Tags: mobilism




The weather is glorious right now here in Brighton. As much as I get wanderlust, I’m more than happy to have been here for most of June and for this lovely July thus far.

Prior to the J months, I made a few European sojourns.

Mid-may was Mobilism time in Amsterdam, although it might turn out that this may have been the final year. That would be a real shame: it’s a great conference, and this year’s was no exception.

As usual, I had a lot of fun moderating a panel. This time it was a general “hot topics” panel featuring Remy, Jake, Wilto, and Dan. Smart, opinionated people: just what I want.

Two weeks after Mobilism, I was back on the continent for Beyond Tellerrand in Düsseldorf. I opened up the show with a new talk. It was quite ranty, but I was pleased with how it turned out, and the audience were very receptive. I’ll see about getting the video transcribed so I can publish the full text here.

Alas, I had to miss the second day of the conference so I could down to Porto for this year’s ESAD web talks, where I reprised the talk I had just debuted in Germany. It was my first time in Portugal and I really liked Porto: there’s a lot to explore and discover there.

Two weeks after that, I gave that same talk one last spin at FFWD.pro in Zagreb. I had never been to Croatia before and Jessica and I wanted to make the most of it, so we tagged on a trip to Dubrovnik. That was quite wonderful. It’s filled with tourists these days, but with good reason: it’s a beautiful medieval place.

With that, my little European getaways came to an end (for now). The only other conference I attended was Brighton’s own Ampersand, which was particularly fun this year. The Clearleft conferences just keep getting better and better.

In fact, this year’s Ampersand might have been the best yet. And this year’s UX London was definitely the best yet. I’d love to say that this year’s dConstruct will be the best yet, but given that last year’s was without doubt the best conference I’ve ever been to, that’s going to be quite a tall order.

Still, with this line-up, I reckon it’s going to be pretty darn great …and it will certainly be good fun. So if you haven’t yet done so, grab a ticket now and I’ll see you here in Brighton in September.

Here’s hoping the weather stays good.

Mobilism hot topics panel

The programme for this year’s Mobilism conference in Amsterdam looks hot, hot, hot! It will wrap up with that hottest of hot things: a hot topics panel. Hot!

By the way, there are still tickets available. I suggest you grab one if you haven’t already. It’s a great gathering but for some reason it’s not selling as well this year, which means this could be your last chance to attend.

I’ve really, really enjoyed the previous two Mobilisms, and I always get a kick out of moderating panels so I’m pretty chuffed about getting the chance to host a panel for the third year running.

The first year, the panel was made up of Mobile browser vendors (excluding Apple, of course). Last year, it was more of a mixed bag of vendors and developers. This year …well, we’ll see. I’ll assemble the panel over the course of the conference’s two days. I plan to choose the sassiest and most outspoken of speakers—the last thing you want on a panel is a collection of meek, media-trained company shills.

Mind you, Dan has managed to buy his way onto the panel through some kind of sponsorship deal, but I’m hoping he’ll be able to contribute something useful about Firefox OS.

Apart from that one preordained panelist, everything else is up in the air. To help me decide who to invite onto the panel, it would be really nice to have an idea of what kind of topics people want to have us discuss. Basically, what’s hot and what’s not.

So …got a burning question about mobile, the web, or the “mobile web” (whatever that means)? I want to hear it.

If you could leave a comment with your question, ‘twould be much appreciated.


June is about to draw to close and I’ve spent the entire month within the borders of the UK. That’s quite a change from the previous month: I was at three different conferences in three different countries in May.

First off, there was Mobilism in Amsterdam. It was, unsurprisingly, very good indeed. Mind you, I was getting a little disheartened on the first day of the conference when there was talk after talk describing how to make web apps look and feel more like native apps. The question of why exactly this would be desirable never seemed to get asked. I was beginning to worry that we were going to enter a period of making the same mistakes we did a few years back when everyone was trying to slavishly imitate desktop interactions on the web. The result is a kind of uncanny valley of interaction where apps behave almost, but not quite, like their native counterparts.

My fears were allayed on the second day of Mobilism though, particularly when Scott blew everyone’s minds. There was a veritable feast of future friendly thinking from Lyza, Jason, Brad, and Stephen too.

