October 9, 2009 – 6:51 am
The day before yesterday i flew from Darwin to Sydney for the Web Directions South conference. It was about 30° when i left Darwin, at 7 o’clock that morning, but when i arrived in Sydney it was a chilly 17°, which was a bit of a shock to my system.
The conference was in the convention centre at Darling Harbour, near Sydney’s central business district. I’d been to a few conferences before, but never to an IT related one. I was going on my own and i didn’t expect there to be anyone i knew there.
When i registered, i was given a large name tag to hang round my neck, with a conference timetable on the back and a flyer for a couple of after conference parties. I was also given a conference shoulder bag containing a bundle of sponsors’ leaflets and a book with various articles in it and information about each of the conference sessions.
The opening session was a talk by Matt Webb, called “Escalante”. To be honest, i can barely remember anything about it and i’m not really sure what it was about. It was a bit rambling and seemed barely relevant.
After that there were four streams of split sessions. I went to Mark Stanton’s talk, “Speed Matters”, on optimising web sites for speed. Mark’s a good speaker and what he had to say was interesting. I picked up a couple of tips from his talk, but mostly it served to reassure me that i was pretty well up to speed on this subject already.
After that, i stayed in the same room for “Using Ajax to enhance UX”, by Tania Lang. It was in the “Design” stream, but it sounded like it would be interesting. Unfortunately, it wasn’t – not to me, anyway. I bailed after about ten minutes and went to the “Development” stream talk by Ben Galbraith, entitled “The state of development tools”. I found that much more interesting, although i can’t remember anything about it now!
After lunch, i listened to Dmitry Baranovsky explaining why he hates the HTML 5 “Canvas” element. He was a highly entertaining speaker and got a lot of laughs while he was talking. I knew very little about Canvas before his talk and i came away with quite a good understanding of what it’s all about.
I left there and went to a panel discussion on the state of the web as a platform. There were five men, one from Microsoft, one from Adobe, one from W3C – i don’t know who the other two were. Their discussion was mildly interesting, although didn’t really seem to have much substance. They were an improvement on the non-jQuery talk though.
The closing session of the first day was Cameron Adams talking about Google Wave. He was a good speaker and the talk was entertaining and reasonably informative.
Kelly Goto started the second day, talking about “WorkFLOW”. I’m not sure i really got very much out of her talk, but she was a good speaker and it was an entertaining start to the day.
Next i listened to Gian Wild talking about WCAG2 – which is the second version of the W3C web accessibility guidelines. I have to admit i’m not fully up to speed on WCAG1 (although i am familiar with the principles and practices of web site accessibility), but it was interesting and it will definitely be useful to me to have a bit of background in this in the future.
Elliot Jay Stocks’s talk on “Progressive Enhancement” was the next one i went to. Elliot’s a good speaker and his talk was interesting. I wouldn’t say i actually learnt anything from it, as such, but it was good to get an insight into his perspective on things.
After lunch, i listened to Kevin Yank talking about “CSS Frameworks”. I’ve considered and rejected CSS frameworks a couple of times, but the talk was interesting and informative. I don’t think i’ll end up using CSS frameworks as a result of listening to it, but it’s good to hear some of the pros and cons in case i work on a site that could benefit from it in future.
The closing talk was “15 years in” by Dan Hill. He was quite a good speaker and it was interesting enough, with some of the best slides of the conference. But he was off in designer fantasy land for a lot of it, and most of what he was talking about barely seemed to relate to reality, let alone to the web. According to the conference book, the subject was about something like taking ideas from web design and incorporating them into the real world. Yeah, right!
There were about 700 people at the conference. Attending it was certainly an interesting experience, although i’m not really sure what or how much i gained from it. But it was definitely worth going to – apart from anything else, to get a bit of a finger on the pulse of the Australian web industry.