Web Directions South

I just returned from a lovely vacation in Sydney where I also happened to fit in a few days of geekery by attending Web Directions South. I wanted to attend this conference because I was excited about the people I could meet being on the other side of the world and I have never done a Web Directions event before and I have heard so many good things about them. Plus, who wouldn’t want to go to Sydney?

Overall I was extremely impressed with the entirety of the event. John and Maxine did such a great job in finding diverse, interesting speakers and the keynotes truly were fantastic and thought provoking talks. I heard a lot of great people, had some awesome conversations and am so glad I went.

A few highlights for me:

  • Stephen P. Anderson talking about sustaining passionate users in the end of day keynote on the first day, he conveyed a lot of what has made me uneasy about the gamification craze of late, as he called it “badgification.” In my workplace we have someone really into the concept, but I don’t think games are right for every situation and I also think people tire and bore of them easily, there needs to be more meat there than earning points and badges to keep people engaged. One of the interesting things Stephen has learned is that the applications people use regularly are the ones they trust and that are reliable, not because they are a delight to use or even close to perfect.
  • John Allsopp revisited his Dao of Web Design article from 11 years ago. I really enjoyed the way John mixed the quotes from the Dao on the screen with the points he was making about the web and the lasting thought from him (excuse my paraphrase from my scrawled notes) is that the strength of the web is that it takes the control out of our hands and puts it in the hands of the user. This is hard, it’s hard to have so many different devices and scenarios where someone may be accessing our content, but the challenge is what makes it so interesting. A final point he made is to try and stop controlling the web, but harness the adaptability of it. This talk was inspiring to me and I’m still sorting through and thinking about the ideas he presented. I scribbled as many notes as I could and I’m sure I’ll be going back and listening to the podcast when it is available.
  • Rahul Sen did a talk entitled “Interaction Design Bauhaus” and I admit that I wasn’t quite sure what it would be about but I stuck around out of sheer curiosity. I am so glad that I did, it was one of my favorite sessions. He took us through the different movements of historical design, mostly using architecture to illustrate them (he was originally an architect). It was a fascinating walk through history, but then he tied that history to what is happening now in interaction design. We are currently making new forms and containers for design and interaction and currently we are using look and feel of the old ones, making calendars in the iOS look like old desktop calendars, but really we need to break out of that and let ourselves think differently. He spoke highly of Windows Phone 7 because the design is so different from iOS and he’s hoping it will push some new and creative design ideas out there. He talked about the phase we are now in as needing to let go of the old look and feel of things and needing to return to an honesty and purity in interaction digital experiences. It was a great talk and I highly recommend the podcast once it’s out, it will be worth it.
  • I also went to several different technical talks and I honestly can’t wait to get the slides and start playing with the CSS3 in more detail, Stephanie did a great presentation on it as did her husband Greg, most impressive was the demo of the CSS Shaders that Adobe has proposed. I learned about a lot of great tools for CSS from Nicole, and can’t wait to start using them in my day-to-day  work life. In addition to this, once I’m more deeply into JavaScript, I want to learn more about Coffeescript, as Jeremy spoke I realized I need to learn more about it. I laughed my way through Relly’s talk on microcopy, but was also reminded how important it really is, and James really challenged me to think a lot about what is happening in our world and the new aesthetic as he calls it (be sure to catch the video of this when it comes out).

Thank you so much to Web Directions for putting together such a fantastic couple of day. I’ll be pondering many of the things said for quite some time to come and I can’t wait to try out the many coding ideas as well. All of the talks will be coming out as podcasts, so I suggest you check them out, well worth the time. And the video of James Bridle should be amazing as well.