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Archive: 2006

London Trod

Thanks to everyone who gave me suggestions for something to do on a Saturday in London.  There were far too many good choices, as one expects in a millenia-old city.  I found the prospect of the Tate Modern to be very, very tempting, but as it turned out I crashed hard and slept very late that morning, so I didn’t feel like I could really do the Tate justice.

So instead I decided to walk south and pay a visit to the person who’d pleaded for CSS help in the comments, since their offices were only five minutes’ walk from my hotel and on my way to other points of interest.  You might wonder why I would do that, why I would in effect work, when I had only one day in London, but you know what?  London’s been there a long time, and will most likely continue to be there a long time.  I could never see all of it, not even if I were to move there.  Helping others out is something immediate, vital, and it’s something I like to do when possible.  I was there, he was very close by, and so why not?

As it turned out, he didn’t actually have a CSS problem, but we had a lovely lunch at a gourmet burger place right across the street from St. Paul’s Cathedral.  That didn’t seem weird or anything.

From there, I crossed the Thames at the Farringdon/New Bridge/Blackfriars bridge, and made my way along the south bank to the Westminster Bridge.  In the broken late afternoon sun, I took in living statues and the Eye, a combination which seems far more Tolkienesque than is really necessary.  Perhaps fittingly, there was also a book fair beneath Waterloo Bridge, albeit one I regretfully did not peruse—I was afraid I’d be there until the next morning.  Once I reached Westminster Bridge, I cut inward to check out the Imperial War Museum—what can I say?  I’m a history geek, which you might have guessed from the fact that it was my major field of study in college.  I’d also given thought to seeing the Cabinet War Rooms, but again, time was short.  I spent a couple of hours wandering randomly through the nooks and crannies of the IWM, and then skedaddled out of there to catch a train to the BBC Backstage Bash.  It was loud, it was fun, I traded conference organizer war stories with Patrick Griffiths and got into a short conversation about nihilism with a lovely young lady, and I met more people than I can remember but not nearly as many people as I’d have liked.  A whole kettle of thanks to Ian Forrester and the BBC crew for inviting me to such a great party.

If you’re interested in a short visual record of the day, you can see my photos from the War Museum, two pictures from the Bash, or just the whole general collection of all London photos I’ve Flickred.  Thanks again for all the suggestions!

London Fogged

So I’m here in London, midway through a two-day workshop on CSS and XHTML.  I’ll be doing that all day Friday, collapsing into a coma, and then rocking out at the BBC Backstage bash on Saturday night before boarding a flight for America on Sunday.

That leaves me all day Saturday in London to do… something.  Anyone have any good suggestions?  In a past visit, I’ve seen St. Paul’s, Buckingham Palace, and the Houses of Parliament from the outside; ridden a double-decker; and wandered a few of the parks; but beyond that London’s a pretty well unknown realm to me.  I’m up for a last-minute group gathering or just pointers on what a tenderfoot ought to make sure he does before setting off again.  What say you, gentle readers?

That’s Pretty Old

“Daddy, what old is Bear?”

“Do you mean how old is Bear?”

How old is Bear, yes.”

“I don’t know, sweetie.  How old do you think he is?”

“Sixty two.”

“Sixty two?”

“One.”

“Oh, he’s sixty one, not sixty two?”

No.  Bear is sixty two one.”

“Sixty two one.”

“Right.”

Honestly, the most impressive thing is that she knows any numbers above fiveteen.

Two Books Together

Last Thursday, I came down from the office to discover a stack of five boxes on the front porch.  Three were for Kat, who is one of those annoying people who plans way ahead for Christmas, and two others were my author copies of CSS Web Site Design (formerly “CSS Hands-On Training”).  This is a title I did for lynda.com, and published by Peachpit, and it’s most tersely described as “Eric Meyer on CSS, but for beginners”.  It’s also the hard-copy version of the video training title “CSS Site Design“, and includes all the videos and exercise files from the video title on a CD-ROM bundled with the book.

