I had a super time at Handheld Conference in Cardiff. Craig Lockwood, the organiser, asked some months ago if I’d be a secret addition to the bill, and sing a couple of funny songs I’d written, and I agreed – last year they had 140 attendees, so i thought that making a twat of myself in front of 140 would be a nice way to end this conference season.
1200 people bought tickets – the event had moved to the Millennium Stadium, which is the biggest stage in Europe.
Reader, I shat myself (figuratively). The first song – Like A Rounded Corner – was fine, although you can hear my voice waver with nerves and I chickened out of any fancy guitar playing.
My second song followed Ling Valentine – the highly successful chinese entrepreneur behind Ling’s Cars, talking about her vile-looking (but hugely profitable) website.
She was pushed on stage inside a BBC dalek, from which she presented her talk, once Jon Hicks and Andy Clarke had removed its top. I had to go on after she’d done a chinese cover version of a Tom Jones song, and was wheeled off, still in her dalek. How could anyone follow that?
The conference had a Hendrix-style rendition of the welsh national anthem, an acrobat, a letter to the web industry written and read out by an 8 year old, and finished with a male voice choir. And the talks were good, too!
Craig announced that this was the last Handheld, which is a shame, but stopping when you’re on top form is a great way to be remembered well. I want to thank him and his partner Amy for putting on a great show and inviting me to be a part of it.
I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak at Content Strategy Forum 2012 which was previously in Paris and London, and this year went to Cape Town. I used to be a content bloke; in fact, I now realise that at The Law Society I was a Content Strategist, there just wasn’t a name for it in 2008.
The conference was headlined by Kristina Halvorson, and Luke Wroblewski, both of whom seemed to disagree with each other. I’m not well-versed in Content Strategy schisms to have an opinion either way, although Luke’s assertion that we now have a write-read web rang true. Kristina is the godmother of Content Strategy, so her talk was a “state of the nation” speech from paper notes (she’d lost her laptop), largely about how she’d grown her agency to 28 people and then laid off all but five.
Great thanks to the organisers: Kerry-Anne Gilowey, Rian van der Merwe, Nathan Blows and Irene Walker. Organisation was perfect; they even managed to get a Cheetah!
I’m no Content Strategist, so I might be entirely wrong, but it felt that this conference was somehow a pivotal event in the solidifying a community. It reminded me of the @media conference of 2005, in which loads of UK web developers first met each other and realised that there is actually a community of UK front-enders and we’re not just a collection of lonely weirdos who read A List Apart. Friendships began; businesses were formed, networks opened and a community came of age. I wonder if Content people in Africa will look back at CSForum 2012 like that.
I stuck around in Cape Town for a while, hobnobbing with the great and the good, doing five press interviews, giving some tech talks for developers and business people at Saatchi and Saatchi and the workplace of an old friend Allan Kent who’s Head of Digital at South Africa’s leading media group, Primedia.
An impromptu meet-up was arranged by a Sean O’Connell, a front-end dev, and hosted by Paul Cartmel at New Media Labs (thanks chaps). It was over-subscribed, and too many pizzas and beers were bought; we soldiered on, drinking too much beer and eating too much pizza. (Banana on pizza is wrong, by the way).
In amongst meet-ups and press interviews I did some sight-seeing, mostly under the kindly protection of Allan and saintly Wendy who drove me round to look at Cape Point, Simons Town, Kommetjie, Boulders and other gorgeous places. Their hospitality meant I saw so much I wouldn’t otherwise have done. Thanks so much to both of them.
On my last day, I skived emails after the last press interview and went to Robben Island where the apartheid-era political prisoners were kept. Having been to Auschwitz and Cambodia’s killing fields this year, I didn’t need another reminder of how vile people can be to each other. One redemptive thing about Robben Island, though, is that there are still ex-prisoners and ex-guards living on the island, giving tours around the prison.
