Tags: dconstruct06



The diversity division

After the Future of Web Apps 2006 conference in San Francisco, a post by Chris Messina lamenting the lack of women in the line-up prompted heated debate and high emotions.

The Future of Web Apps 2007 conference just wrapped up in London and Jason Kottke has reignited the debate. What’s changed since the last time? Not much.

Tempers are still getting frayed and the discourse is generally pretty unhelpful.

Let me say from the start that I do think there is a problem with having so many conferences with such unbalanced line-ups and I firmly believe that a lot of the responsibility lies with the organisers to change things. That said, I also understand just how hard it is to put on any kind of conference at all.

To the people accusing conference organisers of being some kind of cabalistic old boy’s network: you’re really not helping. You’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar.

To the people organising conferences who throw up their hands and say “it’s not our job, we’re just reflecting the sad reality”: you’re being equally unhelpful.

So, all of you: try walking a mile in the other person’s shoes. That way, if you still don’t agree, you’ll be a mile away from the other person and you’ve made off with their shoes.

Eric came out with a provacative post that’s just aching to be quoted out of context:

So, here it is: as a conference organizer, I don’t care about diversity.

I admire and respect Eric but I think in this instance that he is wrong. We’ll just have to agree to disagree.

Eric makes the very persuasive argument that to put on a successful conference, the line-up needs to be filled with well-known, established speakers. (This prompted the obvious question from a few people in the comments; just how does one become well-known or established? As Jen says, Eric, it is becoming a circle jerk.)

Success doesn’t just mean financial success, though I readily admit that the economics of organising a conference are fiendish. A successful conference is about more than just getting bums on seats.

Yes, if you fill a line-up with “A-listers” then you’ll sell all your tickets and the attendees will learn from the best and everyone will be happy… in the short term. In the long term, it’s unsustainable. It leads to a closed loop, a neverending cycle of the same names talking about the same subjects. Diversity isn’t just a means to an end (that end being a better conference), it is in and of itself, A Good Thing.

Conferences, especially well-established conferences (and I would put An Event Apart into that category) can and should take some chances. Yes, it’s risky. No, you can’t guarantee ticket sales. But it will be a better conference if the line-up has some wild cards.

I firmly believe that conferences shouldn’t simply be mirrors for the Web business, reflecting whatever is current and accepted. A good conference can act as a force on the industry. Conference organisers have a great opportunity here and I think it’s a shame to see it wasted.

Alright… enough talking about conference organisers as if they were some kind of separate caste of people. It’s time to point the finger at myself.

My company, Clearleft, organises the dConstruct conference in Brighton every year. It’s really Andy’s baby but he very kindly asks for my opinions in putting the conference together. I personally feel very strongly that this year’s dConstruct needs to change from last year’s homogenous line-up (I’m pretty sure Andy agrees).

Even if we sell every ticket, even if everybody blogs about having a great time, if the line-up consists of a bunch of white male speakers (“A-list” or otherwise), I will consider the conference a failure.

But what to do? The perceived wisdom is that there are simply far more kick-ass men speakers than women. I don’t believe that’s true. I think there are far more visible men in our industry, but with just a bit effort it’s entirely possible to find a wealth of women speakers who can truthfully be described as well and truly kick-ass.

I’m not sure if I’m supposed to blog about this, but for months now, we at Clearleft have had a BaseCamp project set up with the specific intention of finding new blood for dConstruct. We’ve invited people from outside our circle of expertise and interests and asked them to suggest speakers. The idea is to deliberately introduce diversity, to stir things up a bit and ultimately, to put together the most kick-ass line-up of speakers we can.

Is this tokenism? Absolutely not. I fully concur with Eric when he says:

What’s important is technical expertise, speaking skills, professional stature, brand appropriateness, and marketability.

