Tags: events



Full Meaning Ampersand

In the space of one week, Brighton played host to three excellent conferences:

  1. FF Conf on Friday, November 6th,
  2. Meaning on Thursday, November 12th, and
  3. Ampersand on Friday, November 13th.

I made it to two of the three—alas, I couldn’t make it to Meaning this year because it clashed with Richard’s superb workshop on Responsive Web Typography.

FF Conf and Ampersand were both superb. Despite having very different subject matter, the two events have a lot in common. They’re both affordable, one-day, single-track, focused gatherings.

Both events really benefit from having a mastermind overseeing the line-up: Remy in the case of FF Conf, and Richard in the case of Ampersand. That really paid off. Both events were superbly curated, with a diverse mix of speakers and topics.

It was really interesting to see both conferences break out of the boundary of what happens inside web browsers. At FF Conf, we were treated to talks on linguistics and inclusivity. At Ampersand, we enjoyed talks on physiology and culture. But of course we also had the really deep dives into the minutest details of JavaScript, SVG, typography, and layout.

Videos will be available from FF Conf, and audio will be available from Ampersand. Be sure to check them out once they’re released.

Marcy Sutton FFConf 2015 Playing to be different marks with Marcin

Far afield

I spoke at Responsive Field Day here in Portland on Friday. It was an excellent event. All the talks were top notch.

The day flew by, with each talk clocking in at just 20 minutes, in batches of three followed by a quick panel discussion. It was a great format …but I knew it would be. See, Responsive Field Day was basically Responsive Day Out relocated to Portland.

Jason told me last year how inspired he was by the podcast recordings from Responsive Day Out and how much he and Lyza wanted to do a Responsive Day Out in Portland. I said “Go for it!” although I advised changing to the name to something a bit more American (having a “day out” at the seaside feels very British—a “field day” works perfectly as the US equivalent). Well, Jason, Lyza, and everyone at Cloud Four should feel very proud of their Responsive Field Day—it was wonderful.

As the day unfolded on Friday, I found myself being quite moved. It was genuinely touching to see my conference template replicated not only in format, but also in spirit. It was affordable (“Every expense spared!” was my motto), inclusive, diverse, and fast-paced. It was a lovely, lovely feeling to think that I had, in some small way, provided some inspiration for such a great event.

Jessica pointed out that isn’t the first time I’ve set up an event template for others to follow. When I organised the first Science Hack Day in London a few years ago, I never could have predicted how amazingly far Ariel would take the event. Fifty Science Hack Days in multiple countries—fifty! I am in awe of Ariel’s dedication. And every time I see pictures or video from a Science Hack Day in some far-flung location I’ve never been to, and I see the logo festooning the venue …I get such a warm fuzzy glow.

Y’know, when you’re making something—whether it’s an event, a website, a book, or anything else—it’s hard to imagine what kind of lifespan it might have. It’s probably just as well. I think it would be paralysing and overwhelming to even contemplate in advance. But in retrospect …it sure feels nice.

Brighton in September

I know I say this every year, but this month—and this week in particular—is a truly wonderful time to be in Brighton. I am, of course, talking about The Brighton Digital Festival.

It’s already underway. Reasons To Be Creative just wrapped up. I managed to make it over to a few talks—Stacey Mulcahey, Jon, Evan Roth. The activities for the Codebar Code and Chips scavenger hunt are also underway. Tuesday evening’s event was a lot of fun; at the end of the night, everyone wanted to keep on coding.

I popped along to the opening of Georgina’s Familiars exhibition. It’s really good. There’s an accompanying event on Saturday evening called Unfamiliar Matter which looks like it’ll be great. That’s the same night as the Miniclick party though.

I guess clashing events are unavoidable. Like tonight. As well as the Guardians Of The Galaxy screening hosted by Chris (that I’ll be going to), there’s an Async special dedicated to building a 3D Lunar Lander.

