Journal tags: fullfrontal



Wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff

I met up with Remy a few months back to try to help him finalise the line-up for this year’s Full Frontal conference. Remy puts a lot of thought into crafting a really solid line-up. He was in a good position too: the conference was already sold out so he didn’t have to worry about having a big-name speaker to put bums on seats—he could concentrate entirely on finding just the right speaker for the final talk.

He described the kind of “big picture” talk he was looking for, and I started naming some names and giving him some ideas of people to contact.

Imagine my surprise then, when—while we were both in New York for Brooklyn Beta—I received a lengthy email from Remy (pecked out on his phone), saying that he had decided who wanted to do the closing talk at Full Frontal. He wanted me to do it.

Now, this was just a couple of weeks ago so my first thought was “No way! I don’t have enough time to prepare a talk.” It takes me quite a while to prepare a new presentation.

But then he described—in quite some detail—what he wanted me to talk about …and it’s exactly the kind of stuff that I really enjoy geeking out about: long-term thinking, digital preservation, and all that jazz. So I said yes.

That’s why I’ve spent the last couple of weeks quietly freaking out, attempting to marshall my thoughts and squeeze them into Keynote. The title of my talk is Time. Pretentious? Moi?

I’m trying to pack a lot into this presentation. I’ve already had to kill some of my darlings and drop some of the more esoteric stuff, but damn it, it’s hard to still squeeze everything in.

I’ve been immersed in research and link-making, reading and huffduffing all things time-related. In the course of my hypertravels, I discovered that there’s an entire event devoted to “the origins, evolution, and future of public time.” It’s called Time For Everyone and it’s taking place in California …at exactly the same time as Full Frontal.

Here’s the funny thing: the description for the event is exactly the same as the description I gave Remy for my talk:

This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down.

If you’re coming along to Full Frontal next Friday, I hope you’ll be in a receptive mood. I also hope that Remy won’t mind that what I’m going to present isn’t exactly what he asked for …but I think it’s interesting stuff.

I just wish I had more time.

Full fathom frontal

It’s been a busy time in Brighton. Last Wednesday’s Skillswap was an excellent affair, with terrific talks about making physical things from Chris Thorpe, Dan Williams, and the lovely young chaps from Mint Digital’s Foundry who were showing their lovely dough globe.

Two days later, it was time for this year’s Full Frontal conference, a highlight of the web-dev calendar. It was really, really good. The general consensus at the after-party was that this was the best year yet. That’s quite something when you consider that in 2009 I said:

it’ll be hard to match the standard set by this year’s conference.

I love it when there are events on in Brighton—dConstruct, Reasons To Be Creative, UX Brighton. It’s great to have geeks come to visit. I always feel like an ambassador and I want the town to be on its best behaviour.

The line-up for Full Frontal was really well curated by Remy. It started with a one-two punch of big-picture thinking, dived into the practicalities of working on the cutting-edge of today’s technologies and then wrapped up with a long-zoom trip down memory lane with Chris.

The one-two punch came from James and John. Like an Oxford debate, they were arguing from opposite ends of a spectrum of opinion. James argued that was perfectly reasonable, even desirable, to make a web app entirely in JavaScript with no HTML in the body element whatsoever. John cautioned against throwing the markup baby out with the web app bathwater, pointing to the robustness of the web stack’s architecture.

The whole point of this opening to the conference was to spark debate and discussion, which it certainly did. Witness this post by Mike Davies in response to James’s arguments.

I’ve seen James present before and, while I certainly don’t agree with what he’s saying, he is a very good presenter. He used a particularly sneaky technique this time. This technical term for this technique is “being reasonable.” Half way through his talk he pointed out that he was taking a deliberately extremist approach and that the truth is that every website sits somewhere on a continuum between document and app (and that websites have had app-like capabilities since the dawn of the submit button). Talking with Mark in the break, we decided we should just get T-shirts with “It Depends” emblazoned on them.

Side note: I’m afraid I must deduct one or two points from James for employing a rhetorical device that really annoys me. At one point (and admittedly just one point) he referred to the “other side” as being dogmatic. Whenever someone labels those they disagree with as “dogmatic” or “purist”, it’s a lazy meaningless barb (like calling someone a hipster). “I’m passionate; you’re dogmatic. I sweat the details; you’re a purist.” Even when I agree completely with the argument being made—as was the case with Andy’s superb talk at South by Southwest this year—I cringe to hear the “dogma” attack employed: especially when the argument is strong enough to stand up on its own without resorting to Croftian epithets.

Anyway, the debate between James and John was a great start to a great day of talks. In some ways, Anna’s excellent talk on the diversity of web browsers on gaming devices was the ultimate rebuttal to James’s argument. “I don’t care about browsers that can’t run this JavaScript,” said James. “This browser basically can’t handle JavaScript,” said Anna. “And here’s the number of young people in the UK accessing the web on this device…”

The Ubelly blog post described Anna’s talk as “One of the best talks of the conference and one of the best talks I have seen this year.”

All in all, a great day which was followed by a whole day of hacking on drones. Clearleft sponsored the event, which means we now have our own flying robot. This could be dangerous.

We’ll be sure to take the drone with us when we head into deepest darkest Dorset next week for this year’s hack farm. But before that I’m in Belfast for the week of Build “don’t-call-it-a-conference” Conf. And you know what I really like? I’m seeing some of the same faces that I saw in Brighton at Full Frontal. Now that’s what I call a balanced conference diet.

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.

Full Frontal

Usually when I write about an upcoming event, it’s because I’ll be speaking at it. But there’s an event coming up in eight weeks that I’m pretty excited about, where I’ll be an attendee rather than a speaker.

The cheekily-named Full Frontal will be taking place in the Duke of York’s cinema in Brighton on November 20th. It’s going to be all JavaScript, all the time. Christian Heilmann, Peter-Paul Koch, Stuart Langridge, Simon Willison, and others will be on hand to blow your mind with all things scripty.

I’ve mentioned this event already over on the DOM Scripting blog but the reason I’m mentioning it here now is that this is the last chance to grab early bird tickets; an absolute steal at just £100.

Great location. Great line-up. Great subject matter. Great organiser.

See you there.


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.