In the tradition of my "big stonking posts", these are my notes from WDS08 - basically unfiltered for the most part (so, effectively they are "liveblog" in tone). Anything [inside square brackets] is an aside, my own thoughts rather than something the speaker said. I did think about putting these into the stream post, but it was just getting insanely long :)

Day One

Lynne D Johnson: New Media...New Rules

  • Discussing Marshall McLuhan's work – the medium is the message.
  • “print is a dying a breed... it's not dead yet, but it will serve a new purpose...”
  • “What has become of print?”
  • Tom Foremsi – google cheated newspapers by commoditising content
  • Does it matter where you get content from? Shouldn't producers just work out how to get along with new ways to deliver content? - Yes. There are plenty of new ways to make money!
  • Users still trust experts on factual information, so that still means they trust old media sources. They go to friends for reviews of hotels, electronics, etc...
  • But... younger users, 12-24, are starting to trust unknown peers more than experts. They have a totally different approach to media – including the fact they may want to pay for content. They don't care where the content comes from, they just want to aggregate as much as possible.
  • Discussing japanese book market – it's all on mobile phone, including some books written on mobile. Non-book sales also went up while mobile sales grew. [my though – the more people read, the more they buy...]
  • Should print be scared of Google? Well for a start newspapers are about to “get into bed” with google by letting them wear the cost of digitising newspapers.
  • What should newspapers do? Get niche, shorter stories, more stories, in depth coverage of niche content, have a distinct voice, hyperlocalism, mashups with localised content.

Derek Featherstone – accessibility beyond compliance

I was a little late into this session after being barred at the door due to having a coffee in hand. So, I drank it (too fast) and then scurried in...

  • Keyboard users can be really disadvantaged by AJAX because they get sent back to the top of the page all the time – they lose context.
  • Small barriers to general users can be major barriers to other users... but also a small improvement for us can be a massive improvement for others!
  • [2008 and we still have to point out that accessibility is not just about blind people and screen readers...]
  • “Links go places, buttons do stuff.” reason to use buttons and not links for in-page controls. Buttons also focussable by default.
  • “...we're getting a little meta here...” talking about metadata for a book about tagging.
  • Inline editing – you can't get into editing mode on flickr's editable regions. It's mouse-only. So flickr created an edit link, which takes you to another page which is preset to make everything editable. Issues: bad placement, it shouldn't be at the end of the page, after all editing is likely to be one of the first things you want to do. Also the link label is too brief.
  • Technical term: nubbin. Derek likes it because he can say “expose the nubbin”.
  • “oooh, that's evil. Popup windows bad.”
  • Use the principle of proximity: things that are related to each other should be close to each other. Insert info next to relevant location.

Grant Young – social media

  • Social media is conversation – you need to remember that. Imagine ads jumping up between people in the pub...
  • Trust barometer – who do people trust?
  • Control vs influence – what you lose in control you gain in influence.
  • Book recommendation: flipping the funnel, by seth godin
  • Social media buiding blocks: identity, presence, relationsihps, trust, groups, conversations, sharing.

[Is it a buzzword to say you'll “unpack” a term later?]

  • Grant Young having a moment of terror, realising he didn't check what he'd bookmarked on delicious before he took a screenshot...

[Discussing ambient intimacy... noting exactly why I love twitter. It keeps me in contact with friends in a way no other tool has ever managed to do.]

  • Powerhouse photo collection – more hits in 4 weeks on flickr than in the entirre previous year on their own site. Go where the people are!
  • Discussing the power of the Will it Blend? videos – incredibly cheap to make, but reaches an audience as big as a tv audience.
  • My place or yours?
    • If I go to the community will it be appropriate and will I be welcome?
    • But if I set up my own network will people be sufficiently motivated to come and join?
  • “Start small. Fail early, learn often...” lurk in networks before you launch official branded profiles.

[Single biggest thing is if you don't participate you should not attempt to market in that space. Because you don't know how it works.]