After I’d hauled all that into the front hallway, I grabbed my car keys and headed out the back door to run my errand.  At which point I nearly fell over two more boxes, these containing my author copies of the third edition of CSS: The Definitive Guide from O’Reilly.  This is of course an update of the second edition, which contains some updates based on the latest version of CSS 2.1, expanded selector coverage, updated compatibility notes taking IE7′s improvements into account, and corrected errata from the previous edition.  It’s not a major update compared to the second edition, admittedly, but if you don’t already own the second edition, it’s well worth acquiring (if I do say so myself).

It’s a bit funny that both sets of books arrived on my doorstep the exact same day, considering that the two projects started out well separated, and gradually synched up.  At first I was going to write one and then the other, but various complications set in and they started to interweave.  I finished their final reviews with a whole lot of overlap—that was a fun couple of weeks—and now, the waves have fully amplified.

What really cracked me up was that the next day, I got packages from both Peachpit and O’Reilly, each containing a single copy of the respective books, and each containing a note along the lines of “Here’s your advance copy; the rest should arrive in a few weeks!”.

AEA To Grow in 2007

Let’s cut right to the chase: An Event Apart is growing to become a two-day conference.  We’ll have at least four two-day shows in 2007; see the announcement for more details.

The first show, in Boston, is already confirmed.  We’ve signed the contracts and everything.  Registration isn’t open yet, and won’t be until early January, so you have plenty of time to get the budget approval and be ready to sign up as soon as seats go on sale.  Like I said, early January.  A more specific date will most likely emerge near the end of December.

You’re going to want to get geared up for this, because the speaker list is flat-out amazing:

Honestly, I can hardly wait to hear everyone on the list.  Well, except me.  I hear me all the time.  But everyone else?  Total gold!

Note that this is the speaker list for Boston; the other cities will have different lineups.  Obviously not 100% different, but I expect each one will be fairly different.  Still awesome, of course.

So what are we going to cover?  Best practices.  That’s really what it’s all about, whether we’re dissecting code or talking about usability or whatever.  Jeffrey and I are going to push every last speaker to pack their talks with insights regarding the current state of the art in their respective fields.  We’re going to push ourselves twice as hard to do the same.  What we want is to have everyone walk out saying, “Now I know where things are and where they’re going”.

The size of the event will increase along with the days, from our usual 100 seats to 400 or so.  AEA is now, as I said, a full-on conference.  It’s a big step, but it’s the right one.  The most common feedback from this year’s attendees was that one day just wasn’t enough, and looking back, we have to agree.  That’s especially true given that the feedback from our only two-day event of 2006 indicated that people really liked the length and the amount of information they got out of it.  So it’s time to step up.

Even from this side of the Atlantic, I hear the cries of our European brethren.  When will we visit your worthy shores?  It’s a fair question.  It could happen in 2007, or it might not be until 2008.  How’s that for precise?  I’m sorry, but I can’t do any better than that right now.  Our original plan had been to run a year’s worth of events to shake out the bugs and then look to other lands.  Instead, we discovered that the events were too small, temporally speaking, and needed to be dramatically revamped.

So now we need to run a few of the larger events to get the bugs worked out before going afield.  The good news is that a lot of the bugs are already smoothed out.  We just need to get a handle on the larger format, which has a whole new set of requirements.

So we’ll be at the Boston Marriott Copley Place at the end of March.  I hope you’ll be there too!  (And if you are going to be there and are a member at Upcoming, add yourself to the listing.  Otherwise, feel free to leave a comment here.  Thanks!)

Caption Hunt 2

It’s been very nearly two years since the last time, and that’s way too long.  So: it’s time for another caption hunt!

A picture of Nancy Pelosi and George W. Bush, bearing facial expressions I'm not sure can be described.

Leave your caption(s) in the comments.  Who knows?  There might even be a prize or two involved.

(Update: comments are now enabled.  Oopsie.)

Austin’s Powers

When it isn’t buried under a flood tide of web geeks, band groupies, and filmgoers, Austin is a nice little town.