On my last night, South Africa’s leading pointillist painter, Gavin Rain, picked me up in his posh car and we drove to Camps Bay where all the beautiful people go. Unfortunately, I was so affected by some twilight Death Pollen that I had to wear my shades all night (not uncommon in Camps Bay). But it did mean my attempts at mild flirtation with the gorgeous Kenyan waitress came to naught, as she doubtless thought Gavin and I were a gay couple splitting up and that I was crying in grief.
My guidebook – which should be renamed “The Alarmist Guide to Cape Town” – had cautioned me never to step out of my hotel or I’d have my kidneys removed. I never felt at all threatened in Cape Town’s CBD. In fact, just the opposite; it was vibrant, friendly and fun.
I don’t know what I expected of South Africa. I suppose I imagined lots of grumpy Afrikaanas trying to pretend they’d never been racist, and desperately poor black people. There certainly are many desperately poor black people; white South African households’ income is six times higher than black ones according to the latest census. And it seems to me that the elder statesmen like Mandela, Sisulu etc are gone, leaving a outrageously corrupt group governing the country.
But it felt to me (from my admittedly brief visit, cocooned in nice hotels in a prosperous city) that South Africa is on its way up, rather than down to Zimbabwe-like failed statehood. The workplaces I visited were highly multi-racial, as you’d expect given the demographics but as you might not expect given the recent history of the country.
Cape Town is probably the most beautifully situated city I’ve visited, with excellent cuisine (mmm, ostrich steaks and Bunnychow). All that, plus I got to talk to interesting people about cool stuff meant that I had a splendid time. Thanks so much to all those I met who made it so memorable.
Next week saw me jetting off to Amsterdam for Fronteers 2011. This has, I think, become the best conference in Europe; the level of talks is high (the audience has a disproportionate number of working group members, high-profile developers and all-round smart people, never mind the speakers!) and the fact that Fronteers is not allowed to make a profit means that they can keep it cheap. I confess to being a bit nervous for my talk — the topic they gave me of “HTML5 semantics” doesn’t exactly cause your average web developer to moisten his seat with enthusiasm, but it was a single-track conference so I didn’t find myself alone in a hall while eveyone went to hear Lea Verou on gradient sexiness instead.
By clever planning, I flew home from Amsterdam on Saturday in order to fly to Norway on Sunday (via Amsterdam). I was there to MC the Frontend conference where the organisers used large stand-up cartoons of me to entice the Oslo ladies in.
Frontend had one of the weirdest conference parties I’ve been to; we sat in an ex-church, drinking red wine and beer and listened to Oslo’s leading Norwegian-language Calypso band.
From the conference, I went by taxi an Opera event for journalists where I was tasked with stopping the journos becoming mutinous or falling into jetlag slumber during a 20 minute bus ride from their hotel to a restaurant. Rather than sing the Web Standards Hoedown without Ukelele or hippie, I was able to finally realise a long-held ambition of doing a completely fictional bus tour. On our way to downtown Oslo, I was therefore able to point out to my increasingly incredulous fellow-travellers the summer palace of King Gustav The Mad, the high school that was long believed to be the only Norwegian building visible from space and the very tree in which John Lennon wrote Norwegian Wood.
A full three days elapsed before I travelled down to Lahndahn to do a guest Q&A talk at a Kazing HTML5 training course (lots of questions about DART, privacy on the Web and Web vs Native) and then the next day, an overview of HTML5 at HTML5 Live where I pissed on a few bonfires by pointing out
HTML5 is nothing to do with mobiles
a website that is ugly and full of nonsensical jargon remains so even if sprinkled with HTML5 fairydust
a site that fulfills an organisational need rather than user need remains a vanity turd even if sprinkled with HTML5 fairydust
Narrowly avoiding a lynch party, I escaped up the M11 with Jake Archibald where we boarded a RyanAir flight to Krakow in Poland to speak at the inaugural Frontrow conference. Poland is super country, and Krakow seems a delightful city from my brief walks around its pretty centre.
