Monthly Archives: June 2009

webDU 2009

Disclaimer: I originally wrote this blog post while sitting at Sydney Airport waiting for my flight home. Had no internet connection then, so I just quickly drafted this up. A few details have come through since then. So this will be that draft post with a few comments dotted throughout. It’s only now that it’s a long weekend that I actually had time to post this! Jeez!

I’m on my home from webDU 2009, trying to train myself to say it properly (“web-dee-you”, not “web-doo”. The ‘DU’ stands for ‘Down Under’). It’s a web developers conference described as “a rock concert for geeks”. And yes, it was very geeky. In a good way! Because these days, geeky is the new sexy.

One of the geeky elements was the Twitter backchannel. There were a number of screens around the conference venue (Star City in Sydney, for those playing at home) that displayed tweets tagged with #webdu. One of the first was “Tweets tagged with #webdu displayed live on the big screen. Could be interesting”. And yes, there were quite a few smart-ass tweets – particularly those targeted at Microsoft. As a general rule though, it was very friendly and positive.

One of my tweets made it up on the screen:
My 'foam brick' tweet

It got a few laughs in the audience and within a minute, there was a response:

“Bricks are for throwing at presenters….honest 😉 #webdu”

(EDIT: I tried to track down the exact tweet but Twitter’s search function seems to ignore tweets that are older than a week!)

The script that the webDU organisers wrote to create this display was awesome and they plan to publish the code here.

This is a video of what one of the displays looked like (please forgive the poor mobile phone quality):

Geeky element number two: the trading card game. The design of these were very, very cool (and I say that as a geek). Kudos must go to Nectarine for designing them (and I think all of the graphic design elements at the conference, such as the website and the programme book). I just wanted to collect the cards and have a set but I couldn’t get them all, so entered the contest instead.

From the cards collected, you had to submit a hand of nine and the ten people with the highest points accrued in their hands would win prizes. Each card had a rule printed on it, there were also a number of public and secret rules to the game too. I placed ninth! Received an O’Reilly book on Adobe AIR! The overall winner was one of the presenters – Carly Gooch – and apparently the overall winner has always been female in previous conferences!

Speaking of females, I tweeted that they seemed to make up only 15% of all webDU attendees. Only four female presenters out of 20-odd. A little disappointing but everyone was all very chatty and sociable. The conference organising team seems to be mainly female too. Good on them!

Adobe were the platinum sponsors so there was a huge Adobe focus and a general Adobe theme throughout the conference. The Catalyst designer was previewed at the keynote and it looked awesome. The public release of that is expected soon so keep an eye on http://labs.adobe.com/.
(EDIT: It’s out now! And it’s awesome! Go get it here: http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/flashcatalyst/)

Also demoed were Flash Builder, Flex and AIR. ColdFusion code was used during the demonstration, so I tweeted this:

My CF Tweet

And was overwhelmed by the response I received:

ColdFusion related Twitter responses

There is a lot of ColdFusion love out there! Terry Ryan from Adobe tracked me down and encouraged me to download a free student copy and start learning. I’m on it, Terry! It’ll happen, I promise!

Terry was one of the presenters I watched. There were five rooms at the conference, so unfortunately there were a few clashes and I had to miss out on a few presenters I really wanted to see. Hopefully the webDU organisers will upload some podcasts from the recordings they made, or at least the presentation files.

Other presenters I saw included Mark Stanton from Gruden talking about Javascript security, Andrew Muller (Adobe evangelist and all-round-nice-guy) on developing AIR applications, plus quite a few Googlers. Was great to see Adam and Anth again.

The second day’s keynote was divided up into three parts with reps from “The Makers” of the world wide web: Alan Noble from Google, Neil Wilkinson from Yahoo! and Michael Kordahi from Microsoft. I have to admit I was a little surprised that it was the Microsoft presentation was the one I enjoyed most. Michael called himself the “token Microsoft guy” and knew full well that there was a lot of dislike for his company’s products in the room, but could take that, turn it around and make us laugh about it. He has strong developer roots, so it could be arguably said that he was able to relate to most of the audience better than Alan or Wilf could.

All three presentations were fantastic, of course (especially Wilf’s explanation of how Yahoo! was becoming more open) but Michael’s gave me perhaps the most to think about. I asked him about how Microsoft’s tactile systems like Surface and Sphere were accessible to people with disabilities and he said to chase him up on that, because he didn’t have an answer then. Oh, I intend to, Michael! Hehe.
(EDIT: I have followed up on it and intend to blog my discoveries soon!)

WebDU was such fun! The people I met were lovely too and now I have a massive to-research list, which is exciting. Thanks to the organisers for the ticket! I’ll be back next year!