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Web Directions South 2012 Day 1

Day one of Web Directions 2012, further known now as its Twitter hashtag of #wds12 was a great day with some excellent debate, thought and ideas for the future.

Stage in Parkside AuditoriumWaiting for Web Directions South 2012 to start.

Josh Clark – Beyond mobile: where no geek has gone before

Opening the conference was a keynote speech by Josh Clark who presented some excellent examples of companies/people who have done awesome stuff with technology. His main point, well, at least what I took from it, is that we need to start looking outside the screen.

We need to start developing ways for people to interact with applications and content in ways which are natural and seamless.

I think the example that hit the nail on the head, the car phone. You get a call while driving, you pick the call up by pressing a button somewhere on your dash/roof and take the call. You reach your destination, pick up your phone, get out of the car and walk away still talking on the same call. So simple yet it’s something which has been around since the 80’s.

Moving on from this, he suggested that an ecosystem is critical for innovation and stating that

“You have to have the devices, the software, the operating system and the API that can work together. Innovation always happens in proprietary arenas.” – Josh Clark

I partly disagreed with the latter part of that comment. Yes, I agree, you need to have all the devices/software/os/api in sync but I don’t believe that innovation always happens in proprietary arenas. The initial GUI web browser ViolaWWW come to mind and the hardware and methods used to implement the internet. However I understand that in this day and age, money can be a powerful driving force, and when the web was first ‘conceived’ I guess they didn’t have the mindset that we might have today.

I think Josh’s presentation gave me some excellent food for thought. And the need to buy me some Sifteo cubes!

Charlie Gleason – You are a developer

First up for the Big Picture Track was Charlie Gleason presenting “You are a developer“. Man this guy is funny. He was like the Jerry Seinfeld of the web world. That might be a little bit of an exaggeration but for the first cab out of the rank for #wds12 his smart whit and insights took me very much by surprise!

From the many joys and beverages available at University to becoming an awesome Designer turned Dev, Charlie took you through the steps to help you make the transition from designer to developer. However I really feel that a lot of the methods and strategies he proposed can be applied to those who are looking to start in the industry with no web background what so ever. He also provided me with an up-to-date list of learning resources to use, because, as with most of us, we are constantly learning new things in our industry.

He also emphasised the importance of seeking assistance and to ask questions when you are stuck on a problem, need help/guidance and ways you can successfully receive that help (cake and beer, if you were wondering!).

Mark Boulton – Adapting to responsive design

Next up was Mark Boulton, he had some great industry experience to share that I found really insightful. He really gave me a good understanding and objective look at the web as it is today. It really is our attempt to replicate print. I will admit up till very recently (maybe even today, or yesterday by the time I finish this post) I had always thought that print and web are two very different mediums, and they are, but the inextricable connection is still present in our minds when we look to design and develop most sites.

Mark, helped show me that line of subconscious thinking that I had never identified and has now made me more aware of that in my line of work. I dunno about you, but that last sentence sounded like something you’d read in a weekly church newsletter. This was the big thing I took away from his talk.

Oh and this:

“We’re the only people who make our browsers bigger and smaller. Normal people don’t do that.” – Mark Boulton

Everyday. Without fail.

Matthew Sheret – The bit between data and you

I wasn’t really 100% sure what to expect when I went into this session. I was pleasantly surprised by the content and presentation. Matt discussed the need for data to have a human context for people to connect with it.

I really didn’t fully grasp the concept till he demoed a WWI simulator using your twitter followers. The example showed that of his 348 follows, say 200 or so returned home safe and sound, 100 of his followers would return home injured and 43 would have died during the war. This instantly gives you a direct understanding of how many people were lost in the war, by relating it to you personally, even though it happened over 90 years ago. A figure such as 2 million people died in WWI (not an actual figure, I just made that up) doesn’t really give much context or personal connection. Just like, when you see a car accident on the news where someone has died. You don’t even think about it. But if you know the person, your reaction is entirely different.

John Allsopp – What we talk about when we talk about the web

John took us back to the formation of World Wide Web and contextualised many of the standards and practices we have in place today.

While this was good, I think the session got really interesting with some questions from the audience, it sort of turned into a mini Q&A (Where was Tony Jones when you need him?). I think this could be a really neat idea for a future Web Directions conference as I think this is something that really incites thought, discussion and ideas. Of course the issue of “native apps must die” came up. I’m sure that discussion could of gone on for days on end. Alas, my thoughts on that issue will not be discussed here.

Ben Hammersley – The flower, the field and the stack

No slides. +1. He really was an excellent speaker to bring home day 1. I haven’t heard Jon Kolko yet, but I’ll think he’ll give him a run for his money. From  lines like:

Moore’s Law: “It’s the principle by which Apple made the phone in my pocket absolute rubbish a month ago.”


“You are all slightly rubbish cyborgs and this is your brain.” *holds up an iPhone*


“Everything the internet touches, it destroys and rebuilds in its image.”

I think Ben really made us think about how connected we really have become to technology and the drastic measures of change that are constantly happening around us. As he noted, and I hadn’t really thought about. “Part or all of your job didn’t even exist 3 years ago”. What a crazy notion, but really, for most of us, it’s pretty true.

Looking forward to day two.

“We’re living in best possible time to change world. That’s an awesome responsibility, and it’s ours. But first: beer”



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