I was also thrilled, on learning that it’s pronounced “Crack Off”, to find this mini-guide to the city in my room:
Full marks to Mariusz, Olga and the rest of the organising committee for a really great line-up mixing Polish and foreign speakers. Congratulations to my old chum Patrick Lauke on his first conference keynote The once and future web. I spoke about HTML5 Multimedia to a small group of people at 9 am on the second day (the day after the conference party, which went on til 6 am!).
After an eventful return flight which arrived 4 hours late (and meant at least that RyanAir couldn’t play their stupid arrival fanfare), I spoke at a conference of 148 venture capitalists and other investors organised by UBS – and I wasn’t even wearing cuff-links!
Recording the sessions on video is becoming a custom, and a very good one. Every single session that’s out there as a video increases the knowledge of the web community as a whole, and in the end that is the goal of your conference, too.
I completely agree. Speaking at conferences is a big part of my job evangelising open Web standards for Opera, and videoing the talks is a great way to reach even more people.
So here are some notes on PPK’s advice.
Don’t try to claim copyright
I spoke recently at an excellent event and, as I was preparing to leave, I was handed a release form that granted the organiser the right to publish the video. I always read these, and encourage every conference speaker to do so. It’s lucky I did; a clause in the release form asserted that I grant copyright to the conference organiser, and give them the right to pass on the material to subsidiaries, and “third-party affiliates”.
There are several problems with this. Firstly, and primarily applicable to speakers who are representing their employers: I don’t own the copyright to my talks, Opera does as Opera pays my salary. Also, I have no authority to bind Opera to a contract anyway, so wouldn’t be able to assign such rights away. Most importantly, however, and applicable to most speakers I see: I don’t own copyright for the creative-commons images that I use in my talks, so cannot assign those rights to someone else.
(There is a happy ending to this: when I pointed out the problems to my hosts, they immediately understood and sent me a much simpler agreement that said simply “we will publish the video but make no claim to ownership or rights to the content”.)
Don’t make the video members-only
If you publish videos, don’t put them behind some kind of login or (worse) a paywall. I consent to conference organisers publishing video because it enables those who couldn’t come to the conference to get the content. If it’s only behind a login, it doesn’t get that extra reach.
If it’s behind a paywall, I can’t allow you to reproduce my slides, as some of them are licensed creative commons non-commercial. Now, I’m starting to think that creative commons licenses are so ambiguously worded that it’s impossible be sure that you’re not in breach (see my concerns about sharealike), but to me, using an attributed non-commercial image is OK as long as I’m not directly profiting from that image, eg by selling copies of it or making t-shirts with that design. But I don’t know if it counts as “commercial use” if it’s in a presentation behind a paywall. As I have no wish to be sued in order that someone else can make a profit by restricting circulation of the video, I don’t consent to that video being published. (It’s why one talk of mine was recently published audio-only).
Commercial conferences should transcribe the videos
If you’re a commercial conference, you should transcribe the videos at your own expense so that they’re accessible to people with disabilities. (I don’t mean for grassroots conferences that charge a small entrance fee to cover costs, I mean for big commercial conferences that have a ticket price in the hundreds of dollars).
My second SxSW is over, and all I have are some photos, fewer memories than I have photos, and an aircon throat.
I have mixed feeling about South By Southwest. There’s the torrent of emails they send you for months leading up to the event, requiring you to register to their different systems. Once there, I get little time to meet new people and little time to spend with old friends because the conference is too big.
I get pretty nervy for my talk, which this year went well (slides). I usually include a lot of humour but our American friends have a very different sense of humour than Brits, so I play safe and also add liberal quantities of what I call useful information, as SxSW has more than its fair share of circle-jerking panels heavy in “inspiration” but devoid of content. The trick seems to have paid off; I had a full house in Ballroom C and a hundred people lined up outside in case other people left.
