Christian Heilmann

Posts Tagged ‘london’

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.

FOWA London – Get excited and build things (and a browser panel)

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Yesterday I went to London to deliver the opening Keynote at the Future of Web Apps. In it, I reminded people of using the web to build apps on the web, why it makes sense to build with open technologies and showed off some of the new technologies.

The presentation slides are available here

The audio recording of the talk is available on

In the afternoon we also had a browser panel with participants from Mozilla, Google, Microsoft and Opera. My colleague Dan Horner was busy taking notes (impressive, thanks!):


Alex Russell – Google (JS standards commitee)
Giorgio Sardo – Microsoft
Patrick Lauke – Opera
Chris Heilmann – Mozilla

1. Question: How do you choose standards and prioritise them

A – Google – Extolling getting together rather than 1st mover disadvantage. Chrome’s goal is to understand what web developers need, and try to get vendors to join them; either by implementing and shipping first, or taking and pushing standards forward.
A – Microsoft – Iteration is key – pushing a standard out, and iterating to prioritise.

2. Question: If someone wants to lobby; who do they talk to?

A – Microsoft – We want feedback; incredibly important, whether enterprise or individual feedback. Discussed community groups; allows users / developers to participate. By getting a minimum of 5 people together, which allows a proposal to be considered by the W3C board. Join W3C community groups.
A – Opera – Looking at what other browsers are doing / WebKit as an example – they follow what’s going on in the WK community; and prioritise it. Large section of Opera team in developer relations, and attend (or speak at) many conferences. Get a feel for what the other browsers are doing, but try to prioritise what their end users and developers want.
A – Mozilla – Bugs is the fastest way to do it. Best way to do it – and better than using Twitter / Social media. Security is very key in testing: raised example of a full screen UI, that could potentially trick you into entering information under false pretences.

3. Question – Desktop versus mobile

A – Microsoft – Have been in desktop and mobile for a while ( quote: could debate how successful we’ve been). WIndows Phone 7 – Mango update – they’re now shipping IE9 mobile with every client. Have started sending out 1-2 weeks ago. 50% have updated to 7.5, and are planning to have everyone updated by the end of the month. IE9 is exactly the same engine on desktop as on mobile. They think that the expectation for developers is that it should be equal.
A – Opera – Have been in the mobile space for a while: mentioned Opera mini, how it precluded Amazon by a long way. Opera mobile also exists. Core rendering engine is identical between the two. Pretty much on par with desktop and mobile (Opera mini is updated automatically as it’s processed through a server).

3b. Question – Are there any Opera features which aren’t supported on mobile that are there on desktop

A – Opera – They think they’re pretty close between the two (although could be a delay of a couple of weeks to have parity with each update.
A – Google – Chrome is not the Android browser. The Android browser has a lot of the same technology that WebKit / ChromeKit have. Chrome is the same for every platform it’s supported on (Windows, Mac, Linux, Chrome OS).

4. Question – Any frustrations (initially asked about Chrome)?

A – Google – Bandwidth caps; no server rendering available.
A – Mozilla – Firefox comes out every 6 weeks; cool new features all the time. Mobile Firefox is being taken very seriously – kicking and screaming and on par with desktop now. However different devices have different challenges. On mobile we’re concentrating on performance, as well as sync – user experience between desktop and mobile.

5. Question – How fast is Microsoft updating IE?

A – Microsoft – In two years since IE 8 - have updated release cycle. They want to ship a new developer version every 8-10 weeks. Want to show prototyping as it’s happening with risky experiments. Have new environment HTML5 labs – where they prototype and iterate; they prototype, test, and then push successful features into the main release.

5b Google Q to Msoft – Thinks there’s problems with lag in updates. Creates a limiting factor with new features – what’s with the half life of IE when Windows Phone is auto-updated.

A – Microsoft – Microsoft has a support in place that lasts 10 years; that’s why they still support IE6.

6. Question – Testing: How do you recommend folks in the room test your browser

A – Mozilla – suggests having the latest stable build, have the next beta – to make sure the next 3 months will work. Make sure you know the OS / browser split of your audience and test that. Chris holds testers in high regard. In mobile devices; thinks it’s very important to test on the device itself. Has a separate laptop for testing. – is where you can test for old versions.
A – Google – hopes that there aren’t old versions of Chrome. Would like admins to let them know if there are older versions out there (there shouldn’t be). Suggests checking current version and beta.
A – Opera – there are older users out there. Recommends you should test the current and beta version (Opera Next). They also have Opera Labs, that allow users to test APIs like the camera in your device. Can also test through TVs as well (although some TV OEMs block this). Reinforced Christians view that developers should get 1-2 devices and test directly on them (although there is an emulator that helps).
A – Microsoft – they have builds for all old versions of IE - Mentioned Expression Web Super Preview – tool that allows you to test every single version of every browser (including non IE): submits to the cloud and sends back not only the image but also the DOM. Allows you to test graphical issues for all operating systems and browsers.