But of course the big event is dConstruct tomorrow. I’m really excited about it. Partly that’s because I’m not the one organising it—it’s all down to Andy and Kate—but also because the theme and the line-up is right up my alley.

Andy has asked me to compere the event. I feel a little weird about that seeing as it’s his baby, but I’m also honoured. And, you know, after talking to most of the speakers for the podcast—which I enjoyed immensely—I feel like I can give an informed introduction for each talk.

I’m looking forward to this near future event.

See you there.

100 words 080

This year marks quite a few decadal anniversaries. In 2005 I published my first book. I went to South by Southwest for the first time and, together with Andy, gave my first talk.

A few months later, the first ever UK web conference took place in London: @media. Most of the talks were about CSS, but I gave the token JavaScript talk, trying to convince people that they should try this much-maligned JavaScript stuff.

Here we are, ten years later and I’m still giving talks. Except now I’m trying to convince people to take it easy with the JavaScript.

Codebar Brighton

There’s been a whole series of events going on in Brighton this month under the banner of Spring Forward:

Spring Forward is a month-long celebration of the role of women in digital culture and runs throughout March in parallel with Women’s History Month.

Luckily for me, a lot of the events have been happening at 68 Middle Street—home of Clearleft—so I’ve been taking full advantage of as many as I can (also, if I go to an event that means that Tessa doesn’t have to stick around every night of the week to lock up afterwards). Charlotte has been going to even more.

I managed to get to Tech In Ten—run by She Codes Brighton—which was great, but I missed out on Pixels and Prosecco by Press Fire To Win which sounded like it was a lot of fun. And there are more events still to come, like She Says and Ladies That UX.

What’s great about Spring Forward events like She Codes, 300 Seconds, She Says, and Ladies That UX is that they aren’t one-offs; they’re happening all-year round, along with other great regular Brighton events like Async and UX Brighton.

And then there’s Codebar. I had heard about Codebar before, but Spring Forward was the first chance I had to get stuck in—it was being hosted at 68 Middle Street, so I said I’d stick around to lock up afterwards. I’m so glad I did. It was great!

In a nutshell, Codebar offers a chance for people who are under-represented in the world of programming and technology to get some free training by pairing them with tutors who volunteer their time. I offered to help out anyone who was learning HTML and CSS (after tamping down the inevitable inner voice of imposter syndrome that was asking “who are you to be teaching anyone anything?”).

I really, really enjoyed it. It was so nice to meet people from outside the world of web design and development. It was also a terrific reminder that the act of making websites is something that everybody should be able to participate in. This is for everyone.

Codebar Brighton takes place once a week, changing up the venue on rotation. As you can imagine, it takes a lot of work to maintain that momentum. It’s thanks to the tireless efforts of the seemingl indefatigable Ruby programmers Rosa and Dot that it’s such a great success. I am in their debt.

On tour

I’ve just returned from a little European tour of Germany, Italy, and Romania, together with Jessica.

More specifically, I was at Smashing Conference in Freiburg, From The Front in Bologna, and SmartWeb in Bucharest. They were all great events, and it was particularly nice to attend events that focussed on their local web community. Oh, and they were all single-track events, which I really appreciate.

Now my brain is full of all the varied things that all the excellent speakers covered. I’ll need some time to digest it all.

I wasn’t just at those events to soak up knowledge; I also gave a talk at From The Front and SmartWeb—banging on about progressive enhancement again. In both cases, I was able to do that first thing and then I could relax and enjoy the rest of the talks.

I didn’t speak at Smashing Conf. Well, I did speak, but I wasn’t speaking …I mean, I was speaking, but I wasn’t speaking …I didn’t give a talk, is what I’m trying to say here.

Instead, I was MCing (and I’ve just realised that “Master of Ceremonies” sounds like a badass job title, so excuse me for a moment while I go and update the Clearleft website again). It sounds like a cushy number but it was actually a fair bit of work.

