Journal tags: dconstruct09




During the short time that I was at dConstruct, I nipped out with Paul and Marcus to record a quick interview about HTML5. That interview has now been published in the latest episode of Boagworld, complete with transcript. Just to show how fast HTML5 can move, on the very day that we were chatting about the content model of the footer element, the spec was duly updated.

Boagworld 184: html5 on Huffduffer

Speaking of podcasting and dConstruct…

Thanks to always excellent Drew, the audio recordings from the day are starting to roll in. You can keep an eye on the podcast page or simply subscribe to the podcast to get all the aural goodness. Transcripts are on their way too, courtesy of Opera.

The first talk of the day is available now: Elements of a Networked Urbanism by Adam Greenfield.

Elements of a Networked Urbanism by Adam Greenfield on Huffduffer


dConstruct 2009 took place in the Brighton Dome on Friday, September 4th. By all accounts, it was excellent this year. I saw less than a quarter of it.

I arrived bright and early with my suitcase in tow, ready to make a quick exit. My flight to Vancouver was leaving Heathrow shortly after 5pm and I was going to be making the two hour bus ride from Brighton. I watched Richard open the show, listened to Adam Greenfield melt people’s brains (in a good way), did a quick podcast recording for Boagworld, caught a bit of Mike and Ben’s talk and then I was out of there; dragging my suitcase over to the bus station to catch the 12:30 to Heathrow via Gatwick.

Melanie Wisden works in a Starbucks in Cardiff. But on Friday, September 4th, she took the day off work. She was driving her friend Samantha to Gatwick airport. Samantha was newly married—Melanie’s eleven year old daughter Mia was a bridesmaid at the wedding. Now Samantha was heading off on her honeymoon. Melanie dropped her off at Gatwick’s North terminal and then got back on the road at about 1:30pm.

The bus ride from Brighton to Heathrow takes about two hours. It would be shorter but there are a few stops along the way. Halfway through the journey, the bus pulls into Gatwick’s South terminal, lets passengers off, lets passengers on, and then moves on to Gatwick’s North terminal where it does the same thing. The bus is back on the road at 1:30pm.

I was sitting about halfway back in the bus, listening to a podcast on my iPod as we exited the North terminal roundabout. The bus juddered and smacked into a road sign—we had come off the road. We’ve gone over the kerb! I thought. The bus came to a rest on the median. It was a bumpy ride there for a moment but everyone seemed to be okay. I heard the bus driver say something like Where is she? or Where’d she go? (I can’t quite recall his exact words) and I thought Oh crap! Did we hit a pedestrian? I knew we hadn’t hit a car …I would have felt that, right?

A woman motorist has died in a collision involving a coach and a car at Gatwick Airport in West Sussex.

The bus driver was shaken up but he clearly instructed us to get off the bus immediately. We started to file out. I couldn’t understand why we were taking so long. Then I got to the door and saw that there was quite a gap between the door and the ground. That’s when I knew we were on top of something. It wasn’t until we were off the bus and walking away that I saw what was underneath.

Melanie Wisden, 34, from Cardiff, was killed instantly when her Ford Ka was crushed by a National Express coach just after 1330 BST on Friday.

The emergency services—ambulances, fire engines, and a helicopter—were on the scene in moments but it was clear that whoever was in the car must have died instantly.

We were taken to a staff canteen at Gatwick airport where the police took our statements, National Express tried to sort out our luggage and British Airways organised alternative travel arrangements. I wasn’t going to make my flight; something that normally would have been very annoying but now seemed insignificantly trivial. A day later, I made it to Heathrow—in a taxi, courtesy of National Express—and, after a mercifully uneventful flight, I arrived in Vancouver. From there I travelled on to Whistler, arriving the day before Jessica’s brother’s wedding.

Jeb and Anne were married in a lovely, relaxed ceremony in Canada on Sunday, September 6th.

A memorial service will be held for Melanie Wisden on Friday, September 18th at the Ely Church Of The Resurrection in Cardiff at 1.15pm, followed by cremation at Thornhill Crematorium, Wenallt Chapel.

Testing HTML5

dConstruct week is in full swing. The conference itself is tomorrow. Remy and Brian are doing their workshops today. Myself, Rich and Nat did our HTML5 and CSS3 Wizardry workshop yesterday.