Last 10 minutes – talking about the future

7. Question – What do you think will be happening in the next 10 years to browsers (in particular TVs)

A – Opera: Excited by ubiquity through platformisation. Excited about giving even more power to the browser; e.g tilt sensor, camera. Have browsers that can interact with the hardware. Being able to run almost native app experiences in the browser itself. Using canvas, user media, geolocation to build Alternative Reality Apps. Opera believe that sticking points of giving access to Camera (e.g security) need to be fixed.
A – Mozilla: Identity is the big thing. Not having to log in using separate accounts. Wants passwords to die – brought up lifehacker password steal. Wants browsers to own the identity, and have different personas for different web uses, and not tracked (or tracked differently) when looking at Cats, or looking at serious work. Then brought up example of Wii, PS3, Kinnect – how these sort of UX changes could be the future.
A – Microsoft: Applications, Games and Marketplaces – will be the new freshness for Consumers. For developers; responsive design will be very important – building from a smartphone to a large television; sees CSS3 introducing a lot more here.

8. Question – About Chrome: Thinks confusion of building Chrome App v. Native App is not good

A – Chrome – You can use Chrome packaging format, but a lot of developers are using metadata – really no more than a redirect to the website and App-Caching – high res icon and description, and that’s all that takes to build a Chrome App. They have more than 140 million users; nearly all of them have used a web App

9. Question – Are you building an App-store?

A – Microsoft: No comment on App stores
A – Mozilla – working on a store, but most important thing is distribution. Mentioned that Chrome should be doing this [Google – A – working on this]

Want to work for Yahoo? We’re looking for web developers in the UK and the US.

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

A new year is coming which always means new opportunities. If you think Yahoo is a place to work and help us build the biggest web sites on the internet here’s your chance. Requirements are:

  • Hand-coded (X)HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
  • Solid knowledge of standards-based, accessible, cross-browser web development
  • Basic PHP or other front-end language (e.g. Python, Perl, Ruby) programming skills
  • Experience in developing web applications with rich client interfaces using AJAX, drag and drop, and other DOM Scripting techniques.
  • Experience with JavaScript libraries such as jQuery, Prototype, and especially the YUI
  • Experience developing functionality/applications by assembling existing code modules
  • User-level experience with *IX-style command line (BSD/Linux)
  • Experience using version control systems such as CVS & Subversion, including branching and merging
  • Experience with bug tracking software

The full job specification for the UK is here= and the US openings are also available.

The US jobs are located in Sunnyvale, California and the UK ones in Covent Garden, London, bang in the centre of theatreland and a stone-throw from Soho.

You can also send me your CV or contact me on Twitter: @codepo8

Young rewired state in London on the 22nd of August – hacking for teens!

Friday, August 7th, 2009

I just got pinged by Dan Morris of the BBC on Facebook (yeah it is up again) about a really cool event in London on the 22nd of August:

Hack the Government, 22-23 August @ Google.


Young Rewired State is a free two-day hackday for young people work in
small teams to create software hacks using open Government data.

Government will be there and listening to what you have to say and
show. Groups will present at the end of the event to press, web &
business judges, and representatives from Government – There will be


22-23 August at the Google offices in London.

If you want, you can bring your parent along with you, we’ll promise
to keep them busy while you hack. Support is available for travel and
overnight stay for you if you need it.

The date is getting close now so please signup now if you’re
interested in attending!


We’re expecting a mix of technical ability, so chances are you’ll fit
in just fine. So, whether you just dabble with HTML or dream in
machine code, this event is for definitely for you!

We have the largest set of open Government data going, all available
for you to use. Experienced hacker mentors will be assigned to groups,
and can help as much or as little as you need.


Pass it on!


Soho is so hot right now – huge fire in Soho, London

Friday, July 10th, 2009

I just thought my laptop was broken as it was smelling of burning plastic in the office, but it turned out to be a massive fire some streets down in Soho, London (that is not Soho,NYC).

I am very impressed with the job the firefighters have done to stop the fire from spreading. It also shows once again that it is great to have a camera and a fast internet connection handy. As the above video and all the other photos of the Soho fire I’ve taken are creative commons, the Metro newspaper used them on their site.