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Web Essentials 05 Wrap-up

So, having been back from Australia for most of a month and having posted about other stuff in the meantime, what would make more sense than writing up some thoughts on the trip?  I mean, other than giving an ocelot a bath in a tub full of kippers?

Okay, don’t go there.

For this post, I’ll concentrate on Web Essentials 05 itself.  With all due respect and apologies to the other conference organizers in my life, the WE05 attendees were flat-out amazing.  I have not encountered a group of conference attendees as enthusiastic and focused in many years.  I have hopes that the folks who come to An Event Apart will rival them, but honestly, the bar’s been set pretty high.  I might be tempted to say that the lack of wifi access in the conference hall helped them stay focused, but the focus remained during breaks, when wifi was (mostly) available.  They were there to learn from the speakers and from each other, and the collective determination to get as much as possible out of the whole experience bordered on fanatic.  It was thoroughly awesome.

Just in case you hadn’t heard (ha!), the main-hall presentations were recorded and made available as podcasts.  You can go to the WE05 podcasts page and grab whichever ones strike your fancy.  Some of the talks have slides you can download, although mine don’t, since most of what I did was intensely visual and hands-on in nature, and I skipped around in my slides quite a bit.

Even if you’re uninterested in 45-minute talks with no visual component, you should totally grab the remixes: WE05 Upbeat Remix and WE05 Deep Remix.  They’re about two to three minutes each, with some fun / meaningful audio snippets taken straight out of the talks (different snippets for each remix) and laid over some techno music by Mr. John Allsopp.  Cripes, is there anything he can’t do?

Now all we need is for someone to create a music video for the remixes.  Who’s up for it?  There are a bunch of photos from the conference that could be used, both those tagged WE05 by attendees and the official Web Essentials photo stream  And if you need filler material for that grungy-shaky-blurry-throbbing text overlay effect all the kids love, don’t forget about the large number of tagged posts.

Anyway, I was pleased with my presentations, even if they weren’t as deep and meaningful as, well, just about every other international speaker’s.  When Doug Bowman managed to invoke the fight against poverty, the future of change, and Malcolm X in the same talk, I really started to feel like a pretty minor spear carrier.  (“Yeah, Doug just blew everyone’s mind with the infinite horizon of riches and wonder that our profession can enable.  Check out my super-cool use of position: absolute!”)

At least I didn’t have my Q&A period interrupted by an evacuation alarm.

For me, one of the most personally affecting aspects of the whole conference was talking with Lisa Herrod, who is fluent in Auslan and familiar with ASL.  The fact that we both knew at least basic ASL signs came in handy when we ended up at a King’s Cross club with a bunch of other attendees.  The music was, of course, so loud that one could hardly hear oneself speak, let alone anyone else.  At one point, Lisa looked over at me from a distance of four or five meters and signed “like” with a questioning look, perhaps picking up on my detachment.  I indicated mixed feelings, and she signed “OK?”  I indicated I was.  Reassured, she turned back to what she’d been doing.  Very handy, that.  Although our ears were effectively useless, we could very clearly converse.

Earlier on, Lisa and I had compared notes on differences between Auslan and ASL, which are substantial, and she told me about the origins of each (Auslan grew out of British signing, whereas ASL owes a large debt to old French signing systems) as well as the fascinating story of Martha’s Vineyard, where everyone in its early history knew a localized sign language due to the original settlers being mostly deaf.  It was in talking with Lisa that I came to realize I’ve developed a passion for signing and its history.  It’s a gift that Carolyn has given me, simply by entering and changing my life.  It isn’t her only gift to me, nor the last.  I’m just glad to have seen it for what it is, and thankful to Lisa for helping me see it.

Similarly, I’m thankful to John and Maxine for getting me to WE05 in the first place, and to the WE05 staff and attendees for making it a truly great experience.  I hope I’ll get to come back and do some more spear-carrying in the future.

10 Responses»

    • #1
    • Comment
    • Wed 26 Oct 2005
    • 1254
    Ron wrote in to say...

    Some 20 years ago I visited the small Columbian/caribean island Isla Providencia. The community back then was about 400 people. On the island was just one single deaf person. A teen as I recall.
    Everyone one on the island communicated with the boy with a sign language they had made up themselves and had expanded on over the years.

    It was fascinating, both from the point of view how that got invented as well as how a community like that adapts to a persons needs. I know nothing about signing, but quite a few signs struck me as being “universal”.

    • #2
    • Comment
    • Wed 26 Oct 2005
    • 1848
    john allsopp wrote in to say...

    Hi Eric,

    it was great pleasure having you here, and I think on of the main reasons people paid so much attention is the wonderful quality of you and the other speakers.

    We are not exactly spoilt for choice when it comes to conferences like this down under, which is why Peter Maxine Russ and I put together WE in the first place.

    Love the idea of a video!

    p.s.

