Tag Archives: Google

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 πŸ˜‰ #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!

I’m going to webdu!

I came home and logged in to my Twitter account to find no less than four random people suddenly following me. I originally thought they were spammers but on closer inspection I found out that they were all @webdu followers, plus @webdu itself.

“Huh!” thought I, “Must have found me by searching for #webdu and getting my haiku”

I should back up a bit here, hehe.

I first heard about webDU’s Twitter competition when I read a friend’s entry in his feed. WebDU is an annual web technology conference in the Asia-Pacific region. This year it’s in Sydney.

It looked very cool, so I thought I would enter the Twitter competition myself to get a conference pass. Here is my tweet:

A Haiku:

My skills are strong, but
The economy is not
Grad job, I must find πŸ™‚

Where else could I network better than at webdu?

I only posted it yesterday! So I didn’t think that all of those new followers could have come from me winning a pass but that’s just what had happened! I’m so excited! I never win at those “25 words or less” style competitions. Clearly, the “140 characters or less” competitions go better for me!

I have to admit that I didn’t imagine my career focus to be in web technology – at least not to begin with. But it’s been a personal interest of mine for years – especially after becoming an Anita Borg finalist and visiting the Google offices in Sydney. So webDU should be fantastic!

Speaking of Google, some of their staff will be presenting there. I can’t wait to meet up with them again! I caught up with some other Googlers and Anita Borg finalists last night at Melbourne University’s Google Coffee Club too. Great fun! And to cap off these Google-ful few days, Google Australia was awarded the #1 spot in BRW’s Great Places To Work list. I’d believe it for sure!

Wow, tonight has been crazy. But I’m excited! I can’t wait for webDU! Anyone else going? I’ll see you there!

2008 Google AU & NZ Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship Retreat

Wow. What a fantastic trip! I usually hate going to Sydney for any reason (I’m cursed – every time I go there, something bad happens!) but this retreat was so relaxing, interesting and fun! I felt thoroughly spoiled! The only thing that went wrong was that I ran out of money – but seriously, buying three pairs of shoes in Paddington will do that πŸ™‚

I’m digressing a little. I just came home from a three day retreat in Sydney that was part of the prize for being a finalist in the Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship. I spent the last few days with the other Finalists and Scholars, as well as last year’s Scholars and the Google team. What a fantastic group of people! What awesome offices! What delicious food! Hehe!

My welcome pack from GoogleI’m gushing, I know, but I really haven’t had such a lovely relaxing time in a long time. It was worth taking the break from studies to make the trip to Sydney. I was welcomed at the hotel with a gift pack that included a digital photo frame and journal – perfect for recording the retreat!

My roommate Tamara was lovely – she was also very excited about being there since it was her first trip outside of Adelaide!

The next morning was the formal start of the retreat. We had breakfast at the Google offices – complete with pancake machine – and were welcomed warmly by Will and the other Googlers. The day was spent conducting workshops on how we can help encourage women into IT, as well as listening to talks from Googlers.

The afternoon was spent doing an activity – either walking along the beach, visiting famous Sydney landmarks or shopping in Paddington (perhaps the walk along the beach would have been cheaper for me, hehe). The evening was spent at Wolfie’s in The Rocks, where we had a wine tasting session and a really delicious dinner.

The next day, we had more talks and workshops – the ideas and intelligence of the other Scholars impressed me no end. It was great to spend some time with women in IT that had similar goals and ideas.

Google also discussed different career paths in the company. This was very interesting for me. I’m not a computer science student, per se, my degrees are more related to the business side of IT. So while I can code, it’s not my strongest attribute, therefore an engineer role may not be the best for me. But one of the Googlers – Mickey – spoke about his role as a Product Manager. This sounds a lot more like the kind of work I’d love to do. I’d still use my technical skills but also make use of my strengths in business analysis and management. I’ll definitely be investigating that position later on, because I fell a little bit in love with the Google offices this last weekend πŸ™‚

The second evening was spent on a harbour cruise, gorging ourselves on seafood, then partying at Darling Harbour. The retreat officially finished then, but the girls met up for breakfast the next morning and a few of us wandered over to the Aquarium. Overall, it was such a great trip – I’ve met some amazing people, made some new friends and discovered that even Sydney has some highlights, hehe.

Thank you so much to Google for organising the retreat. I really had a blast. Thanks to the other Anita Borg Scholars and Finalists – it was an absolute pleasure meeting you all and I’m looking forward to working with you on some of our initiatives. I’m heading back into the second half of this semester tomorrow feeling a lot less stressed and a lot more excited about the work ahead.

This Anita Borg scholarship has given me so many great opportunities. If you’re reading this and you are eligible to enter, I’d certainly recommend it!

2008 Anita Borg Scholars

I’m an Anita Borg Scholarship Finalist!

I feel so honoured to be awarded Finalist in the Google Australia & New Zealand 2008 Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship. Anita Borg was a pioneer computer scientist who worked hard to make IT and technology-based careers accessible for women. Google have created a scholarship in her memory for high-achieving female students in information technology, who show leadership potential and who are likely to carry on the work that Commodore Anita Borg began – and this week I had a very exciting phone call telling me that I was a runner-up finalist for this year’s award!

Being a Finalist means that I am awarded a monetary prize for educational purposes but also means I will be travelling to Sydney for a retreat! I’ll be meeting the other Finalists and Scholars at the Google offices – I can’t wait! It’s only a few weeks away…This is so exciting!