Archive for March, 2007

Those cinnamon twists at Starbucks are good, mmm.


Barenaked App: The Figures Behind the Top Web Apps

This was one of my favorite panels of the week. This panel was similar to Web App Autopsy on Friday, in that there were a number of web app companies that showed numbers about their app. However, this panel talked more about the costs involved in creating and maintaining the app. The five companies were DropSend, FreshBooks, Mobissimo, Maya’s Mom, and Wesabe. I was very surprised at how much each of these companies had put into their apps, both in startup costs and maintenance as well. Mobissimo, an airline ticket service, was the front runner in spending costs both initially and in maintenance. That’s understandable though because they have offices in four countries. There was lots of good information to take in. Such as, it’s a better idea to get your product out early, and with less features, than to wait around and get it out later. This goes with the mantra of ‘Fail early, fail often’. Another good point, particularly useful to me, is that the panelists advocated not buying your own hardware to run their app on. They suggest using something like Serverbeach, which I have heard of, or something like Amazon’s S3 Service. The latter being something that I’d really like to look into. All in all, really good panel and I’m excited to find their slides online as well as listen to the podcast.

Scaling Your Community

Mr. WordPress, Matt Mullenweg, had a nice talk about scaling the community that surrounds a site or web service. It reminded me a lot of Brian Fling’s talk about the mobile web inasmuch that it was very fluid and free-flowing.   His main points for scaling up a community were: build a good foundation, bootstrap, let go, and finally personalize.  Building a good foundation means knowing exactly what it is that you’re trying to do.  Bootstrapping refers to things like being your most passionate user.  Eventually your community will reach a point where you can’t micromanage every single thing about it.  It’s at this point that creators often have a hard time letting go of their product and allowing more help from other passionate users.  Finally, personalization refers to getting your users to build up a strong bond with your site or service.  This is another panel I’d like to hear again when the podcast comes out.

I missed the microformats panel due to a long lunch. I’ll find the podcast sometime.

I also missed out on the Bullet Tooth Web Design panel because it was apparently very popular and the room was filled to capacity very early. I heard that it was a good panel, though not a whole lot of information. So I’m not too concerned about missing it.

I didn’t go to the design patterns panel, but instead went to Javascript: The Big Picture with Peter Paul Koch. Not the best panel ever. It seemed as though he hadn’t really prepared for the panel, which was disappointing. He kept looking down at notes he’d written on paper to know what he was talking about. Furthermore, he has a theory that the type of people at the conference were polarized into two groups: web designers and web developers. One’s who do front-end design and those who do back-end programming. I, unfortunately for Paul, fit into both and consequently break his little theory. To exacerbate this problem, Koch readily admitted that his theory was based on him working with a back-end coder many years ago. When I feel that if I would have missed a panel and not been regretful, then there is something wrong. This was one of those instances.

And then we got the crunk on, boomshockalocka!  This was the night of the really good parties.

First was the Great British Booze-Up, which was held at the Lava Lounge.  As many have attested to, this place found the right mix of music and conversation.  The whole back patio was packed full of people socializing.  I had a good time questioning British folk’s long-standing ability to ‘queue’ properly.  Incidentally, according to Jeremy Keith, American’s go to the restroom, whereas Brit’s go to the toilet and that you don’t ever queue at the toilet, as that would be weird. I talked with Jeff, Michelle, and Lisa Price about all things American vs. British.  Apparently, 2 weeks of standard vacation is simply atrocious.  I also got to talk with Sergio again.  This time I did happen to mention me bashing on his panel last year.  He clarified what he meant by stating that when you have things like time constraints, and there is a faster way of doing things, then it’s perfectly ok to get stuff done the fast way.  A statement that I completely agree with.  Also, everyone in Austin apparently really likes Shiner Bock a lot, it’s everywhere.  Mind you, it’s not bad, but it’s not my beer of choice.  However, this was the first time during the trip that I had some.  That happens when it’s free. :-)

After the well went dry there, we headed across the street to the South by Northwest party at the Iron Cactus.  Had a good time there as well.  I met some good people who got drunk and registered the domain name  I think it’s hilarious.  Speaking of that site though, if any of you folks find this site, shoot me an email because I don’t think any of you told me your names.  I also continued a helpful conversation about Ireland with Dan Mall.

After a while though, I was sufficiently drunk and decided to make for ye old Raddisson Hotel.

I tell you, walking everywhere sure makes for solid sleeping. I wake up each morning and I feel like I could just continue to sleep for hours. This morning I said screw it to T.G.I. Fridays and got a bagel from the starbucks downstairs. They need a toaster.Woo, panels!

