Christian Heilmann

Posts Tagged ‘conference’

Quick review: Reasons to be Appy in London

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Two days ago I did something new: for the first time ever I cycled to the place I was to give a talk. Two reasons: one of them was that the yellow thing that hates gingers was in the sky and the second was that Reasons to be appy took place in the LSO at St.Luke’s, which is 25 minutes by bike away from my place.

reasons to be appy audience

Reasons to be appy was a very packed one day conference about web apps and web development. It featured lots of great speakers and spanned quite a range of topics from typography, design and UX decisions up to debugging on mobiles. Each talk was 45 minutes with 10 minute breaks in between and a longer lunch break. All in all the format worked out pretty fine although I wondered if it wouldn’t be too much for the audience. There was no catered lunch, but it was simple for the attendees to go to the nearby market and grab something to eat.

My own talk, Moving your app-mind to the web (slides) revolved around the battle of native apps vs. web apps and some misconceptions we have about that clash. The screencast is available on

Here are my quick notes on the other talks, to see what you missed. Sadly enough there was no filming, but there are some slide decks available on lanyrd.

  • Peter Gregson’s “Playing the Cello game” was an inspired keynote talking about his goPlay app that allows musicians to have much less hardware on stage to create the new kind of chamber music for the now. Great stuff and I thought it was a clever idea to start with a classical musician in a location like the LSO
  • My talk was next – I hated that guy. So predictable to me
  • Microsoft’s Andrew Spooner was next with “We, human” – a roundup of connected devices throughout history and what interaction with day to day objects and the web can look like right now – I missed half of that as I normally need a break after my talks
  • Remy Sharp’s “Mobile Debugging” showed a lot of tools and ideas how to build and debug on various devices and was full of great “traps to avoid” information. It ended with Remy previewing the next generation of JSBin which allows remote execution of code on several devices
  • Tim Ahrens’ “New Font Technologies for New Media” was an in-depth talk about web fonts, font formats and rendering issues across various devices, platforms and browsers. It was very technical and detailed but interesting. Together with Jake Archibalds’ In your @font-face this can help people a lot doing the right thing when using fonts on the web (hint: include the bold font if you use bold text. Faux bolding is awful)
  • James Alliban and Keiichi Matsuda’s “Cell, Revealing the Digital Aura” was a talk about the Cell art installation at the Alphaville art festival which used a few kinnects and projection to show an “aura of tags” around people in the room symbolising their online identities. The project is pretty amazing and both Hames and Keiichi are veterans of visualisation and augmented reality. The talk was well structured and showed both their relationship in building the exhibit and the craft that went into it. The project is still going on and you can have it at your festival, too
  • Mark Boulton’s “When there’s Muck, there’s Brass” was a talk about patina in digital products. Mark called out for products to be more honest in what they are instead of trying to be something else. Fake wood, leather and textures in interfaces on a screen don’t make them more natural, they actually promise a tactile experience that is not there. Mark’s presentation style is absolutely lovely, he just rants about things and reminds himself and us of good stories leading to the conclusion he wants to bring across. Always good value.
  • Seb Lee Delisle’s “Pixelphones” is an experiment to turn all the phones of members of the audience into pixels and show animations and play games with the audience. Inspired by the Junkyard Jumbotron and of course the classic Blinkenlights it was once again a great example of how fearless Seb is when it comes to creating complex live code and push boundaries of audience interaction. Entertaining and fun. Now we need the source :)
  • “Escaping Flatland” by Brendan Dawes had a bit of Mark’s talk in it as Brendan explained the joy that was physical objects with flaws and how we could bring the same imperfection into the digital world instead of making things perfect all the time. He also reminded us that to build future product we have to stop the fake nostalgia about old ones. Things weren’t better in the past – we just want to remember what was good about them

All in all I liked all the talks and got some nice inspiration for some upcoming projects. There was not much about apps per se in any of them (except for mine and even there I didn’t show any code) but the idea was to show what is possible with the new tech we have right now and apps as the new consumer products. I liked just how approachable all of it was – there was no stargazing or blue sky thinking but instead a lot of “this was great, let’s do that again” and a copious amount of swearing on stage.

With Microsoft/Ubelly being one of the sponsors there were all in all 50 phones given out to the audience and there was a lot of hugging on stage. It was also impressive to see how the ubelly team built and dismantled a whole living room setting with kinnects, touch tables and windows8 showcases over the course of a day. It reminded me a bit of the house-elves in Harry Potter.

The next conference of the same organisers will be Reasons to be creative, both in New York and Brighton.