But I don’t believe that this attitude conflicts in any way with the desire to increase diversity. It’s entirely possible to put together a superb line-up of diverse speakers.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at Web Directions North (or South for that matter), one of the best, most stimulating conferences I’ve ever attended. They didn’t make a big deal about the mixture of topics and presenters, they just put together the best line-up they could.

I’m not saying it’s easy. I know for a fact that it’s a lot of hard work. But it’s achievable; Web Directions is a testament to that.

I’m also going to have to agree to disagree with Tantek, another person I admire and respect greatly. He is of the opinion the kind of thing I’m suggesting would indeed fall under the category of tokenism:

Why is it that gender (and less often race, nay, skin-color, see below) are the only physical characteristics that lots of otherwise smart people appear to chime in support for diversity of?

Where are all the green-eyed folks? Where are all the folks with facial tattoos? Where are all the redheads? Where are the speakers with non-ear facial piercings?

Actually, I would agree with Tantek if I were talking about diversity of sexes, but I’m not. I’m talking about diversity of gender. There’s a difference. Sex means male or female. Gender means masculine or feminine.

I fully agree that a speaker’s sex makes about as much difference as their eye-colour or hairstyle but a speaker’s gender can and does affect their outlook and experience. As someone who has a (primarily) masculine gender, I know that I can learn a lot more from being in a mixed masculine/feminine environment. That’s one of the reasons why I’m glad my band isn’t an all-male affair.

I’m not just arguing semantics here. I’m trying to point out why I think Tantek’s argument is reducto ad absurdum. Gender isn’t like eye-colour. Introducing more gender diversity into a conference is productive in the same way as introducing someone with a background in product design or some other non-Web field that can offer a new perspective on our industry (this isn’t just an off-hand comparison).

I hope I’ve made my point clear. Let me reiterate that I can see both sides of this debate but I do come down firmly on the side of increasing diversity. I just hope that I can work towards this goal in a constructive way.

Frankly, I find Jason Kottke’s reductionist statistical approach to be counter-productive. It’s not just about numbers, Jason. I’m also not so sure that Anil’s abrasive style is particularly constructive but his clever riposte to the Future of Web Apps line-up is illuminating.

I do feel bad for Ryan. He always seems to bear the brunt of the blame even though plenty of other conferences are equally lacking in diversity.

However… I do take issue with Ryan’s attempt to wash his hands by pointing out just how many of the speaker slots were bought by sponsors. I’m sorry, but selling time slots to the highest bidder is no way to put a conference together. I’m well aware of the economic realities of putting on a conference and I know that selling slots to sponsors is established practice in certain circles but it won’t cut it with the geek crowd.

Again, Web Directions North managed to get this just right by allowing companies to sponsor speakers. So the speakers were all chosen for their expertise, knowledge and perhaps even diversity, and then Adobe or Microsoft were given the opportunity to introduce the speakers. It sure beats product pitches.

I want to finish with an observation on this whole issue of gender diversity at Web conferences.

This debate isn’t going to go away. It looks like it’s going to flare up every few months. Clearly, plenty of bloggers—who are also probably the target audience for a lot of these conferences—really care about this issue and want to see some changes. Yet every time the issue is raised, conference organisers fall back on the argument that they need to fill the auditorium and that the best way of doing that is to give people the same “A-list” speakers that have always worked in the past. In other words, give the people what they want.

Well, we want diversity.

It’s kind of like the whole brouhaha with Adobe and their crappy new icons. The majority of Adobe’s potential customers disliked the icons and wrote good, well-reasoned blog posts explaining why. As Aral so excellently noted, Adobe deliberately chose to ignore this wealth of valuable feedback. I see conferences falling into the same trap. The very fact that this debate is taking place (and continues to take place ever more frequently) should be sending a message that this is an important issue that needs to be addressed.

It reminds me of the old joke. A guy walks into a shop and asks for some product or other. The shopkeeper says, “We don’t stock that. There’s no demand for it.” The shopkeeper then adds, “It’s funny: you’re the tenth person to ask for that today.”

