What a day…

Well, the promise of the day was fulfilled – most sessions today were much more in line with what I was expecting – and that meant lots of great information and ideas.

Eric Meyer did an excellent presentation today demonstrating the business case for, and power of, using CSS for prototyping designs. I really wish I had have seen that presentation before we embarked on the redesign of the WWF-Australia site (still in progress) as a lot of the issues the technique addresses have come up for us. I’m seriously considering using the technique for some further refinements that we have in mind, but I’ll have to see how time goes and work out if it’s going to be the right thing for us right now. I’ll almost certainly be using it for the next design I need to work on.

One of the highlights of today was Derek Featherstone’s presentation on accessibility. For me accessibility has been one of the many benefits that I keep in mind when using CSS, but for the most part has been a bit of a grey area for me. It’s been a goal, but the benefits have been rather abstract. While watching Derek demonstrate there were lots of little light-bulbs going off in my head that pulled some things together. It also highlighted some misconceptions I had about reading software support among other things. I’m looking forward to reviewing his examples to get some practical “hands on” experience with these things.

The combination of Roger’s talk yesterday, along with Derek and Steven today, really opened my eyes to the kind of things that we need to keep in mind – real practical steps that are relatively easy to take, but aren’t immediately apparent. Although Steven’s talk was a bit concerning, if only because it highlights that even a well designed page can have issues with screen reading and screen magnification tools. I certainly hope that I’ll be able to apply many of the principles and techniques covered with our forms as we move forward (maybe not immediately, but certainly very soon).

The “geek” sessions today were pretty cool too. Tim’s session was a good technical introduction to what AJAX is, and how to get started. He linked back, part tongue-in-cheek, part seriously, to Doug Bowman’s talk yesterday mentioning the “inner beauty” of the simplicity and approach of Prototype. Having just begun using Prototype (after using more complex frameworks), I have to agree. I’m really enjoying working with it for basic Javascript interactions, but the example of use for AJAX calls was an eye-opener (as I’ve not really had a chance to play with that side of things yet). His quick demos of some of the Ruby on Rails controls were pretty cool too.

It was really cool to talk to Tim briefly after his talk, chatting about Rails developers, CMS’s, among other things.

Cameron Adams’ presentation had a lot of cool stuff in it too. His demonstration of a Javascript mockup of the Mac OS X finder, applications and dock was amazing. The forms demo he produced was simple and clean, but had some neat ideas about how to create even better feedback for visitors when using forms and doing form validation. Really looking forward to his new book as well.

The day closed with a presentation by Tantek on Microformats and Jeff Veen presenting on “Web 2.0” (a buzzword I have to admit I’ve not really looked into all that closely due to work busy-ness).

While I’ve been tracking microformats for a while (in an “interesting-but-not-immediately-useful” kinda way), it really hit me just how useful they were when he demonstrated the favelets for retrieving hCard data as a vCard file. Immensely powerful! And the hCalender example (subscribing to an iCalendar file based on output automatically generated from his weblog) really hit home. I’m hoping to introduce hCard to the events section of the new site design, and I’ll be definitely checking the microformats site in more detail soon.

Jeff Veen’s closing talk was really good. I really liked his definition and along with his thoughts on why and how it’s important. I do hope that his presentation slides end up on the net (UPDATE: here they are) because I’d like to revisit the ideas he presented when I have a bit more reflective time. The main “take-away” I got from it was his three points that “Web 2.0” is: “Old Problems – New Platform – Participation”. The new platform being standards compliant browsers, CSS/XHTML/Javascript combining in interesting ways, with distinctly social outcomes.

Seeing Doug’s talk yesterday in the context of the talks today makes a lot more sense to me as well now. The conference has definitely got me thinking, with the added bonus of having some cool new tools to use moving forward.

The day ended with this blog getting the “best blog” award (or something like that) for covering the conference. Given some of my comments yesterday this was a surprise to say the least. But thanks to the organisers for choosing little ol’ me 🙂 (even if I did forget to pick up whatever the prize pack was after the session).

I couldn’t make the drinks session tonight because of other life stuff that I need to attend to (early start tomorrow, preparation required tonight), but I’m really looking forward to seeing the direction next year’s conference takes. Not sure if it’s something I’ll be able to do then (depends on all manner of things), but I’m sure it’ll be interesting for a whole bunch of people, and help to grow and strengthen the standards developer community even further.

Oh, and don’t forget that many of the talks were podcast. UPDATE: Many of the presenters’ notes are being posted here.

  • Hey wow, I’ve just seen all your posts. Thx so much for doing all this, and also for being so open in your reflections.

    Now: do get in touch re your digibag! I’ll send you an email 🙂

  • Tut, tut! Go get the certificate, stick it under your chin and smile for the camera.

  • What a writeup! You pretty much summed up my thoughts on the other presentations. There’s no doubt lots of exciting, fun and serious stuff to think about.

    Nice to have met you, and hope we cross paths again soon!

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