Christian Heilmann

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Video training shoots with Microsoft – get the slides and code to present them yourselves

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

A few days ago I was in Miami, Florida, as my old Ajaxian colleague Rey Bango invited me to record a few videos with him on HTML5 topics for Microsoft’s Channel 9 developer programme.

Rey Bango and me on the beachFilming on the beach
Video shoot on the beach

Originally we planned to have presentations with live coding examples – each 15 minutes long by Rey and me on our own. Thinking it over, we found it more natural to do them together and so to say show the presentation and code examples to each other in a chat format. Rey and Chris

Rey covered development tools and how to test across different browsers and I was asked to talk about Building for real standards and Modern Web Development.

The first session we recorded was about “Building for real standards”. In this we talk about what a standard means, how this applies to HTML5 and discuss problems and pitfalls to avoid. The slides are available on Slideshare and there is also a version with presenter notes.

The second session was about “Modern Web Development”. In this we talked about developing for an unknown environment using Progressive Enhancement, what the differences are to Graceful Degredation and we show how Responsive Design can lead to a future friendly product. The slides are available on Slideshare and there is also a version with presenter notes.

If you want to present these talks yourself, I uploaded the slides in various formats and the code examples with lots of explanations on how to present them to GitHub:

All in all this was a great experience and I can’t wait for the videos to be out. It is good to see that there are people in Microsoft who really care about web standards and cross-browser development. We wanted to record a lot more footage of us discussing more topics but sadly enough one of the harddrives crashes so we had to re-shoot all the sessions on the last day. In retrospect this made the sessions better as we got less formal and kept them shorter. The final products should be around 20 minutes each.

Being a public speaker in the web business

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

Chris Brogan has put together a nice to-do list on how to start speaking at events and there’s some great information in there (some of which I am not doing yet, but will start soon).

Right now I am a “international developer evangelist” which is a nice title but sadly enough does not come with Q gadgets like Bond or a private jet like Iron Man. What it means is that I spend most of my days looking at what my company is doing and how it would matter for the outside world and to see what the world is doing to feed back to the people too busy in the company to have a look around themselves. In between I am translating these from one language and interest to another by creating easy-to-grasp examples and show improvements that can be done. And of course go out there and give lots and lots of presentations (last week I had 3 days in 2 countries with 7 presentations and 2 media interviews).

It is a sweet gig, and I am happy that I arrived at it after being a developer for a long time battling both the technologies of the web (and their creative implementations in browsers) and the internal hierarchies and politics of the company that pays your wage.

This does not really stop when you go into a speaking role though, if anything, the politics become even more problematic:

  • Event organizers are less likely to pay you or your expenses when you work for a large company. Surely the company is happy to dedicate its time and money to support some random event someone else does make money with, right?
  • Your colleagues are likely to constantly nag you that you are not coding any more and are just a speaker or front man now. This is sad and can be terribly annoying and a lot of people should not be surprised that you drift apart over the month as the job of a public figure is tiring and means a lot of work. Hearing that you do nothing is not very encouraging and does make you feel like you’re wasting your time.
  • Marketing, PR and HR will be all over you to either march along with them for the good cause (which in a lot of times is directly in the opposite direction of yours) or keep a very close eye on you so that you don’t do anything silly in public that could harm the company.
  • Random people will come to you with a very specific agenda and try to convince you that this is what the world needs to hear about.

In general, I am trying my best to walk the very narrow path of being an “evangelist” and not losing touch with what is being done in the company and the market. My own mental checklist is:

  • It is not about you. You have a knack of speaking and explaining but if you really think you are a rockstar or people should read about you and your life, get one. This is a very small community with a very specific market that is not even defined properly yet.
  • Do not overpromise. If you don’t believe in something or you are not sure if it really works, try it first and make sure. Come from a base of confidence not “woohoo this is sooo coool”
  • Give people things to take away. This is my pet peeve about presentations. If there is nothing in there I can bring back and impress my boss with or make my life a lot easier, what was the point? Yes this is terribly pragmatic, but I am just not easy to get interested in theories or visionary speeches – I’ve seen too many be totally off the mark.
  • Speak the language of the audience. Is the level of complexity the right one for the audience? Are they native speakers? Will pop references and jokes work?
  • Find something new for yourself. Even if you’ve given dozens of talks about the topic, make sure to get a new, fresh angle that challenges you and the audience alike.
  • Do your research. There’s nothing better than referencing other good examples and articles for people to read on about the topic.
  • Have your handouts ready. Don’t just promise availability of your talk and examples, have them online and as a link to download before you even start.
  • Go into sponge mode. The people you are about to talk to are even more interesting than you are. Chat, listen, invite to communicate, ask for things to look at and you’ll get a lot of inspiration for the next gig.

This works quite well for me and if you are interested, I can go on about planning your trips and what to make sure before you go in another post. Should I?


Other speaking tips:

Walkies and Talkies – My schedule for the next few months

Friday, January 18th, 2008
  • March 18th, Roosevelt Hotel NYC, US, AjaxWorld – talking about Building large web applications with the YUI
  • March 21st – March22nd, Montreal, Quebec – Nurun workshop on Accessibility
  • April 3rd, Scotland, Highland Fling, Scotland – Sharing the joy – building badges for distribution
  • April 25th (one day shy of my birthday), London, AbilityNet’s “Accessibility 2.0: a million flowers bloom” – right and wrong implementation of accessibility

Planned talks (need confirmation)

  • Ajax Experience 2008 – sent in “the human factor in web applications” and “YUI for control freaks” as proposals
  • Tech conference about the future of web development in Beijing

Past talks

  • February 12th, London Trocadero Beers and innovation #13 – A panel that chats about the changes of relationships between developers and designers (costs £25 though, didn’t know that)
  • February 20th, somewhere in Leeds GeekUptalking about the YUI

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