Melbourne calling

My time in Melbourne is almost at an end. Thanks to everyone who sent tips on places to go and things to see here. Most of my activities, as evidenced by my Flickr pics, have revolved around food. I must get around to writing it all up on Principia Gastronomica.

I took some time out from my culinary explorations to give a talk at the local Web Standards Group meetup. It was fun. I recycled my talk from d.Construct, The Joy of API. People seemed to enjoy it and there were a lot of great questions asked afterwards.

The audio from the talk at d.Construct is now available through the podcast. I’ve had the audio transcribed — using Casting Words — and I’ve posted the results here.

Speaking at d.Construct

I like public speaking. I know that it strikes the fear of God into some people, but I get a kick out of it. As long as I’m speaking on a subject that I care about, there’s nothing I like more than addressing a captive audience.

I’ve done a fair bit of talking this year, with more on the way. Usually when I stand in front of a crowd, it’s to talk about DOM Scripting or Ajax. This year’s d.Construct was different. I had the opportunity to talk about APIs.

I have some experience with using a few APIs but I’m by no means an expert. Rather than attempt to give an in-depth technical overview of Web Services, I decided to share my personal experiences. It was the developer’s equivalent of showing off holiday snapshots.

I was kind of nervous about how it would go down. What I was doing was quite self-indulgent. But people seemed to like it. It’s funny, but as many a songwriter will tell you, the more personal you make something, the more universal its appeal.

Most people seemed to really enjoy the talk. That was probably helped by the fact that I kept it fairly short. After half an hour, I was done. That left plenty of time for questions and answers, which are always the best bit. There were some great questions from the audience that prompted even more babble from me.

I have to say, it was particularly pleasant to find myself speaking to an audience of over 300 people in Brighton. I felt proud to speak as a representative of my adopted town. With d.Construct, Andy has shown that it’s possible to put on a large, well-organised event outside London.

Here’s a page of links to sites I mentioned during my talk. I don’t think I’ll bother putting my slides online: they make absolutely no sense without the explanation to go with them.

My talk, along with all the others, was recorded by Drew, who did a fantastic job. They’ll popping up in the podcast before too long. I’m getting my talking transcribed through Casting Words and I’ll publish it once it’s ready.

Ian Forrester also managed to make a video of the whole thing. It’s weird being able to watch myself speaking. I use my hands almost as much as Simon does.

With the benefit of video playback, I can now say that I’m glad I wore my suit. In fact, I think what I really need is proper evening wear. Can’t you just seem me giving a presentation in a top hat and tails? I could even use a cane for pointing at the slides.


Reading through the post-d.Construct buzz, I see a number of recurring themes:

  1. The seats were too narrow.
  2. The badge incorporating the programme was ingenious.
  3. The Backnetwork rocked.

I’m certainly in agreement with that third point. Every conference should have an app like the Backnetwork.

I exchanged a couple of business cards over the weekend but really, it wasn’t something I needed to worry about. I knew I could just go into my network and download any vCards (via hCards) that I wanted.

It’s fun watching the Backnetwork fill up with Flickr pics, blog posts and reviews as attendees document their time at d.Construct. For my part, I’ve been updating my list of contacts to incorporate more people that I met over the weekend.

Thanks to the magic of XFN, here’s a microformatted incomplete list of the wonderful people I know from d.Construct, copied and pasted from my profile:

Fables of the dConstruction

What a weekend! d.Construct 2006 is over. It’s hard to believe after all the weeks and months spent preparing for a single day.

The night before the conference was spent wining and dining the speakers at one of my favourite restaurants. It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it. I still had time to pop in for a quick drink at Heist. It seemed like everyone was having a good time, which was gratifying to see.

On the morning of the conference itself, I went along to the Corn Exchange early with Jessica; she kindly volunteered to help out on the day. We both pitched in with bag-filling duties. By the end, I was convinced of the merits of having a schwag-free conference next time.

