Tags: dconstruct07



Breaking boxes with Brian

It all started with some silliness at The Highland Fling. With the shwag preparation complete, the volunteers created a wall of cardboard boxes and we filmed Brian’s head-on assault.

Fast forward to dConstruct 2007. The bag stuffing and schwag prep was all wrapped up the day before the conference. There were packing boxes aplenty. Said boxes were quickly stacked into an edifice of cardboard and cameras were unsheathed.

Here are three angles (more will probably follow):

Breaking boxes with Brian

Brighton daze

It’s been quite a few days here in Brighton. dConstruct passed by in something of a haze. I was so busy running around trying to make sure everything went smoothly that I didn’t pay all that much attention to the presentations. I should have just relaxed and enjoyed myself; everything went fine. But of course, anything could have gone wrong at any moment and that’s what kept me wound up.

I didn’t have a speaking slot this year so I had nothing to worry about. But I did introduce some of the speakers and I found that almost as stressful. I’ve come to the realisation that the amount of speaking time doesn’t matter that much; it’s the situation of standing on stage in front of an audience of peers that’s scary.

Of all the stages to stand upon, the Brighton Dome has got to be one of the best. It really is quite an amazing venue.

The day went off with nary a hitch and most people seemed to enjoy themselves. Some of the presentations divided opinion. The same talks that underwhelmed some people had others enraptured. I kind of like that. We tried to put together a mixed bag and I’d rather that a talk was loved or hated rather than being judged just average.

As I said, I didn’t have much chance to pay attention to the presentations though I made a point of catching Denise and George chatting on the sofa. I loved it. It was the perfect format for the middle of the day and the content was fascinating. I can understand if it wasn’t everyone’s bag (if your big company has sent you to a conference with an order to “go learn stuff” then you’d be sorely disappointed) but I thought it was wonderfully relaxed and entertaining. Or maybe I just enjoyed the F-bombs and C-grenades.

Cameron was as smooth, dependable and awesome as always. Tom excelled himself. Heck, all the speakers were on top form. Matt is giving himself a hard time but just check out his presentation: it’s a beautiful study in apophenia.

Once the conference was done (and the after party… and the after-after party) it was time for BarCamp Brighton. I got a little sidetracked by the Brighton Food and Drink Festival on the way but when I showed up I found the BarCamp spirit in full swing.

The venue was great, the food was superb and the presentations were fantastic. The plan was to just have ethernet internet access but Dave worked some of his Pier to Pier magic to provide rock-solid WiFi. In short, the whole thing was wonderful. Matthew talked about Cornish politics, John told us how to make the perfect cup of tea, Mikel showed off the OpenStreetMap data for Brighton, Paul taught a magic trick and I talked with Tantek about portable social networks.

I missed the talk by Jon Linklater-Johnson but I caught with him afterwards to see his CSS specificity cards. He made a memory game out of matching the specificity of selectors. How cool is that?

Hats off to Glenn and the whole Madgex for a job well done. I was feeling pretty exhausted after dConstruct but BarCamp completely revitalised me. And yes, there was Werewolf a-plenty (I’ll never believe Natalie again).

With the out-of-towners coming to dConstruct and BarCamp, I wanted to make sure that everyone enjoyed their time in Brighton. I think everyone did. The weather was great, there was lots to do and there was a great buzz in the air.

I’m lucky enough to get to travel to quite a few geek gatherings in far-flung places. I really enjoy that. But for the past few days, Brighton has been the epicentre of geekdom. Welcoming my peers to my adopted hometown is a particular thrill. Brighton—if you’ll forgive the cliché—rocks.

D minus one

The microformats workshop is done. Praise be!

Despite my nervousness, I felt it went really well. Tantek and I make a good team. We also had some special guest slots by Norm! and Glenn. Most of all, we had a great audience of fifteen keen developers asking excellent questions.

It was quite a cosmopolitan gathering with two Belgians, two Swedes, two French, a Greek and an Israeli in attendance. I wonder if the audience at dConstruct will be this diverse?

