Here’s a talk I did at a lovely inclusive, anarchic, friendly conference last month called Monki Gras. It was great; a low ticket-price, proper food, craft beers and melted cheese snacks, a diverse group of speakers and a diverse audience. I made loads of new friends and heard loads of new perspectives.
Archive for the 'Speaking' Category
I received an invitation reading
Acme Inc is organizing and sponsoring Timbuktu’s biggest annual developer conference called “Timbuk-Toot!”. Past speakers include Richard Stallman, Morgan Freeman, Humphrey Bogart and Cruella de Vil.
Would you like to give a workshop or a talk at Timbuk-Toot! in February 2019?
Let me know!
And that was it. It’s not nearly enough information to make a decision, so —unless it’s from someone I know, or I’ve always always wanted to visit Timbuktu— I park this, thinking “I’ll email back and ask them for more information”. Then, of course, the rest of the day happens and I forget about it.
So, if you’re emailing someone to ask them to speak, at a minimum I’d need this information:
- what do you want me to talk about? What’s the theme of the conference?
- How long is a talk? How long is a workshop?
- Are the talks recorded? Are they available to all, e.g. over YouTube?
- How many people attend? Who attends?
- You mention Acme Inc; is it an internal Acme staff conference, or open to the public?
- What are the dates? How can I answer when i’m only told “February 2019”?
- Are you paying for my flights/ accommodation? I suspect not, as you don’t mention it.
- If you are covering travel expenses, am I expected to pay them and get them reimbursed? If yes, how many days does it take for me to get my money back? (A the moment, over Xmas, I’m giving an two-month interest-free loan of 1000Euro to a conference.)
- If I’m a freelancer, are you paying a fee for my time? I suspect not, as you don’t mention it.
- Is there a code of conduct? Where is it? Is the speaker line-up inclusive? (Probably not, if you’re not paying expenses or a speaker fee.)
You need to tell me why I should care about it. You might be huge in the Timbuktu web industry, but I don’t know you. So far, all you have done is raise questions which means I have to reply to you and ask them, on top of all the other things I have to do today.
Don’t make me think!
My conference season kicked off with State of the Browser 5. I’d been accepted after a blind call for papers to present the snappily-titled Ensuring a performant web for the next billion people.
The venue was Conway Hall, which I’d heard of but couldn’t remember the context. It turned out to be the HQ of the Conway Hall Ethical Society, “the oldest surviving freethought organisation in the world”. So a historic venue (for bleeding-heart Guardianistas like me) with great acoustics and “To thine own self be true” inscribed above the stage.
State of the Browser this year had a wide variety of talks; from Seb Lee-Delisle amiably talking about lasers to Martin Jakl talking about WebKit’s garbage collection bugs on Raspberry Pi, with animation jank, keeping learning and modular design in between.
I enjoyed all the talks, but there were some standouts for me (not because any talks were “better” but some were more immediately useful to me in my browser geek-end of the spectrum). I want to congratulate Laura Elizabeth, who did her first ever public speaking with assurance and aplomb that suggested much more experience. There were shocks, too: for example, non-Jake Archibald people talking about Service Worker.
I was particularly agog/ aghast at Edd Sowden’s talk on what makes a <table> not a <table> in assistive technologies. There are lots if heuristics baked into browsers to guess which are data and which are layout tables.
background-color makes it a table,
border-collapse stops it being a table,
display:block stops it being one (except in IE…). More than 20 rows, or zebra striping in CSS makes it a table, etcetera.
Here’s the video (and here are his slides):
Isn’t it tremendous that the UK government cares about assistive tech users on its new web properties?
I also learned a lot from Ada Rose Edwards who surprised me by explaining that reflowing text, if you animate widths of things that cause the browser to re-layout lots of words, is really slow – because of kerning, hinting etc. See her slides for more (video coming soon). I’d assumed because text is small (eg, 1024 letters of Latin text is 1K) that there’s no performance hit. But laying it out isn’t trivial. Throw justification into the mix, too (but please don’t) and you have a recipe for a hot phone battery.
There were lots of old chums in the audience, and new chums like Seren Davis and Claudia. Synergies were leveraged, too – I’ve got an Opera bug moving after being gently prompted by an attendee. There was even a party afterwards, with a free bar, and all for £30. So go next year!
State of the Browser is organised for love by the London Web Standards crew: Morena Fiore, Nick Smith, Dave Letorey, Ginestra Ferraro, Steve Workman, Rupert Bowater and Marco Cedaro. Morena wrote up the day too. Thanks very much to all of them, and all who came to listen.
As part of my usual Autumn tour of European capitals (this year, Berlin, Bucharest, Amsterdam, London, Paris, Madrid, Oslo) I’ve been lucky enough to speak at three community conferences, which are always my favourite.
The first was SmartWeb conference in Bucharest, Romania. This was started last year by Gabi Schiopu who was frustrated by the lack of front-end conferences in his country, but the cost of international travel and hotels is prohibitive, so decided to start his own. So he got an event organising partner (thank you, Evensys!) and invited speakers. It proved so successful that he ran it for a second year. As I’m paid to do international jetsetting by Opera, I asked that my speaker fee be converted into free tickets for deserving local university/ school students. We’re all pictured below with McCartney-esque cheesy grins and thumbs up. By an almost incredible co-incidence, we were all wearing matching Opera t-shirts.
I had great fun presenting and MCing the event, and Bucharest is a delightful city.
The second was Fronteers in Amsterdam. This year is the seventh conference; I’ve been to four (and spoken at three, if you don’t count this year’s lightning talk the night before). Fronteers is a conference I like to attend because it’s deeply technical, which makes it pretty scary as a speaker but very useful for the audience – there’s no “How I get inspiration from, like, nature and moleskines” or “Iterate often and dare to fail, you’re awesome” stocking-filler on this stage. (And, what a stage it is! A giant cinema screen in the beautiful Pathé Tuschinski cinema. They could probably easily fill a bigger venue, but part of the Fronteers charm is this venue.)
