Category Archives: Travel

South by South West

I kept saying to myself that I will eventually get around to writing something about this, but being out of the office for 8 days and the best part of offline for 10 means I’ve just had too much getting in my way.

In short: South by South West was great!

First things first; our panel.

Well, it went well. I think. People have been nice and positive about it. Two main concerns generally were a) that it wasn’t exactly what we were billed to do and b) some people didn’t know what microformats were. Well, regarding point b – it wasn’t billed as an introduction to. We only had so much time, and we felt that those likely to want to attend this particular session would already have a foundation, or at least an interest enough to have read about them a little, in microformats enough to know what was going on. I’m sorry if you didn’t get it – I’m more than happy to give you an intro to if you drop me an email (fberriman AT gmail).

A photograph from PTG of the microformats panelAs for the first point. You’re right. We did do more of a history/what’s cool now, as opposed to looking deeply into the future. To be honest, it’s hard to know what’ll happen exactly. I think we did a good job in showing that take up has been brilliant and a lot of big names are getting involved with supporting and implementing microformats, and that there’s real ways you can start using microformats in your day-to-day internet experience.

How did I cope, I hear you ask? I was nervous as anything (particular thanks to Patrick who put up with me being the best part of mute that morning).

About 10 minutes before going on, we learnt that rather than being in a small room which I had somewhat managed to psych myself up for – we’d be in the biggest room (18ABCD). This means I was not at all prepared for the green lighting and the spotlights and the 700-odd people!

Tantek, Glenn and Mike were brilliant though. I’ve heard back from a few people who were genuinely really impressed with the backnetwork and Operator. Jeremy Keith joined us about half way in after a completely unplanned, but perfect, question which allowed him to show of his cool little bluetooth trick.

I did learn that I don’t like prepared speeches though. About 2 lines in, I realised I’d for some reason abandoned what I had planned to say and was making it up on the spot. I did not enjoy that. I did however really like the Q&A section. Having to think on the spot about what people wanted to know about seemed to have the effect of removing a bit of my stage fright. I suppose I prefer conversational tones.

Am I glad I did it overall? Yep. Would I do it again? No. Actually, yeah, I might… if I could do some more smaller things in the mean time and get some practice in, I’d consider it.

Other than that, SxSW was fun. It was a good chance to put some faces to names I knew online and meet a few new ones. Panel wise, I made a bit of an effort to avoid subjects in my field since I didn’t expect to learn that much and headed for more unusual topics. I went to quite a few of the game track (screenburn) sessions, and really enjoyed them. It was especially interesting to learn that they are having a lot of similar issues surrounding maintaining identities/networks in different parts of the web as we are. Also quite fun to know that OpenID is a topic for them.

I have more to write I think, but this is already a long post and late! “Hi” if I met you though, it was a pleasure.

SXSWi Microformats Panel Confirmed

The Growth and Evolution of Microformats panel at SXSWi has been added to the rather handy panel planner on the SXSWi site (shame it’s not marked up as hCalendar though – [edit] the panel picker has now been microformated!). It gives a little bit more of an overview about what it’ll be about:

In its first year, microformats.org ushered in the rapid adoption of key formats for publishing and sharing tags, licenses, contacts, relationships, events and reviews on the Web. See what new microformats are being developed for resumes, classified listings, music, and media, as well as how tens of millions of established microformats on web sites of individuals, companies, and organizations are driving innovations in desktop applications and advancing personal data portability

You’ll also note that the rest of the panel is announced too. We’ve got Tantek of course – *the* microformat advocate, and moderating the session. Michael Kaply from IBM is the man behind the Operator toolbar for Firefox, which in my mind is the most complete and fully functional addition for Firefox for detection and use of microformats. Glenn Jones is the only one of the bunch I’ve had the pleasure to have met before – he was 1 third of our microformats triple bill at the first BarCampLondon (along with Drew Mclellan and myself). He’s an implementor and created the backnetwork which is stuffed to the gills with microformats. He also presents on the topic, and did so recently with Destroying Walled Gardens at BarCampLondon2.

Then there’s me, of course. Makes me consider my place in the group though.

I mentioned this to a few people and they simply said that I was the human side of things. Possibly more down to earth and using microformats in day to day development. Not too many ideas of grandure and using them practically, and advocating and explaining them in simple terms to those who want to learn about them.