The best thing about SxSW is meeting our users. Our PR folks kitted us out with a huge giant rotating Opera O, so it was easy to find our booth and, once there, developers and consumers asked us everything from how to edit a speed dial on a BlackBerry to how to do remote debugging with Opera Dragonfly, We had comfy chairs at the booth, too, leading to a steady stream of visitors from Our New Best Friends, such as chums from Adobe, Microsoft and Google.
I met a penguin
two Slappas (for those who don’t know, a Slapper is a woman of easy virtue, so making two booth babes wander around with t-shirts marked “Slappa” is unfortunate)
This will be a really fast-moving talk with tips and code snippets you can use right away. We’ll cover
mobile web philosophy: what is “mobile web”?
The three methodologies for mobile web development
Tips and tricks (code) to make your site faster on mobile
Apps vs Web and how the boundary is blurring
What’s coming soon, with hopefully a preview of what’s cooking in Opera Labs
I doubt many people will be there—it’s pretty late in the day, but do come along if you can. Otherwise, please come and say hi at the Opera booth in the trade show; there will be a giant red O suspended from the ceiling, so you can’t miss us.
The new HTML5 specification gives you 28 new markup elements to choose from. What do they mean? How do they work together? Bruce will answer these questions, and — most importantly — show how to apply them to real world sites. There are also many changes to HTML 4 elements, and even some obsolete elements, and you’ll find out the important differences. Finally, you’ll get a glimpse of the amazing things people are doing with HTML5 now, and an insight into the future of the web.
– Tokyo, Japan: Be an Iron Chef of HTML5
A one-hour talk with simultaneous translation into Japanese at the Web Directions East conference.
23 November – 1 December – Australia: The A Team: ARIA & HTML5
Five dates in Australia (Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Perth, Brisbane) speaking with The Mighty Steve Faulkner of The Paciello Group. Organised by the Web Industry Professionals Association, the 3+ hour long workshops cost $60 for members, $90 for non-members.
I’ve also done an interview with Remy (the editors have edited me to call him “Sharp” throughout, as though we were both pupils at Eton or something) in which we say crazy things like “you don’t have to use canvas, and you don’t have to immediately switch to HTML5″. It’s called HTML5: The 900-Page Gorilla with a Wide Ensemble.
A nice review of our book was published by Peter Steen Høgenhaug, noting that we “relate every part of HTML5 to accessibility”, which is great as that’s exactly what we set out to do.
In the late eighties, I lived opposite a portakabin that was a Polish Club. Somehow I became a member and got to know the old Poles who would go drinking there at weekends. There was an old lady who had a tattoo on her arm from Auschwitz. Jan, the wizened old man who collected the glasses had a photo of himself in his wallet, taken in his Polish Air Force clothing, standing in front of a bi-plane. Over a few Okocim beers, he could be persuaded to tell the story of how, as a resistance partisan, he killed several Nazi soldiers. As we got more drunk, attempting to go across the 14 optics of vodka behind the bar, all the Poles would break out into patriotic songs and tell me how they were looking forward to seeing the homeland again once communism fell.
So, when I was invited to come to speak at the first SparkUp! conference, I jumped at the chance. With a freshly-minted presentation on Web Development 2.0, I arrived in Poznan on Monday afternoon with Remy, Ribot, Andy Budd, Yaili and Matt Biddulph.
Our hosts, Piotr and Krzysztof took us around the postcard-pretty old town of Poznan before a typical Polish dinner (pork-coma ensued) and a few beers.
The day of the conference was organisational perfection in a great modern venue (and this was the first time they’d done a conference!) and then it was party time: lots of Cheeky Bison (Żubrówka and apple juice) and murderous other shots.
Yesterday, I really meant to return to the old town with my camera. But a hangover the size of Gdansk forced me to spend hours in the beautiful 4 saunas, jacuzzi and swimming pool in my hotel.
So, thanks for having me, Poland. The vodka is amazing, the women are beautiful (please address your comments “dear sexist bastard”) and the locals friendly and clueful. I hope to see you again soon.