Tags: sydney

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The Session

When I was travelling back from Webstock in New Zealand at the start of this year, I had a brief stopover in Sydney. It coincided with one of John and Maxine’s What Do I Know? events so I did a little stint on five things I learned from the internet.

It was a fun evening and I had a chance to chat with many lovely Aussie web geeks. There was this one guy, Christian, that I was chatting with for quite a bit about all sorts of web-related stuff. But I could tell he wasn’t Australian. The Northern Ireland accent was a bit of a giveaway.

“You’re not from ‘round these parts, then?” I asked.

“Actually,” he said, “we’ve met before.”

I started racking my brains. Which geeky gathering could it have been?

“In Freiburg” he said.

Freiburg? But that was where I lived in the ’90s, before I was even making websites. I was drawing a complete blank. Then he said his name.

“Christian!” I cried, “Kerry and Christian!”

With a sudden shift of context, it all fit into place. We had met on the streets of Freiburg when I was a busker. Christian and his companion Kerry were travelling through Europe and they found themselves in Freiburg, also busking. Christian played guitar. Kerry played fiddle.

I listened to them playing some great Irish tunes and then got chatting with them. They didn’t have a place to stay so I offered to put them up. We had a good few days of hanging out and playing music together.

And now, all these years later, here was Christian …in Sydney, Australia …at a web event! Worlds were colliding. But it was a really great feeling to have that connection between my past and my present; between my life in Germany and my life now; between the world of Irish traditional music and the world of the web.

One of the other things that connects those two worlds is The Session. I’ve been running that website for about twelve or thirteen years now. It’s the thing I’m simultaneously most proud of and most ashamed of.

I’m proud of it because it has genuinely managed to contribute something back to the tradition: it’s handy resource for trad players around the world.

I’m ashamed of it because it has been languishing for so long. It has so much potential and I haven’t been devoting enough time or energy into meeting that potential.

At the end of 2009, I wrote:

I’m not going to make a new year’s resolution—that would just give me another deadline to stress out about—but I’m making a personal commitment to do whatever I can for The Session in 2010.

Well, it only took me another two years but I’ve finally done it.

I’ve spent a considerable portion of my spare time this year overhauling the site from the ground up, completely refactoring the code, putting together a new mobile-first design, adding much more location-based functionality and generally tilting at my own personal windmills. Trying to rewrite a site that’s been up and running for over a decade is considerably more challenging than creating a new site from scratch.

Luckily I had some help. Christian, for example, helped geocode all the sessions and events that had been added to the site over the years.

That’s one thing that the worlds of Irish music and the web have in common: people getting together to share and collaborate.

What do I know?

On our way back from New Zealand, Jessica and I stopped off in Sydney for a day. That same evening, the “What Do You Know?” event was going on—a series of five minute lightning talks from Sydney’s finest web geeks.

Maxine asked me if I could do a turn so I put together a quick spiel called Five Things I Learned from the Internet. Those five things are:

  1. How to wrap headphone cables in a tangle-free way.
  2. How to fold a T-shirt in seconds.
  3. How to tie shoelaces correctly (thanks, Adam).
  4. How to eat a cupcake (thanks, Tara).
  5. How to peel a banana (thanks, Kyle) with a bonus lesson on the bananus.

At least one of those things will blow your mind. Pwshoo!

Matrix locations in Sydney

When Eric and Tantek where in Sydney for Web Essentials 2005 they went off on a little jaunt that Eric dubbed urban spelunking. They went in search of locations from The Matrix, which was filmed in Sydney, donchyaknow.

“That looks like fun”, I thought. When I found myself in Sydney for Web Directions South, I resolved to follow in the footsteps of the futuristic hero dressed in black… no, not Neo; Tantek. I used location information gathered from Tantek's photos to find some street addresses. I also managed to find a couple of locations of my own.

Off I went with Jessica in tow and camera in hand. The resultant photos are up on Flickr. Evidently, I'm not the only one who got a kick out of this: the pictures have been dugg, sending their viewing figures into five digits.

For anyone else who wants to do a Matrix tour of Sydney, here's a list of locations and time stamps from the movie. They're all geotagged and encoded in hCard so you can go ahead and extract that data.

Adam Street Bridge The Adam Street bridge scene begins at 00:19:32. It's filmed at Campbell Street and Elizabeth Street.