I’ve never MC’d an event that wasn’t my own before. It wasn’t just a matter of introducing each speaker—there was also a little chat with each speaker after their talk, so I had to make sure I was paying close attention to each and every talk, thinking of potential questions and conversation points. After two days of that, I was a bit knackered. But it was good fun. And I had the pleasure of introducing Dave as the mystery speaker—and it really was a surprise for most people.

It’s always funny to return to Freiburg, the town that Jessica and I called home for about six years back in the nineties. The town where I first started dabbling in this whole “world wide web” thing.

It was also fitting that our Italian sojourn was to Bologna, the city that Jessica and I have visited on many occassions …well, we are both foodies, after all.

But neither of us had ever been to Bucharest, so it was an absolute pleasure to go somewhere new, meet new people, and of course, try new foods and wines.

I’m incredibly lucky that my job allows me to travel like this. I get to go to interesting locations and get paid to geek out about web stuff that I’d be spouting on about anyway. I hope I never come to take that for granted.

My next speaking gig is much closer to home; the Generate conference in London tomorrow. After that, it’s straight off to the States for Artifact in Providence.

I’m going to extend that trip so I can get to Science Hack Day in San Francisco before bouncing back to the east coast for the final Brooklyn Beta. I’m looking forward to all those events, but alas, Jessica won’t be coming with me on this trip, so my enjoyment will be bittersweet—I’ll be missing her the whole time.

Thank goodness for Facetime.

This week in Brighton

This is my favourite week of the year. It’s the week when Brighton bursts into life as the its month-long Digital Festival kicks off.

Already this week, we’ve had the Dots conference and three days of Reasons To Be Creative, where designers and makers show their work. And this afternoon Lighthouse are running their annual Improving Reality event.

But the best is yet to come. Tomorrow’s the big day: dConstruct 2014. I’ve been preparing for this day for so long now, it’s going to be very weird when it’s over. I must remember to sit back, relax and enjoy the day. I remember how fast the day whizzed by last year. I suspect that tomorrow’s proceedings might display equal levels of time dilation—I’m excited to see every single talk.

Even when dConstruct is done, the Brighton festivities will continue. I’ll be at Indie Web Camp here at 68 Middle Street on Saturday on Sunday. Also on Saturday, there’s the brilliant Maker Faire, and when the sun goes down, Brighton will be treated to Seb’s latest project which features frickin’ lasers!

This is my favourite week of the year.


Last week I had responsive-themed tour of London.

On Tuesday I went up to Chelsea to spend the day workshopping with some people at Education First. It all went rather splendidly, I’m happy to report.

It was an interesting place. First of all, there’s the office building itself. Once owned by News International, it has a nice balance between open-plan and grouped areas. Then there’s the people. Just 20% of them are native English speakers. It was really nice to be in such a diverse group.

The workshop attendees represented a good mix of skills too: UX, front-end development, and visual design were at the forefront, but project management and content writing were also represented. That made the exercises we did together very rewarding.

I was particularly happy that the workshop wasn’t just attended by developers or designers, seeing as one of the messages I was hammering home all day was that responsive web design affects everyone at every stage of a project:

Y’see, it’s my experience that the biggest challenges of responsive design (which, let’s face it, now means web design) are not technology problems. Sure, we’ve got some wicked problems when dealing with non-flexible media like bitmap images, which fight against the flexible nature of the web, but thanks to the work of some very smart and talented people, even those kinds of issues are manageable.

No, the biggest challenges, in my experience, are to do with people. Specifically, the way that people work together.

On Thursday evening, I reiterated that point at The Digital Pond event in Islington …leading at least one person in the audience to declare that they were having an existential crisis (not my intention, honest).

I also had the pleasure of hearing Sally give her take on responsive design. She was terrific at Responsive Day Out 2 and she was, of course, terrific here again. If you get the chance to see her speak, take it.

There should be videos from Digital Pond available at some point, so you’ll be able to catch up with our talks then.

Brighton in September

dConstruct is now exactly five weeks away. To say that I am excited would be quite an understatement.

