Tags: sussexdigital



£5 slides

I just got back from a geek event down the street: £5 App. I had fun talking about Huffduffer.

You can download the slides or see them on Slideshare. I was all set to record the presentation using Audio Hijack but, while I remembered to click “hijack”, I stupidly forgot to press “record.” Sorry.

The evening finished with a call for more entries to the 5K App competition. To spur us on, we were shown some pretty amazing lightweight demos. My demo has to be the python script that converts text to morse code which is then output to the LED on the caps lock key.

Yup: it’s an implementation of the Van Eck Phreaking circumvention from Cryptonomicon. Doubleplus awesome.

See me speak

While I was in Nashville for the Voices That Matter conference, I sat down for an enjoyable little chat with Nikki McDonald. It began with a discussion of my uncanny resemblance to Severus Snape before moving on to more webby matters.

I also had a great three-way chat with Christopher Schmitt and Steve Krug. Christopher has posted up a transcript of the conversation

If you’re not completely sick of hearing me natter on and you are in Brighton on Tuesday evening, come along to £5 App where I’ll be babbling about Huffduffer. I know it clashes with the Flash Brighton screening of Sita Sings the Blues but you can watch that online anytime, right?

Community service

I returned from Spain at the weekend after a really enjoyable time at Fundamentos Web. The conference was very well organised and had a nice grassroots feel to it (helped, no doubt, by the very, very reasonable ticket price of just €130 for two days!). My sincerest thanks to Encarna, Martin, Andrea and everyone else who helped put the event together. It was an honour to be invited.

After the conference proper, Tantek taught a one-day microformats workshop. I might be a bit biased but I thought he did a great job. But I think I was even more impressed with the audience and the smart questions they were asking.

In fact, the best thing about the conference wasn’t any particular presentation or panel—it was the people. The language barrier didn’t get in the way of having a good ol’ natter with fellow geeks. I was introduced to a Spanish web standards community called Cadius. They have meetups in various parts of Spain to drink and discuss design and development… my kind of people.

I count myself very fortunate to live somewhere where there’s a vibrant real-world community. As I’ve said before, Brighton seems to have an inordinately high number of geeky gatherings. Why, on the very night that I got back from Spain, I found myself playing Werewolf thanks to Simon and Nat. The night after that, I had the pleasure of attending a talk by Steven Pinker (hey, language geekiness is still geeky).

The most recent Brighton geek meetup I attended was the £5 App where local entrepreneurs and developers get together to showcase things they’ve built. This time, it was my turn. I gave a talk on the past, present and future of The Session.

As it turned out, I had quite a lot to say. Without really intending to, I spoke for about two hours, occasionally demonstrating a point by playing a quick jig or reel on the bouzouki. I’m sure I must have bored everyone senseless but once I got started, there was no shutting me up. I touched on some of the technical aspects of the site but mostly I focussed on the community side of things, recounting how sites like Fray inspired me to start getting stuff out there—if there was one downside to being at Fundamentos Web last week, it was that I didn’t get to see Derek Powazek who was in London for The Future Of Web Apps.

I decided to forego slides for my £5 App presentation but I did put together an outline of points I wanted to make. I hope I managed to put the site in context of the aural and written history of Irish traditional music, focussing in particular on the rip-roaring tale of . For the record, here’s the outline in format:

  1. Irish traditional music
    1. Itinerent harpers, e.g. Carolan composed tunes.
    2. Traveling dancing masters. Pipes, fiddles, flutes and whistles.
    3. Dance music:
      1. Jigs—East at Glendart
      2. Reels—The Wind that Shakes the Barley
      3. Hornpipes—The Rights of Man
      4. Slip Jigs—Hardiman the Fiddler
      5. Polkas—Jessica’s
      6. Slides—O’Keefe’s
    4. Usually no known composers.
    5. Aural transmission.
  2. Francis O’Neill
    1. 1848: Born on August 28th in Tralibane, County Cork.
    2. 1865: Ran away to sea. Mediterranean, Dardanelles, Black Sea.
    3. 1866:
      1. Liverpool to New York on the Emerald Isle (meeting his future wife, Anna Rogers).
      2. New York to Japan on the Minnehaha.
      3. Shipwrecked on Baker’s Island.
      4. Rescued by the Kanaka crew of the Zoe: 34 days to Hawaii.
    4. 1869: Teaching in Missouri before moving to Chicago (sailing the Great Lakes).
    5. 1873: Sworn in as a policeman. Shot a few months later by a gangster (bullet never removed).
    6. 1901: Chief of Police.
    7. 1903: The Music of Ireland.
    8. 1905: Retires.
    9. O’Neill’s 1001: “The Book”.
  3. Pub sessions
    1. 1947: The Devonshire Arms, Camden, London.
    2. No set lists. Not the same as jamming.
  4. Folk Revival
    1. 1960s: Sean O’Riada, The Chieftains, Planxty.
    2. 1970s: The Bothy Band.
  5. The Internet
    1. Mailing lists like IRTRAD-l.
    2. ABC format.
  6. The Session
    1. 1999? Original site with no domain
      1. Very little interaction.
      2. Weekly updates: a new tune.
      3. Email subscribers.
    2. Relaunch, June 3rd 2001, thesession.org
      1. Member profiles and tunebooks.
      2. User-submitted tunes, recordings and links.
      3. Discussions.
    3. Incrementally:
      1. Sessions.
      2. Events.
  7. Community management
    1. One rule: Be civil.
    2. A little attention every day.
    3. Benevolent dictatorship.
  8. Tech specs
    1. LAMP: Linux Apache MySQL PHP
    2. Edit in place for admins… just me.
    3. JavaScript for progressive disclosure, faux pop-ups for forms
    4. Ajax for pagination.
    5. Lean, mean standards-based markup is good for SEO.
    6. Minimal use of graphics means speed, even on dial-up.
  9. Show me the money!
    1. Tip jar.
    2. Amazon shop.
  10. The Future
    1. More network effects from more user data.
    2. Travel section?
    3. Ratings?
    4. Better back-end code. An API?
    5. Expose more data like most popular tunes.

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 attended my first Brighton Geek Girl Dinner last week. I was there as a guest of Jessica—guys are permitted to attend if they are guests of girl attendees—but I was also present in the more official role of being a sponsor.

The event was partly sponsored by dConstruct. As part of the sponsorship deal, we’re giving away two sets of two tickets to the conference. If you’re a girl geek, you’ve got until July 31st to win these tickets (and you know how coveted they are). You can find all the details on Rosie’s blog.

Denise Wilton, who will be speaking at this year’s dConstruct, was the guest of honour at the dinner. She gave a great talk about building personality into applications. A lot of it was about the importance of good, suitable copy. This is the kind of thing that Tom Armitage talked about at Reboot this year in his presentation The Uncanny Valet. In fact, Tom specifically mentioned the example of “little moo” and “big moo”.

Denise works at Moo, you see. Those lovely people are responsible for cute business cards and note cards. Now they’ve added another tactile toy into the mix: stickers.

Moo stickerbook

I was lucky enough to get a sneaky try of the latest product before it officially launched. As expected, the process of putting together a sticker book is straightforward and fun. And the stickers themselves are really nicely finished. I expect to see lots of these little pics cropping up on notebooks, laptops and mobile phones.

To celebrate the official launch of Moo stickers, there’ll be a party in London tonight. I’ll be going (of course!) and in true coals-to-Newcastle fashion, I’ll be bringing some stickers with me… microformats stickers, courtesy of Dan.

I can has stikerz?

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.

Brighton R0x0r

I moved to Brighton almost seven years ago now. It’s funny, I still think of myself as a newcomer but I guess if you can remember the West Pier before it burned down, you can consider yourself a local.

Brighton has always had a great web/tech scene. While there’s no one big employer in the town, there are lots and lots of small agencies and freelancers. Rather than seeing one another as rivals, there’s a nice spirit of cooperation between all these geeks (helped in no small part by the Brighton New Media mailing list).

Lately, I’ve had the feeling that the scene has, if anything, improved. There are definitely more geek-related activities going on in Brighton. In fact, I’d say that on any given night of the week, Brighton would give London a run for its money.

Some friends of mine have put together a new site called Sussex Digital to aggregate all the geek-related activity into one place.

Sussex Digital - focusing on the Sussex digital community

Scanning down the list of regular events reveals just how much is going on:

Recently I attended a Geek Wine Thing. On the same night there was a Flash Brighton meetup and an Agile Forum. I am, quite literally, spoiled for choice.

If you live in Brighton, be sure to check out the Sussex Digital website and subscribe to the events calendar. You can also get updates via Twitter.

I love the fact that Sussex Digital is a grassroots effort made by a couple of enthusiastic guys… that would be Josh and Dave then.