Tags: vancouver



Après Web Directions North

All I can say is, “Wow!” Web Directions North was one superb conference. The speakers were great, the organisation was slick and the social events were out of this world.

Every conference has its own vibe and this was one of excitement and fun. I was reminded of the atmosphere at a rock concert; when there’s energy coming from the stage, the audience responds in kind.

I’ve already described the presentations I was fortunate enough to attend, but I haven’t yet mentioned how well-put together the whole thing was. Maxine and John have plenty of experience under their respective belts while Dave and Derek have the benefit of being seasoned presenters themselves. Together they put a lot of thought into planning and executing a kick-ass conference.

Oh, and if you happen to be in the conference-organising business and you want some of that same success, here’s a tip: hire Cindy Li. She made sure that everything went like clockwork, mananging both the speakers and the attendees like they were play-doh in her hands.

At Web Directions North, I felt like I had the chance to connect with a lot of people; old friends and new. The end of any conference is often a bittersweet and frustrating time. All the people who have gathered together to share inspiration and knowledge scatter back to their respective homes. The size of this event combined with social events such as the infamous Media Temple closing party ensured that missed opportunities were kept to a minimum. Most of all though, I’ve enjoyed the best post-conference wind-down ever.

What better way to follow two days of wonderfully geeky talks than with two days of outdoor activity at Whistler? I rented a snowboard and all the associated paraphernalia. Even if I couldn’t actually do anything much, at least I could look the part. I had fun in the snow with my fellow bunny slopers but snowboarding is clearly not the sport for me. Racing down the mountainside in a rubber tube, on the other hand, is clearly my forté. The appeal of rubber tubing lies in the almost complete lack of skill required—apart from keeping your bum in the air for the bumpy bits.

And what better way to follow a day of outdoor activity than an après-ski extravaganza courtesy of Microsoft? The Redmond giant thinks that we’re so shallow that our affections can be bought with an endless supply of free food and booze for two days straight. Well, they’re right. I have a new-found soft spot in my heart for Microsoft.

Seriously though, It was really great that Adobe and Microsoft weren’t just faceless sponsors; they also had plenty of delegates in attendance. It felt really good to be able to put faces and names to the software that plays such an important part in the life of a Web developer. I enjoyed some very productive conversations with the Adobe gang and I was humbled to meet some of the developers working on IE7. I’m less likely to pour a vitriolic rant into an anonymous textarea now that I know some of the faces and names at the receiving end of the blogosphere’s ire.

Now I’m on my way back to England. While I am of course sad to be leaving Vancouver, I don’t have the usual post-conference ennui. I feel satisfied. I’m looking forward to getting home where I hope I’ll have some time to reflect on some of the things I discussed with the intelligent and passionate people at Web Directions North.

Web Directions North, day two

Day two of Web Directions North went just as smoothly and wonderfully as day one. Kelly kick-started the day in typically inspiring style. After that, delegates were faced with the geek equivalent of Sophie’s choice: to attend a double bill of Adrian Holovaty and Craig Saila or a double bill of George Oates and Paul Hammond?

In the end I opted for Paul and Oates over journalism. No doubt the Adrian/Craig set-up was just as impressive but the Flickr talk blew me away. Then again, I can’t be objective about this stuff: the subject matter interests me so much that I could listen to it for days.

After lunch, I had the great pleasure of introducing Steffen Meschkat and Ducky Sherwood. Their presentations made me realise just how much of a map geek I really am.

The conference was wrapped up by Jared Spool and really, it doesn’t get much better than that. What an outstanding speaker!

And just like that… it’s over.

I’ve been to a fair few conferences by now and this one ranks amongst the best. The organisation was superb, the speakers were great and most of all, the people were smart and fun. May this be the first of many WDNs.

Web Directions North, day zero

I’m in Vancouver… at least, I think I’m in Vancouver. It’s so foggy that none of the distinctive landmarks are visible. I’ve been told that there are glorious mountains around here but I haven’t seen them yet.

The flight was fine. It was long but punctuated with a decent selection of movies. I’m always in a quandary when it comes to movies on airplanes. I don’t want to watch anything too good because it’s not exactly the best viewing environment. At the same time, I don’t want to watch any old crap. So on this flight, I watched Flags of Our Fathers, which was too good for airplane viewing, Marie Antoinette which was just crap, and The Illusionist which was just right for in-flight entertainment.

Once I landed and got to the hotel, I met up with Cindy and Dan who graciously kept me company while I went out for a bite to eat.

I went to bed at a reasonable hour but of course I was up ludicrously early this morning. I’ll probably need to take a nap later today. In the meantime, I’ll be imbibing some of the local coffee.

There are workshops going on today. I was thinking of flitting in and out of them all day but I fear that a jetlag-induced nap might be misconstrued as boredom.

If the fog clears, I’ll head out and take pictures. I’d probably be tempted to spend the day re-agonising over my slides but that isn’t an option. Andy is using my iBook for his presentation because his Macbook is on the fritz (I’ve borrowed Cindy’s laptop to write this). Combined with the fact that my mobile phone doesn’t seem to work here, I’m feeling distinctly disconnected.

Vancouver mover

My bags are packed with winter clothing in preparation for some post-conference skiing or possibly snowboarding in Whistler. The conference is of course Web Directons North, the Canadian counterpart to the superb Australian event.

The line-up looks amazing. I feel very honoured to be speaking at the conference. I’ll be talking about Ajax once again, but this time I won’t be alone. Derek and I will be teaming up to give a double-whammy of Ajax and accessibility in a two-hour long session.

Originally we were planning to do lots of rapid-fire segments, switching between speakers regularly. That turned out to be a little tricky to organize so we decided to do two separate but interconnected talks instead. I’ll be laying the groundwork, explaining Ajax and flogging my Hijax hobbyhorse. Derek will take over from there and do the real hard work: making Ajax applications work with assistive technology.

As usual, I’ve been fretting about the presentation and agonising over my slides but I think I’ve got things in a more-or-less finished state now. I’m just glad I’m on early on the first day—I’ll be able to relax afterwards and enjoy the rest of the conference. The only difficulty will be deciding which sessions to attend when there are two tracks of talks.

I’ll get the bus to Heathrow tomorrow and then I’ll spend nine and a half hours on the flight to Vancouver. I won’t be alone. Veerle will be on the same flight. She was supposed to fly out today—Andy and Molly were able to make the flight—but a fog-bound London prevented her making her connection. At least now we can keep each other company on the flight out and agonise about our respective slides together.

If you’re going to be at Web Directions North, I’ll see you there. If you can’t make it, expect plenty of Twittering and Flickring from Vancouver over the next few days.