Christian Heilmann

You are currently browsing the archives for the london category.

Archive for the ‘london’ Category

Open Source Jam at Google UK

Sunday, February 24th, 2008

Me posing with my mobile at Open Source Jam

Last Thursday I went to the Google offices in London Victoria to attend a bi-monthly unconference called Open Source Jam. I was running a bit on autopilot as I was in Leeds the day before talking about the YUI at the Geekup meeting and originally wanted to skip the session as I was pretty knackered. It was great though that I didn’t follow my instinct, but instead have a nice unconference with Pizza, Beer and lots of 5 minute+5 minute Q&A sessions revolving around creating interfaces for humans.

In comparison to other barcamps the Open Source Jam was a lot more technical and speakers were more coders than web developers. I’ve learnt about a chess program for the iPhone, how to write APIs to make them more accessible to humans, UXON - a User Interface Object Notation (more on this coming soon), Behaviour Driven Development, holes in the Flickr API and a lot of other things.

My initial idea of staying for an hour and then leaving for a speaker’s dinner of a company-internal conference was foiled and I took the last tube back from Victoria.

My own talk was a preview of a session I will give at the Abilitynet Accessibility conference in April, talking about how accessibility is not an extra task but – if taken into consideration from the beginning – an opportunity to build better products for everybody.

I want to thank the organizers and will very likely be there for the next jam.

Photo by Adewale Oshineye

Social Innovation Camp – turn your technical innovation skills into human benefits

Friday, February 15th, 2008

The last few years we’ve become increasingly better in building applications that make our life easier. May that be collaboration, day-to-day tasks like writing, converting or just managing our tasklists – a web app to make it smoother for us as end-users was always available with a minimum search effort.

Meanwhile, in the real world, social problems became worse and worse. This becomes even more problematic as there is a distinct lack of forward thinkers providing easy to use and apply solutions to existing problems. This is where the Social Innovation Camp wants to bridge the gap.

In London between 4th-6th April 2008, Social Innovation Camp will bring together some of the best of the UK and Europe’s web developers and designers with people at the sharp end of social problems.
Our aim is find ways that easy-to-build web 2.0 tools can be used to develop solutions to social challenges.

Until then, the organizers are calling out to you for ideas:

For the next month, we’ll be accepting applications to come to the event via the website – The plan is that people will fill in our ideas submission form with details of an idea they have for socially-beneficial web tools. This process will close on 7th March 2008 and we’ll choose the best to come and join us in April.

I’ll be one of the technical advisors on the panel and I am very much looking forward to seeing what web geeks can do to change the world around us rather than just the virtual ones.

Soon the YUI will be two years old, time for a bash, isn’t it?

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

If you are in or around London on the 26th of February 2008, come to the De Hem’s pub in Covent Garden to celebrate two years of YUI. There’ll be cake, beers, videos from the YUI bash in the US, a quick update by me and schwag to take home.

The first PlugLondon is over – we came, we plugged, we talked

Monday, December 10th, 2007

PlugLondon Logo Idea #1

Yesterday the first ever PlugLondon event took place in the Skype offices off Tottenham Court Road in London, England. PlugLondon was the idea of Jonathan Gabbai of Ebay, Paul Amery and Antoine Bertout of Skype and me and we wanted to give London based developers a chance to show off what they have done and network in an environment devoid of HR, PR or other business lures or pressures.

The signs were bad: it was raining cats and dogs (the classic London rain that will get you from all sides and therefore is not stopable with a brolly), the tubes were overcrowded as there were also protest marches planned in the city and generally the westend was packed with shoppers trying to get their christmas presents.

Nevertheless about 40-50 people showed up and we consumed the pizza and drinks provided before heading off to the Bricklayer’s Arms for some more drinks.

So far all I heard was good feedback and some very good suggestions how to move the event forward. We’ll see what we can do for the next one, but I guess we’ll wait a while till the weather is better and people came back from holidays. I personally am off to a 8 day trip to Hongkong on Tuesday.