Speaking of future friendliness, there was a second Mobilewood gathering recently and the Future Friendly site now sports a new section entitled Come Aboard.

By the way, thank you to everyone who provided questions for my panels at Mobilism. They went well, although in retrospect two panels were maybe a bit much. Still, it was fun trying to get a statement other than “no comment” out of the Google Chrome representative on the browser panel.

Mobilism 2012, Day 1

Later in May I was in Belgium for Multi-Mania, a grassroots event run by students. I enjoyed myself but there was definitely a problem with having multiple tracks—the usual feeling of missing out on something, especially when some of the rooms filled up really quickly. The main stage also suffered from being directly connected to the exhibition hall which meant there was a lot of sound leakage. A shame, really.

My last speaking gig in May, on the hand, was a very smoothly-run event. I was in St. John’s, Newfoundland for Go Beyond Pixels. The fact that the conference was really well put together is all the more surprising considering it was the first time that Levin had ever organised an event! I hope it won’t be the last. He put on a great show and gave all the speakers a very warm welcome.

Suzannah, Levin, and Jeremy

Oh, and Newfoundland was beautiful.

Since getting back, I’ve been enduring the English Summer. As nice as Brighton has been for a month, I’m looking forward to getting to sunnier climes.

So that’s exactly what I’m going to do, starting with a trip to Barcelona in just over a week’s time for Webvisions. I’ll be doing a half-day workshop on responsive design and progressive enhancement.

If you’re thinking of coming, here’s a little tip: go to the registration page, scroll down to the bit where it says “enter promotional code”, click that link, type “KEITH”, and hit the “Apply” button …Boom! Now your conference and workshop pass has a 20% discount applied.

Alas, I won’t be able to stick around for the conference day itself. I need to get over to Austin for An Event Apart.

I’m very excited to get to Austin when it’s not South by Southwest, but I’m also extremely nervous about my talk. I’ve spent most of this month at home trying to finish up my presentation. I fear I may be trying to squeeze an awful lot of stuff into one talk. I might have to speak very fast to fit it all in …or I suppose I could be sensible and try to trim the presentation down.

Anyway, there are still some tickets available for AEA Austin if you want to see me sweat …and I’m not just talking about the Texas heat.

Questions for Mobilism

I’m going to Amsterdam next week for the Mobilism conference. Bizarrely, there are still tickets available. I say “bizarrely” because it’s such an excellent event—it’s like the European equivalent of the Breaking Development conference.

Don’t worry; I won’t be giving a presentation. I’ll leave that to experts like Remy, Lyza, Brad, and Jake. But I will be getting up on the stage. I’m going to moderating not one, but two, panels. I think it’s going to be fun.

We’ll be reprising the Mobile Browser panel from last year. Once again, there will be representatives from Opera, RIM, and Nokia. This year Google is also joining the line-up. As usual, Apple will not be present.

The new addition to the schedule is a panel on device and network APIs. I will be playing the part of a curious but clueless web developer interested in such things …because, well, that’s what I am.

I plan to open up both panels to questions from the audience. While I don’t quite fall into Cennydd’s camp, it would be great if more people would read this article on how to ask a question:

You have not been invited to give a speech. Before you stand up, boil your thoughts down to a single point. Then ask yourself if this point is something you want to assert or something you want to find out. There are exceptions, but if your point falls into the category of assertion, you should probably remain seated.

But I’m not planning to leave the questions entirely to the people in the room. Just as I did last year, I’d like to ask you to tell me what topics are burning in your mind when it comes to mobile browsers or device APIs.

Comments are open for one week. Let fly with your questions.


One of the recurring themes at the Mobilism conference earlier this year—and more recently at the Breaking Development conference—was the subject of server-side user-agent detection. I posed the question in absurdum on the Mobilism browser panel:

A useful tool for developers or spawn of Satan: which is it?

It’s a contentious issue, as Alex’s strident defence illustrates. Personally, I’ve never been a fan but that’s mostly because of the long history of really, really bad UA-detection in the past. When I discussed this issue with Lyza we came to a détente, agreeing that there is nothing inherently wrong with server-side UA-detection: it’s what you do with it that counts.