Evento Linux – HTML5 and the new challenge of “open”

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Today I gave a quick talk on HTML5 at the Evento Linux conference in Lisbon, Portugal. Originally I had planned for a longer keynote and when I realised I only had 20 minutes, I had to cut down a bit. Anyways, here are the slides and the audio recording of the talk:

The abbreviated presentation slides are available here

The audio recording of the talk is available on

You can also check the slides I had to skip below:

The full length presentation slides are available here.

All in all I had a good time and hope that I inspired a few people. Once I am on a better connection I will also upload some photos and the video of Tux eating its own birthday cake, so stay tuned.

Kings of Code – HTML5: Time for some slicker apps

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Yesterday I was in Amsterdam to speak at the Kings of code conference. My ambitious goal was to cover the relevant parts of HTML5 and CSS3 for backend developers in 25 minutes and I think I just about managed to reach it.

The presentation slides are available here and embedded below (use cursor keys to navigate back and forth):

The audio recording of the talk (raw, unedited) is available on

Overall the reaction was good, so I hope I managed to bust some myths and look forward to see what people do with the inspiration.

I had an accessibility hacking dream – RIP Scripting Enabled

Sunday, June 5th, 2011

Scripting enabled

About two years ago I had a dream and made it reality: I wanted to mix the crazy world of hackdays and unconferences and the world of accessibility.

In hackdays and unconferences developers show in a very short amount of time that they can solve a lot of problems and create great proof of concept products. These proofs can then be taken forward and changed into real products.

In the accessibility world we constantly complain that developers do not care enough about the needs of people with disabilities. We also complain about new technology not being helpful to disability needs or needs of the elderly.

I wanted to marry the enthusiasm of hackdays and the existing urge of developers to solve problems with the real life problems people who use the web have. I also wanted to dispel some myths around accessibility and show that you can be cool and innovative and also care for the needs of everybody.

Therefore I organised Scripting Enabled, a one day conference in which people with different disabilities showed the barriers that keep them from using the web and inviting a group of developers on the following day to build solutions to remove these barriers.

I was successful – I managed to pull off a free conference with a lot of attendees with only £200 out of my own pocket and caused some media attention and recorded a few good videos (which are on Yahoo Video – so I need to move them soon, drat!) raising awareness about disability needs on the web.

What I failed to do was my second agenda: to break down the barrier between the accessibility world and the development world and start a constant flow of hack and accessibility innovation.

I opened the idea of Scripting Enabled to everyone and invited people to hold their own. One other SE was held at Adobe in Seattle but that was it.

I started a mailing list and a Wiki – both dying of spam now and without any activity.

Probably this is all my fault – you just can’t start a new movement and build a community in a very saturated market like the internet is today with Facebook, Twitter, various mailing lists, Quora, Reddit, Stackoverflow and others all competing for our attention.

If I had constantly pushed for Scripting Enabled it might have hit off. I relied on the accessibility community to do that for me – alas, they didn’t and I actually have a hard time naming a working accessibility community that does not revolve around trying to push “accessible products”.

That is why I will archive Scripting Enabled as soon as I have time. I spend a lot of time deleting spam and I feel that there is no point in kicking this horse to trot on. It was a nice dream and a good first run. I am happy I did it but I don’t feel there is a point to try to repeat when there is no communication in two years.

Google I/O 2011 – impressions and reflections

Friday, May 13th, 2011

I just got back to my hotel after the merriments that were the Google I/O after party in the Thirsty Bear Brewery and thought it is time for some reflection on the event.

Google IO 2011

Overall impression

Google IO was a very good conference, I heard a lot of interesting news, met people I hadn’t seen in quite a while and got to know a lot of others. It is a huge event and there was no lack of things to keep you occupied. Showcase booths of software but also an amazing amount or Robots and other hardware demos, vehicles to play with and lots of breakout space made it a great place to learn, look and talk to each other and people in Google. The HR presence was very subtle and there was no brutal hiring drive you get at other events of this nature.

Catering was good, there was always coffee and drinks but the queues at lunch were very long indeed and I skipped a few meals to spend more time with folk instead.

The main stage visuals were top-notch and the quality of the A/V equipment amazing. Talks were recorded, streamed and transcribed live. Great stuff.

The wireless, on the other hand, was abysmal. This is partly the fault of the attendees who set up their own hotspots (despite the badge telling you explicitly not to do so) and thus saturating the wireless range. That there was no dedicated speaker lounge or network was an oversight I’d love to see rectified. I do enjoy tweeting and blogging about an event but couldn’t do so.

The party on the first day had real time animations synced to the music by Sexyvisuals, lots of drinks and a truckload of cool things to look at. Hardware hacks, futuristic vehicles and a photobooth all kept people busy.

