Yesterday I took one for the team and instead of sitting on the sofa or going for a saturday bike ride, I went to a new event called Digital Barn put on at the impressive DMC in Barnsley.
Sadly I missed two talks, first Jonny Allbut about freelancing and also Tom Hudson’s about writing testable PHP but got started with another well polished, impeccably delivered talk from everyone’s favourite Microsoft employee, Martin “The Beebs” Beeby.
As you’d expect from someone paid to talk to designers and developers at conferences, the Beebs has a really nice style talking at length about the reasons IE got into the mess it was and some of the very impressive steps Microsoft are taking with IE9 & 10 to re-engage with the community and users to create a better product. Here are some of the notes I took from Martin’s talk.
- Microsoft are working hard to build a new OS with a great browsing experience and engaging users more to deliver that
- IE6 WAS a great browser in the back, it won the browser wars. The mistake MS made was waiting 6 years to make updates
- Microsoft didn’t consult enough with standards bodies and developers, they just looked internally for feedback
- The big aim for IE9 & 10 is to allow developers to confidently write one and deploy without as many conditional hacks
- MS have a more open attitude towards engaging with developers now, the IE10 public preview reported 17000[maybe 1700?] bugs that may otherwise have been missed in internal development testing
- Microsoft are currently testing silent updates of IE6 to IE8 in Australia and Brazil with plans to push this global this year
- Windows8/IE10 has a pointer API which allows development of mouse, touch and stylus input with a single codebase
- IE10 is an application
- IE9 displays text better than other browsers thanks to sub-pixel rendering – particularly when zoomed
- The reason text-shadow wasn’t included in IE9 because in conjunction with sub-pixel rendering, it wasn’t fast enough
- A demo of an IE10 site using offline caching was very impressive. Only had to visit site once with web connection for it to available offline (including seaching, pages not viewed yet etc)
- Many demos and resources available at Martin’s site – http://thebeebs.co.uk/prepare
A particular highlight of Martin’s talk is the IE developer opinions video comedy gold.
A lot of front end developers will know of csswizardry but amazingly, this was actually Harry’s first public talk – “Breaking good habits”. You wouldn’t have known, he delivered a good overview of his CSS and HTML workflow and techniques including the theme of abstract naming and creating flexible but robust code based on his experiences working for BSkyB and leading a major front end rebuild. These were my notes from Harry’s talk.
- Writing extensible code requires you to stop thinking in terms of “pages”. You need to try thinking more in terms of components and abstractions
- Don’t use ID’s in your code – ever
- Avoid being over specific with naming and css selectors
- “CSS class names are neither semantic or not semantic; they are sensible or not sensible” and “it’s better to be pragmatic than pretty” (Quotes via Chris Murray’s write up)
- Strive to keep components free of dimensions then they’re easier to move around
- Abstractions mean DRYer code
- Better to build a solid site that doesn’t break than a pretty one that breaks and is inflexible
CSS ID’s are like marriage, easy to commit to but it’s easy to run into trouble later and further down the line, the children can be affected too. Harry Roberts
The main focus and drive for Harry’s talk was that you shouldn’t be scared to add in the occasional div (they’re “semantic freebies” after all) if it creates a more robust site. Semantics are good but sensible and solid coding is what everyone should aim for.
Much like Martin, Bruce tours the world as a representative of Opera, and much of his talk was based on the work he does (and has done in the past) on accessibility in particular the amazing strides being made with HTML5 video including things like subtitling with live, selectable HTML text.
I have to admit I don’t work to the level of detail Bruce spoke about but I thoroughly enjoyed his talk and I’m happy knowing someone with that level of knowledge and passion is looking after this part of the web for us all.
I missed Matt’s talk at the Umbraco festival last year about Knockout.js and as someone who doesn’t write any JS I have to admit the “intro” was a bit beyond me as it did contain samples of code which I didn’t understand but I know Pete and Tim who I went with were drooling at the simplicity and power on offer.
Matt did include a couple of demos including a super quick, simple todo list (be ashamed makers of todo list apps, it’s really not that hard!) and some filtering stuff which I definitely felt we could make use of in real applications for work so technical for sure but delivered in the Karminators usual casual style and he’s always a friendly chap to speak to after if you have any questions.
I really enjoyed Craig’s talk “The mad scientists of the information highway” which was a really well delivered, personal keynote about how he spends his time making things for the pleasure of doing it and that designers and developers working together on little fun, personal projects is a good thing (totally agree!).
Craig’s presentation style was excellent and as with the other speakers, the passion for the subject came through clear as anything and just made you want to get back home and start making all those little fun projects you didn’t start and moaned about stuff instead. His call to make things for the joy of making them rather than trying to monetise or get millions of likes is something I definitely subscribe to.
Looking at my notes this morning, they simply said: “My new favourite angry man”.
It would be pretty easy to leave it at that and I’m sure anyone who’s seen Kevinjohn talk before probably knows he’s not one to pull punches. At Digital Barn his talk “The Emperors new clothes” took aim at a lot of things, including WordPress and their *unusual* development team setup and testing policy, why responsive web design is a sham, project management, some tenuous links to Star Trek slides and much more.
It was machine gun stuff and while I didn’t really agree with all of his points, I can’t argue with a great presentation style and saying some of the things he did to create discussion points because often taking an extremely strong view on something and then telling everyone else they’re wrong is a good way to at least start a discussion. It appears Kevinjohn is also more than happy to discuss his opinions over several beers too which is never a bad thing!
A couple of post talk pints
It was nice to go round the corner to a local with a lot of the attendees and have a couple of pints before heading home. It was a pleasure chatting with Bruce and Harry over a pint as I’d never met either. Lovely chaps. Sorry I didn’t get to catch up with a few of the other folks, there’s never enough time at these things! Perhaps someone should organise a conference without the conference bit. Just a twitter meetup!
Thanks to Tim for dropping me off back in Huddersfield, much appreciated.
Slides, blogs and other resources
A few folks have written up their thoughts too
- Blog review - Chris Murray
- Blog review – Pete Duncanson
- Blog review – Matt Brailsford
- Slides – Mad scientists of the information highway – Craig Burgess
- Slides – Breaking Good Habits – Harry Roberts
- Slides – An introduction to Knockout.js – Matt Brailsford
Feedback for the organisers
Kimb & Matthew put on a really top notch day, got really great speakers and venue and are just nice chaps. Can’t really argue with a day like that for the cost of £0.00 either. I’m sure I’ll speak for anyone else who was there and say I look forward to the next one – which I hope there will be!
A bonus giveaway!
I won a copy of Bruce and Remy Sharp’s Introducing HTML5 book, I’d like to give it away to a student or freelancer in Yorkshire. Follow me on Twitter for that one while I try and figure a fair way to give it to someone :)