I am insanely excited about this year’s dConstruct. I think the line-up is quite something—a non-stop parade of fantastic speakers. And the speakers themselves are equally excited, spurred on by the excellent company they’ll be keeping. Seriously, this is going to be an amazing day.

I’m also excited about all the other events happening around dConstruct as part of the Brighton Digital Festival.

The first week of September will kick off with the Reasons To Be Creative conference: three days of three tracks of all sorts of design and code.

Reasons finishes on Wednesday, September 4th, which is the same day that Seb will be running his fantastic CreativeJS workshop. I took this workshop myself a few months back and I can’t recommend it highly enough—you’ll come away feeling like you’re superpowered. Seb is a great teacher. And don’t be put off by the whiff of coding; this workshop is for everyone. In fact, I think designers with very little experience of code would be best served by it.

There are still some tickets available for Seb’s workshop and remember that booking onto the workshop also gets a complementary pass to the dConstruct conference day as well.

In between Seb’s workshop and the dConstruct conference proper, there’s Improving Reality, that wonderful conference on technology and culture curated by Lighthouse in Brighton. I’ve really, really enjoyed the last two years so I’m going to be there again this time ‘round on Thursday, September 5th.

Then right after dConstruct, there’s a weekend of good stuff happening over the Saturday and Sunday:

  • Brighton Mini Maker Faire — a day of interactive exhibitions on the Saturday followed by a workshops and panels on the Sunday. There’ll be talks and panels on the Saturday too, including a panel moderated by Maggie Philbin!
  • The Big Sussex Market will be running all weekend as part of the Brighton and Hove Food Festival. This will be on New Road, right by the Brighton Dome where Maker Faire will be happening.
  • Indie Web Camp will also be running all weekend, just round the corner at Lighthouse. This little gathering is something very dear to my heart. I was talking about just the other day on the Breaking Development podcast.

Phew! That’s quite a full dance card.

If you’ve got a ticket for dConstruct, remember that as per the terms and conditions, if you need to cancel or transfer the ticket you’ve only got one more week to do so.

If you haven’t got a ticket for dConstruct, what are you waiting for?

See you in Brighton in September.

Maptales of Brighton

If you’re coming to Brighton for dConstruct, there are two Map Tales I’d like to draw your attention to.

The first is a map of all the places where you can discounts with your dConstruct badge—very handy for lunch and dinner on the day of the conference.

The second is one I put together a while back of recommended Brighton coffee establishments.

And of course, while you’re in town, be sure to check out all the events that are going on as part of the Brighton Digital Festival; at the very least, make sure you check out the Maker Faire that’s on the day after dConstruct—it’s going to be fantastic!

Oh, and I almost forgot: the Big Sussex Market will also be going on the day after dConstruct, all along New Road and Jubilee Square.

With quality, local produce firmly at its heart, the Big Sussex Market features over 80 stalls of growers, producers and restaurants.

Making Workshops for the Web

The latest Clearleft offering is Workshops for the Web. It made sense to move our workshop offerings out of the Clearleft site—where they were kind of distracting from the main message of the company—and give them their own home, just like our other events, dConstruct and UX London.

As well as the range of workshops that can be booked privately at any time, there’s a schedule of upcoming public workshops for 2010:

  1. CSS3 Wizardry on January 29th,
  2. Copywriting for the Web on March 5th,
  3. HTML5 for Web Designers on April 23rd,
  4. UX Fundamentals on June 11th and
  5. Usability Testing on July 16th.

The next workshop, CSS3 Wizardry with Rich and Nat, promises to be packed full of cutting-edge front-end techniques. Book a place if you want to have CSS3 kung-fu injected into your brainstem.

Visual Design

I’m pretty pleased with how the site turned out. When I began designing it initially, I thought I would give it a sort of Russian constructivist feeling: the title Workshops for the Web made me think of an international workers movement. I started researching political propaganda posters, beginning with the book Revolutionary Tides.