I’m also the most community involved panelist. That might not seem important, but when you realise that microformats wouldn’t exist without the community it’s a lot more. Every spec and decision made about microformats is done by an organic community of people, like myself, who are enthusiasts. It’s this organic growth thats let microformats spring up out of nowhere and gather speed and support so quickly.

I think it’s a good mix though, and I’m looking forward to the panel even if I am a touch nervous.

dConstruct 2006

Thursday

On Thursday night I headed down to Brighton after work for the d.Construct web conference. I’ve been looking forward to it for ages, so I can’t say I wasn’t buzzing a bit. Met up with Dave when I arrived, and also Adam Bardsley who I’d met at the WSG event back in July. We headed down to Heist for the pre-event social type get together and I got to say hello to a few faces I already knew, and also meet some people who I’ve known around and about online, but had yet to meet face-to-face. The nice thing about having been to BarCampLondon the weekend before meant there were plenty of faces I recognised.

Friday

Stayed out a bit too late on Thursday, so was a little sleepy first thing on Friday but the amazing weather soon picked me up. Summer hasn’t left Brighton yet, apparently. We (myself, Dave and someone he works with) located a little cafe for breakfast, then made our way over to the Corn Exchange. After receiving lanyards (which also doubled as programs for the day) and goodie bags we went in for tea and coffee and to say hi to the people we knew there and meet even more people. And then the day began for real.

Photo of the conference theatreAll of the sessions and speakers were interesting and insightful. Each spoke from experience which is more important than anything. The downside to the sessions was possibly the length of time the speakers spoke for – they didn’t leave much room for Q&A sessions, and that is often the most useful part of a presentation.

Even though Flex isn’t my area, I really enjoyed Aral Balkan’s session (and meeting him again) since he is just a little ball of energy and so enthusiastic. I’d not seen much about Flex, but was suitably impressed. Jeff Bar’s presentation about Amazon’s APIs was neat too – the Human Turk, especially.

A highlight of the day for me was definitely the Microformats Picnic. It was a rather short-notice idea Jeremy came up with in the previous week, and only a handful of people had marked themselves down as attending – but the good weather must have prompted more to join, since there were a lot of people listening, including random Brighton passers-by, to Jeremy explaining what Microformats were, how to use them and answering queries! It was slightly surreal with the indian twinkly music in the background though, coming from further down into the park.

Since I wore my Microformats shirt to the event (along with a few others), I got to discuss Microformats with plenty of people who were interested in using them, so it was fun for me. A few people have since emailed me to find out more, or get some advice.

After the conference, I grabbed some dinner with Steve, Faruk, David, Trev, Ben and Neil and then we headed down to The Terraces for the after-party.

The after-party was fun, although we missed the tab, but not to worry. Everyone was in a good mood, and there was plenty of chat related to the topics we’d seen during the day and generally throwing ideas about – mostly in mine and my friend’s cases, how to incorporate Microformats into various mash-ups!

As the party wound down, Drew and Andy rounded a few of us up for cocktails back at the delegate hotel. I think we finished up around 3am!

Saturday

Decided to stick around on Saturday since the weather was continuing to be lovely. Got in contact with Natalie and met up with the crowd from the night before. Dave and I watched Natalie and Simon have a go at the bungee-trampoline things and then had lunch at “Oh So Social” followed by a wander along the sea-front to watch the “eXtreme” skateboarding, have a dig through some second-hand books, and a trip to the Lego store to drool over the new Mindstorm robots (£180!!).

I ended the day with the group having a BBQ down on Brighton beach, followed by a game of werewolf (I wasn’t a wolf at last, but they still lynched me!). Made it home by 11pm, shattered but very pleased.

After

The backnetwork really comes into its own now that the event has happened. I’m a bit rubbish at remembering names, so the fact that a majority of people have included their photograph on their profile (and most have managed to include a useful, proper, photo) has made it easy for me to mark those people I’ve met and grab any contact information I need.

I collected the odd business card for mobile numbers, but generally there was no need for them. Good because business cards get lost, and it’s more environmentally friendly (yes, computers aren’t, but we’re running them business cards or not).

Also, I can grab my new friend’s links as as XFNified blog listing, and subscribe to them all in one go.

The other nifty thing is everyone’s profile page collects photos and blog posts that include them. You can see mine here: My backnetwork profile!

I hope they continue to use it for future conferences because it’s a really great resource.

If you have a flick around on the backnetwork, you’ll find all the links to other people blogging about this and photographs, so I don’t need to make you a list! Go forth and explore.