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.
The hour-long workshop “How to build a HTML5 Web site” involved me coding in real time (with hilarious typo consequences like “Dictype” instead of “doctype”; frankly, I’d be better typing with my dic than my hands).
There will be a video available, and the Carson types have promised that they’ll publish a transcript simultaneously. It’s nice to see them taking accessibility seriously, and I was pleased to see that they had someone signing the sessions for hearing-impaired.
You can grab the slides and notes for my second session, The Future of HTML5, which I tweaked slightly to deliver on Monday in Glasgow.)
If you were speaking about at a conference about HTML 5, and some guy stuck a video camera in your face and asked you what the exciting parts of it are, you’d say canvas and video, wouldn’t you? I know I would.
I flew in, dazed and confused, on Tuesday night and only managed to see the first morning of OSCON before I had to crash for a couple of hours in the afternoon, but I did get to see Jono Bacon present on building communities around Ubuntu – very relevant to my line of work and very interesting.
Tuesday night saw me in an iridescent lime-green t-shirt at the Linux Fund party, where I drank more than I should have (but not as much as Stuart Langridge, so that was alright).
Then it was back to San Jose for dinner at the invitation of Google. It was odd to be surrounded by giants of the Open Source world, many of whom I’d never heard! Likewise, one guy I was talking to was developing a browser but had never heard of Zeldman—odd how two worlds coincide while rarely touching (Langridge is the only guy I can think of who passes easily between them). Swag was excellent at the Google party: an unlocked developer’s G1 Android phone. I can’t wait to get back to the UK to try it and download Opera Mini for Android.
Having woken up feeling fine, through the clever gambit of not drinking loads the night before, it was time to wander in and give my presentation. I felt fine until I was told that I was moved to the huge space where they do the keynotes because so many people had signed up to see me (about 120 expressions of interest).
My nerves were further shot when I tried to edit out a joke that I decided at the last minute wasn’t going to work, and Open Office crashed—2 minutes before I was due to start, leaving me to do ctrl-alt-delete and go into document recovery mode in front of an audience watching it broadcast on 4 huge screens.
Anyway, the talk went well, with some great instant feedback via twitter, and I didn’t do my usual trick of over-running.
I confess that I was nervous, too, about presenting to a lot of very active Open Source coders as the rep of a closed-source company, on a Windows machine. (In my defence, it’s a dual-boot Ubuntu/ Windows machine and I needed to demo Internet Explorer).
I’m delighted to say that I had nothing but friendship and courtesy from all attendees, who applauded the fact that Opera evangelises, develops and follows Open Web Standards. I’d like to thank all those who made me feel so welcome; it was an honour to meet you.
I wrote a piece for ZDNet that you might like, about learning through View Source and Open Web Standards called How openness unlocks the web’s power. (They edited out my final line: “Proprietary formats and closed standards are the enemy of the open web” for some unknown reason.)
Or, how I stopped worrying and learned to love the DOCTYPE.
I was honoured to be invited by the Multipack, a group of Birmingham-based web professionals, to the first Multipack Presents, to talk about HTML 5 as part of an afternoon of discussion of emerging standards.
Rather than another “what is HTML 5?” talk, I decided to give a talk which I wish I’d been able to hear before I began my HTML 5 redesign. I talked through the process of the redesign, the decisions I made, the blind alleys I went up and where I got confused because the spec is ambiguous or opaque.
I’d like to thank and congratulate the Multipack for organising a free Birmingham event to start building a Midlands-community that will show those Southern ponces in Brighton that you don’t need a few pebbles on a beach to have a vibrant scene. Thanks also to Birmingham web design agency One Black Bear who opened up their beautiful offices to a group of strangers and found it much fuller than anyone anticipated. Cheers to Campaign Monitor for pizza.
As is usual when a group of geeks meet up, there was beer and lewdness but also idea-swapping and inspirations.
One of my aims was to get people involved in trying HTML 5 spec and participating in its specification, as I believe if you don’t vote you have no right to complain about the government you get. A few attendees have told me that they’re going to do just that, so mission accomplished for me. For example, Andy Mabbett has been thinking about HTML 5 and microformats and has mailed the HTML 5 working group.
Next meetup is in March, but I’ll be in India. Assuming I’m back I hope to see every Midlands-based web professional at the April meetup.
I’ve known Molly since 2001. She was a journalist covering a Wrox XML conference I was helping run in Las Vegas. A colleague of mine, Karli Watson had a quickie, tacky Vegas wedding and Molly and I attended.
Two years later, I was searching for someone to co-author a book with me about usability, and found Molly. We were both unaware that we’d met before until halfway through our collaboration. Usability: the site speaks for itself sold poorly (and taught me some vital lessons about web developers and how they differ from programmers) but it cemented my friendship with Molly. She’s been to my house, eaten my evil chicken, charmed my children (“a real American!”) and helped me drink a bottle of vodka.