Archive for the ‘Web Culture’ Category

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?

I know, I know, everyone and their brother posted their SXSWi posts a week ago and I’m probably the only person who went who hasn’t finished posting, but eh. I mean, what else do I have to write about? :-)

Behind the Scenes: Developing OS X and Longhorn
This was another instance where there wasn’t a whole lot of panels that interested me at this particular session. However, I say interested me, but I mean interested in terms of relating to my work. This panel certainly interested me, but more on a general nerd level. The panelists really illustrated the stark difference in design methodologies at Apple and Microsoft. Apple’s methodology was based on design first, develop later. Microsoft had the opposite methodology: develop first then design based on what your developers can accomplish. Being a nerd-conference, of sorts, there was an obvious audience bias towards Apple and I think that fact was visible in the facial expressions and general demeanor of the Microsoft panelist. Despite all that, I learned a lot about both companies. Interesting indeed.
Designing the Next Generation of Web Apps
This panel interested me simply because what I’ve been doing lately is web application development for our intranet at work. This panel was more of a discussion about current web apps, which was still better than What’s hot in web applications on Sunday. I really liked the visualizations that Eric Rodenbeck presented, however they kind of didn’t go with the flow of the other panelists. Cool nonetheless. A lot of the other discussion was about applications that I’ve heard of and know about like Flickr, LiveJournal, and ChicagoCrime.org. Incidentally, Chicago Crime was designed by Wilson Miner who went with Jeff and I. Neat huh? All in all, I really enjoyed this panel.
Burnie Burns Keynote
Caught this keynote late as well. Burnie Burns, whose name I had to look up to figure out who he was exactly, puts on Red Vs. Blue. Once I heard that, I immediately knew who he was. I caught up on web stuff while listening, but did listen quite a bit. I did a bit of explaining to Jeff about who he was and what Red Vs. Blue was. Neat.
Dogma Free Design
This panel was… alright. There was much talk about how when designing a site, you can’t tell “if you got it” just by checking things off of a list provided by upper management – it just doesn’t work like that. I think this panel had a lot of good stuff to say, it just came off convoluted. People would just sort of chime in about whatever, really. It’s hard to give a quick summary of what I learned because, well, I’m not sure that I can really contextualize what I did learn, if anything, for that matter. C’est la vie. Perhaps I should have gone to Secret Sex Lives of Video Games, sounds more interesting.
Bruce Sterling Presentation: The State of the World
Everyone had talked about how Bruce Sterling always gave a great end-of-SXSWi-talk. Bruce pre-empted his esoteric tirade by saying that he was in a literary mood and not a very technical one, as of late. As such, he talked very abstactly about random things that, to me at least, made no sense whatsoever for him to be at SXSWi. I guess he had given great, relevant, talks in years past, but that was certainly not the case this year. Honestly he kept rambling on that I started to nod off. Maybe it’s because I was sort of tired and not really listening, but I really didn’t catch why he ended up reading poetry and crying at the end of the talk. Furthermore, I didn’t catch why everyone gave him a standing ovation at the end. Really, I just wanted dinner at that point. Meh.

So that was SXSWi, the next morning I caught a very early flight and headed back to Kansas. I want to apologize now to anyone who read all of these posts, I’m sure they were horrible, wrought with typographical errors and run-on sentences I’m sure. That’s the wonderment of the Intarweb, I don’t have to care. :-)

Sunday we had a good time after all the panels; we attended the Flickr/Del.icio.us/Upcoming.org party and then went on to the web awards after party. I’m just happy I found out there was a back bar on the other side of the bar. :-)

This post has been 75% done for a few days, but I’ve been busy with stuff. My appologies.

On to the panels!

CSS Problem Solving
I went to this panel becuase I had hoped it would basically give me some new CSS techniques I could use. They had some very good designers on the panel, most notably Dave Shea and Ethan Marcotte. Dave talked about having an image at the end of a link, vertical centering, and certain margin issues. Ethan talked about absolute and float positioning. Another speaker, Charles Wyke-Smith – someone I hadn’t heard of until I came to the panel, gave examples of different page layouts that can be attained through absolute positioning, floats, and negative margins. IA lot of useful information for any budding designer for sure.
Standard Deviation: Hacks and Dirty Tricks for the Web
Here is another panel that I was disappointed at. I thought the panel had so much potential, especially with people like Aaron Boodman in on the discussion. However, as I say, the panel was not as I expected it to be. It’s hard for me to sit in a panel where people advocate goinng back to using tables for layout simply because it’s a little bit easier than using CSS. I understand their argument that if things are too complex or fragile then you may look for the easy way out. However, it just seems to me like people aren’t trying hard enough. If there is a valid way of doing something, then by all means do it that way. I guess everything comes down to a sliding scale of when to deviate from standards. A lot of what they used as examples for when they deviated from standards were in terms of Web 2.0 applications that weren’t your standard web pages. Take for example Google Talk in GMail using undocumented ActiveX components. However, I will say that they did end on a poignant note: Always know what standards you are breaking and why.
Craig Newmark Keynote Interview
We got back from lunch kind of late so we sat in on this one in the overflow room. Quite honestly, I didn’t pay all that much attention. I have never used craigslist and I don’t really see myself doing it. I casually listened to his talk, but mainly I just got caught up with internet stuff.
Nothing
I took a nap. :-)
Design Eye for the List Guy
The highlight panel of the day, really. This is the annual redesign panel and this year they tackled craigslist. Four of the five panelists made it to SXSW, apparently Andrei Herasimchuck (yes, I had to look up the spelling of the last name) was unable to make it physically, but was virtually there via iSight.
As for the topic of the actual panel, the redesign of craigslist. The common consensus was that craigslist was pretty good as it already is, it could just use a little tidding up. And, to that end, that’s just what they did; oh, and the listings page, too. I think their redesign, or realignment as I think they mentioned, was spot on. When displaying a lot of data like that on craigslist, you don’t want a very flashy kind of site, just something that is clean and easy to navigate.
One last note, Craig Newmark, the craig in craigslist, happened to be in the audience for this panel. During the Q & A he came up and sat with the panelists. To me, it seemed uncomfortable for Craig to be there – end of the first date kind of uncomfortable. He said he liked what they did, but that’s about it. He didn’t say much other than that. During his keynote speech and his short time with the panel, he mentioned that he wasn’t really in charge of craigslist nowadays. His CEO, I think it was his CEO, is really the one to talk to about these sort of things and that he would run it by him. Who knows. If I were a craigslist user, I’d be happy with the prospect of a redesign.

Again, sorry this was out so late!