen yesterday. By fortuitious coincidence, I ended up sitting next to Tom Armitage on the Sleazyjet flight from Stansted.

The first day of Reboot is progressing nicely. There have been some excellent presentations so far. I’m not in the best state of mind for paying attention — I didn’t really get a good night’s sleep — so it’s a testament to the speakers that I’ve been able to stay awake at all.

Matt Webb kicked things off with an imaginative talk about building a browser of the future that incorporated more of our senses. I like the idea of web pages having tastes and smells. During the next session (Visualisation put into perspective) I realised that tag clouds are smelly things: tags are shown with varying strength of odour.

The data visualisation talk was also really good for showing some excellent, excellent usage of SVG. Seeing SVG on a mobile really brought home that the S stands for scalable.

The slidesless seminar on Karl Marx was, I’m sure, great but unfortunately my lack of sleep was catching up on me and my brain just wasn’t capable of following the many, many ideas being thrown out. I had revived by the time I got to the T.L. Taylor’s talk on play, specifically in terms of massive multiplayer online games. It was a fascinating talk delivered in a really engaging way. There was a lot of food for thought packed into it.

After lunch, a notoriously tricky slot, J.P. Rangaswami gave a rousing, inspirational, impassioned talk on, well… just about everything. You had to be there.

If that wasn’t enough to get me inspired, it was followed by Steve Coast’s talk on the first year of OpenStreetMap. This is the same talk he gave at XTech but I missed it then. I heard it was one of the better talks in Amsterdam so I was really happy to have the opportunity to catch it here. He didn’t disappoint. It made me want to get a GPS device and get out there and start mapping.

Right now there are some lightning demos being presented and I’m taking this opportunity to grab a comfy site and take a breather.

If you want to keep up with events here on Technorati and Flickr, most people are tagging posts and pictures with “reboot8”.