    I have long been fascintated with signing. Have you read Seeing Voices by Oliver Sacks http://www.oliversacks.com/voices.htm?

    Wonderful.

    John

    • #3
    • Comment
    • Wed 26 Oct 2005
    • 2010
    Jeff wrote in to say...

    I just listened to your podcast on rapid prototyping and I am curious, and I am lost.

    I am curious in that I would agree with you that using the server logs is a great way of determining what browsers your site “must” or “should” support, but what if you are building a completely new site from scratch? Is there a process you would recommend for building a browser support profile?

    I am lost however when it comes to finding a browser support matrix or browser support profile do you know where I can find one that supports or lists current browsers?

    • #4
    • Comment
    • Thu 27 Oct 2005
    • 0028
    Eric Meyer wrote in to say...

    Ron: interesting! It sounds a bit like the Martha’s Vineyard situation, though there a great many more people were deaf.

    John: I haven’t read that one, but it’s going on my reading list.

    Jeff: if you’re building a site from scratch, you have to make some educated guesses. Is this a cutting-edge Ajaxy site? If so, your supported browsers are going to be recent. Is it a site for Netscape 4.x tricks and tips? In that case, things will be different. I think in those cases, it comes down to setting some levels that feel right, and then pushing your “fully supported” browsers as far back in time as you can, within reason. That’s a real art, I think.

    As for finding a current browser support matrix, I don’t know of anyone who’s published one, but I’m sure there must be some out there somewhere. Try Googling a few combinations of likely terms and see if anything turns up.

    • #5
    • Comment
    • Sun 30 Oct 2005
    • 2131
    Lisa Herrod wrote in to say...

    I have to admit, I never thought it would happen – though I did hope…Imagine meeting someone who not only has a passion for web standards… but sign language as well! And hanging out at ‘the cross’ no less!

    Eric I really have to thank you for reminding me how lucky I am to have Auslan as a second language, and for reminding me also of how passionately I feel about the language and the community.

    Looking forward to hearing what you think of the book once you’ve read it. And looking forward to signing with Carolyn one day too :)

    … Lisa

    • #6
    • Comment
    • Mon 31 Oct 2005
    • 0000
    Peter Asquith wrote in to say...

    Hi Eric

    WE05 was fantastic and a real treat to have you there. I thoroughly enjoyed your presentations and the chance to meet you, albeit briefly. I’ve come back to NZ with a head full of ideas and inspiration.

    Although this is probably a little feeble, in signing terms (and in general, come to that!), when I was 11 or 12 some friends and I learned the signing alphabet from my Junior Pears Cyclopaedia and used to have clandestine conversations during class. We thought it was very cool!

    Thanks again for being at WE05 and hope to see you down this part of the world again one day.

    Cheers
    Peter

    • #7
    • Comment
    • Thu 3 Nov 2005
    • 1630
    Lachlan Hardy wrote in to say...

    I remember you and Lisa comparing alphabets outside the club while we were still waiting for folks to arrive. Maxine and I were captivated. It made me want to learn, to date the only sign I can ever remember is ‘Toilet’

    A week later I got on the tram to work and realised I was surrounded by school kids. I settled in for a noisy trip, before realising that they were hardly making a sound. I was surrounded by students from a school for the deaf. I, and the other passengers not associated with the school, watched in complete wonderment as kids told each other stories and teased each other

    There is something special about languages, I think. Thanks for reminding me of one I haven’t spent enough time with

    • #8
    • Comment
    • Fri 4 Nov 2005
    • 1036
    Ben Buchanan wrote in to say...

    the collective determination to get as much as possible out of the whole experience bordered on fanatic

    Oh good, we only bordered on it ;) It was great to have you here and I’m glad you had fun!

    • #9
    • Comment
    • Tue 8 Nov 2005
    • 0853
    Jules wrote in to say...

    Eric:

    I didn’t know where else to add this comment so I put it here.

    I have been listening to your WE05 podcasts with great interest, particularly the Prototyping with XHTML and CSS one.

    When gathering to meet with a team to discuss prototypes, do you qualify the participants? What if you had a (partly and unknowingly) colour-blind person or a person with bad tastes in design? This is especially problematic if that person was the CEO and had a strong influence on the outcome. Do not large organizations hire (or have on staff) qualified designers and information architects to assist with the process and ensure that the site is built properly with good design? Many people have had clients that want “X” because it is cool (even though it is a really bad idea) and because they are paying, it’s their way or the highway.

    How do you balance input from unqualified persons with input from qualified persons?

    Jules

    • #10
    • Comment
    • Sun 8 Jan 2006
    • 2000
    Christian Ready wrote in to say...

    Hi Eric,

    I was wondering if you would post your slides from WE05 anywhere? I would love to have come to Austrailia to see you in person but alas budget did not permit.

    Thanks!
    Chris

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