Muschamp Rd

Web Directions North Post Mortem

February 10th, 2007
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One of my many flaws, that some people find endearing, and others perhaps not so much, is my tendency to ramble often on long tangents. Rather than write one long post I decided to write three posts about the recently completed Web Directions North.

I and most other people were denied the opportunity to blog live from the floor due to less than stellar WiFi in the conference room. I’m not sure that is the wisest course of action anyway, I think there are definite benefits to be gained from spellchecking and editing. Even sleeping and looking at something you’ve written the next morning, might lead to a more measured and level headed piece of prose. I also link a lot and it takes time and effort to track them all down.

Sometimes you need to write in the passion of the moment, and I did. I took over ten pages of notes and observations, which were then edited into a post on day one, a post on day two, and this post which isn’t a summary as it introduces new information including some anecdotes and observations that have little to do with web standards.

I was also one of the few non web designers in the audience. I’ve never considered myself a designer though I know a lot about HTML, CSS, and Web Standards. As I told a lady from Adobe, my claim to fame in the web standards community is Eric Meyer once publicly and privately thanked me for finding a handful of tiny errors and inconsistencies in his otherwise excellent book. I mean if Eric Meyer thinks I know what I’m talking about when it comes to CSS, what else should I have to say?

On Web Standards

The evening before the conference started while being almost completely unable to sleep, I managed to force my mind away from my traditional late night thoughts and think about Web Standards. Maybe it isn’t obvious by looking at my resume but I’ve long advocated using CSS and better quality HTML code first at Shell, and then on projects I worked on at Global Village Consulting and of course should be coded pretty well even if it isn’t as aesthetically pleasing as some people’s vanity websites. Here is the gist of what I wrote in my journal.

There are three key constituents that it is necessary to get on board with web standards:

  • Phase One: Browser Manufactures
  • Phase Two: Tool Vendors
  • Phase Three: Content Management Systems

Individual web designers can be thought leaders but no matter how many web pages are created by Zeldman 1000’s upon 1000’s more are created by the faceless masses. Nowadays people don’t write HTML by hand in text editors, certainly not all their HTML by hand, much of it is generated.

In the second rush to build the web, call it Web 1.5 people used specially designed tools such as: Dreamweaver, GoLive, and FrontPage to create much of their HTML. Now we are in Phase 3, the Web 2.0 world. The browsers manufactures and tool vendors have heeded the cries of the web design community, but the average person isn’t using a text editor or even a page layout tool they are using content management systems to publish online.

Now the key is getting the people behind Blogger, WordPress, but especially something like MySpace, including the plugin developers and theme authors to support web standards. I know MySpace profiles have crashed my browser on many occaisions. The end user who wants to publish something online, even if they edit a little HTML like my sister or my friend Dave shouldn’t need to worry about Web Standards. There is so much other stuff in the world to lose sleep over.

The Good

  • The speakers
  • Staff/Volunteers such as Cindy Li for her sprinting endeavors
  • Winning free books, I guess I’ll have to write more book reviews…
  • The food on day two especially the desserts during afternoon tea

The Bad

  • Dodgy WiFi
  • Not doing enough self marketing perhaps

The Ugly

  • Mumbling I’m not really a web designer, however after being introduced as an unemployed web designer unexpectedly by the MC, only one or two people heard me, hopefully people read my resume before sending me an email. I still remember someone who Googled me and wanted to hire me to develop cryptography because the words cryptography and developer appear on my resume.
  • Still unresolved issues with my personal blog theme, I know it has no hope of validating but that is due largely to the ever evolving nature of WordPress but especially inflexible but cool plugins. My index.html in both my domain and other major subdomain do validate XHTML 1.1 Strict, as do any recently created pages as the templates I made in BBEdit should validate but most interior pages aren’t of that doctype. The Google Analytics Javascript snippet doesn’t validate XHTML 1.1 Strict but is fixable I just haven’t gotten around to changing that line on every single page on my domain, possibly because I’m thinking of getting rid of it entirely.

The After Party

I don’t think I need to write much about this, it was at the Library Square Public House which I’d only walked past previously. I had to make some arrangements to attend and it was a pleasant diversion, though why I have to stay to the bitter end, or indeed past the bitter end I’m not sure. People asked me to stay and I have a hard time saying no. I was surprised Dave Kelsey didn’t come when someone suggested asking him. A lot of booze was consumed, I watched the Media Temple maven sign at least 8 credit card receipts, each one over a grand. The entire night cost over 10,000 dollars. I never drank that much, but I did spend additional hours during our attempt to migrate to the Republic, another new Vancouver night spot.

As we finally decided to leave and go and sleep I couldn’t help but think “All evenings end in sadness.”

The Aftermath

I woke up too early and my mental and physical state were less than optimal, some people had to work or travel further than I. I’m not a party photographer but perhaps there will appear some less than flattering photos of some of the participants. I decided to not bring my camera, I knew there would be plenty of photos from the event because they set up a Flickr group before the conference. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a thousand words will perform better in Google. Other than my less than glowing endorsement for PHP, I didn’t say anything offensive, but you never can tell how people will react, even people you thought you knew…

I was repeatedly encouraged to mingle/network/self market more, but I’m not as calculating as some people. I talked to people who were nice and kind, rather than trying to press the flesh of every guest speaker I could. I did talk to Craig Saila on two occasions as I later introduced him to Sheri whom I perhaps spoke to the most. I proved my Chinese cred, but being able to read what was written on my shirt as well as mumble a few questions/sentences. And I had some interesting discussions on music, history, and literature. Seeing as I was never a web designer, even though some people seem to think I am, having put up my first webpage in 1995, I’m not sure if any job offers will result from all this. But some contacts were made and you never know when someone will need a favour. More than a few people had advice and some few a willingness to help. Why? Because they can.

Additional Links

I’m not going to collect all the blog postings about the conference, I’m not even going to read all the blog postings about the conference, but I did subscribe to the official RSS feed as advised and that has turned up some useful information.

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