Morpheus The crosswalk in the agent training programme is shown at 00:53:42. It's filmed at Martin Place and Pitt Street.

Woman in the red dress The fountain featuring the woman in the red dress appears 35 seconds later at 00:54:17. It's also filmed at Martin Place and Pitt Street.

Military controlled building The military controlled building where Morpheus is held comes into view at 01:25:47. The building is the Colonial State Bank Centre on Philip Street and Martin Place.

Phone call Neo comes out of the phonebooth at the end of the film at 2:03:30. You can find it across from Dymock's bookstore on the corner of Hunter Street and Pitt Street.

Metacortex The Metacortex building where Neo works is seen at 00:10:20 and is actually the Metcentre seen from Margaret Street and Carrington Street.

Sydney to Melbourne

Jessica and I will be leaving the confines of Sydney to explore a little more of Australia. We’ll be coming to Melbourne next week.

We’re leaving Sydney on Wednesday at 11am, arriving in Melbourne at 12:30. We’ll stay until Saturday, when we’ll fly out of Melbourne at 11am to arrive back in Sydney at 12:20.

Melbournites, get in touch. I’ve met plenty of you over the last few days, and I figured a quick blog post would be easier than a mass mailout. Sitepoint people, WSG people, general geeks, leave a comment and let me know about places to stay, places to eat, and places to drink. See you all soon in what I’ve heard is the culinary capital of Australia.

Wrapping up Web Directions South

Web Directions South is over for this year. It was a top-notch conference.

The bar was set pretty high on day one, but day two turned out to be equally inspiring. That ol’ smoothie Malarkey got the crowd all fired up with his talk about design inspiration. His slick slides were matched by his equally slick outfit.

Kelly deserves a medal for her presentation. She had almost completely lost her voice, but she went ahead and spoke anyway, holding the lapel mike up close to her mouth so that her whispered words would be audible. What a trooper!

My second talk of the conference went better than I anticipated. I thought that the code-heavy, no-nonsense approach, so different from my first presentation, would put a lot of people off. Not so, apparently. I had a lot of people come to me at the party afterwards and tell me that they really enjoyed it. That surprised me. I thought it would be useful, but I didn’t think it would be very enjoyable.

In fact, I got the best piece of feedback that a presenter could ask for. A woman, whose name I have unfortunately forgotten (sorry!), told me that she was watching my presentation with her colleague as she frantically scribbled notes. At one point, she scribbled down a message and passed it to her colleague. It read, “this code is making me horny.”

Now, that’s my kind of audience.

As always with conferences like this, the presentations are only part of the experience. It’s the people that really make or break an event like this. I’m happy to report that the people at Web Directions were the salt of the earth. I’ve met so many nice, friendly, amusing, knowledgeable peers at this conference. It’s always great to finally meet people in the flesh after reading their blogs or looking at their Flickr pics for so long beforehand. And I was able to put faces to the names of some of my fellow microformateers, Dmitry Baranovskiy and Ben Buchanan.

Extra kudos must go to the Sitepoint gang who threw an excellent after-party, replete with free booze.

Keep an eye on the website for the forthcoming podcast. In the meantime, you can read synopses of the presentations from written by Andrew, official liveblogger of Web Directions South.

Halfway through Web Directions South

The first day of Web Directions South went superbly. The quality of the presentations was exceptionally high (the quality of the post-presentation schmoozing was also high, thanks to the copious amounts of wine, beer and nibbles provided).

It was interesting to see some overarching themes emerge. In particular, I think just about every presentation I saw mentioned the importance of user testing.

John did a great job with his talk on microformats. He’s such an enthusiastic and passionate speaker, he never fails to get me (and everyone else in the room) excited.

Derek was the last speaker of the day and man, was he on fire! I’ve seen him present a few times and he’s always good, but this time he blew me away. The presentation was almost like a keynote, full of “what if?” questions and creative ideas. I found it really inspiring: it made want to whip out my laptop and start hacking stuff together straight away.

Of course, the lure of beer put paid to that idea.

Day two is about to kick off. If it turns out to be anything like day one, I’m in for a treat.

One talk down, one to go

I’m having a good time in Sydney. As illustrated in my Flickr photostream, I’ve been visiting all the usual tourist locations: the Opera House, filming locations from The Matrix, that kind of thing.

