@madpilot rants

What I learnt at Web Directions South 08

First off, thank to WA government for having the foresight for ignoring the actual birthday of the Queen and making today a public holiday – my couch has been-a callin’. So what has been happening over the past couple of days?

Day 0

After getting in early morning on the Wednesday, I toddled along to Stories for one of their famous egg and bacon rolls with Simon, Lachlan and Nick.  Oh how I’ve waited for that. I could have gone home at this point a happy man, but then there was work to do! Spending the day tweaking my presentation, next it was up to the Kirk for memories of last year (Yes, they still only have five pint glasses) and then on to Port80 Sydney: Wednesday edition. We had a fantastic turnout, with over 80 people – most of which were new faces. Big ups to Clever starfish, radharc and Saasu.com for throwing dollars on the bar. I’m seeing a definate pattern here in regards to free beer.

Day 1

Waking up slightly hung over, I was off to the registration desk, and then the games began. Highlights for me was Dmitry Baranovskiy’s web vector graphics  talk. I’m about to go download raphael and build some stuff – not only if the guy a genius, but his talks are hilarious. Unfortunately, I missed the JavaScript workshop, where I hear Cameron Adams wowed the crowds with a JavaScript drum machine – with visualizations. The final keynote from August de los Reyes tied software and psycology together, something that I think is the crux of what we do. It was also a great talk, although the ads were a little too much to take.

What I learnt:

  • Seeing cool stuff is inspiring.
  • When giving a presentation, find out about the audience – it’s better to pitch a bit to high than to low.
  • Don’t try to squeeze in 2 hours of material into 55 minutes

Day 1.2

Next up was WebJam8. The one big disappointment of this trip is that I didn’t get something entered in WebJam, but having a Web Directions talk to do and a stupid amount of work took priority… Some really cool stuff was shown: Dmitry came third with a live code, that added reflections and animation to images on a web page, Diana came second with a crazy funny fast presentation about governments and bike helmets and the winners, Mr Speaker and Henry Tapia did a awesome YouTube remixer. In a moment of unlike-me-ness, I wentback to the hotel at a reasonable hour…

Day 2

…and for the first time EVER made it to the first session of the second day! So no one can joke that I missed the best talk of the conference (as happened the past couple of years) and I wasn’t dissapointed. Jeffrey Veen is a brilliant speaker, and I wanted to pull my laptop out right there and then and cut some code. This is the sort of stuff that makes these conferences. After lunch, I gave my presentation on OpenID, OAuth and webservices (Available on slideshare here), and I think it went pretty well. The backchannel was only positive, so I count that as a win. Next I headed over to Douglas Crockford for a good old fashioned Computer Science lecture, god that takes me back! Whilst a little dry, and technical (Who am I kidding – I wanted that) it generated some great discussion.

What I learnt:

  • Great talks bring in personal experience
  • You need to get the audience to think
  • Dual monitor Powerpoint never works properly when you need it to

Closing night

With all of the festivities over, it was time to let the hair down at the Shellbourne, for a quick shandy.  Had a debate about designers vs UX experts (We were actually arguing the same point, it turns out), and had many an indepth conversation, including one with Charles from Opera, about webservice brokering. So much so, my plans to build one may now be possible (Huzzah!).

What I learnt:

  • Finding random “locals” to go out with doesn’t mean they know where they are going
  • Peanuts 2u is actually a brand of salted almonds
  • There is a “No redheads” policy in NSW pubs
  • Bats are weird and scary

So that was my Web Directions experience in a nutshell! Roll on Edge of the Web – only five weeks until we get to do it all over again!

Have a happy and safe conference season

We are about to head into my favourite times of the year – Australian web conference season! Ausralia’s biggest web conference – Web Directions South – is due to kick off on Thursday, and as usual the Perth Posse (sans Adrian and Rose) and heading over. There is even a few n00bs who have joined the clan, making for this years Port80 Sydney even bigger! As previously mentioned, I’m lucky enough to be speaking on OpenID, OAuth and Webservices on Friday. Not to mention always amazing WebJam 8 on Thursday night (Unfortunately a lack of rips in the time-space continuum has stopped me from presenting in that this year – I petition for a 30 hour day – whos with me?) and the always crazy post-conference drinks on the Friday. Let the games begin.

BUT! We can’t let the east coast have all the fun – don’t forget that Perth first major web conference is  happening in less than 6 weeks! Our little sub-committee has been toiling away for the past few months organising the very first Edge of the Web conference and fourth WA Web Awards. Tickets are on sale now for both events, being held on November 6 and 7. There are some awesome speakers coming from overseas and over-east. There is also a number of other soon-to-be announced activities, so what this space.

Excited?

Web Directions over for another year

What a crazy week we have all had, a week of much drinking, socialising and occasionally learning stuff. Highlights from the second day were Andy Clarke, talking about layout techniques that can be stolen from comic books. Andy has such a effortless presentation technique and always presents beautiful slides and this year was no exception. Coming from a developer background, well presented design talks really interest me, as it is something I know little about, although there was quite a bit of overlap with some traditional user interface theories, which is what I did my honours thesis on.

Lisa Herrod‘s presentation on usability and accessibility was awesome – she tabled her idea for splitting up the official accessibility checklist between all members of the design team, emphasising the the point that it isn’t just the front-end developers responsibility. Quite often there is the situation where the copywriter, for example, will drop the content on the front-end guy, thinking there job has been done, which isn’t the case.