Designing for Convergent Devices

I wanted to go to this panel because it relates to what we’re doing at work. The panelists spoke a lot about the differences between various web means of accessing the web. The consensus seemed to be that you provide an experience that is knowleagable of its means of access. For example, you can’t take your web app that is normally accessed via a desktop and simply change the headers and then bam you have mobile access. Let me modify that slightly to say that you can, but that you shouldn’t. You have to know take things into consideration like screen size, for example.

Design Workflows at Work: How Top Designers Work Their Magic

Ah, Jeffy and company’s panel. The panel overall was good, it simply started out slow. The premise of the panel was simply how specific designers do what they do. The beginning of the panel started with things like what influences each designer and how their day progresses. I think a lot of the audience would have preferred to gloss over this part in a much quicker fashion. I don’t think that they necessarily had to take this part out, but perhaps go through it much faster as most people here don’t particularly care. People know how they get things done, if one of the panelists have a completely different way of scheduling their day, I don’t think they’re going to up and change. Then there were ping pong balls, no offense to the panel but I think that could have been cut, too. The latter half of the panel got more into what I think people were expecting. Things like what tools people use to help speed up their day. A lot of the audience questions seemed to help the panel along. And as a side note, Jeff needs to stop worrying so damn much about how the panel went. :-)

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Mobile Web…but Were Afraid to Ask

Great panel. Brian Fling of Blue Flavor knows his mobile shit. I think this panel was well done for a number of reasons: his presentation was very flowing and not contrived or forced at all, he’s obviously very knowledgeable about his subject matter, and his actual presentation, namely his slides, were very well organized and were good looking. A lot of good information in it, too. There is a lot of potential in mobile, though on a personal note, I just don’t get it. I think this is mainly due to my crappy phone – a problem which will be rectified as soon as I get back to Kansas. I need to find his slides online, too…

I was going to go to AJAX or Flash: What’s Right for You?, but didn’t.

The Future of JavaScript

This panel wasn’t exactly what I thought it was going to be about. Basically, it talked about the differences between 1.5 and the upcoming 1.7 versions of Javascript. Seems all nice and everything, except for the fact that Firefox 2.0 is the only browser who is using 1.7. Consequently, I just don’t see any point in using that stuff now. That all being said, block level scope is cool.

Uniting the Holy Trinity of Web Design

This was a very interesting panel. Usually when you hear of the holy trinity of design you hear about HTML, CSS, and JS or structure, presentation, and behavior. This panel defined the holy trinity as users, content, and business. The theory being that any failure of one would cause the whole app or site to fail. There was also some talk about cohesiveness of teams and things along those lines.

And that’s it for panels on Sunday.

Then we went bowling! Brian, who put on the event, held it at the 300, which is probably the swankiest place to bowl anywhere. Not to mention that the place was huge – 52 lanes. Our team consisted of myself, Jeff Croft, his girlfriend Michelle, Matt Croydon, Nathan Borror, and Chris Kavinsky playing for Wilson Miner who couldn’t find a bus that would get him there on time. After a practice round that I totally sucked at, our qualifying round went quite well. I think most of us on the team were quite surprised. I magically bowled a 102, which ended up being exactly what our team average was. It was just under the 110 average needed to make the next round, but it worked out in the end because we were all pretty tired after the first round itself.

Surprisingly, after we left the bowling alley I decided to call it a night.  Crazy huh?

Edit: Sorry, I thought this post was published, but I accidentally set it as a private post.

It was a little hard to get going this morning. I’m not really sure why… One thing I do know, though, the Raddison sucks. At least for breakfast it does. Due to the fact that T.G.I. Fridays is located inside the Raddison, there is no continental breakfast. What the hell is that about?! On the upside, I did have some French toast and some much needed coffee. The ham, however, was rubbery. But I did eat and I did get to the convention center.

On with my thoughts about the panels I attended…

A Decade of Style

There wasn’t a whole lot to learn here, but it was a fun panel nonetheless. The panelists basically talked about how CSS has progressed through the years. To sum up, it’s come a long way.

How to Bluff Your Way in Web 2.0

This was a very fun panel by Andy Budd and Jeremy Keith. They even had the added bonus of a buzzword bingo game; I sadly did not win. The majority of the panel was them two joking about the absurdity of Web 2.0. Near the end they did actually talk about informative things. We’re moving away from Web 2.0, it’s a nearly meaningless buzzword now. Their other point was a very common sense, namely that there is no template for Web 2.0, you shouldn’t add a bunch of superfluous elements just because you can.

