WDS07 report: finally!

This is being posted 12 months late, and nobody will probably read this, but I thought it would be good to keep if only for my own reference.

Here are the notes I took during Web Directions 07, found in some obscure folder on my MacBook. It seems I didn't take notes for every session, but here is what I did happen to note down.

Andy Clarke - Think like a mountain

Andy's main topic was the use of comic books as an influence on art such as movies and extending that concept to the web. He used Sin City and Watchmen as an example. I've since read the Watchmen graphic novel, so big thanks to Andy for putting me on to that one!

Many comics span the gaps between panels with design elements, as well as varying the size of the panels. Bringing this across to grey-box layouts for the web, large panels can be used not just for large amounts of content, but to add emphasis, as does sparring use of colour. Reiterating his point from his workshop, make use of new CSS technologies; don't limit yourself to just capabilities to the lowest common denominator (I'm looking at you, IE6).

Finally, Andy officially announced the CSS Eleven, an international group of visual designers and developers who are committed to helping the W3C's CSS working group to better deliver the tools that are needed to design tomorrow's web. They planned to deliver two months deliberation on each CSS3 module, then open for public comment via wikis. It sounded good at the time, but I don't think much came of it at the end. (I'm currently at WDS08 so I might hit up Jeff Croft or Jina Bolton about what's happening with it at the moment.)

Chris Wilson - Microsoft - Moving the Web Forward

Chris gave quite a defensive talk about the future of the web from a browser vendors point of view (namely IE), addressing some of the criticisms they receive.

Scott Berkun - The myths of innovation

Scott is a captivating speaker who gave a nice motivational talk about innovation, and how that term gets loosely applied. There's more to innovation than most people realise, and also in many cases origin stories get made up to glamourise the discovery of the idea, the eureka moment, often ignoring much of the hard work involved in reaching that point. He also dissected the anatomy of innovation. Quite interesting.

George Oats - Human Traffic

George is an original team member from Flickr. We made the assumption that George was male, but were surprised that not only was she a she, but she's also an Aussie. George gave us a history of Flickr, how it started off as a game, before becoming a photo sharing site. She spoke of the rapid growth of their user base, and what this meant to the future of the company. Flickr has been perpetually in beta for so long that they coined the phase "Gamma" meaning "constantly in development". I love these real-world examples about start-ups, and how they make it big.

Ben Winter-Giles - Managing Agile Projects

I'm not sure what Ben ended up talking about because I left 10 minutes into the session and headed next door. I hate to say it, but he kinda irritated me. First he went on about the Chinese gardens in Darling Harbour, then rambled on about waterfalls, and laptops. Then he compared horses (and the positions of their eyes on their heads) to humans, then monkeys compared to tigers. Then it was dogs... That was enough for me so without further ado...

Aaron Gustafson - Learning to Love Forms

We missed the preliminary, introduction stuff to this session, but it meant we got straight into the good stuff. I get a few handy hints and tips about how to not only style forms to make them look purdey, but also about how to mark them up properly, improve accessibility, and use proper semantics. The handiest bit of knowledge I learned was about being able to style legends easier by wrapping the contents of the legend element in a span set to display: block, then styling the span. Nice!

Mark Mansour - Red Bubble

Another one of these great start-up presentations. Five things you need to create a new application/startup:

    1. Good people. Respectable, clever. A balanced attitude between getting things done, and getting things right. A culture of caring about your work.
    2. Good tools. Communication tools: Campfire, Wikis. Development tools: Version Control System, Automation tools, Database Re-factoring. Testing tools. Unit testing. Functional testing: Selenium. Continuous Integration. Management Tools. Issues/bug trackng. Storyboarding: put all your tasks (stories) on to physical cards and plan out your "to do", "doing" and "done" areas, as well as an overflow area for "nice to have" tasks. Use little avatars of team members to show who's doing what. Documentation.
    3. Simple Development Process. Agile, iterative process.
    4. Ship it!
    5. Fun! Dont mistake seriousness with professionalism. Embrace Ceremonies.

Redbubble used a weekly iteration cycle - Thursday - Wednesday.

Adrian Holovati - Being smart about your data

Adrian Holovati was one of the developers of the Django framework for Python. Serendipity! Desirable discoveries by accident. Using effective click-throughs all over your data is good because it increases stickiness as well as usefulness. In order to make this happen, you have to be smart about your data. Start with structures data, but this is half the battle. It needs to be collected by humans, but once you've got it, the rest is a piece of cake. All data has structure, so give your data "the treatment". Advantages: using permalinks for concepts is great (linking to tags or data views). There are also SEO advantages about having things granular.

Mark Pesce - Mob Rules

I didn't take any notes during this final closing keynote because Mark Pesce is such a brilliant, captivating speaker. Nothing I say here can adequately cover Mark's speech, but I'll briefly and pointlessly try to give you the gist. Mark describes the mob as a kind of big floating cloud. It's unstoppable. It's faster and stronger than you, but at the same time, the mob IS us. The network is not the internet, nor is it the wired, the wireless or in fact any infrastructure. People are the network, and the mob gets what it wants. Mark targeted the telcos, advertising and the pharmaceutical industry as areas where the mob will overthrow, giving the example of mesh networking. I think I'll just stop here, because I'm sure I'm not doing a good job of explaining this. Needless to say, as always, I left Mark's speech ever invigorated, inspired and motivated to go forth and do great things. Embrace your obsessions - you will be rewarded!

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