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Seattle Memories

It’s been a week since I got back from An Event Apart Seattle 2010, and I’m still aglow about it.

I know it’s something a cliché for conference organizers to say “it was the best show we ever done did!” but damn.  It really was.  That’s down to the speakers, of course.  We’ve done our best to find great speakers with interesting things to say, and I’d like to think we’ve done just that.  This went to a new level, though.

You know how a band can have one of those nights where somehow, everything seems to go just right, where every jam riff builds on the others, where the music hits an indescribable groove, where the energy feeds on and multiplies itself until everyone in the place gets charged with it?  That’s what happened in Seattle, building throughout the whole show.  You could just feel it, buzzing in the room and through everyone there.  Every time a speaker finished I’d say to myself, half in gratitude and half in awe, “That is the best talk I’ve ever seen that person give.”

That was only half the experience, of course.  The other half was the audience itself, our amazing and wonderful attendees, who are as much colleagues as anything else.  They’re whip-smart, professional, veteran members of the industry.  That’s the demographic Jeffrey and I set out to address, and they’ve come to learn from and teach and challenge us to excel at every show.  Several speakers, some of them long practiced at the art of public speaking, have told me that they get uniquely nervous before going onto the stage at An Event Apart.  I absolutely agree.  To return to the band metaphor, it’s like doing a show for your fellow musicians.  While that’s comforting in a collegial way, it’s also nerve-wracking in a way other shows aren’t.

And the conversations!  Over lunch, in the hall between talks, at the party, it was non-stop talk with smart, funny, insightful colleagues who know their stuff through and through and are as keen to learn more as they are to share what they know.

So I can’t thank our speakers and attendees enough.  You are all incredible.  It was an honor and a privilege just to be there in your combined presence.

Events and A Day, Belatedly

I’m a bad conference organizer.

Why?  Because we opened the An Event Apart 2010 schedule for sales back in, um, flippin’ November, and I never mentioned it here.  Cripes, I never even posted when we announced the lineup of cities.  I could go through the great big long sob-story list of reasons why 2009 was really tough and blah blah blah, but when you get right down to it, I fell down on my job.

Okay.  So.  Time to correct that.

(deep breath)

Hey everyone, check it out: the complete tour schedule for An Event Apart 2010!  Woohoooo!

  1. Seattle: April 5-7, 2010 (yes, three days; more on that anon)
  2. Boston: May 24-25, 2010
  3. Minneapolis: July 26-27, 2010
  4. Washington, DC: September 16-17, 2010
  5. San Diego: November 1-2, 2010

We’ve got a pretty killer lineup, if I do say so myself.  You can get the mostly-complete list from our opening-of-sales announcement last November.  It lists the people we had confirmed at the time; there have been a few additions since then.  Check out your city of choice to see who’s going to be there!  (But always remember that speaker lineups are subject to change: speakers are people too, and life has a way of interfering with schedules.  I myself had to withdraw from An Event Apart Boston last year due to a family emergency.)

The price to register for these two-day, one-track Events is the same as it was in 2009, and there are educational and group discounts available for those who are interested.

But wait, I just said “two-day” when the first show of the year is clearly three days.  What gives?

Seattle is the site of our first-ever A Day Apart, a full-day workshop that can be attended on its own or as part of a full three days of Event Apart ecstasy.  And the inaugural Day Apart will be nothing less than a detailed plunge into HTML 5 and CSS3 with Jeremy Keith and Dan Cederholm.  Jeremy handles the markup; Dan gets stylish.  It’s going to be fantastic.  I’m going to be in the back of the room for the whole day, soaking up as much as I can.

If you want to attend just the workshop, it’s $399 for the whole day if you buy an early bird ticket (available through March 5th).  The price goes up $50 when early bird ends, and another $100 if you show up at the door.  But I wouldn’t recommend that last, because I don’t think there will be any tickets available at the door.  Again: if you show up unannounced on the day of the workshop and ask to buy a ticket, we will most likely have to turn you away, because I expect that there won’t be any seats available.

On the other hand, maybe you’d like to experience more than just one day of AEA goodness.  Maybe you’d like to go whole hog and attend both the two-day Event Apart and the subsequent Day Apart, soaking up all the knowledge and enthusiasm and camaraderie that typifies An Event Apart.  And who could blame you?  If you do that, then the total early bird price for all three days is $1,190, whereas buying the event and workshop passes separately would total $1,294.  That’s right: you actually get slightly more than $100 off the cost of the workshop if you attend all three days, over and above the early bird discount.  (Or you can think of it as getting $100+ off the cost of the conference.  We’re not fussy.)