Web App Autopsy

The SXSW staff borked this one up. I’m in the ballroom waiting for this panel to start and less than ten minutes before they do – with fifty plus people in the room already waiting – they announce that the panel has moved to pretty much the other side of the damn building. When I finally do get there, it’s, of course, already started. The panel itself is not what I expected it to be, but it was interesting nonetheless. There was a representative from each of four companies – Wufoo, Blinksale, Feedburner, and regonline. They talked numbers about their businesses, namely lines of code, percentage of what their code is for, etc. I’d really like to listen to this panel again via podcast when it gets released. I think I would have caught more of the panel, except that there was a crying baby in the back of the room. But anyways.

Grids Are Good and How to Design with Them

As Jeff put it, this was the best power session of the day. Khoi and Mark put on a great demo of how to create grids. This was great for me because I’ve recently thought about redesigning this site, or should I say actually putting in a design that’s not the default Kubrick theme. I loved the Yeeaahh name, too.

Ruining the User Experience: When JavaScript and Ajax Go Bad

This panel was short like the last one. The premise for this talk was how you should design functional services and then add more on top of it. For example, a regular search function, then override the default search with an ajax’d search for those users who can support it. I would really like to know the panelists thoughts on how this theory works for situations like an intranet. To me, an intranet is a special kind of bird, you have complete control over your users and how they access content. So the question is, would you need to make things accessible for your users given their constrained environment? I’ve thought about this quite a bit for work and I’m sure I’ll continue to do so.

High Class and Low Class Web Design

The description of this panel sounded promising. I find it interesting that ugly sites like myspace are so popular. However, that really isn’t what this panel talked about. Christopher Fahey, the panel moderator, talked about the effects of class in design. Firstly, that concept is a very stretched in and of itself. I think most people would agree that a person’s class doesn’t affect the design of a site. It seems to me that the success of these ugly sites has nothing to do with the design, or not design, of the sites. Their success is based solely off of the service(s) they provide to their users. And, frankly, that’s it. The one interesting panelist of the four up there was Brant Louck who is the Creative Director for World Wrestling Entertainment. Khoi Vinh was also on this panel, but from the looks of it he didn’t want to be there at all. All in all, the panel was a bust. Consequently, I walked out with twenty minutes left. I tried to follow along, but, yeah.

And that was all the panels I went to and my thoughts on them. Then the nightlife came alive.

It all started with a party hosted by Myspace. Yeah, Myspace. I felt lots of internal turmoil about going. But they had free food, free drinks, and it was at Six, the bar I went to last night. Oh, and there was a pretty decent DJ. Also, due to my numerous white Russians that I had the previous night, both the bartender and waitress that I got my drinks from were quite perplexed when I asked for a Negra Modello. I also talked with Sergio Villarreal a bit. I actually went to his web hacks panel last year. I did a little blurb on it and he actually linked my little mini-review, his post is here. Small world.
At 8pm sharp, the party closed and everyone got kicked out. We headed over to the Frog Design party. They supplied the same Miller Light and Foster’s beer as they did last year, which to me, is the weirdest beer combination. They also had a few live bands play. One in particular was pretty good, sounded a lot like Stevie Ray Vaughn. For all I know they were Stevie Ray Vaughn songs. After being there for a while we headed towards the Ze Frank/Speakerboxx party.

En route to this party, I started talking to this bum. No, I don’t know why. After realizing that his story was a little, shall we say extravagant?, I continued on to the Ze Frank party in hopes that I would catch up to everyone. I was wrong. I got to where I thought the party was, but it wasn’t it. It was the only bar anywhere near where I thought it was. I talked to the chick outside who was running that party and she didn’t know where my party was at. But, she said I could come into her party if I wanted. I needed a drink, so of course I accepted her invitation. Eventually I got a hold of Jeff and he said that the party was just much further down the road than I had gone. So then I saunter off down the road. And then…

Holy shit, huge ass line. Damn you Ze Frank for being so popular. And like a lemming, I just get and stay in the long ass line. Eventually I get it, but it just so happens to coincide with Ze Frank’s set ending and everyone leaving the damn bar. I felt I needed something to justify my time in the line – a beer would do nicely. And lo, it did. I find my way to a big couch and sit and grumble to myself about how I was pissed off. I have my one beer and head out.

Warning: Bizarre story ahead…

So I’m walking down the street towards the hotel when I randomly put my right hand in my pocket. As I did so, I notice that my hand hit something in route to my pocket. I look down and there is a fucking pocket knife attached to my belt loop. Holy shit, where the fuck did that come from? If you follow that link, you’ll seeThat’s not a small knifeMy current theory is that due to the large amount of people at the last party, that some how, some way, I bumped someone and it slipped off their belt or some shit and on to mine. Fuck, I don’t know. Another theory is that someone was trying to “pin” the knife on me for whatever reason, presumably to get me in trouble.

