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Webstock 2010 - Highlights from my notes - Day 1

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Day 1 of Webstock - Thursday 18 Feb. I saw the following presentations:

  1. Opening
  2. Web Design that Grabs People
  3. Brian does the Andrew Sisters
  4. Designing for Diversity
  5. Building The Open Web
  6. Security-Centered Design
  7. Fostering Personal Connection to Place
  8. Building Social Software for the Anti-Social
  9. Please, don't let it be interactive
  10. The Word Wild Web

Day 2 coming soon.

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Opening and welcome

Mike Brown (@maupuia) opened Webstock 2010 by reminding us that we love working with the web, and that we fall in love with things made from love.

Web design that grabs people

We were truly building an airplane... while in flight

Scott Thomas (@simplescott) was the design director for the Obama campaign. They wanted to use images people can be proud of, and to unify the design of the print and web media. A consistency and balance needed to be established in the messages, which had to be clear and concise. E.g. they focused on "We" rather than "He".

They made sure supporters could get everything they needed. The mission of the home page was to persuade people, but it also needed to make it easy to get localized information. As the campaign progressed the message of persuasion changed to fit the needs of the campaign.

Analytics are essential to understand how people are interacting with the site.

Brian does the Andrew Sisters

People are multi-channel

Brian Fling (@fling) gave a disappointing presentation. Communication 101 says that if the listener/reader doesn't understand then the speaker/writer has failed to communicate successfully. Brian's presentation covered the things he could have talked about; some of which looked very exciting. Sure, they were presentations he'd done before but they were new to most of us. Brian is clearly very articulate and knows what he talks about, but this presentation jumped everywhere and didn't allow any idea any depth. The bits I did get were:

  • Focus on a single platform. The cost of supporting different devices is expensive.
  • Build cross-platform mobile web applications. This lets you support a single framework.
  • App stores like churn. To sell things you need to drive the viewers' attention.

Designing for Diversity - Inclusive Design & the User Experience

Design for everybody, not just to look cool

Lisa Herrod (@scenariogirl) reminded us design needs to cater for more that the obvious audience; shallow personas often miss accessibility characteristics. (I wish I got to use personas more, they're an important overlap with business analysis and design.)

Lisa also pointed out designers needs to work ethically. Without doing so, user experience is missing opportunities to be an inclusive experience.

One way to make the WCAG2 easier to apply, is to break the components down into the roles needed to perform them. A back-end developer doesn't need to know some of the elements a designer needs, and a front-end developer has a different set too.

Note to self: find out ways a business analyst can convince stakeholders that accessibility is an important quality-of-service requirement.

I got to talk more with Lisa over dinner that evening; Lisa, Lachlan, I, and a few others all went to La Casa Pasta for dinner before going on to Mighty Mighty.

Building The Open Web

The open web stems from a common philosophical approach.

Lachlan Hardy (@lachlanhardy) started by reminding us what "open" means in relation to the web; that it is royalty and patent free; that it is supported by more than one vendor or provider; and that there is public involvement in the specification. Lachlan warned us to be aware of "open washing", the presentation of something as open when it isn't Open.

Lachlan then pointed out things become simpler for user when there is greater implementation of open technologies. An example is the linking of webfinger to OpenID to make is simpler for users to benefit from OpenID technology. I'll be adding webfinger to this domain.

People are able to implement these open technologies as if they are pieces in the puzzle. We don't know which pieces are missing, bus as these talk to each other gaps will be noticed. This is a good thing.

A big question raised with open technology is the issue of money. Lachlan reminded us that using open lets companies focus on the things they want to do, and not have to write security code to implement good security. The other advantage of open is not needing to pay the creators for their expertise.

Open can be profitable too, look how successful SilverStripe, a Webstock sponsor, is.

Security-Centered Design: Exploring the Impact of Human Behavior

Pave the cow paths

Chris Shiflett (@shiflett) spoke about change blindness and ambient signifiers. Our brains are wired up to receive a lot of information, and to filter it down to the essential items. Change blindness is our inability to notice a change; our brain doesn't register it as important enough to focus on it. Ambient signifiers exist to bypass this blindness and let us know something has changed.

An example of an ambient signifier is a particular tune playing as the train pulls into each station. Travellers become familiar with the different tunes as their train passes each station, and are more aware of their stop.

This can be used online to improve web security by accommodating users' expectations and tendencies without trying to modify them.

He demonstrated the Colour-changing Card Trick. It's awesome.

Fostering Personal Connection to Place

Take the audience with you on your journey

Shelley Bernstein (@shell7) talked about making the Brooklyn Museum more accessible and understandable. They did this by

  • Posting interesting content on the blog, with multiple bloggers providing content.
  • Interacting with people via twitter and social media.
  • Providing a kiosk enabling recording and uploading of comments to youtube.
  • And learning from the feedback provided by visitors.

Stack Overflow: Building Social Software for the Anti-Social

Programming is now a social activity

Jeff Atwood (@codinghorror) had a few points to make:

  1. Know your audience (programmers)
  2. Know your Topic (software code)
  3. Understand people's motivations (reduce bad code)

Rather than saying whether you can complete a task, ask yourself if you are motivated to do it in the first place. This is "Work" (paid for) vs. work" (inspiring to do).

Please, don't let it be interactive


Regine deBatty (@wmmna) took a very different direction to the other speakers, but considering her website looks at art using technology it was not surprising. Her main point was that interactivity in some art adds no value.

The Word Wild Web

if you can talk it, a mockingbird can squawk it

Rives entertained us with his performance poetry and stories. From Kite, to the end, by way of explaining the selling of stolen wind chimes for Rubiks cubes; filming dancers; climbing cranes over New York; and other stories.

You should check him out at TED. The emoticon story is one he retold for us.

Day 2 coming soon. What was your experience of the Thursday speakers? Is there someone else I should have seen?

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By Brian Logan   Tue 23-Feb-2010

1 comment

Comment from: Lisa [Visitor]

I love your write up style; the way you talk about what you got from each session and what you need to follow up.

re your “Note to self: find out ways a business analyst can convince stakeholders that accessibility is an important quality-of-service requirement.” This is something I want to understand better too. Need to do some more talking with PMs and BAs and producers etc.

let’s keep thinking about it and share ideas?!

PS Mighty Mighty was brilliant! Thanks for taking us there :)

Tue 23-Feb-2010 @ 13:46

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