  • Doc Searls: the because effect. Make money because of something, not with something.
  • It's not just about eyeballs – it's not how many people you get, it's the quality of the relationship.
  • Second wordle spotted!
  • “I am not a 'target market'”
  • http://zum.io/wds08

Javascript Libraries panel

To be honest I was really just there for the fun of it. I know plenty of serious Javascript hackers and they pretty much agree as follows:

  • Ideally you should learn to write your own Javascript
  • Frameworks have their place
  • If you're going to use a framework, use jQuery. Or at the very least, don't use !#%&ing GWT.

So, that's what I do.

Back at WDS08 however... The sledging in the session was awesome, even if it's a bit scary that the Naked Man In Blue photo keeps turning up.

Jeff Croft - typograhy

  • “it's not about picking a cool font”
  • Book recommendation: The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst
  • Before you can size text on the web, you really need to understand how to size text in general.
    • An em refers to the em square, not the character size.
  • Set up a typographic scale and stick to that scale.
    • Comparison to music – using a note out of the chosen scale will sound wrong; using a font size outside the scale will have the same effect.
  • Discussing the 62.5% font sizing trick, by Richard Rutter. Set your baseline to 1em = 10px, 1.1em = 11px etc. ok except inhertiance messes it up.
  • Croft ultimately goes with px font sizing to make life easier, considers it a classic geek holy war.
  • He also suggests avoiding extreme contrast as it can be a bit hard on the eyes.
  • “The measure” = the length of a single line of text. 45-75 characters is optimal, using 1 char = 2/3 of an em. So, 30-50 ems is a good line length.
  • Strong recommendation to add more leading to your site's body text.
  • Vertical rhythm – basically, set base line height and make sure everything adds up to the same value. Including padding and so on. Double it for h1, etc...
  • Justified text just doesn't work on the web; largely because hyphenation really doesn't work.
  • “Yes, there's a shortage of fonts. Quit bitching about it.”

[So what about the whole back channel anger about his comments on accessibility vs. px sizing? I think the way to think about it is that Jeff Croft may not intend to sound dismissive about accessibility, but he does sound dismissive about accessibility. It was the same thing when his new blog design was launched with extremely low contrast.

The px font sizing thing is a real problem though - we should be able to use px and yes it is a hell of a lot easier. I have had some discussions about this at work and it is very hard to say no to px sizing in a real-world context. Microsoft: get your shit together.]

August de los Reyes - interface/Microsoft Surface

  • Discussing the way humans experience emotion; the role of play in life; and ultimately merging philosophy and IT theory. Emotion and design.
  • NUI – natural user interface, which is the space where the ms surface product sits.
  • Command line -> GUI -> NUI
  • Command line is directed and you use recall for commands. GUI is exploratory and uses recognition. NUI is contextual and uses intuition.
  • Core idea is that work and play are not opposites or mutually exclusive; and there is joy in doing things as well as joy in the results.
  • Three pillars: social, seamless, spatial. Bring people together, blur the lines between the real and virtual/technical, tap into spatial memory and 3D concepts. This should result in strong emotional connections and responses to the interactions around Surface.
  • What comes after NUI? XUI – X ui... something organic?

Day two

Jeff Veen – Designing through data

  • 1974 as the conceptual end of the sixties... hippie values became mainstream.
  • Veen had an epiphany... he saw Pong for the first time, and realised he could control what was on the screen. He could participate instead of just watching!
  • Key concept: Tools for partipation combined with the scale of data.
  • Every minute people upload 13 hours of video to youtube.
  • “the problem with data is it makes me feel dumb.” ...but the truth is when data makes you feel dumb, someone has failed in design to make it understandable.
  • Using the pump vs. deaths example, the soho pump...
  • Harry Beck – designer of the london tube map. The inspiration was to apply circuit board design onto the tube layout.
  • Let people find the story in the data. Provide the tools and let people navigate through it.
  • Wore tshirt to google: “math is easy. Design is hard.” apparently that didn't go down so well...
  • Taking a concept from zeldman – start with the user, but know yourself. Veen tweaks to know yourself, then understand the user.
  • Close the gap between who we are and the people we serve.
  • Homework – read steven johnson's “the ghost map”
  • veen.com/wds08.pdf

Jina Bolton – sexy stylesheets

  • Running through the core stuff... Write it clean, keep it clean. Clarity is beautiful (use descriptive class names etc). Comments are your friend.
  • Cross reference between stylesheets – particularly between IE stylesheets and general stylesheets. /* redefined: ie6.css line 25 */
  • CSS3 ... Has taken a long time...! note that it's broken up into modules, it's not a single spec as such.
  • Backgrounds and borders... one of the most exciting things. Being able to attach multiple images will be awesome....
  • Multi column layout – issue, the columns aren't actual nodes so you can't select them. Jina hopes it gets fixed at some point.
  • Grid layout – float-offsets and using gr (grid units) as measurement unit.