Still, it seemed like people enjoyed their goody bags. The Yahoo! Answers water was probably the most practical thing in there.

The talks themselves went well, with very few technical hiccups. Nonetheless, I found it hard to completely relax and enjoy the presentations because I was so concerned about everyone else enjoying themselves.

It’s interesting reading blog posts about the different presentations. The reactions are quite varied. One person’s high point is another person’s low point. Mind you, I think just about everyone was in agreement that Jeffrey Veen was, as always, wonderful.

A few people felt that Jeff Barr’s talk was a bit corporate for a grass-roots event like d.Construct. I can see their point. It’s his job to travel the world giving what are basically product demos. The redeeming factor is that he has some great products to demo.

Something else that detracted from the grass-rootsiness was the paucity of Q and A. Apart from my talk and Simon and Paul’s, none of the other speakers had time to take questions, which is a shame. Without the audience interaction through asking questions, presentations can feel quite one-sided and lecture-like. That’s just my opinion, of course, but it seems to be one shared by everyone I talked to.

All the speakers said that they would have loved to have taken questions. Well, here’s a hot tip: learn how to measure time. 45 minutes is a nice compact timeframe to fit in a good presentation and still have time to take questions (half an hour can feel rushed and an hour often drags). Not allowing time for questions feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity. Going over the allotted time is downright discourteous.

I’m probably being over-critical. Nothing ever goes quite like clockwork and for the most part, the d.Construct schedule went very smoothly. This was probably helped by Richard’s affable and admirable role as compère.

The WiFi was a bit flaky in the morning but that was all fixed by the afternoon. As Suw pointed out, there was a distinct lack of power outlets in the main auditorium. There were quite a few out back though.

The after-party at The Terraces was great fun. Needless to say, the free booze ran out pretty quickly. I never even got the chance to play crazy golf. But I still had a great time. It’s always great to catch up with old friends and meet new people in a geek-saturated crowd. There’s something quite tribal about a gang of Web geeks gathered in a bar.

I ended up back at Blanch House, drinking cocktails ‘till three in the morning and unwinding with some fellow delegates.

Saturday was spent lounging, relaxing, and generally taking it easy. I got up far too late to attend the OpenStreetMap workshop, which is a pity. I ended up wandering the seafront and going to the Lego shop with an ever-changing amorphous crowd of friends in tow.

By evening time, this friend-cloud coalesced into a big barbecue on the beach. When the grilling was done and the drinks were flowing, by the light of the setting sun and the rising moon, we formed a circle and played Werewolf.

Nothing can top Werewolf on the beach so we didn’t even try. Some people came back to my place for more liquid refreshment and a spot of Quake before drifting off to their separate corners of the physical world.

I was sad to see everyone go, but it was great to have them all gathered here in Brighton for the weekend.

Simon and Paul

Simon and Paul have finished giving their presentation and very good it was too. They covered a lot of ground in a short time but they did it in a clear, easy to follow way.

As is now mandatory, the presentation was illustrated with Flickr pics including one of mine, which I wasn’t expecting.

he guys did a good job of showing how useful APIs are from inside a huge company and from the evangelism they were doing, I expect to see Hack Days starting at other companies soon.

The talk flowed nicely into my presentation where I talked about APIs from the viewpoint of someone on the outside looking in. That’s no accident, of course: we planned the schedule that way. I think it worked out well.

d.Construct travel news

If you’re planning to come down to d.Construct tomorrow morning on a train from London, you might want to rethink your travel plans:

A train drivers’ union will decide later whether to go ahead with a major strike which is set to cripple services across southern England.

There’s always the bus, though that takes considerably longer. Or you could just come down tonight and go to the pub.

Update: The strike has been called off! Praise Jeebus!

d.Construct events

d.Construct is almost upon us. Everyone at Clearleft is excited and nervous in equal measure.

I wanted to give a quick heads up on some of the satellite events taking place around the conference.