With the workshop done—and with no speaking slot at the conference to prepare for—I should be able to relax. But there’s far too much to do. It’s time to start hauling boxes of schwag from the Clearleft HQ over to the Dome and start herding the speakers together for pre-conference prep.

No rest for the wicked… although there will be a kick-ass party for the wicked tonight.


I’m feeling a very strange mixture of excitement and apprehension this week.

As the days count down to dConstruct 2007 on Friday, I’m feeling like a little kid at Christmas time. I’ve been looking forward to this all year. Now, as my friends from distant shores begin to wend their way towards Brighton, I’m fit to burst with anticipation.

At the same time, I’ve been frantically preparing for the microformats workshop I’m doing with Tantek two days before the conference. We’re planning to have a very hands-on practical day, light on slides but heavy on exercises. It makes a nice change from the DOM Scripting and Ajax workshops I normally do. They have a minimum level of complexity that doesn’t lend itself to hands-on exercises. The nice thing about a deliberately simple technology like microformats is that someone could potentially begin the day knowing nothing about microformats and end the day markup up hCards and hCalendars to beat the band.

I think the workshop will be good but the demons of doubt always descend at this point. I’m going to try to harness their insidious whispers to keep working on my material instead of letting them paralyze me into inaction.

Still, I’ll be glad when the workshop is done. Then I can really let my hair down and enjoy the conference… as well as all the other events going on in Brighton this week:

In the midst of all this merriment, conference attendees can also indulge in the dConstruct Photo Scavenger Hunt which starts on the 5th and ends on the 9th. To participate, take suitable pictures around Brighton and tag them with , , , , , , , and .

I don’t know what that last one’s all about.

If you’re coming to dConstruct, I’ll see you soon and together we can let the good times roll. As soon as I’ve done this workshop.

Grab your place at dConstruct

I’m preparing for a big day at the Clearleft HQ. Tickets for dConstruct 2007 go on sale at 11am today.

Historically, dConstruct has always been fast to sell out (to sell out of tickets I mean… not to betray its principles). The first dConstruct sold out in just half an hour but there were only a hundred places to fill. Last year’s conference had 350 places and took a day and a half to sell out. This year we’ve got a lot more room—about 600 seats. I think we’ll manage to fill all the seats but tickets probably won’t sell out quite as fast as previous years. If you’re of the gambling persuasion, place your bets now.

I’m reviving the podcast of the conference; it was pretty popular last year. Once again I’ll be releasing sporadic, short, snappy episodes in the run-up to the event. I’ve already got two in the can: a retrospective of last year’s talks and a chat with some of the Last.fm folks which was recorded at the culmination of a night of carousing in San Francisco. I think that one will be hard to top. I may have to record all my interviews in the same manner.

This year’s dConstruct will be quite different from previous years. There’s the subject matter for a start: Designing the User Experience. Then there’s the workshops. For two days before the conference, you have the chance to attend full-day hands-on workshops in the salubrious surroundings of Casa Clearleft. Places on the workshops are limited to 15 people to keep things intimate and two of the workshops have already sold out. But you can still book a place on Thomas Vander Wal’s Tagging workshop and there are still places left for the workshop that’s dearest to my heart: Microformats.

The microformats workshop will be a joint effort by myself and Tantek. With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy… or, failing that, deliver a kick-ass workshop that will embed knowledge of microformats straight into your neocortex. We’ve got lots of ideas and I hope we can squeeze them all into one day.

So if you or your organisation has any interest in the semantic power of microformats, then you or your boss should book a ticket now.

Oh, and did I mention that attending a workshop automatically gets you a free ticket to the conference too?

Update: Wow. Tickets sold out faster than I thought—just 6 hours. Now the only way to secure a ticket to the conference is to grab a workshop ticket.

Redesigns a go-go

Redesigns are like buses: you need to wear clean underwear in case you get hit by one. No, hang on: You wait for one for ages, then loads come along at once… yeah, that’s what I meant.