[The lack of css3 selector support has played a massive part in the markup standard i've just created. We had to include classes like odd and even on table rows; and our backend guys created a scheme of positional class names that wouldn't be required if we had nth-child selectors. Browser makers... get on with it!!!]

[My thoughts: We can apply progressive enhancement approaches to CSS, use what's available. It's available in many browsers and we can add all the cruft for IE in conditional stylesheets.]

Michael™ - HTML5

  • What works now? Canvas (only one major browser doesn't support it...), video and audio, validation without js. API for offline web applications. APIs for client side data storage (replacing cookies). Native getElementsByClassName (hoo-fucken-ray).
  • When did this journey really begin? December 1997 – when HTML4 was published as a recommendation. It was really fast, and “that can never happen again” because you need implementations before you can have a recommendation.

[OK, should that still be the way we go? Can't we have a recommendation based on a proof concept implementation in, say, opera or webkit?]

  • Value proposition for HTML5: it makes life better and easier for web developers. It increases interoperability and reduces the need for UA sniffing.
  • So what does html5 consist of? Html5 spec; support for some features in 4 major browser engines; html5 parsing libraries; validator.nu html5 validator.
  • “[the html5 spec is] A wee bit overloaded.”
  • The spec focuses mostly on specifying conformance criteria for browsers. It's not especially aimed at web developers in that sense. But it does also include the info we do need as web developers.
  • If we want the web developers version, we need to make noise about it! Blog about it, get on the html email list.
  • So much of html5 is based on this: the spec shows what authors should do; then tells browser makers what to do when authors do the wrong thing anyway. HTML5 has decided to avoid draconian error handling.
  • “don't get hung up on syntax.” html5 defines html as an abstract language with more than one syntax parsing method.... [?]
  • There's only one standard in-memory way to represent stuff and that's the W3C DOM.
  • Simplify where we can. eg. Most of the doctype is ignored by browsers, which is why they went with <!DOCTYPE html>. You have to set that to avoid “screwed up mode... fucked up mode... what is it lachlan? Ok, quirks mode.”
  • Similarly the character encoding tag is overly complex, so they bring it back to <met charset=”utf-8”>
  • demos: http://www.whatwg.org/demos/2008-sept/

[note to presenters: vim + presentations = bad]

  • As ever, legal shit gets in the way of video. MS and Apple refuse to implement ogg; firefox won't implement proprietary codecs; etc.
  • “ARIA is more of a stopgap than a permanent solution; but it's support – it's a success story.” (paraphrase)
  • Accessibility is built in to [ARIA]. ...it's baked in to the html5

Daniel Burka - usability/digg

Interesting comments about digg users – they can be quite immature, but they asked for real feedback and got it. So he says you should still give your users credit ;)

  • feedback, feedback, feedback - get lots of feedback
  • follow how people actually use your site
  • subtraction is iteration too
  • measurable goals are crucial
  • avoid announcing timelines

slides on slideshare/dburka

book recommendation: “how buildings learn” by stewart brand

Mark Pesce - this, that and the other thing

I've learned that if you're taking lots of notes in one of Mark's keynotes, yr doin it wrong. So although I had the laptop out, it was mostly just for keeping an eye on the back channel. We are hyperconnected after all.

The only notes I wrote were:

  • Key statement: We behave like crowds when we really ought to be organising like communities.
  • With a new idea – ask youself... will it help people think for themselves?

That said, I'm glad I had wifi. Mark had the backchannel up on screen through much of his talk. With freakishly good timing, my tongue-in-cheek tweet popped up:

  • behind you, mark, behind you! #wds08

Mark was steadfastly refusing to look, but the crowd laughed so much I guess he couldn't resist a peek.

See also: WDS08 - the stream.