The band was Jane’s Addiction and I can safely say they were totally out of place. Perry Farrell proved once again to be a d*ck by abusing Google and the audience on stage. All in all they just did not fit. This is a geek event. Why not get a geek band? This was money wasted.

Overall the organisation was spot-on. You knew where to go, what is happening and there was not much congestion although the amount of attendees simply makes that happen. There was a glitch with my name tag showing me as a Google speaker and not external and thus not allowing me to get free stuff but it was remedied quickly enough.

Swag, swag and some more swag

Talking of free stuff – people attending IO left laden with goodies. Originally I had hoped for Google to hand out new phones (as my Nexus One suffers from the known Off Button Failure) but going away with 3 T-Shirts, a mobile hotspot for the US (which saves me right now as the GBP 7.50 per MB of roaming is not fun), a Samsung Android tablet and the option to get my Chromebook as soon as they are out I really can’t complain. That doesn’t mean I didn’t hear people complaining! In addition to these “free for all” bits you also got extras for attending some special talks like an Experia phone at the gaming talk and a new Nexus S at the talk about Native Client. As I missed both this was not for me though. Drat.

A bumpy start

The conference started bad for me. I was asked to give a talk about HTML5 video and captioning/subtitling and was very chuffed about speaking at the great big Google event. It was tough for me to say no to two other conferences that had me listed as a speaker, and I still feel sorry about breaking my promise there. The blow came then when I arrived – as my talk got cancelled. So I was just to sit back, relax and enjoy the show instead of being a actor or part of the chorus line.

The talks I attended

I spent most of my time in the Chrome channel, so here is what I’ve seen with a quick one-liner about it. Most of these will be available as videos and the slides should be out somewhere, too.

  • WebGL Techniques and Performance – some great tips on making WebGL snappy – included fish, so it has to be native
  • Chrome Web Store Publisher Forum – this sounded interesting but was not for me. If you want to publish something on the store and make money, there were some good tips though.
  • Super Browser 2 Turbo HD Remix: Introduction to HTML5 Game Development – some great tips on how to build games.
  • HTML5 Today with Google Chrome Frame – a good introduction on how to rid the web of the scourge of old IE - now also available for people who are not admin on their windows machine.
  • Web Fonts are changing the Web. Learn why. – showcase of Google web fonts and the tools to easily use them. Some cool new features there. I thought the demo of creating a logo with a font was pointless though – why would I ever have to highlight and paste a logo?
  • HTML5 Showcase for Web Developers: The Wow and the How – amazingly cool HTML5 showcase demo! I loved how they built on some of the things in Web O’Wonder and explained the File APIs instead of just going “oh look, 3D!”
  • Mobile Web Development: From Zero to Hero – the UK Google boys showed some good tricks how to use HTML5 on handhelds
  • HTML5 & What’s Next – a glimpse into the next steps of making the browser a real app platform. Surprisingly a lot of CSS talk there (mixins, variables…) but also some very cool client side MVC ideas
  • Creating Accessible Interactive Web Apps using HTML5 – well intentioned talk with great presentation but awful content. I will write a lot more about this one soon.
  • Ignite I/O – always a great format and very cool talks this time.

Announcements I enjoyed

Over all IO had some amazingly cool announcements. Many got the Americans excited (movie streaming on Android and Google Music) but failed to make me happy as they are only available here. Others, however, got me very happy:

  • Chrome store going international has been a promise that took far too long to fulfil
  • Google entering the open hardware arena with an own Arduino project that works with Android. Some very cool demos were shown about that and it is great for hackdays.
  • Android getting spatial detection for cameras to allow for real 3D interfaces using the user’s field of vision
  • Chrome frame for non-admin users means a lot more people can say good-bye to IE6
  • Google fonts API getting extended to allow for faster web fonts
  • The new interactive WebGL song/movie 3 Dreams of Black pushing the envelope much cleaner and further than Wilderness Downtown (strange though that it is and not
  • Angry Birds for the web – I am so tempted to write a trainer menu now :)
  • Chromebooks coming out which are the grown up version of the CR48 pilot. I am not that excited for mom and dad end users but I see them as a great opportunity to get rid of old and outdated infrastructures in companies. Of course we need to get Office onto them somehow.
  • A lot of cool file API and sound APIs for Chrome which hopefully should be coming in other browsers, too.
  • Chromebooks coming with a built-in screen reader – you hear that Microsoft? Go ship NVDA with Windows!

Things I want to happen now

Well, for starters I can’t wait to get my hands on the Chrome book. I will also hunt down the HTML5 demos shown to get them fixed for other browsers and added to Mozilla Demo Lab and I will have a few talks with YouTube about captioning videos. And of course to have a good follow-up with all the people I met.