As it happens, these three-day passes have proved quite popular.  So if you want to get your hands on one of those—or on any Seattle tickets, whether one, two, or three days—I wouldn’t wait too long.  Our internal analyses suggest that there will come a time, some time before the doors open on April 5th, that the ability to buy a ticket will cease to be.  It may even pine for a fjord or two.

As for the four shows that come after Seattle, well, they’re looking pretty popular too.

I know I say this every year, but I’m really excited about what we’ve got planned for the year.  Jeffrey and I constantly and (we hope) consistently strive to create an event that we ourselves want to attend, and that’s absolutely true of the shows and workshop we have planned in 2010.  I can’t wait to hear what the speakers and attendees have to share.  Hope to see you there!

An Event Apart and HTML 5

The new Gregorian year has brought a striking new Big Z design to An Event Apart, along with the detailed schedule for our first show and the opening of registration for all four shows of the year.  Jeffrey has written a bit about the thinking that went into the design already, and I expect more to come.  If you want all the juicy details, he’ll be talking about it at AEA, as a glance at the top of the Seattle schedule will tell you.  And right after that?  An hour of me talking about coding the design he created.

One of the things I’ll be talking about is the choice of markup language for the site, which ended up being HTML 5.  In the beginning, I chose HTML 5 because I wanted to do something like this:

<li>
<a href="/2009/seattle/">
<h2><img src="/i/09/city-seattle.jpg" alt="Seattle" /></h2>
<h3>May 4—5, 2009</h3>
<p>Bell Harbor International Conference Center</p>
</a>
</li>

Yes, that’s legal in HTML 5, thanks to the work done by Bruce Lawson in response to my href-anywhere agitation.  It isn’t what I’d consider ideal, structurally, but it’s close.  It sure beats having to make the content of every element its own hyperlink, each one pointing at the exact same destination:

<li>
<h2><a href="/2009/seattle/"><img src="/i/09/city-seattle.jpg" alt="Seattle" /></a></h2>
<h3><a href="/2009/seattle/">May 4—5, 2009</a></h3>
<p><a href="/2009/seattle/">Bell Harbor International Conference Center</a></p>
</li>

I mean, that’s just dumb.  Ideally, I could drop an href on the li instead of having to wrap an a element around the content, but baby steps.  Baby steps.

So as Bruce discovered, pretty much all browsers will already let you wrap a elements around other stuff, so it got added to HTML 5.  And when I tried it, it worked, clickably speaking.  That is, all the elements I wrapped became part of one big hyperlink, which is what I wanted.

What I didn’t want, though, was the randomized layout weirdness that resulted once I started styling the descendants of the link.  Sometimes everything would lay out properly, and other times the bits and pieces were all over the place.  I could (randomly) flip back and forth between the two just by repeatedly hitting reload.  I thought maybe it was the heading elements that were causing problems, so I converted them all to classed paragraphs.  Nope, same problems.  So I converted them all to classed spans and that solved the problem.  The layout became steady and stable.

I was happy to get the layout problems sorted out, obviously.  Only, at that point, I wasn’t doing anything that required HTML 5.  Wrapping classed spans in links in the place of other, more semantic elements?  Yeah, that’s original.  It’s just as original as the coding pattern of “slowly leaching away the document’s semantics in order to make it, at long last and after much swearing, consistently render as intended”.  I’m sure one or two of you know what that’s like.

As a result, I could have gone back to XHTML 1.1 or even HTML 4.01 without incident.  In fact, I almost did, but in the end I decided to stick with HTML 5.  There were two main reasons.

  1. First, AEA is all about the current state and near future of web design and development.  HTML 5 is already here and in use, and its use will grow over time.  We try to have the site embody the conference itself as much as possible, so using HTML 5 made some sense.

  2. I wanted to try HTML 5 out for myself under field conditions, to get a sense of how similar or dissimilar it is to what’s gone before.  Turns out the answers are “very much so” to the former and “frustratingly so” to the latter, assuming you’re familiar with XHTML.  The major rules are pretty much all the same: mind your trailing slashes on empty elements, that kind of thing.  But you know what the funniest thing about HTML 5 is?  It’s the little differences.  Like not permitting a value attribute on an image submit.  That one came as a rather large surprise, and as a result our subscribe page is XHTML 1.0 Transitional instead of HTML 5.  (Figuring out how to work around this in HTML 5 is on my post-launch list of things to do.)