If you haven’t heard yet, there will be pre-conference drinks on Thursday evening starting at 7pm at a place called Heist on West Street. We’ve hired out the downstairs room which should accommodate one hundred eager geeks.

It’s worth sticking around the day after d.Construct too. The guys from OpenStreetMap have put together a mapping workshop. It begins at ten in the morning and will probably go on until four in the afternoon on Saturday. The central hub will be the offices of Brighton Web at 2 Brunswick Terrace in Hove. Most of the time you’ll be out and about purposefully striding the streets of Brighton with a GPS device in hand. GPS devices will be provided but if you have one, please bring it along.

It looks the weather is going to be quite nice on the day of d.Construct. It’s a sign. The gods of weather clearly want us pasty geeks to go outdoors. With that in mind, I’ve decided to host a microformats picnic during the lunchtime break: 12:452pm. The Pavilion Gardens are right next to the Corn Exchange. The park has got WiFi, though it may hard to see your laptop screen in the sunshine. This picnic is for everyone. If you’re just curious about microformats, please come along and ask any questions you want. If you’re already using microformats, let’s talk about that.

All these events are on Upcoming. I’ve also marked this up in hCalender so you can subscribe to the events and stick ‘em on your mobile phone, iPod or whatever.

Live from Barcamp London

I’m at Barcamp London. It’s been a great day so far with lots of disparate talks nicely punctuated with plenty of food and drink.

For my part, I cheated and recycled my Hijax talk from XTech (I figured most people wouldn’t have seen it). It was fun.

I spent half of my time grabbing people for quick interviews for the d.Construct podcast. I’ve just published the episode so download the MP3 and get a taste of that Barcamp magic.

The mini-Mashupcamp is next on the agenda. After that, the sleeping bags come out.

I plan to do some more field recordings for the podcast tomorrow. And I really must take more pictures and post them to Flickr.

dConstructing the network

One of the sponsors of this year’s d.Construct is a local company called Madgex. Glenn Jones works there.

At the Clearleft office warming party, I chatted with Glenn about what form the sponsorship might take. Rather than go down the usual schwag-based route, Glenn was determined to do something useful, like build an app. He started telling me what he had in mind. The more he told me, the more excited I got.

Glenn has been working feverishly on the project and it’s now ready for unveiling. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…

The d.Construct06 Backnetwork

You know the way that a backchannel develops at most conferences? IRC, iChat, and all that. Well, this is a backnetwork.

It’s a social network app, but a genuinely useful one. For a start, it’s all based around a single focal point: the d.Construct conference. Everyone using the backnetwork has something in common. They are all attendees of the conference. This network is closed to the outside world.

I’ve seen some other events attempt a kind of pre-conference network. The South by Southwest website last year had a section for maintaining a profile and connecting with other attendees. But these connections were very simple. As with most social network sites on the Web, either someone is your friend or you have no connection to them whatsoever. That isn’t a very accurate reflection of reality.

Instead of inventing some new proprietary schema for representing the connections between people, the d.Construct backnetwork uses XFN — XHTML Friends Network. The relationships represented in XFN map remarkably well to an event like this.

Here’s my profile. You can see all the people that I’ve connected with (friends, acquaintances, colleagues) and all the people who have a connected with me. Based on these connections, I even get a cloud of names with the sizes indicating the strength and reciprocity of that relationship.

But here’s the best bit. I can take this information with me. Instead of being yet another roach motel or data silo, the backnetwork actively encourages me take my data with me. There’s a pre-formatted XFN list that I can cut and paste into my own site. Or, if I want, there’s an OPML file of all the feeds from people in my network.

As with most social network sites, you have to go through the process of filling out your details before you can start using it. But here again, you are actively encouraged to then take this information with you. I can cut and paste my hCard or simply download a vCard via Brian Suda’s hCard converter on Technorati.

You can specify how you want sensitive data like emails and telephone numbers to be treated. You can make them public, you can not reveal them at all, or you can allow only your friends to view them.