Revolutionary Tides

There’s also some fantastic propaganda material in The National Archives (and I just love the modern twist of World War Three propaganda posters). I found a treasure trove of images of American working life in the Flickr Commons collection from The Library of Congress. I started gathering these sources together and distilling some of the common components such as bold colours and diagonal lines.

Workers of the web: unite!

This was when Jon was working as an intern at Clearleft. I enlisted his help in brainstorming some ideas and he came up with some great stuff—like using Soviet space-race imagery—and we played around with proof-of-concept ideas for creating diagonal backgrounds using CSS3 transforms.

But it never really came together for me. Much as I loved the Russian constructivist propaganda angle, I ditched it and started from scratch.


I scribbled down a page description diagram describing what the site needed to communicate in order of importance:

  1. The name of the site.
  2. A positioning statement.
  3. The next workshop.
  4. Other upcoming workshops.
  5. A list of all workshops available.
  6. A way of getting in touch.

The hierarchy for an individual workshop page looked pretty similar:

  1. The title of the workshop.
  2. The date of the workshop.
  3. The location of the workshop.
  4. The price of the workshop.
  5. Details of the workshop.

It was clear that the page needed to quickly answer some basic questions: what? where? how much?

I started marking up the answers to those questions from top to bottom. That’s when it started to come together. Working with markup and CSS in the browser felt more productive than any of the sketching I had done in Photoshop. I started really sweating the typography …to the extent that I decided that even the logotype should be created with “live” text rather than an image.


From the start, I knew that I wanted the site to be a self-describing example of the technologies taught in the workshops. The site is built in HTML5, making good use of the new structural elements and the powerful outline algorithm. Marking up an events site with the hCalendar microformat was a no-brainer. There are hCards a-plenty too.

CSS3 nth-child selectors came in very handy and media queries are, quite simply, the bee’s knees when it comes to building a flexible site: just a few declarations allowed me to make sure the liquid layout could be optimised for different ranges of viewport size.

Workshops for the Web homepage Workshops for the Web homepage

Given the audience of the site, I could be fairly certain that Internet Explorer 6 wouldn’t be much of a hindrance. As it turns out, everything looks more or less okay even in that crappy browser. It looks different, of course, but then do websites need to look exactly the same in every browser?

Right before launch, Paul took a shot at tweaking the visual design, adding a bit more contrast and separation on the homepage with some horizontal banding. That’s a visual element that I had been subconsciously avoiding, probably because it’s already used on some of our other sites, but once it was added, it helped to emphasise the next upcoming workshop—the main purpose of the homepage.

Just because the site is live now doesn’t mean that I’ll stop working on it. I’d like to keep tweaking and evolving it. Maybe I’ll finally figure out a way of incorporating some elements of those great propaganda posters.


The Scenius of Brighton

Recent events reminded me again of what a great place Brighton is for a geek like me. Remy’s all-JavaScript Full Frontal conference went superbly—hence the effusive praise over on the DOM Scripting blog. James and Nat organised a superb Skillswap on the subject of wayfinding. If you missed it, the audio is up on Huffduffer.

It seems like Brighton has a high scenius level.

Scenius stands for the intelligence and the intuition of a whole cultural scene.

It’s fitting then that, , the man who coined the term “scenius”, will be curating the Brighton Festival next year.

There doesn’t seem to be any particular reason why Brighton should be a geekier place than any other UK town. Sure, we could retroactively discover geographical or social conditions that favour Brighton but I think the truth is that it’s just a large-scale .

And it’s not just a geek thing either. The music scene in Brighton is maintaining its reputation, although the scene is somewhat lessened by the recent demise of The Gilded Palace of Sin.

Occasionally, the worlds of geekiness and music mesh to form a glorious venn diagram of fun. The £5 App Musical Christmas Special was one such scenius supercollider. It featured free booze, live music from , and many tales of hackery including a demo of the absolutely wonderful from Toby Cole of Build Brighton, one of the many Brighton geek institutions.