    Oh, and we’re back to being case-insensitive.  <P Class="note"> is just as valid as <p class="note">.  Having already fought the Casing Wars once, this got a fractional shrug from me, but some people will probably be all excited that they can uppercase their element names again.  I know I would’ve been, oh, six or seven years ago.

    Incidentally, I used validator.nu to check my work.  It seemed the most up to date, but there’s no guarantee it’s perfectly accurate.  Ged knows every other validator I’ve ever used has eventually been shown to be inaccurate in one or more ways.

I get the distinct impression that use of HTML 5 is going to cause equal parts of comfort (for the familiar parts) and eye-watering rage (for the apparently idiotic differences).  Thus it would seem the HTML 5 Working Group is succeeding quite nicely at capturing the current state of browser behavior.  Yay, I guess?

And then there was the part where I got really grumpy about not being able to nest a hyperlink element inside another hyperlink element… but that, like so many things referenced in this post, is a story for another day.

Eventful

I hope I’m not too late to say so, but the early bird registration deadline for An Event Apart Chicago is this coming Monday.  Last chance to save $100 on the last show of 2008!

Between now and the Chicago event, I’ll be back in lovely Destin, Florida for this year’s edition of the CIW conference at which I spoke last year.  This time around I’ll be doing a blend of beginner and advanced CSS, plus a more reflective talk on the state of the web as I see it bothj now and in the near future.

In a like vein, I’ll be taking much the same topics and messages to the stage of Web Directions East in Tokyo, Japan.  Thanks to both personal and professional obligations, overseas travel is a rarity for me these days, and furthermore this will be only my second appearance in Asia (the first having been WWW2005), so this is a rare opportunity to catch me away from the Americas.  I think everyone should go.  C’mon, we’ve had people come all the way to the U.S. from places as far away as Bulgaria, New Zealand, Japan, and Singapore (twice!) to attend AEA, so what’s your excuse?

Caught In The Camera Eye

Just when you thought the whole embedded-video thing couldn’t get any worse, here I come with videos featuring, well, me.

The most recent is a short clip from one of my presentations at An Event Apart back in April, debug / reboot, where I comment at my usual pace on the suppression of quotation marks in my reset styles and why I think relying on browser-generated quotation marks is a bad idea.  You also get to see my hair before it got to be the length it is now, which is even longer.  There’s a complete transcription on that page, by the way, courtesy Mr. Z.

Then there’s the vaguely silly one, in which I attempt to debug my clothing while sitting in my living room.  The main takeaway here, I think, is that my speech patterns on stage are just about the same as those in “regular life”.  Pity my family.

So there’s me in the movies.  It’s nowhere near as epic-ly mëtäl as some other folks’ videos, but I suppose we all do what we can.

Tour de Frantic

I am, as ever, woefully behind on posting.  (Then again, maybe it’s not just me: Greg Hoy recently tweeted that it’s happening all over.)  I still want to follow up on line-height: normal and also on a closely related topic that emerged in the comments.  And I will.  Eventually.

Right now, though, I want to mention a few pieces of news from the conference world.  After that, it’s back to steeling myself to upgrade WordPress while stomping out the problems I have with my current install and also, I hope, finally getting it set up to do version-controlled upgrading henceforth.

Right.  The news.

  • The early bird deadline for An Event Apart Boston 2008 is next Monday, so don’t wait much longer to register if you’re a fan of discounts.  If not, that’s cool too.  Maybe you like to pay more.  We’re not here to judge.

  • If you’re on the opposite coast, there’s also An Event Apart San Francisco 2008, whose detailed schedule was announced this morning.  It will be two days jam packed with greatness from Heather Champ, Kelly Goto, Jeremy Keith, Luke Wroblewski, Dan Cederholm, Tantek Çelik, Jeffrey Veen, Derek Featherstone, Liz Danzico, Jason Santa Maria, Jeffrey Zeldman, and your humble servant.  You’ve still got some time to register with the early bird discount, but I wouldn’t put it off forever, because there’s no way to know when the last seat will be sold.

    (And if you aren’t subscribed to our mailing list, then you’re already behind the times:  subscribers got word of the detailed San Francisco schedule yesterday, ahead of everyone else.  Because they’re on the ins, as the kids are known to say.  Don’t let them have all the fun.  Sign up today!)