Paul has been busy since leaving Oxford for his new job in London. He’s been marking up the new design for the front page of The Guardian website. This is a nice refreshing change for the paper’s site, making really good use of colour and typography in a pleasing grid. It’s a bit wide for my taste but at least most of the content that gets cut off at 800 pixels is mostly marketing guff (with the exception of the search at the top of the page: shame that the header couldn’t be liquid even if the rest of the page stays fixed).

Don’t worry: I’m not that much of a zealot that I’m going to judge designs purely based on whether they’re fixed width or liquid. But if you want to see a great example of a hybrid design, check out what Patrick has been doing with the ongoing design of his site: the third column drops below the second when the window width gets narrow—a smooth adaptive technique I first saw pioneered in a previous incarnation of Colly’s site.

Speaking of kick-ass Brit designers hailing from North of the Watford gap, Malarkey has redesigned his site. Actually, he’s done more than that. He’s condensed his two sites—business and personal—into one. You can read all about the ins and outs of the redesign but I recommend having a little poke around the site first to see how many delightful little Easter eggs you can spot.

There’s a ton of really nice little touches. Obviously the superb illustrations by Kevin really stand out but did you also notice that all the borders between columns are hand-drawn in pencil? Needless to say, the typography is uniformly excellent. Oh, and see if you can figure out how he managed to get two columns of text to flow around a single image on the front page.

Design is more than just visual appearance and Andy has pulled out all the stops in making sure that his personality comes across not just in the graphical elements but also in the copy. My favourite little touch is down in the footer:

If you need help using this site, please consult our help page. If you need help using our help page, download our How to use help PDF (what’s a download?)

That last link leads to a page that includes this great piece of advice:

Advisory notice: When you download something from the internet, don’t forget to put it back.

I haven’t been immune to the redesign bug. I finally got ‘round to making a long-overdue overhaul of the Salter Cane site.

Salter Cane on screen The old Flash site served its purpose well. It was atmospheric and mysterious—mostly because we didn’t have anything much to say so atmosphere and mystery were all we wanted to communicate. Times have changed though. There’s a lot happening with the band: concerts, an album release, songs on iTunes and a general increase in activity. Time for the band members to get blogging.

That doesn’t mean I’ve ditched the atmosphere but I felt it was time to remove some of the mystery. The design itself came together very, very quickly—just a couple of days—and it isn’t finished yet. I still need to create pages for the individual band members, add an archive of past concerts and work on expanding the individual blog post pages. But the overall look and feel is all in place and I’m quite pleased with how it has turned out. It has a lighter touch than the previous design but still has a lot of that olde-worlde feeling.

It all works pretty nicely on my mobile phone which is a nice bonus. The front page is also a mini mashup, pulling in the latest posts from the band’s MySpace page and the latest pictures on Flickr tagged with “saltercane”. And, of course, there are microformats a-plenty.

I spent most of my efforts on getting the typography right, paying a lot of attention to Richard’s ideas about baselines and vertical rhythm. I’ve added a couple of touches using CSS selectors that not all browsers support—transcending CSS and all that malarkey. Safari users will get the nice :first-line and :first-letter styles (though I did have to shoot off a bug report to Dave Hyatt pointing out that the letter styled with the :first-letter pseudo-class doesn’t scale when the user resizes the text size—but this might well be already fixed in the nightly builds of WebKit).

So all in all, it’s a busy time for redesigns. But wait, there’s more…

Keep your eye on the d.Constuct website over the next couple of days. Much as I love the current holding page, what’s coming is even better. Paul has been slaving away in the Clearleft office to make a site that really fits the theme of this year’s conference: designing the user experience. You can expect a fun-filled redesign.

When the d.Constuct site launches, you’ll be able to see for yourself what a great line-up we’ve got for the conference this year. I’m looking forward to it already. Don’t worry: tickets won’t be going on sale for quite a while yet but be sure to mark the date in your calendar: September 7th, 2007. On that day, Brighton is most definitely the place to be.