@madpilot makes

Why freelancers should go to conferences

Let me take my Event coordinator hat off for just one moment, and replace it with my “Hey, I’m a freelancer – why should I fork our hundreds of dollars to go to a conference” hat (I have a lot of very specific hats). Miles Burke recently wrote about why you should attend two conferences every year, but what about you, my fellow freelancers, who have to watch the pennies? I personally think freelancers have the most to gain from attending conferences – think about it:

  1. Learning new stuff. As a freelancer, every minute you aren’t working on a client project is money you aren’t making. When do you get a chance to find out about new stuff? It’s usually squeezed in around lunch time or after hours, which is cool but how can you moot the benefits of a new tech? Although things like twitter or forums fill the gap a little, nothing beats old school, real word face-to-face talks. There are lots of people at conferences who’s minds are focused purely on new stuff.
  2. Meet famous people. Conferences are really just an excuse for the organisers to fly over people they admire. The thing is, because these people are only really famous on the internet, they are still usually really down to earth and approachable and are more than happy to chew-the-fat over a beer or three.
  3. Inspiration.  Smart people hang out at conferences. Smart people talk about smart stuff at conferences. Smart ideas are inspirational. Every time I come back from a conference I have a head full of crazy ideas that I wish I had more time to implement.
  4. Networking. I don’t care what anyone says – the MOST important skill a freelancer can have is the ability to network. 90% of my freelance work comes through people I’ve met (And I’d put money on the fact that most freelancers are the same). Freelancers by definition won’t have a dedicated marketing person, or a huge marketing budget, so networking is really a cheap and easy way to meet new clients (and more importantly new friends). Conferences have many people in a small area who could potentially want to talk to you. (Don’t forget your business cards).
  5. Tax Deduction. ‘Nuff Said

Ok, ok talk is cheap (thank god, otherwise I’d be bankrupt) but there really isn’t a way to describe the experience of a conference – the only way you’ll understand is to go to one. Now, you sandgropers are lucky because we have Edge of the Web on our doorstep. I had to fly to Sydney and sleep on a mates floor to get my first conference experience, and it still cost me nearly $2000 (but it was freaking awesome). You can get the same experience for $495 – I’m no Dr. Maths, but that sounds a truck load better.

Seriously, if you are umming and ahhing, just do it. I’ll see you in November :)

WA Web Awards Finalist!

Well, the finalists for 2008 WA Web Awards have been announced and my silly little Super Mario Brothers JavaScript experiment is in the running in the Web Innovation category.

If you think that Mario Brothers is the awse, go and vote for it in the people’s choice award (You need OpenID). Apparently this blog got a highly commended too, which is kind of cool.

The Edge on the Web and the WA Web Awards are only one month away, which is rather exciting – you are going aren’t you?

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!

Speaker Program and Workshops are now available

We are now three months out from Perth’s first ever Edge of the Web Conference, so what better time is there is announce the speaker program and workshops! There is come awesome topics there, and I’m really excited about the whole thing! Get the skinny here.

There is also now only a week and a half before entries for the WA Web Awards close, so if you are thinking of entering, hurry the hell up!

Did I mention I’m excited? :)

Edge of the Web and WA Web Awards tickets are onsale now!

Just a quick public service announcment – if you have been waiting to purchase your tickets to the Edge of the Web and WA Web Awards (November 6-7 at University Club in Crawley) then wait no longer! You can now head over and register online.

Ticket prices are a reasonable:

Non Member: $495 (Early bird before Sept 1: $450)

Member: $450 (Early bird before Sept 1: $395)

Student: $299

Workshops (to be announced soon):

Non Member: $225

Member: $200

WA Web Awards dinner:

Non Member: $145

Member: $125

You really should be and register now. Really.

BarCamp Perth 2.0 – We came, we saw, we caught bird flu

Put 80-odd  geeks in a room and magic happens, which is what happened on Saturday at BarCamp 2.0, Perth. It was a fantastic turn out – we even got a couple of east coasters (Thanks @marclehmann and @liako) to enjoy the frivolities. Although, due to me running around like a blowfly with it’s head cut off, I still manged to get a couple of great presentations, which could lead to some seriously cool ideas which is all you can ask from a BarCamp.

But the biggest announcement for the day was WA’s very own Web conference – Edge of the Web.  After three awesome Web Awards over the last three years, it was a natural progression for us to push the envelope a little. Keep November 6 and 7 free – it’s going to be three types of awesome. We have international and national speakers, and we are fairly good at throwing parties over this side of the Nullabor. Oh, and we are running a poll, were you can put your 3c worth in picking our logo.

Having said that. I do have one gripe about our fair city. After the PTUB that followed BarCamp at the Royal, we moved on to @richardgiles‘ place for a cuppa tea and a scone. We realised we were out of Brandy, so we went out to find a friendly establishment to purchase a night-cap or two. It was 10pm in the evening AND EVERYTHING WAS CLOSED. I seriously caught a cab out to South Perth to go through a drive through. WTF. Anyway. Enough bitching – it was a top day and night and I’m not going to let our draconian liquor licensing laws spoil that.

Anyhoo, I’m off to nurse this cold that I and half of the Perth twitterati seem to have contracted.