Web Directions South 08 - Day 1

I'm been meaning to attend a Web Directions Conference since they started but it always clashed with other commitments.

This year I made the trip to Sydney for Web Directions South 08 and it was well worth it. Web Directions always provides a great program of both international and local speakers as well as a fantastic bunch of attendees.

As with most conferences there were a number of parallel sessions and often the choice of which to attend is difficult. On the first day I attended mostly technical sessions, which in retrospect was probably a mistake.

This is a run down on the sessions I attended on day one.

New media - new business

Lynne D Johnson presented the opening keynote which covered how various generations interact with of new technologies and what this means for traditional media providers. The content of the session was perhaps aimed at a less "online" savvy crowd but got interesting when examples and case studies came out. Some interesting ideas where raised regarding the mix of social networks as a means of getting the audience to engage traditional media.

Lynne's keynote (by Halans) Lynne presented a bunch of stats and one interesting fact came out for me and that was: The younger demographic assume what they put online is public unless specifically made private while older generation is the opposite.

The session finished up talking about the future of traditional media and concluded that there would be a decline in the demand and production of newspapers, books and magazines due to increasing online consumption. However print would not die out but become a niche market, with smaller print runs and increasing in cost.

The session has some interesting points but mostly missed the mark with the Web Directions crowd. Would have loved to hear more of Lynnes' experience as Community Director at FastCompany.com

Start Using Web Vector Graphics TodayWebjam 8 - Bar Broadway - Sydney (by Charlie Brewer)

Dmitry Baranovskiys session started out giving an overview of the various web vector graphics technologies that are currently available in browsers, SVG, Canvas & VML and then introduced his Raphaël JavaScript library.

Raphaël is quite impressive as it allows you to create cross-browser vector graphic using JavaScript. Current supported browsers are Firefox 3.0+, Safari 3.0+, Opera 9.5+ and Internet Explorer 6.0+ as well as the iPhone & iTouch.

Raphaël has been on my list of things to check out for some time and this engaging talk pushed it up the list.

From disordered to managed usability in an Agile environment

Teale Shapcott gave a presentation about Agile methodologies utilised at Suncorp and the benefits (and challenges) of introducing usability into the production cycle. This was a great talk, providing many "real world" issues and solutions.

Teale is presenting what looks to be a similar talk at the Brisbane Web Design Meetup on October 9. Well worth attending even if you saw the WDS08 presentation!

Javascript libraries - Putting the cross in cross-browser compatible

Web Directions South (by CannedTuna)This session was a "compare and contrast" of a number of popular JavaScript libraries, as well as raw JavaScript. The session was chaired by Craig Sharkie, with Earle Castledine representing jQuery, Ben Askins Prototype/Scriptaculous, Jason Crane YUI, and Cameron Adams writing JavaScript from scratch. Each panel member introduced their library and then presented solutions to problems that had been posed by Craig.

It became quite clear very quickly that:
  • Using a library saves for a bunch of time. One problem took more than a day to do from scratch while all the library users achieved most solutions in less than 15 mins.
  • Libraries work across most platforms, achieving this in raw code is hard.
  • Most panel members actually use jQuery.
Nothing shocking there!

Although the panelists were quite entertaining the session got a bit repetitive (2 hours worth), with the library panelists presenting their minimal solutions (most one liners) and wading through the raw JavaScript version.

The session ended up with each panelist presenting a "free" exercise using their assigned library. The highlight of which was the remarkable Man in Blue's raw JavaScript sequencer.

Predicting the Past: Emotional Design and a Vision for Microsoft Surface

WDS08 (by Halans)August de los Reyes presented the closing keynote for day one and had some very interesting points on the part that emotion plays in design. However the talk was interspersed with a 2+minute Seinfeld clip (made a good point but was too long) as well as several Microsoft "marketing" clips, that seemed a little out of place. They presented a vague "Minority Report" future and left me feeling that I was being marketed to. This really detracted from the excellent research and ideas that August was talking about.

I found it hard to link the promise portrayed in the videos to what I saw in the Surface table at the Microsoft stand, especially in this day of portable connectivity. The Surface interface is impressive, I guess the table top arcade style casing makes it seem like something of that era and not of the future.

Day One Wrap

The thing I love about conferences is that you get to meet a bunch of great people and hear plenty of exciting ideas. Web Directions is no exception.

In hind site I probably would have skipped Dmitry's vector Graphic talk for Derek Featherstones Accessability beyond compliance talk. I also would have given the JavaScript comparism talk a miss and attended Hurol Inans session "Informing experience architecture with quantitative insights"

After the closing there were drinks and nibbles and then it was on to WebJam8.

Day 2 to follow....

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