In their presentation at Breaking Development Bryan and Stephanie outlined the kind of detection that they have used. Crucially, it assumes a very basic small-screen default—rather than assuming a desktop browser—and later double-checks the profile on the client-side using feature detection.

Luke recently outlined another kind of cautious device detection that he’s calling RESS: Responsive Design + Server Side Components, sending subtly-different DOMs to different classes of device. He also recently wrote about why Bagcheck has a separate mobile site and it strikes me that RESS could alleviate the concerns he mentioned regarding responsive design for Bagcheck.

I think that RESS could be a very useful technique as long as it assumes a safe default: a small-screen, low-bandwidth default. That way, any UA detection would be done against a fairly limited set of user agents: desktop browsers and maybe tablets. To me, that seems far more reasonable than trying to pattern-match against the sprawling jungle of mobile devices in the wild …not to mention the swampy morass of licensing issues with Device Atlas (and now too).

As ever, smart defaults are really important. Just as truly responsible responsive web design goes hand-in-hand with a mobile/content first approach, I think that any server-side detection should do the same. It completely inverts the problem space. Instead of thinking “How can I stop this nice-to-have content/functionality being sent to mobile devices?” you can assume a mobile device by default and then your question becomes “How can I make sure that this nice-to-have content/functionality is only sent to desktop devices?” (the answer probably involves some kind of conditional loading with JavaScript).

A thornier problem with server-side UA-sniffing is that, regardless of whether you’re testing against a list of mobile devices or you’re testing against a list of desktop devices, you’re still committing yourself to an arms race. You are now obligated to keep your list of browsers up to date.

Still, the rate of desktop browser releases is a lot slower than the rate of mobile browser releases. So if a new desktop browser is released and it ends up being served a mobile-optimised DOM, I think that’s better than inadvertently serving a desktop-optimised DOM to a whole bunch of mobile devices.

That’s just my opinion of course. As ever, the standard disclaimer applies.

Mobilism transcription

Remember that mobile browser panel I moderated at the Mobilism conference in Amsterdam earlier this year? Well, I’ve had the whole thing transcribed. You can now:


Mobilism browser panel

I spent the last few days in the beautiful surroundings of Amsterdam for Mobilism. ‘Twas an excellent affair: a well-organised, focused single-track conference. It may have helped that Amsterdam itself was looking bloody gorgeous for the duration.

All the talks were great but I was particularly happy to finally hear Bryan and Stephanie Rieger having so often favourited their presentations on Slideshare. They both blew my mind, though I’ll admit to a certain amount of confirmation bias in hearing their Content First message.

For my part, I moderated what I believe may have been the world’s first panel dedicated to mobile browsers.

Mobile Browser panel

I thoroughly enjoyed myself …somewhat at the expense of the panelists. There were representatives from Opera, Nokia and RIM present, ready and willing to take their punishment. They were the ones brave enough to actually show up. Despite PPK’s best efforts, there was an Apple- and Google-shaped hole on stage. Apple never sends anyone to any event to speak on behalf of the company. And Google were clearly just too chickenshit.

So kudos to the mobile browser vendors that did have the guts to take a grilling from web developers. The panel got quite technical for a while—which you may or not find boring, depending on how much of a browser nerd you are—but once we moved on to more philosophical bigger-picture questions, it got very interesting indeed.

Luke took some notes and the whole thing has been recorded for posterity. Oh, and a big “thank you!” to everyone who took the time to answer my request for questions.

Questioning mobile browsers

I’m off to Amsterdam later this week for Mobilism, a design and development conference with a focus mobile devices. I won’t be giving a talk—there are far more qualified and talented people on the roster—but I will be moderating a panel. I love moderating panels.

My panelists will be exemplars of that strange breed of supernerd, the browser maker. Specifically, the mobile browser maker. More specifically still, Opera, RIM and Nokia.

So if you’ve got a question that you’d like answered by any or all of these representatives, let me know. I’ve got a few questions of my own but I’m looking for more ammunition.

Okay. Let ‘er rip. Comments are open (gasp!).