Or maybe it’s just a nice little downtown; thanks to a visit with Angela and Dan, I found that the greater Austin area is a good deal larger and more urban than I’d realized, not to mention growing at a rapid clip.  At any rate, being there for An Event Apart Austin was markedly different than the SXSW experience (in which I’ll once again be partaking, come March) just by dint of not being nearly so noisy.

While we didn’t contribute too much noise to the area, I fervently hope that we added a whole lot of signal.  I know that from my spot on the charmingly petite stage at the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown, the people in the audience really seemed to be enjoying themselves, and I at least felt like I was communicating well.  I think the other speakers did too, so hopefully they got the same feeling.

Part of that, without question, was due to just how friendly and welcoming the audience was.  We had a few glitches here and there, but so far as I could tell, nobody let it get them down.  As we said to ourselves a few times, “When you choose quirky venues, you get quirk”.  I still really enjoy putting on events in not-the-usual-suspects places like the Alamo, and I’ll miss that aspect of AEA when it grows larger, but it’s definitely the case that you take your chances at a smaller venue.  I think we did well at the Alamo, and several attendees mentioned how cool it was to attend an event there.  I’m glad we picked it.

It’s still a gamble, though, and after a year of AEAs, I understand better than ever why so many conferences and other events are held in hotel ballrooms.  It may be bland and a little soulless, but as a presenter, you know they’ve done it all a thousand times before.  You know they can handle any routine problem, and in fact have.  It’s comforting.  You give up charm and funkiness, but in return you get stability.

I think there’s an analogy to dating in there somewhere, but I’m not going to pursue it.

After we were all done with the speechifying, the fine folks at Knowbility threw an after-party on the upstairs terrace of The Belmont, and a good time was had by all, what with the open bar and all.  I even got to meet and talk with Jim Thatcher, the man responsible for PCSAID, one of the first screen readers.

If you’re wondering what it all looked like, or if you were there and want to relive the moments, there’s (as ever) a Flickr pool for your perusal.  I threw in a few pictures of my own, including one for those of you who’ve ever wondered about the view from the stage.  The Austin Flickr pool even has, somewhere in its depths, a picture of me being a naughty boy.  Find it if you can!

All in all, the folks in Austin made it a great end to the 2006 AEA season, so thanks, y’all!  I always like to finish on a high note.  We’re going to take a little break in the AEA schedule while the event gets retooled and expanded.  We haven’t officially announced the next show, but I’ll let you in on a little secret, just between us: it looks to be in Boston at the end of March 2007, it’ll be two days long, and I already want to see and hear our lineup of speakers.  More when we have official word, which hopefully should come within the next week or so.

Webmaster Jam Session

Forty-eight hours after landing in Cleveland, I took off again.  I’d come back from AEA Seattle, and was leaving for the Webmaster Jam Session in Dallas, Texas.

I was interested to discover how much Dallas reminded me of my home town.  Both cities have urban downtowns of moderate stature and minimal residence.  Everyone lives in the suburbs, it seems, and at night the city center goes quiet.  People in other cities might read that as a slam, but it honestly doesn’t bother me.  A teeming, noisy nightlife is not the only (or even the primary) indicator of a healthy city.

As for the conference, it was a great time.  The gang at CoffeeCup Software understand something critical: that webmastering is not just about code and layout.  There were sessions on branding, for example.  I got a lot out of the excellent presentation given by John Moore, which drew on his long experience in the marketing department at Starbucks.  I believe that what I learned there will be of use in guiding the evolution and growth of An Event Apart.  There were also talks on finding the right hosting provider, ways to promote your site, and more.  And then there was the keynote, from that Eric wotsizname, you know, the CSS dude.  It seemed to go just fine, given that he was trying to pack ten years into an hour.

The other thing I noticed was that, for a first-time conference, the whole thing was run very professionally.  I know how hard that is to do, and I was quite impressed.  Kudos all around!

Like Seattle, I only was able to contribute a few pictures to the general pool, both because I was often too busy to haul out the camera and because my PowerShot S45 was approaching collapse.  Still, I got a nice picture of the twilit Dallas skyline, so even in near-death, the old battlewagon came through.

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