I was handling the HTML5 side of things and had quite a bit of fun with it. I put together an HTML5 pocket book using using Natalie’s superb CSS. View it in a Webkit or Gecko-based browser and then print it out to experience the CSS3 transform magic. Natalie made a CSS3 pocket book for the workshop which was a nice self-documenting example of CSS transforms. Hers turned out much neater than mine—my folding fu isn’t so good. But hey, it’s the thought that counts and I figured it was nice to give every attendee something hand-crafted.

I prepared some exercises for the workshop and I have to admit that I had an ulterior motive with one of them. Each attendee was provided with two sheets of paper. One sheet of paper listed some new elements in HTML5 in alphabetical order:

  1. article
  2. aside
  3. details
  4. figure
  5. footer
  6. header
  7. hgroup
  8. nav
  9. section

On another sheet of paper, I listed definitions of those elements taken from the spec but in no particular order:

  • …a group of introductory or navigational aids.

  • …represents a section of a page that consists of content that is tangentially related to the content around it, and which could be considered separate from that content.

  • …used to group a set of h1–h6 elements when the heading has multiple levels, such as subheadings, alternative titles, or taglines.

  • …typically contains information about its section such as who wrote it, links to related documents, copyright data, and the like.

  • …some flow content, optionally with a caption, that is self-contained and is typically referenced as a single unit from the main flow of the document.

  • …a section of a page that links to other pages or to parts within the page: a section with navigation links.

  • …a thematic grouping of content, typically with a heading, possibly with a footer.

  • …a section of a page that consists of a composition that forms an independent part of a document, page, or site.

  • …additional information or controls which the user can obtain on demand.

I then asked the attendees to match up the definitions with the element whose name sounded like the best match. To be clear: this wasn’t a test of knowledge. I was testing the spec.

Giving this exercise to thirty very savvy web developers yielded some clear results. There’s definitely a lot of confusion around when to use section and when to use article. I’m not convinced that there needs to be two different elements, especially now that the article element no longer takes the cite or pubdate attributes. figure and aside were also an area of confusion.

When the workshop was over, I collected the pages with everyone’s answers. Once I get some time I’ll publish the results, probably in a spreadsheet. Then I can present that data to the WHATWG list. Some people on IRC were wondering why my superfriends and I haven’t presented our concerns by email. Well, we will. But I think there’s a lot of value in publicly discussing this stuff (and soliciting feedback). Mostly though, I’ll feel a lot more comfortable about raising an issue if I can back it up with some data. There’s a big difference between telling Hixie your opinion and giving Hixie data.

So, in a very real sense, I got a lot of the workshop. It took quite a while to put the workshop together. The face-to-face meeting with my unicorn-powered peers in New York proved to be absolutely invaluable. I was tweaking the slides right up till the day of the workshop; not because I was rearranging the content, but because the spec was literally changing overnight (albeit in small ways).

Now that the workshop is over, I can relax. And relax I will …in Canada. I’m off to Whistler this weekend for Jessica’s brother’s wedding, followed by a couple of days in Vancouver.

Alas, that means I won’t be around for all of dConstruct. I’ll be able to catch Adam Greenfield followed by Mike Migurski with Ben Cerveny before heading up to Heathrow. But I won’t be able to make it to BarCamp.

Well, I’m sure that everyone who’s coming to Brighton will have plenty of fun without me. And I plan to have plenty of fun in British Columbia …though at some stage, I need to make some time to collate all that yummy data from the workshop.


As is now traditional, there will be a BarCamp in Brighton straight after dConstruct. This year it’s happening at a new venue, the Old Music Library in the middle of town—right across from the Brighton Dome, venue for dConstruct. The first batch of tickets went on sale yesterday but there’ll be more to come (if you don’t fancy playing web booking roulette, a sure-fire way of getting a ticket is to contribute to sponsoring the event).

If you’re coming to Brighton for dConstruct, I highly recommend staying for the weekend and sleeping over at BarCamp.

If you’re not coming to Brighton for dConstruct, why not? Haven’t you seen the line-up? It’s going to be fantastic.