The Web Directions South conference is now motoring along and thus far, everything is going swimmingly. The pre-conference workshops have been going on for the past couple of days. I did a workshop on DOM Scripting and Ajax, which was good fun. The audience were a savvy bunch and they had some great questions and suggestions. The whole thing is online over at the DOM Scripting site.

Today the conference proper kicked off with the inimitable Kelly Goto, who gave a terrific and inspiring keynote. Then I had to follow her.

I wasn’t sure if I had prepared enough material. When I was practising my presentation back in my room, I was done in twenty minutes. As it turned out, I had plenty to say. In fact, there was only time for one single question from the audience at the end, which is a bit of a shame.

Overall though, it went well. There were no technical hitches (phew!) and some people came up to me afterwards and said they really enjoyed it.

You can take a look at the slides but they won’t make much sense without the context of the presentation. Fortunately, the whole thing has been recorded. I’ll be sure to get the audio transcribed and post it in the articles section of this site.

Now that I’ve got the first presentation out of the way, I can start fretting over the next one. Today I was talking about Ajax in a very broad hands-off kind of way. Tomorrow I’ll be delving into the actual code for building Ajax apps. As usual, I’ll be riding my Hijax hobbyhorse. I’m going to condense a lot of stuff down from my workshop so I’m hoping that the people who were at the workshop will go to the presentation by Thomas Vander Wal which is on at the same time as mine.

Web Directions South

In a few days, I’ll be getting on a plane to Sydney. I’ve never been in the Southern hemisphere before, much less Australia. I am, needless to say, quite excited.

I’ll be speaking at Web Directions South. Now, at this stage, I’m no stranger to public speaking but I’m kinda nervous about speaking at this conference. See, getting to speak at this event is something of a dream come true for me. Don’t believe me? Let me direct your attention to my first post of 2006, wherein I set down my resolutions for the year. My resolve hasn’t been very strong in the bouzouki playing department, but I’m thrilled that my second resolution is going to become a reality.

If I’m being flown halfway ‘round the world to speak in front of an audience, I want to make damn sure that they get their money’s worth. Fortunately, the schedule is set up in such a way that I think I can please most people. On the first day, I’m giving a code-free presentation called Explaining Ajax. Then, on the second day (which is double-tracked), I’ll be doing a much more hands-on session on Ajax and Progressive Enhancement.

I’ll also be doing a full-day workshop two days before the conference proper. Busy, busy, busy.

I’m feeling pretty confident about the workshop and the hands-on session. I’ve had plenty of experience delivering both. It’s the overview presentation that I’ve been fretting over. I want it to be entertaining but informative. I hope I can strike the right balance.

I spent the last week in Florida hanging out with the in-laws at the beach house in Saint Augustine. I didn’t pass up the opportunity to splash around in the waves and eat plenty of shrimp (though not at the same time), but I spent a lot of time with my laptop open putting together my slides. I’ve spent so long thinking about what makes a good presentation that I fear I’m in danger of over-analyzing everything.

My task isn’t made any easier by the exalted company in which I will be appearing. I’ll be speaking right after Kelly Goto. This is like being asked to play a tune after Mozart has just left the piano.

I probably shouldn’t worry so much. Once I’m standing in front of a captive audience, you can wind me up and let me loose. Usually there’s at least some value hidden in the stream of words that comes gushing out.

The cool factor of Web Directions just went up several notches with the unveiling of a backnetwork-style application called Web Connections. XFN, check. hCard, check. Google Map, check. Flickr pics, check. Tagging, check. RSS, check. Cameron and Tim have crafted a thing of beauty. If d.Construct is any indication, it will prove enormously useful.

I have a feeling that any jetlag I may experience from crossing continents will be offset by my permanent state of excitement. Seeing as this visit down under may be a once in a lifetime opportunity, I don’t plan on heading back straight after the conference. Jessica and I will stick around for another ten days afterwards, exploring all that Sydney has to offer.

I can’t wait. My only fear is that I’ve been so busy preparing my presentation that I haven’t had time to practice the useful everyday Australian phrases that Cam told me would come in so handy. To whit, “crikey, this cobber’s going gangbusters on my wallaroo.”