@Media 2007 (atmedia2007)

First off, I wasn’t going to attend @Media this year because I wasn’t impressed with ’06. But circumstances changed and went in place of a colleague. So here is my review.

Venue

First off the venue was the Islington Business Centre, a nice place and one I’ve been to before for a Photoshop seminar. A bit harder to get to than the QEII Conference Centre but its fun to be crushed with a load of Bankers (yes I did check the spelling) in a tube for a while(?).

Tracks

There were two tracks, split by, "design-related" and, "tech-related" sessions. Hmm, yes I could detect the differences but the cross over was too vague for me, e.g. track 2 – Diabolical Design (design related) followed by The Mysteries of JavaScript (tech related) – how is that the same track? However, the real problem is there is no indication of the level of skills these sessions are aimed at. This is especially important for tech-related ones. Switching on a computer is tech-related and some of the session were closer to that level than an skilled JavaScript developer. So please, please tell us who the target audience is for a session.

Session Reviews

Beyond Ajax – Jesse James Garrett

Keynote style presentation by someone seemingly named after famous cowboy stories, I wonder how many times he’s heard that. I really enjoyed the session, made some excellent historical comparisons and really drove home how important the user experience of any product is. There were a couple of nice phrases and metaphors used that I certainly want to use myself. E.g.

  • Can’t live without
  • Avoid constellation of features
  • Products are people that know who they are
  • Design from the outside-in
  • Star to sail the ship by

Overall a slow start (a bit too much ego?) but quickly improved into an inspirational session like a good keynote should be. 8/10

Diabolical Design: The Devil is in the Details – Jason Santa Maria

(Design Related)
"Delivering a message", was the main point of this session and how to do this via the layout and colour scheme of a site.
Talked about some of the more subtle points of designing a page together with ideas about how to where to seek inspiration from. A number of the points I recognise from good design practices but since I’m not a graphic designer web developer I found them interesting including;

  • Colour pallets from life
  • Left to right, top to bottom, big and small
  • Focal Points
  • Where is the story
  • Whitespace is good – without good w\s use, "on the page and legible but not readable"
  • 66 character line
  • Grid – to provide order
  • Planning – ideas before images, sketchbooks, grey boxing
  • Strive for clarity
  • Avoid, "Product blanding" 🙂

Overall good points and well presented 7/10

High Performance Web Pages – Nate Koechley

(Technical)
I have to say I was disappointed with this because I enjoyed Nate’s session last year, one of the few sessions I did like. Although this session was good, it would probably have been easier to simply point everyone to http://developer.yahoo.net/blog/ and let us read the details. But without this session I wouldn’t have known about the site so it was certainly worth going to. I must confess I nearly didn’t attend because I had a feeling it was going to turn out like a list I could read at any time, but hey it still time usefully spent, just perhaps better to have spent it at home rather than in a seminar. The twelve rules:

  1. Make fewer Http request – inc. using CSS Sprites
  2. Use a content distribution network – content nearer the user
  3. Add expires headers
  4. GZip components
  5. CSS at the top (and combined)
  6. Scripts at the bottom (and combined)
  7. Avoid CSS expressions (fire too often)
  8. JS/CSS external files
  9. Reduce DNS lookips – keep alive, 2-4 hosts max
  10. Reduce the size of scripts
  11. Avoid redirects
  12. Turn off ETags

Some nice tips about what was used to capture some of the information during the production of these tests;

Overall disappointed, good tips but too rushed and it felt like death-by-powerpoint since essentially it was just reading out what was on the slides. Presentaton 6/10, content 9/10

Designing for International Users: Practical Tips – Richard Ishida

(Technical?)
Really interesting session from a "W3C International" employee although to be fair it was like an hour of interesting them-and-us trivia but it certainly took my understanding of the potential problems a step further. Some of the points included;

  • Localisation (to make a produce work in a specific "culture"), Internationalisation (design a product so that it can be easily Localised)
  • Beware of plurals
  • When displaying a list of languages to choose from, always show the languages in the target language. The demo of finding English from an Arabic site was compelling
  • Symbols – naughty words/gestures are always a problem for ticks and crosses were interesting too
  • Chart into – I found this one funny and relevant since some of the software I right is used in China
  • Unicode everywhere – ok this is a given but it doesn’t hurt to say it again.

Even though this was another potential read-from-list (and here are the tips) the demo’s were fascinating.
Overall lots of interesting demo’s and presented with some real enthusiasm and a decent amount of humour, just lacked a few examples how what you should do. 9/10

Microformats, Building Blocks, and You – Tantek Celik

I enjoyed a similar session last year so I attended this one, unfortunately there wasn’t much new. I did take a couple of things away;

  • POSH – plain old simple semantic HTML
  • Download a Microformat button aka badge aka icon
  • Operator plug-in

Overall if you’d never seen this session (or the like) before 8/10 if you have 6/10.

When Accessibility Is Not Your Problem – Joe Clark

This was always going to be a controversial topic from a controversial character. The basic premise seemed to be that rather than pander to issues and find odd solutions let face up to reality of the situation, i.e. if a device doesn’t support a page fix the device not the page, if a guideline is being pedantic then implement the true meaning don’t fret about it. So I had a great deal of empathy even I didn’t always agree with it. Let’s face it in the real world if a client wants their customers to use a reader and your site doesn’t work with it then I doubt saying, "make the reader manufacture change, nothing to do with me" isn’t really going to work. Still like I say the core of the arguments were sound, however…

Boy oh boy did he over labour the points. The guy obviously has various demons and various axes to grind but I’m afraid the over drawn out session was embarrassing. For example, he complained about the abbreviation specifications in the WCAG 2 guide and how in real life one man’s abbreviation is another’s word. Fair enough, and good point. However, he proceeded to ram that home with what seemed like 5 slides and 20 mins. Ok we get it, we do! There were a lot of people sniggering and generally complaining in whispers about the session.