Here’s one way to get a ticket; add something to the dConstruct time capsule:

Take a look around you. What do you see that you would like to preserve for the future? Take a picture of it, upload that picture to Flickr and tag it with dconstructcapsule.

The ticket you could win is no ordinary ticket. It’s a VIP ticket that will get you into dConstruct itself, two nights in a luxury hotel in the centre of Brighton, and a place at the speakers’ dinner the evening before the conference.

Even without the competition aspect, I think this is a pretty nifty project. People have already posted some great items:

Minidisk Player
This used to be cool. I think it still is.

Red Ring of Death
The infamous red ring of death. A symbol of recreation in the naughties and a beacon of utter despair.

Howarth S2 oboe
…though my oboe is a product of centuries of instrument making techniques and technology rather than something new, it’s certainly something (along with the skills that made it) that I believe needs preserving for the future as an example of beautiful design and craft.

time capsule banana
Clever future-people! Please clone this fruit—it’s a design classic (iconic styling, great usability), it’s nutritious, and it’s tastier than the bland efficiency-gruel you slurp down the rest of the space-week.

Now it’s your turn. What would you add to the dConstruct time capsule.


At the start of this year I made a vow to myself to reduce my level of overseas travel. It’s working out pretty well. My Dopplr animal has been downgraded from a squirrel to a butterfly.

I’ve been to a grand total of two conferences in the states this year; the obligatory South by Southwest in Austin and An Event Apart in Boston—it’s always an honour (and a surprise) to be asked to speak at that one. That’s quite a reduction compared to last year and it looks like I won’t be adding to that short list before the year is out.

Reducing my overseas travel hasn’t meant a reduction in attending great events. As well as all the Barcamps and Hackdays, London can boast some world-class conferences like @media and UX London. In fact, if I want to attend kick-arse conferences in the UK, I don’t even need to leave Brighton.

dConstruct is just over a month away. The line-up is particularly stellar this year. Rather than playing it safe, we’ve decided to push the boat out with the challenge of Designing for Tomorrow. To answer that challenge, we’ve lined up the finest minds of the next decade. Adam Greenfield! Mike Migurski! Russell Davies! (no, that one). Expect plenty of mind-boggling talk on ubiquitous computing, data visualisation, mobile design, and science-fiction interfaces.

Think it’s not relevant to your day-to-day work? Think again. And learn to exercise your imagination.

Anyway, tickets are a measly £125 so if you think that’s not worth it, might I suggest diverting your funds to getting a good psychiatrist.

There are still tickets left. If you haven’t been able to make it to dConstruct in previous years because it sold out too quickly, now’s your chance. If you have been to dConstruct before, then you know how great it will be. I’m hoping that the event will be sold out by the day of the event. Partly that’s because I want to see Clearleft’s faith in our peers’ thirst for knowledge rewarded, but mostly it’s because I’ve got a wager to that effect with Cennydd. If his pessimism is rewarded, I’ll be £1 out of pocket.

You’ve still got a few weeks to grab a ticket for the conference itself but if you’re planning to come along to one of the workshops in the run-up to the conference, you’d better act fast; the early bird price of £345—which includes a ticket to the conference—runs out in 48 hours. After that, a workshop costs £395.

Far be it for me to suggest which workshop you should book—they’re all going to be good—but might I point you to HTML5 and CSS3 Wizardry which will be run by a trioka of Clearlefties; Richard, Natalie, and myself. They’ll be handling the CSS3 goodness and I’ll be regurgitating what I’ve been learning from immersing myself in the world of HTML5.

Maybe I should just get Remy to pop in and show off his demos but I suspect he’ll busy preparing for his own jQuery workshop the next day.

Not content with doing workshops, tutorials, screencasts, and a book, the tireless Remy Sharp is organising his own conference. Full Frontal will take place in the beautiful Duke of York’s cinema in Brighton on November 20th. This is going to be a serious JavaScript geekfest. Get this: for a mere £100, you get Simon Willison, Peter-Paul Koch, Christain Heilmann and more. If you’re a JavaScripter and you’ve felt frustrated by the lack of your favourite scripting language at most web conferences, Full Frontal is guaranteed to satiate you.

Between dConstruct, Flash on the Beach, and Full Frontal, I may never have to travel outside of Brighton for a conference again.