Finally, Mark Pesce who is an amazing speaker presented the awe-inspiring final keynote about mob rules. Basically, he noted that the internet finds a way to route around not only technical issues, but social issues such as censorship. He made mention of companies that were quietly chipping away at the traditional network infrastructure giants not with large amounts of money, but having many individuals helping out. Everyone was mesmerised.

Although, from a technical point of view many of the presentations were aimed at the beginner to intermediate level, there was much to be learnt from listening to what the presenters weren’t saying. Picking up little tidbits about what happens behind the scenes is what has inspired me. That and all of the adhoc discussion that goes on over beers.

And beers we had. Sydney has much cheaper beer prices than Perth and coupled with free beer almost every night, the pub was a very popular destination. Wednesday night was Port80 Sydney, and myself (under the guise of 88 Miles) and Adrian sponsored the bar tab. What we didn’t know was the Quarrymans’ hotel has Wednesday night trivia in which Port80 entered two teams, one of which can second. Nice work.

Thursday night drinks were provided by Adobe at the conference venue, and the Friday night closing party was lubricated by Microsoft. Andrew Krespanis managed to drink a Windows XP Home license. Myself, Grant and Joe (from Hive Media in Melbourne) stayed up at all hours on friday discussing all things web from Flash vs AJAX to running a web business. It is amazing discussing things with people that really know what they are doing.

Saturday, I headed over to the Nerf Palace to hang with a number of the Ruby on Rails Oceania clan as well as some of of the Sitepoint boys for some impromptu hacking. I decided to see what all the fuss was about by working on an iPhone/iPod Touch version of 88 Miles. Thanks must go to Tim, Cam and Mike for letting us take over their house. After this we quickly scurried over to WebJam!

Once again, I thought I would get up to the plate and present. Nick Cowie was the other local to to the three minute thing. There were some amazing talks –  Dmitry Baranovskiy presented his microformat validator, which is going to revolutionise the way we use microformats, trust me. Myles Burne showed the power of YAML and HAML and some guys from Digital Eskimo spruiked their site lobbying for the government to improve the NSW liquor licensing (Sounds like something we should do in WA). Unsuprisingly, Dmitry won – more suprisingly, my AJAX-based front end to the Ruby on Rails debugger came second, which means I can get $150 worth of Sitepoint schwag and I get to go back to Web Directions for free! (Again!) I’m publish and release the code soon – just got some clean ups to do.

So as you can see – a pretty crazy couple of days. Now to let my liver recover!

Watch my WebJam presentation!

Thanks to greenguy you too can watch me make a fool of myself in front of a live studio audience! Slides and demo are here.

We be jammin’

I’m still a little blurry-eyed from last night (as are most of the beachhouse) – but I can safely say, that WebJam Perth cranked. Estimates of the number of attendees are varied, but there was definitely between 80 and 100 people there was awesome. There was also 15 presenters, and the quality was top-notch!

After picking up the WebJam crew from the airport, and hanging out with them for the day, we prepped the Velvet Lounge and the crowd started flowing in. There was a lot of new faces there too, which is an indicator of how crazy the industry is going at the moment.

Gary Barber presented a rather tongue-in-cheek look at Web3.0 whilst managing to demonstrate some pretty cool drag-and-drop functionality. This got him third place. Nick Cowie launched a scathing attack on a number of locals for producing websites that don’t work on mobiles – which got him second prize. Richard and Simon did a kick-arse visualisation system for Scouta which can only be described, well, visually – luckily there is a video already online. Unsurprisingly, this got them first place and the grand prize of Adobe CS3.

Unfortunately, my presentation Canvas Text Replacement, which is a alternative to sIFR didn’t make the top three, but with the quality of the top three, I don’t mind one little bit.

All in all, it went off – big ups to the WebJam crew: Lachlan, Lisa and Tim, for flying over from Sydney – they have been fantastic.

So one half of WA Web Week is done, roll on the WAWAs tomorrow! For those of you that can’t attend, you can view the live twitter feed on the website.

WA Web Awards and WebJam less than two weeks away!

Is it August already? Our crazy, self-proclaimed WA Web Week starts next week, which means there isn’t much time to sort our your WebJam presentation and to get your frocks ready for the WA Web Awards.

Even though you can just turn up to WebJam, which will be at the Velvet Lounge in Mt Lawley on Wednesday 15 August we would love to get an estimate of how many people we will see on the night. Head over to the WebJam website and register. Want to do a presentation? They are only 3 minutes, so it won’t take much prepare for it – you just need to tell us what you are up to and why it is cool.

And of course the biggest event in the WA Web Industry calendar – the WA Web Awards are on two days later at the Duxton hotel. The WA Web Industry is absolutely pumping at the moment, and the Web Awards are our chance to acknowledge the amazing work that our industry does. The last two have been brilliant nights, and this one is going to be even better!

So go and support your industry – the more you support us, they more cool stuff we can put on!

WebJam is coming to Perth

I have been wearing my Australian Web Industry Association event manager hat recently and have been in secret talks with some friendly people over in Sydney. Those people just so happen to be Lachlan Hardy, Lisa Herrod, Tim Lucas and Anson Parker, AKA The WebJam Team!

So with out further ado, I am proud to announce WebJam Perth!

Where: The Velvet Lounge, Mt Lawley (Where we have the Port80 meetups)

When: 15 August 2007 at 6pm

A WebJam is where the presenters have three minutes to power through a presentation – the presentations are voted on and the winner get fame and awesome prizes. You can see a video of the last WebJam here. They look like they are heaps of fun – so head over to http://www.webjam.com.au read more and more importantly register.

Let’s show the world what Perth can do!

EDIT: Fixed date