And then I went home and passed out.

Friday wasn’t too bad of a day, initially. Luke gave me a ride to the airport and we listened to a comedian that I’d never heard before – Daniel Tosh. Funny stuff. The flight to Dallas was fine, with the exception that some ass told me to turn my ipod volume down so he could sleep. Once I got to Dallas, I had the wonderful present of a delay. Only about thirty minutes, but I could certainly have delt without it. Eventually I got to Austin. Thankfully, my bag was one of the first to come off the carosel. My cab driver was from, what I suspect to be, somewhere in Eastern Europe. He technically spoke English, but his accent was so thick that I couldn’t understand him. Which wasn’t that big of a deal, except that he kept asking me questions. I simply replied ‘Yes’ to all of them and that seemed to placate him.  Despite the 20+ dollar fare, the cab ride itself was nice because we took a road through a very colorful part of town.  Lots of pink and sea foam green buildings.

The Raddison is a nice hotel, I got checked in really quick and dropped all my stuff off in my room.  My bed can change its firmness with a little button control.  Neat.  After that I made my way to the Convention Center to get my badge.  The line was attrociously long.  Though, someone said that it was much shorter than earlier in the day.  Lucky me.

After I acquired my badge – orange this year, compared to green last year – I made my way to Six.  Six is a cool lounge bar with an outside patio above the lounge.  I proceeded to relax and drink my free white russians until Jeff and company arrived.  Then I proceeded to drink more white russians.  Eight white russians later and a huge collective of nerds had amassed, we left.  We went to Buffalo Billiards just down the street.  I feebly attempted to play pool with Chris Kavinsky, who beat me, though I think if I were sober-er I would have done better.  After a while of that we decided to call it a night.  But not before stopping and getting a big slice of pizza.

After a bit of confusion, I found my hotel and proceeded to call Becky before going to bed.  She apparently felt it necessary to put our conversation on speakerphone for her friends.  I don’t know what all was said in the apparent ten minute phone call because I recall it being about a two minute phone call.  C’est la vie.

Well, it looks like it’s almost spring time, so that means I get to go to Austin again! This will be my second year going to South By Southwest (SXSW) and I couldn’t be more excited.

After reading all the panel descriptions, I think I’ve come up with a pretty good itinerary. Not to detract from last year, but I think this year’s line up of panels will be better than last years. I’m not really sure if it’s that the panels appeal to me more this year versus last year or perhaps it’s the speakers, I don’t know. Regardless, I’m excited. It certainly doesn’t hurt that my hotel this year won’t be miles away from the convention center like it was last year. I’ll be staying at the Hotel Raddison at Town Lake – a mere six blocks from the convention center.

The following is a tentative listing of what I plan to do during my time In Austin. I’ll update this later to include what parties I plan on attending as well.

  • Friday, March 9th
    • Arrive: 3:40pm
  • Saturday, March 10th
    • 10:00 am – A Decade of Style
    • 11:30 am -How to Bluff Your Way in Web 2.0
    • 2:00 pm – Web App Autopsy
    • 3:30 pm – Grids Are Good and How to Design with Them
    • 4:05 pm – Ruining the User Experience: When JavaScript and Ajax Go Bad or Web Hacks: Good or Evil (or: Welcome to Web 2.666)
    • 5:00 pm – High Class and Low Class Web Design
  • Sunday, March 11th
    • 10:00 am – Designing for Convergent Devices
    • 11:30 am – Design Workflows at Work: How Top Designers Work Their Magic
    • 2:00 pm – Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Mobile Web…but Were Afraid to Ask
    • 3:30 pm – AJAX of Flash: What’s Right for You?
    • 4:05 pm – The Future of JavaScript
    • 5:00 pm – Uniting the Holy Trinity of Web Design
  • Monday, March 12th
    • 10:00 am – Barenaked App: The Figure Behind the Top Web Apps
    • 11:30 am – Scaling Your Community
    • 2:00 pm – The Growth and Evolution of Microformats
    • 3:30 pm – Bullet Tooth Web Design: Plan Your Web Site like Pulling off a Robbery
    • 4:05pm – Design Patterns: Defining and Sharing Web Interface Design Languages or Javascript: The Big Picture
    • 5:00 pm – Nothing?
  • Tuesday, March 13th
    • 10:00 am – Browser Wars Retrospective: Past, Present and Future Battlefields
    • 11:30 am – After Bust 2.0: Ten Years Later, Where Will We Be?
    • 2:00 pm – There’s no Such Thing as the Mobile Web (Or Is There?)
    • 3:30 pm – The Truth About Mobile & The Future of Personal Devices
    • 4:05 pm – Nothing?
    • 5:00 pm – Nothing?