Brendan giving one of the “inspired sessions” at last year’s Flash On The Beach one evening in the Brighton Dome.
Monday, January 10th, 2011
Tuesday, September 30th, 2008
The Flash on the Beach conference is currently underway here in Brighton. I spoke at the conference two years ago so thanks to organiser John Davey’s commitment to giving past speakers guest passes to future events, I’ve been popping in and out of the Dome over the past couple of days to sit in on some talks.
Yesterday I saw Branden Hall talk about Brilliant Ideas that I’ve Blatantly Stolen. Although his specific examples dealt with ActionScript, his overall message was applicable to any developer: look around at other languages and frameworks and scavenge anything you like the look of.
Carla made her name in the Flash world a few years ago with her wonderful site Repercussion where you can play around with sounds through a lovely isometric interface. Lately she’s been working with robots. Or rather, one robot in particular: Leo.
Carla’s job was to come up with a skin for Leo that didn’t send children running screaming. Yes, it’s the problem that plagues Japanese robots and Robert Zemeckis CGI movies in equal measure: the uncanny valley.
Want to see something uncanny?
I was at Carla’s talk with Sophie and we were talking about robots afterwards (as you would). She said that watching robots in motion often makes her feel sad. Looking at that video, particularly the bit where the quadruped is kicked to demonstrate its balance, I understand what she means.
Funnily enough, my favourite robot is also a quadruped. All I want for Christmas is a tachikoma.
littleBits is an opensource library of discrete electronic components pre-assembled in tiny circuit boards. Just as Legos allow you to create complex structures with very little engineering knowledge, littleBits are simple, intuitive, space-sensitive blocks that make prototyping with sophisticated electronics a matter of snapping small magnets together.
Friday, December 8th, 2006
Flash On The Beach: day two
The second day of Flash On The Beach was miserable… at least, the weather was miserable: the presentations were excellent.
Brendan Dawes kicked things off with a superb presentation. It was funny, passionate, down to earth and inspiring. He’s a bullshit-free zone. Once again, I was struck by how little was specific to Flash. Instead, the presentation was universal, covering design, inspiration, life, the universe and everything.
After that, I saw some of the beautiful data visualisations from Marcos Weskamp. You’ve probably seen his scrAPI-powered Newsmap app. It was fascinating stuff and despite the fact that English isn’t his mother tongue, Marcos did a good job of explaining some fairly complicated topics.
After a quick lunch at Wagamama’s, I gave my presentation. People were very kind to me and said they enjoyed it. I got a real glow of pleasure when Brendan told me how much he liked it. It’s always nice to hear that someone enjoyed a presentation, but it means so much more when the complement comes from someone I admire so much—just like when John Allsopp complemented me on my presentation at Web Directions South.
I took a break after my talk and re-entered the dome to see Hillman Curtis. Again, this was only tangentially related to Flash. He told some stories and showed some movies, all in a very relaxed way. It was a very pleasant experience to sit there and take in his work while he filled in the back story.
With that, the presentations were done and all that remained was the Flash tenth anniversary party in the Honey Club. Despite the weather (still miserable), many Flash geeks showed up and I spent the evening in conversation with people from Belgium, France and Norway.
I find it extremely cool that Brighton can attract such a far-flung crowd with an appealing, professional conference. John Davey took quite a risk with Flash On The Beach. I’m really glad it paid off.
I wish I could have been there for day three. Instead, I spent the day getting a bus to Heathrow, waiting at the airport, sitting in a plane, waiting for my luggage, getting a taxi and finally settling in to my hotel room in Berlin. The travelling was worth it: this is some hotel.
Tuesday, December 5th, 2006
Ajax On The Beach
I just got off the stage at Flash On The Beach. To be honest, I didn’t think anyone would turn up: Microsoft were demoing their newest product in the big auditorium. On the plus side, I had a much smaller room to fill which made it nice and intimate.
The talk went well. The crowd were receptive and responsive, despite the oppressive stuffiness in the room. I was really, really glad that I had time for questions after I was done talking. I ended up talking for an hour (longer than I anticipated), but that still left fifteen minutes for a question and answer session.
I was talking to some people afterwards about some specific Ajax issues (cross-domain stuff, mostly) and I’ve posted some relevant links over on the DOM Scripting site.
Now that my talk is done, I can relax and enjoy Hillman Curtis.
Monday, December 4th, 2006
Flash On The Beach: day one
The first day of Brighton’s very own Flash conference covered quite a wide range of subjects.
I skipped the keynote. That’s partly because I thought it would be a product pitch from Adobe but mostly because I had a late night at Aral’s party. By all accounts, it was actually a very good presentation.
The first presentation I saw was from Craig Swann. It was great! He reminded me a lot of Matt Webb with his talk of unusual sensory input devices. Craig was was like a mad scientist, pulling out wires and sensors to build engaging works of art. It made me want to go out and subscribe to Make magazine.
Branden was a very entertaining presenter but he had a tough crowd to work with. Maybe it’s because the venue isn’t packed out and people are sitting apart but there’s a constant feeling of being on the edge of the audience no matter where you sit.
Aral was up next and he was his usual ebullient self. He talked about agile development and user-centred design. For a while there, he was channelling Jason Fried. I was just waiting for him to start talking about “getting real.”
There wasn’t much that was specifically Flash-related in Aral’s talk, which made its appeal even broader: this is a presentation that would fit equally well at a non-Flash conference.
All in all, it was a diverse day of talks: art, code and business. Tomorrow I’ll be giving my controversially-titled presentation. There is a very real possibility that it will go down like a lead balloon, but fingers crossed…
Monday, November 27th, 2006
Flash on the beach
It’s been a good conference year for me. I’ve had the good fortune to attend and speak at some excellent events.
It’s a great way to travel. I get paid to go somewhere exotic and then speak on subjects that I love speaking about anyway. The highlight of this year was going all the way to Australia for Web Directions where I nattered on about Ajax.
Much as I love travelling to conferences, I take special pride when a conference takes place in my adopted hometown of Brighton (with the exception of the Labour Party conference). Most Web conferences in this country take place in London. That’s just the way it goes.
This looks like a biggie. There will be three tracks of talks over three days, all based around the subject of Flash.
This should be interesting… if the term “interesting” encompasses “scary.” I’ll be putting my cards on the table and making it very clear that I’m not exactly an expert in Flash; in fact, I haven’t done anything in Flash since version 6. But I still think it will be interesting for Flash developers to hear from someone in the Ajax camp.
Oh, and just in case anyone thinks I’m going to be cheerleading for Ajax, that’s not my plan. I come not to praise Ajax but to bury it… sort of.
In any case, this will be a very different crowd than I’m used to addressing and I’m very intrigued as to what reaction I’ll get. I’ve got one week until my talk so I’m now in the stage of major panic.
I hope I won’t be so nervous and worried that I won’t be able to enjoy the other presentations. The line-up—with the exception of my aberrant presence—looks amazing. Hillman Curtis, Brendan Dawes, and all the other superstars of Flash will be there. Todd Purgason—whose work I’ve admired for many, many years—is speaking on the last day of conference. And, get this; Neville freakin’ Brody is also speaking on the final day of the conference! Those two are worth the entrance price alone. Speaking of which, if you sign up before November 30th, you get in for £399.
Alas, I won’t be able to hear what Messrs Purgason and Brody have to say. I’ll be ducking out of the conference early. I need to catch a flight to Berlin where I’ll be sitting on the jury for the Biene Web awards.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m not complaining. Once again, I have the opportunity the travel to an exciting far-off place. I just wish it didn’t have to be during the one time when Brighton is the very place where any self-respecting designer would want to be.