  • At the beginning of June, I’ll be giving a keynote plus a bonus session to be named later at the Spring <br/> Conference in Athens, Ohio.  For years they’ve been trying to get me to come down there, and every year I had some insurmountable scheduling conflict.  It almost happened again this year, but they were really fantastic and actually worked the schedule to accommodate me, for which I can’t thank them enough.  Come on down and take a <br/> with us!

  • Come mid-July, I’ll be in sunny Philadelphia for the Higher Education Web Symposium co-teaching a full-day workshop on “CSS Tips & Techniques” with the incomparable Stephanie Sullivan.

  • And in the realm of the not-absolutely-guaranteed-and-therefore-underspecified:  come late September, it looks like I’ll be back in Destin, Florida; and I just might be making my way to Japan in early November.

Plus of course there’s An Event Apart Chicago 2008 in October, but you already knew about that.  The detailed schedule will be published in mid-July, and with that lineup of speakers, I’m already shivering with anticipation.

Okay, that’s all I have for the moment.  Hopefully that upgrade/fix/control thing will go less bumpily than I fear, and I can get another post out before all those shows have passed into memory.

Speakers Galore

I know it was only yesterday that I mentioned the opening of registration for An Event Apart New Orleans and the other 2008 shows, but there’s already more to share: later that same day, we announced the speakers for the other three shows of 2008.  Incredible lineups, every one.  We’re beyond excited.  Check ‘em out!

An Event Apart 2008 Lines Up

The new year is here, and to celebrate, we’ve announced details and opened registration for An Event Apart New Orleans, to be held April 24–25, and opened early registration for the other three events of 2008:

  • Boston, June 23–24
  • San Francisco, August 18–19
  • Chicago, October 13–14

Now you can pick the show that best fits your schedule, fiscal year, or both, and book your seats early.

One of the things we’ve always striven to create is top-notch events for (as the motto goes) people who make web sites—covering design as well as code, architecture in addition to scripting, the big picture along with the nitty-gritty.  Focusing on that vision served us and our attendees very well in 2007, and it continues in 2008.  Just check out the list of speakers and topics for New Orleans:

  • Andy Clarke, author of Transcending CSS, presenting “Underpants Over My Trousers”
  • Aaron Gustafson, co-author of AdvancED DOM Scripting, presenting “Progressive Enhancement with JavaScript”
  • Robert Hoekman Jr., author of Designing the Obvious, conducting “On-the-Spot Usability Reviews”
  • Cameron Moll, author of Mobile Web Design, presenting “Good vs. Great Design”
  • Brian Oberkirch, Publisher of Like It Matters, presenting “Kick it Like Pelé”
  • Jason Santa Maria, designer at Happy Cog, presenting “Good Design Ain’t Easy”
  • Dave Shea, co-author of Zen of CSS Design, presenting “Living, Breathing Design”
  • Stephanie Sullivan, co-author of Mastering CSS with Dreamweaver CS3, presenting “Design Challenges, Standards Solutions”
  • Jeff Veen, design manager at Google, presenting “Designing the Next Generation of Web Apps”
  • Aarron Walter, author of Building Findable Web Sites, presenting “Findability Bliss Through Web Standards SEO”

And, as always, your hosts:

  • Eric Meyer, author of CSS: The Definitive Guide, presenting both “The Lessons of CSS Frameworks” and “Debug / Reboot”
  • Jeffrey Zeldman, author of Designing With Web Standards, presenting both “Understanding Web Design” and “Web Standards: The Return of the King”

You can get more details on the New Orleans event page, including descriptions of the sessions and details on how to get the special room rate at the conference hotel, the Hilton New Orleans Riverside.

While we don’t yet have speaker lists nor schedules to announce for the other three 2008 shows, we’re working to finalize them and hope to have at least some information out shortly.  I can already say that all the shows are at the same high level, though of course each event has its own unique flavor.

Those of you who attended one or more of our shows in 2007 (yes, we did have some repeats!) may be wondering if the shows will be the same, especially since we’re returning to some cities we visited last year.  The answer there is “not at all”.  Every show of 2008 is a mix of new and returning speakers, and we’ve done our best not to repeat speakers within a given city between 2007 and 2008.  The exceptions are myself and Jeffrey, of course, but we’re both doing new talks this year.  Simply put, if you loved AEA in 2007, we’re pretty confident you’ll love it even more in 2008.

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