Tags: wd06



Explaining Ajax, transcribed

Vicki recently Twittered that with the increase in podcasts, the net is increasingly inaccessible to her.

I had the pleasure of meeting Vicki at Web Directions South in Sydney a few months ago. I was there to give a talk called Explaining Ajax. The audio of that presentation is available on the Web Directions South podcast.

I had the presentation transcribed and I’ve posted it in the articles section. Don’t forget: the RSS feed of the articles section itself doubles up as a podcast.

As usual, I used the Mechanical Turk-driven Casting Words service to get the transcription done. For the most part, it turned out okay but it was really clear that the transcription was done by many people with varying degrees of competence.

See for yourself. The original transcript begins well enough but about three quarters of the way through it turns into complete gibberish. I’m pretty sure that I didn’t suddenly lose the ability to speak intelligibly during the presentation though others may disagree. I had to tweak the final quarter of the transcript so much that I might as well have transcribed it from scratch myself.

If you can’t get enough of hearing the dulcet tones of my voice, you can listen in on a chat I had with Brian Oberkirch for his Edgework podcast. I’m afraid that Skype was acting up a bit on my end so I sound like Max Headroom with a voice box. It was a very pleasant chinwag nonetheless but I fear that—given the issues with the audio—running it through the Casting Words grinder might result in a dadaist abomination.

The man in blue sees red

I flew back from Australia at the start of the week… and boy, are my arms tired — ba-doom!

The day of traveling went surprisingly smoothly. That was probably due to the fact that Jessica and I were flying with Virgin Atlantic’s “upper class” serviceJohn and Maxine sure know how to take care of their speakers. The best part was getting a complimentary ride home from Heathrow airport right to our front door in Brighton.

Actually, the best part was probably on the outward journey, getting to hang out in the Clubhouse at Heathrow. It was like the space station from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Virgin lounge, Heathrow

Now that Web Directions South is well and truly wrapped up, I’m gripped by the usual tug of post-conference emotions. On the one hand, I’m feeling very inspired by the excellent presentations (and even more excellent people) to start hacking and coding some new stuff. On the other hand, the time I spent in Australia means I’ve let a lot of stuff slide. Now that I’m back, I need to catch up with a whole slew of commitments. That leaves me with no time to put any grand schemes into action.

Cameron sums up the dilemma of maintaining the post-conference buzz nicely. He even illustrates the point with diagrams.

Speaking of Cameron…

I feel I should explain some of the more, um… “unusual” pictures that began showing up on Flickr during Web Directions South.

While I was preparing my first presentation, Explaining Ajax, I needed a screen shot of a typical page on Flickr. What better page to use than this photo entitled “Topless Cameron Diaz”? Don’t worry: it’s safe for work. It’s a picture of Cameron Adams and Dustin Diaz with their shirts off, see?

Topless Cameron Diaz

Now, I felt perfectly justified in using this photo. Cam is infamous for using his presentations as platforms for ridiculing others. I thought it would be fun to put him at the receiving end for a change.

“You’re a dead man!”, he shouted from the audience when the photograph blazed across the screen.

Topless Cameron Diaz

He was not a happy camper.

Cam :)

The next day, Cameron was presenting together with Kevin Yank. I think it would be fair to say that everyone was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Right in the middle of a superb talk on APIs, this slide appeared.

Payback Is A Bitch

In the interest of full disclosure, I feel I must point out that that is not my body. It’s a Photoshop job!

I had the opportunity to get in the last word. My second presentation came after Cam and Kevin’s. I could have used this as a platform to get in one last dig, but I decided to be a bigger man than that. I called a truce. Besides, I was in mortal terror of what revenge Cam would wreak… perhaps not today, perhaps not here, but at some future date, in a dark alley, years from now, when the whole incident has long faded from my memory.

I did, however, point out that only cheats use Photoshop. So there.

All’s well that ends well. We kissed…

tongue too

…and made up.

Clare Hotel

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.”

September is the coolest month

There’s going to be a spate of very cool events happening in September. Together, they span three continents.

The fun kicks off in Europe. As you probably already know, d.Construct 2006 will be taking place right here in Brighton on September 8. The conference is already sold out, but if you haven’t got a ticket, you can always put your name down on the standyby list.

If you are coming along, consider sticking around for a weekend of geekery. I’ve put together a list of restaurants, pubs, and hotels, all geo-encoded and mashed up with Google Maps. If you’re planning on staying over, you’ll probably want to book a room soon. It turns out the TUC Congress will be coming to town a few days after d.Construct.

Don’t forget that you can track the build-up to d.Construct 2006 by subscribing to the podcast.

If you’re in North America, then there’s something that might interest you in San Francisco. The Future of Web Apps summit from Carson Workshops will be taking place on the 13th and 14th of September. The last summit, held in London, was excellent. It was inexpensive, the WiFi worked, and the speakers were great. This time, the summit has been stretched to two days, but the price remains tasty and the line-up looks very good indeed.

One week later, the inaugural Webmaster Jam Session will be taking place in Dallas on the 21st and 22nd of September. While the Carson Workshops event will be looking at the big picture of developing web apps, this looks like a more nuts’n’bolts affair, detailing how to go about building and promoting websites.

But the event that has me most excited is taking place on the other side of the world.

Web Directions 2006 will be taking place in Syndey, Australia from the 26th to the 29nd of September. I’ve been asked to speak at the event, for which I am extremely honoured.

As well as giving two presentations at the conference proper, I’ll be giving a workshop on DOM Scripting and Ajax on the Tuesday beforehand. If you’re attending the conference, you get a discount to the workshop.

I’ve never been to Australia before. I’ve never even been south of the equator so this will be my first experience of the Southern hemisphere. I’m looking forward to it immensely. The fact the conference looks like it’s going to be amazing only adds to the thrill. I’m going to have to pull out all the stops to hold my own with speakers like Derek Featherstone, Kelly Goto, and Mollarkey.

If you live anywhere near Sydney (near being a relative term for Australia), Web Directions looks like it’s going to be unmissable. I look forward to seeing you there and, if you can make it along for the workshop too, all the better.