There’s a lot of microformatted goodness throughout the backnetwork and constant encouragement not just to put data into the system, but also to take it away with you. The result is something that’s fun and useful before, during and after the conference.


In the run-up to d.Construct, you can find out who else is coming. If you know any of the people, you can connect with them. There’s even a Google Maps mashup so you can see where people are coming from. You might even find people coming from the same town as you and make travel plans with them.

There’s an aggregator that pulls in any relevant blog posts written by attendees. You can subscribe to the aggregate feed or take away an OPML file with a list of all the sites.


The aggregator is going to be very handy during the conference as a way of following any liveblogging. There’s also a really nice photo page that pulls in Flickr pics and displays them in a lightbox.

There will even be an Ajax chat room opened up on the day.


Once the conference is over, you’ll probably want to revisit the attendee list. You will undoubtedly want to mark a lot of people as “met”. Heck, you may even make some friends. You’ll certainly have made lots of connections. And if you didn’t manage to exchange business cards, you can grab each other’s hCard or vCard instead.

There’ll probably be plenty of post-conference blog chatter to track through the backnetwork. If you want to add your own impressions of the panels, you can post straight to your blog or you can add a review through the backnetwork. You can fill out a form and submit your review. This is formatted in the hReview microformat so that, once again, you can take it with you. Just copy and paste the review into your own site. You can even specify a creative commons license while you’re at it.


The backnetwork is using microformats all over the place: XFN, hCard, hReview, rel-license and rel-tag. It’s quite remarkable how useful this turns out to be. It makes it so, so easy to take your data with you. Your contact details, relationships, and reviews are yours for the taking.

This is something you can see on a lesser scale on the d.Construct website. The list of speakers has been marked up with hCards. The schedule for the day is an hCalendar. There’s a link off to Brian Suda’s converter on Technorati so that you can subscribe to the calendar, put it on your iPod, your mobile phone, whatever you want. If there are any changes to the schedule, the page will be updated and the change will be reflected in the subscribed calendar. There’s no need to maintain a separate file like Michael had to do for Reboot or Jon did for @media.

If you’re coming to d.Construct, you should have already received an email with an activation code for the backnetwork. I suggest you use it. If haven’t received your activation code, you’d better let Andy and Richard know.

If you aren’t coming to d.Construct, you can still browse the backnetwork and track the blog posts, reviews and photos as they come in. You just won’t be able to add your own profile or define any relationships with the attendees.

If you want to know more about the technologies driving the backnetwork, check out the “about” page. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m really excited about this application. I’m like a kid with a new toy and I’m loving it.


I’m enjoying the process of putting together the d.Construct 2006 podcast. It seems that other people are enjoying it too.

I wrapped up the latest episode with a call for feedback. I’ve added a link to Odeo on the podcast page so that you can record a message for the podcast.

I’m intrigued by the idea of using audio to leave feedback, add comments and ask questions. This is something that Tom played around with a while back. I like the context that’s added just by hearing a person’s voice. It’s like a gravatar times ten.

On Odeo, everyone knows you’re a dog.

Don’t be shy. Record a message, add some text if you want, and hit that big “send” button. If you’re coming to d.Construct, tell me your hopes and fears for the conference. If you can’t make it to d.Construct, make your presence felt by leaving your thoughts on APIs, mashups, Web 2.0, and anything else you feel like talking about.

If this little experiment works out, maybe I’ll end up using Odeo as a feedback channel for this journal. I have some other feedback and commenting ideas that I’d like to try out too. Watch this space.

September is the coolest month

There’s going to be a spate of very cool events happening in September. Together, they span three continents.

The fun kicks off in Europe. As you probably already know, d.Construct 2006 will be taking place right here in Brighton on September 8. The conference is already sold out, but if you haven’t got a ticket, you can always put your name down on the standyby list.