Planning JavaScript and Ajax for larger teams, equine invigorating imagery, one voice for libraries and a lot of good speakers – this was @mediaAjax 2007

Wednesday, November 21st, 2007

I’ve just been over the @mediaAjax drinks, worked through around 670 emails that accumulated in my inbox since last Wednesday and now there is some time to talk about my experience there.

First of all, here are the slides of my talk:

I didn’t cover many technical issues but instead tried to convince some people to recognize that the way you use JavaScript in your team is the most important part of development. It is not important that you write amazing code, but instead it is much more important to work smoothly together to ensure that you can deliver fast and on budget. This is the only thing that keeps us from being able to train and grow developers – we are too busy playing catch-up with estimates and deliveries. Instead we should concentrate on bringing the fun back into developing by working together rather than competing or being the “JavaScript hero” for the rest of the team.

I got some good feedback and I am happy to get more, so if you’ve been there, tell me about it. Even more importantly, if you are considering on taking on some of the ideas, I’d be interested in hearing how that went in your environment.

Generally I have to say that I enjoyed the conference a lot. I was at first disappointed by the lack of wireless but I guess that in the end it made people listen more intently to what the speakers had to say.

My faves:

  • Dion and Ben of Ajaxian covered the State of Ajax, and compared the current happenings to a wishlist they’d drafted 2 years ago. It was a fun enough keynote, but I am not too sure about some of the CSS bashing that was going on. It is very interesting to see that while CSS people want to do everything with their technology, a lot of hardcore coders just don’t grok CSS. Hey, the future is hybrids, play technologies to their strengths and allow people who care to do them.
  • Derek Featherstone’s “Real World Accessibility for Ajax-enhanced Web Apps” talked about the problems we have in creating rich client application modules like tree menus and how we fail doing them in an accessible manner. It was very entertaining and he had some good real-world photos to drive his points home. My personal favourite was the irony that the stage had a wheelchair ramp that lead nowhere because of the backdrop
  • Stuart Langridges “How to destroy the web” was as unique as he is as it was an anti-presentation as to what to do. He ran the devil’s advocate idea of us building web products in the most obtrusive and bloated manner possible as otherwise people would use all the bandwidth for looking at horse porn (his words, not mine). He had a lot of very good points (don’t do this, as it leaves too much bandwidth) and it reminded me of the Vincent Flander’s approach to teaching web development
  • John Resig’s introduction to Prototyping with jQuery showed how you can easily take a saved copy of a web site (in this case an Apple page) and enhance it with jQuery after analyzing the HTML structure. This is pretty cool for just showing a product person how a change could feel like and I’ve done it in the past with Greasemonkey scripts.
  • Alex Russell of Dojo gave us some food for thought about how libraries should become one voice and talk about the same ideas and overlap in terms of implementation to ensure we all help developers the same way instead of competing. Something I can wholeheartedly agree with.
  • Brendan Eich showed the ideas of a “new JavaScript” while Douglas Crockford explained why the “now” JavaScript is actually a cool language as it is.
  • Dann Webb showed ways how you can use JavaScript’s trickier parts like prototype and clever uses of the arguments array to enhance the language and do meta programming with it.

All in all I was happy to be part of this and I thought it one of the best conferences if you wanted to learn about JS. I did hear people complain that there wasn’t that much about Ajax, though. To me, Ajax is a methodology, not necessarily a fixed set of technologies, and to cover the whole aspect you’d need to explain both the client and the server architecture. True, this could have been done more, and I also lacked the coverage of Flash Developers as programmers that already use a lot of things that JavaScript2 is promising us.

All in all there were several great finds for me:

  • Never sit next to Bruce Lawson, Chris Willison and Stuart Langridge. It is evil but also terribly funny.
  • It is great to see that people involved in the development of competing libraries all want the same stuff and really don’t mind the success of the other competitors. Take this down, fanboys and mailing list flamers: we all want to help you and think you should use whatever suits you best, which is not necessarily our stuff.
  • The best way to recognize in your server side component if a call came from Ajax and not from a normal page submit is to check the HTTP header. Most libraries send a bespoke identifier!
  • Make sure you check if a queen has a jubilee before you go out of the train in the Westminster area.

I hope the people who went also had fun and the others will consider coming to the next conference in the London area. It is great fun and value for money.