My friend Shwetank Dixit spoke on WebRTC – A Front-end perspective and, as he’d come all the way from India, the rest of the Opera Devrel crew descended on Amsterdam to give moral support and drink Dutch beer (the best is called “jenever” – no more than 4 pints, though). As usual, lots to learn and lovely to meet the great and the good of Europe’s web developers there.
Fronteers is organised by a group of volunteers, and its charitable status means that they don’t turn a profit at the end of the year – all money made is reinvested back into other events and initiatives for the Dutch web development community. Yay. Thanks, Fronteers crew, for putting on the conference and looking after me so well (even though I wasn’t actually speaking).
Only joking- Paris, duh. For its ninth year, I decided to ruin its reputation and give a talk on “Web Components- The Right Way” with Karl Groves of The Paciello Group. Here’s the video, and here are our slides:
What’s jolly nice about ParisWeb is that English talks are simultaneously translated into French, all talks are translated into sign language and transcribed live. The latter was useful to me as I find it easier to read French than to follow the spoken language (French people spell much better than they pronounce), especially technical French for hours. I was especially proud when the signing interpreter sought me out after my unscheduled lightning talk (video, starts at 18 mins) to thank me for giving her the opportunity to sign “rectal prolapse” and “ejaculate my own liquified spleen” which, inexplicably, she seldom gets to do.
Again, ParisWeb is run by a group of volunteers who do it for love of the web.
Vive les volunteers! Please do all you can to support these conferences and, if you’re invited to speak, accept – it’s part of contributing back.
Some of you may know this already, but I can now announce it publicly. 2014 approaches, and promises to be an astrologically significant year as Jupiter turns retrograde, just as Saturn reaches the mid-point of Scorpio and as Mars enters Libra.
The primary effect of karmic Saturn spending virtually all of 2014 in fellow Water sign, Scorpio is that I don’t have enough money. Therefore, I’ve been doing some serious study and am now a Reikimaster (7th dan) Aromatherapy Chakra Realignment Lifecoach.
If you’re rich and consider yourself “Quite Spiritual”, you’re invited to one of my workshops. The first, which will take place on the Spring Equinox near Glastonbury Tor where the leylines meet, is Secrets of Mayan flower remedy healing: channelling the crystal tarot for wealth and success.
In this two day Meditative Chakra Healing and Negative Energy Banishment Retreat™, you’ll learn:
- some regurgitated bits of the Upanishads that I found on free Kindle books that explain how your Soul can never be destroyed but, by conflating it with some misunderstood terms from pop science books, is Quantum Mechanically “remembered” in the fabric of SpaceTime, meaning that your spiritual essence forever vibrates in trees and flowers.
- how the secrets of the Ancient Tarot’s “High Priestess” card affects your karmic balance
- how to use some attractively polished stones to raise your Magnetic Resonance during Magnetic Pole Reversal, which can otherwise block your creativity by flooding you with “Negergy” – a kind of negative energy that I personally discovered during my time at an ashram in Spiritual India (Thank you).
- how the power of song can free the shackles of your spirit bringing a feeling of lighthearted one-ness with your fellow Truth-Seekers and the Universe, through a process of Astral-hyperventilation™.
- how to visualize what you want to create – and you will electromagnetically attract the object of your visualization.
- how to commune with Angels in a group meditative attempt bring about World Peace, Prosperity and Increase.
This warm, friendly, creative, meditative space costs just £499+VAT. Mung Beans and Scrumpy are provided (bring your own roach material).
Please indicate your interest below. (Note, we don’t take Bitcoin as that’s pie-in-the-sky nonsense).
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.
But that was four years ago, so for this conference I was firmly out of my [American accent] “comfort zone”. Fortunately, I had a preparatory natter with Rellington Annett-Baker to ensure my introductory HTML5 for content specialists talk was likely to hit their sweet spots and tickle their fancies. (It seemed to work.)
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.
Other notable talks were by Razorfish’s Rachel Lovinger who talked about structuring content for re-use, using standards and responsive design in Content in the Age of Promiscuous Reuse.
Relly Annett-Baker’s “Guerillas in their midst” was a fun, British talk about guerilla content strategy. Relly is a black belt at on-stage swearing (I was on best behaviour; these are her friends).
Richard Ingram did an interesting talk about visualising data and recommended the really good Scraping for Journalists book which taught me loads in the first chapter.
John Alderman gave an entertaining talk on how to use Big Data. In it, he spoke about meet-ups where people discuss data they’ve collected about their own bodies. (Yup.) He’d probably be interested in Pete Fletcher’s sneezecount project documenting his sneezes since July 2007 (also see his 5 minute Ignite video On the Counting of Sneezes) and Manu Sporny open-sourcing his genetic data on GitHub.
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).
I did a talk on why standards are great and good for business (sorry about ugly slides; there wasn’t much time and I preferred gawping at penguins, Chapman’s Peak and brunching with beautiful people to wrangling presentation software!).
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.
Phew. It’s been a full few weeks with lots of conference talks and travel.
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.
Anyhow, I must have done something right as 99,000 people have viewed the slides on slideshare in 3 weeks. (Slides: You too can be a bedwetting antfucker). Here’s the video:
Those nice people at Fronteers have transcribed the video, too.
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!
PPK has released a very good Conference Organisers’ Handbook in which he writes
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)
(as did Paul Irish)
and picked up the best swag: a flicker book made from a 6 second video you make with some props on the Rackspace stand.
It was great to see old friends, albeit briefly, and make new ones. So see you next year, hopefully.