If you are coming along, consider sticking around for a weekend of geekery. I’ve put together a list of restaurants, pubs, and hotels, all geo-encoded and mashed up with Google Maps. If you’re planning on staying over, you’ll probably want to book a room soon. It turns out the TUC Congress will be coming to town a few days after d.Construct.

Don’t forget that you can track the build-up to d.Construct 2006 by subscribing to the podcast.

If you’re in North America, then there’s something that might interest you in San Francisco. The Future of Web Apps summit from Carson Workshops will be taking place on the 13th and 14th of September. The last summit, held in London, was excellent. It was inexpensive, the WiFi worked, and the speakers were great. This time, the summit has been stretched to two days, but the price remains tasty and the line-up looks very good indeed.

One week later, the inaugural Webmaster Jam Session will be taking place in Dallas on the 21st and 22nd of September. While the Carson Workshops event will be looking at the big picture of developing web apps, this looks like a more nuts’n’bolts affair, detailing how to go about building and promoting websites.

But the event that has me most excited is taking place on the other side of the world.

Web Directions 2006 will be taking place in Syndey, Australia from the 26th to the 29nd of September. I’ve been asked to speak at the event, for which I am extremely honoured.

As well as giving two presentations at the conference proper, I’ll be giving a workshop on DOM Scripting and Ajax on the Tuesday beforehand. If you’re attending the conference, you get a discount to the workshop.

I’ve never been to Australia before. I’ve never even been south of the equator so this will be my first experience of the Southern hemisphere. I’m looking forward to it immensely. The fact the conference looks like it’s going to be amazing only adds to the thrill. I’m going to have to pull out all the stops to hold my own with speakers like Derek Featherstone, Kelly Goto, and Mollarkey.

If you live anywhere near Sydney (near being a relative term for Australia), Web Directions looks like it’s going to be unmissable. I look forward to seeing you there and, if you can make it along for the workshop too, all the better.

Podcasting d.Construct 2006

In case you haven’t heard, the d.Construct conference, which so rocked Brighton last year, is returning in 2006. It will take place in the Corn Exchange (right next to the dome) on the 8th of September.

It will be bigger. There were just 100 people at last year’s event. There will be 3.5 times as many this year. But it’s still going to a grassroots affair. By grassroots, I mean cheap and cheerful. The price of admission is just £75. Registration opens on the 18th of July. That’s next Tuesday. The clock is ticking.

If you’re in any doubt about attending, just check out the line-up for this year: Jeffrey Veen, Thomas Vander Wal, Derek Featherstone, Jeff Barr, and many more. Registration also qualifies you for entry to the after-party at the Terraces.

In the run-up to the conference, I’m going to be trying a little experiment. Most conferences these days offer a podcast of proceedings after the event — which we are also planning to do — but the decision was made at the Clearleft HQ to start podcasting beforehand.

Armed with headphones and a USB microphone, I’ve been getting to know the ins and outs of Garageband. The first tentative results are available for your listening pleasure. You can subscribe to the RSS feed from the podcast page of the conference website.

I listen to quite a lot of podcasts but I have to admit that there aren’t many that really stand out. Apart from time-shifted radio programmes like In Our Time or Mark Kermode’s film reviews, most podcasts tend to be rambling affairs with too much dead air and not enough editing (The Word Nerds being a notable exception).

Now, I’m not claiming that my podcast will be qualitatively better; it’s decidedly amateurish (it is a podcast, after all). But the episodes will be mercifully brief. Short, sharp shows are the order of the day.

At the very least, I hope it won’t be annoying to listen to. I’ve done my best to get consistent volume levels and audio quality but I’m very much a newbie at all this. Like I said, this is all an experiment and, depending on the feedback, the format may change completely.

On the subject of podcasts, point your pod at the @media feed. There’ll be a new presentation released every week. The audio for my talk, Using DOM Scripting to Plug the Holes in CSS is now available. I’ve posted a transcript of the presentation over in the articles section of this site, which you can also subscribe to as a podcast.