Overall, good points but 40 mins too long, I just hope it was jet lag…3/10
[Edit] I’ve been talking about this session over lunch today and getting into a number of debates about who is responsible for this or that, all driven from this session. I think this shows the impact of the content and as time passes the poor presentation will pass but the core content will remain, so I’ve decided to separate out the score, 1/10 for presentation 6/10 for content, 10/10 for importance.

Day 2…

How to be a Creative Sponge – Jon Hicks

Nice 2nd day keynote talking about how Jon gathers information from all sorts of sources. Just a nice witty presentation and a gentle start to the day. 7/10

Bullet Proof Ajax – Jeremy Keith

(Technical)
To be honest I didn’t enjoy Jeremy’s session last year but I thought I’d give it another go. I thought it was good, it started off going over some of the same stuff but you have to get to a baseline so I that’s fair enough. The other plus was the improved humour, nice joke about iFrames. What I thought was fantastic was here was someone actually saying tha Ajax isn’t some silver bullet and although it certainly has it’s uses you shouldn’t use everywhere. Hurray! Jeremy was advocating the layering of behaviour, i.e. degrading gracefully just like CSS. Some of the other salient points;

  • Developers can control the server (in terms of performance), you can’t control the client spec’
  • Ajax isn’t for full blown applications
  • Good for small updates to a page – use of indicators such as fades to show the user what has changed
  • Problems with the dreaded back button and bookmarking – i.e. Ajax changes the state so what should those features do?

A nice summing up with, "the more complexity you put in the browser the harder it gets". 7/10

1 Web, Acid 2 and CSS 3 – Hakon Wium Lie

(Technical?)
Good presentation with a fair amount of bias for Opera but the points were fair. I liked the laudable concept of one web. The web should be same regardless of the device. Opera seeks to do this by using the same core engine in the devices it supports. Also learnt about the service that contains that core to pump binary version of the page directly to mobile phones – interesting. Although I’d have more interest in Opera if the latest version hadn’t contained such a breaking implementation of JavaScript/Dom.

Showed the Acid 2 test and how the browser community had set about the tasks of passing the test…apart from poor old Internet Explorer.

A brief show of some CSS3 features implemented in FireFox and Opera. Nice look at them and I really hope they are realised sooner than later. I thought the BOOM Microformat used to write a book was pretty impressive even if print media holds little interest with me but it really shows the potential of CSS and Microformats. I also liked the multi-column and widget demo.

Overall some interesting insights if a little thin on things to take away 7/10.

The Mysteries of JavaScript-Fu – Dan Webb

(Technical)
Very witty and enthusiastic session from someone that is certainly a developer rather than web designer. Based the session on a funny if obviously tenuous link to kung-fu films. Some interesting pointers and thoughts about developing JavaScript;

  • "A peasant language" 🙂
  • OnDom rather than OnLoad – see libraries
  • Use event delegation rather than multiple event handlers
  • Combine JS files – twice now
  • Use GZip – twice again, this stuff must be true 😉
  • Avoid checking the length in the loop when possible (interesting)
  • When showing extra UI (such as a drop down when MouseOver) create the controls JIT. Personally I’d consider having only one and moving it around.
  • Use Mac and Parallels for cross platform testing – yep couldn’t agree more
  • Firebug – how did we live without – why is it that I’ve not had trouble debugging JavaScript, perhaps no-one uses Visual Studio for web development
  • Selenium – test tool

Overall I enjoyed the session but Dan seemed to go off presentation on occasion and talked about issues covered in later slides, but it was a pretty good end to the session. 7/10

Summary

I thought @Media 2007 was much better than 2006. The tracks were still really muddled and I really do think they need explain what level of expertise the sessions are aimed at.

[Edit] Great post with links to presentations…http://learningtheworld.eu/2007/atmedia-2007-slides/

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2 Responses to @Media 2007 (atmedia2007)

  1. Unknown says:

    Well, keep in mind I am a writer, and I set it up as “the counterarguments typically revolve around computer terms.” abbr and acronym are simply inadequate to represent the wide range of morphology just in English.The sniggerers and whisperers should grow a pair and contact me directly. So should you have.

  2. Paulio says:

    Hello Joe thank you for your reply. As I blogged I certainly think you had/have valid points, however, my critic was not about the points you made but rather how they were presented. I\’m not sure what you\’d have expected from the audience, it wasn\’t a panel and you had the floor for 60 mins. I have reviewed you session and if you feel that I have been unfair then it certainly is your right to say so. Coincidentally I was discussing your session today and whatever I feel about the presentation itself, the topic was very controversial and has really brought the subject into the limelight. For that you should be applauded and I had returned to the blog to update it accordingly. I also appreciate that you seem to have been, "banging you head against a wall" for some time, but IMO the presentation wasn\’t nearly as good as the points you made. As for your reply-comment about acronyms I do understand, I honestly believe I do.If you want me to contact you directly I\’ll be more than pleased to do so, as the people who need to \’grow a pair\’ then you\’ll have to contact them directly.

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