Lest I become too comfortable in my Brighton hive, I’m off to explore another geek scene tomorrow. I’m going over to Belfast to meet the geeks of N’orn Ireland. I’ll be speaking at Refresh Belfast about personal projects in general and the building of Huffduffer in particular. I’m looking forward to it. If you’re in the area, come along and say hello.

Geek out and about

Cast your gaze upon this video footage of a talk entitled Science Fiction as a Literary Genre by Neal Stephenson. Alas, there is no transcript of the talk but there are chapter markers. If you’re pushed for time, skip ahead to the part marked vegging out and geeking out. There, Stephenson makes an important distinction between the two; a distinction that was missed in Clay Shirky’s otherwise excellent speech Gin, Television, and Social Surplus.

Shirky distils his observations of passive and interactive activities into a general principle:

It’s better to do something than to do nothing.

But Stephenson makes the case that both activities have their place. Sometimes switching off your brain and wallowing in low-brow entertainment can be refreshing, even cathartic.

That said, while I agree that vegging out is not something to be dismissed, geeking out is clearly the more important of the two ends of the activity spectrum. In a commencement speech to Caltech students, Radiolab’s stresses the importance of scientists geeking out to non-scientists to battle the forces of ignorance. Tell me a story, he implores.

For us workers on the Web we have plenty of opportunities to geek out in virtual environments like mailing lists, Twitter, IRC and instant messaging but there’s still nothing to beat the enjoyment of geeking out face to face. I feel very fortunate to live in Brighton where there is ample opportunity for in-the-flesh geek gatherings. The town has a strong whiff of what Kevin Kelly calls scenius.

But for pure geekout overload, nothing beats a gathering of the tribes. That means BarCamps and conferences.

There are some geek gatherings in the offing that I’m particularly looking forward to. In just under a fortnight, I’ll be heading out to San Francisco for An Event Apart. This will be my second AEA—my first was in Chicago—so I guess I must have done something right. If this one is even half as good as my first experience, it will be wonderful.

By the way, if you’re thinking about heading along to the conference, tickets are still available. If you decide to register, use the code AEAKEITH to get fifty bucks off.

Then, just a couple of weeks after An Event Apart San Francisco, Brighton will be hosting the annual geekgasm that is dConstruct (followed immediately by BarCamp Brighton on the Saturday and Sunday). There are still a few tickets available for dConstruct but they’re going pretty fast.

I’m all set for An Event Apart but I still haven’t prepared my talk for dConstruct. I’m starting to feel the pressure. I’ve made a start of trying to get my thoughts out of my head and onto post-it notes as a first step but that has thrown the magnitude of my task into sharp relief. There’s so much material I want to cover and I want to do it justice. If I succeed, I think I can deliver an entertaining 45 minutes of geeking out. If.

I really should get on with preparing that talk. Maybe I’ll veg out with some mindless entertainment first.

Microformats gone wild

Microformats seem to be showing up in more and more places lately. Chris spotted hCards in the new .mac web client.

Just this week, Last.fm announced a raft of updates including an events section that uses, yes, you guessed it, hCalendar. I did much the same thing when I added events to The Session recently.

I had been eagerly awaiting the unveiling of events (and accompanying microformats) on Last.fm since having a chat with some of the developers at that Opera shindig. I really like the implementation. If you follow through to an individual event, you’ll see some clever use of CSS to auto-generate a gig poster. Nice!

It’ll be interesting to see some mashups of Last.fm with Upcoming. With every event tied to a location, there’s also plenty of room for doing some fun mapping stuff. It would be nice to have an API to access the event data, but having all the events marked up in hCalendar means that we can start playing around with the data anyway.

Thinking about it, gigs are just about the perfect piece of data to play with: there’s always a date and there’s always a geographical location. Surely somebody will build a concert Mapendar?

At the very least, I expect we’ll see a time/location Podbop-style channel on Last.fm before too long.