Christian Heilmann

Mind the gap – State of the Browser 5 was a blast

Sunday, September 13th, 2015 at 1:15 pm

Yesterday was the fifth edition of State of the Browser in London, England. SOTB was always a special kind of event: representatives of all the browsers (and confusion about what Apple might be up to) came, gave short talks about hot new technical topics and then formed a panel to answer people’s questions.

This year, the format changed and instead there were a lot of 25 minute talks by interesting people, regardless of who they work for. There was also no panel.

SOTB still is a lovely, friendly and very affordable event bang in the centre of London and thus very accessible. The organisers also do a monthly meetup and are just good eggs all around.

As there is no space in my tiny new flat I had donated all the swag, books, stickers bags and shirts I collected over the last 10 years to the event and it made an impressive stash. People took the lot (except for a German CSS book).


All talks are recorded and streamed live and the videos are trickling in on the organiser’s Vimeo feed.

The line-up was great and full of new faces on the speaking circuit, some of which gave their first talks. Here’s my quick notes (talks in chronological order):

  • Seb Lee-Delisle’s “Being grown-up doesn’t have to be boring” was supposed to be a round-up of all his creative projects using laser projection but ended up being situational comedy as none of his videos worked. Yet he explained and entertained and made the audience clap and wave to control sounds and flappy bird animations using kinnect so everybody was happy. Make sure to spot Bruce Lawson and me out-dancing everybody else in the first row in the video.
  • Edd Sowden’s “Accessibility and how to get the most from your screenreader” pivoted into “What U doing with data tables, browsers” and was insightful, very well researched and above all – funny to watch. Edd has a wonderful dead-pan delivery of weird browser workings. Well worth your time to see this video and check his slides.
  • Melinda Seckington’s “Learn. Reflect. Repeat – How We Run Internal Hackdays and Other Events” talked about her overcoming her impostor syndrome and how to teach people and learn from one another. You can see her in the video here.
  • Martin Jakl’s debut talk “Another billion browsers and Internet of Things” kind of went past me as I was preparing for my own talk following his. He did a look back at the problems of WAP and early mobile tech and showed how IoT will mean for us to care much more about low-end memory devices again.
  • My own talk is posted further on here. So far, here are the slides and a screencast.
  • Bruce Lawson’s “Ensuring a Performant Web for the Next Billion People” was a great round-up of opportunities in emerging markets and a reminder what this means to our products. Bruce’s slides are here – some great re-usable information in there.
  • Laura Elizabeth’s “From Pages to Patterns: How Pattern Libraries are Changing the Face of the Web” was my big surprise for the day. A first time speaker and pretty nervous she delivered an absolutely delightful talk about using pattern libraries and making them work for your clients. Well organised, well researched and delivered with a lot of confidence. If you’re looking for a design-oriented presenter with lots of understanding for development needs, Laura is someone fresh and new to consider.
  • Adam Onishi’s “Best viewed with…” was a trip down memory lane how we did things wrong about browser support and progressive enhancement and how we’re repeating these mistakes. Very well argued presentation with a very confident and interesting delivery.
  • Ada Rose Edwards’ “Animation Performance on the Web” was a whirl-wind tour of making animation perform including pretty far out ideas like using shaders to plough through a lot of data without slowing down the main thread. Her slides are here and they link to all the demos she showed. Ada is right now my go-to JavaScript presenter to tell conferences about, so expect more epicness to come from her.
  • Phil Nash’s “The web is getting pushy” once again proved his utter disregard for browsers not doing the things he wants and the horrors of live coding. Clever, well paced and good talk about live updates and notifications on the web.

The Twitter coverage of the event is extensive and still ongoing so be sure to check out the #sotb5 hashtag for more stuff trickling in.

My talk was a quick preview for a longer one I am working on bemoaning and explaining the gap I see between what we advocate as “common knowledge” at events like these and what I see people building on the web. We are a bubble inside a bubble and it is time to burst out and bring the great information we are already getting bored of to those who mess with the web. The slides are here and I recorded a screencast if you want to keep the context. I’m looking forward to the video.

All in all SOTB is well worth your time and money. If you also live by the river, make sure to attend the London Webstandards meetups.

It is a bit of a shame that the format changed, I kind of miss the focus on browsers and wished someone else would take that on or we’ll organise ourselves into monthly hangouts. I’m working on some ideas around this.

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