Friday 31 October 2014

The Web Is... Day Two

Took me a little while to prepare my notes for the second day of The Web Is… conference, mainly due to an ‘orrible cold that developed over the last week. I hope I haven’t given it to the lovely people I spoke to over the last few days!

Thank you once again to Craig and Amie Lockwood and all their helpers for a fantastic conference. I know they had a lot of trouble getting the conference organised, but the end result was very definitely worth it.

Craig — please keep organising more conferences! You have a rare skill in finding and curating talks that connect at many different levels —- and that challenge us to do better and improve the world.

Here are my notes for day two, complete with the additional Creative Morning session.

Creative Mornings: Crossover

  • creative mornings: 99 cities around the world
  • meeting once a month with a common theme across all
  • this month, the theme is Crossover

David Hieatt, Hiut Denim @davidhieatt

  • co-founded Howies
  • runs the Do Lectures
  • entrepreneurs fall in love with things so they don’t quit
  • have to choose something that you’re interested in
    • it will get tough and test you
  • vision: what have I seen that others haven’t
  • intersection of skill, interest & vision
    • where you’re most alive
  • fight a battle you can win
  • denim factory in wales used to be biggest jeans factory in UK
  • employed 400 people, made 35K pairs of jeans a week for decades
  • tried to be cheapest — not the right battle
  • in UK have to use our creativity
  • dreams should not be logical or sensible
    • should scare you!
  • currently employing 14 people — quite a way to go
  • but everyone in the town has decades of experience making jeans
  • there are people in the factory who have 50,000 hours of experience
  • the elite makers club
  • but quality isn’t enough
  • need to find ideas to act as multipliers
  • hiut denim: an ideas company that makes jeans
  • Richard Seymour: the more you operate in the future, the less competition you will have
  • lots of small experiments
  • small company — move fast
  • jeans have history tags on them
    • 6 photos of them being made
    • plus you can upload new photos for their history
    • when the jeans get handed down, you can see their history
  • 80% of environmental impact is the washing, not the making
    • hence no wash club
    • people doing crazy things to not wash for 6 months or more
  • people want to wear used jeans
    • so sent out jeans to people to break in
    • they would get their deposit back when returned
    • then receive 20% of resulting sale
  • facetime store
    • will create a custom fit for you from a facetime call
  • instagram is going to change stores
  • your best project is the one that’s in front of you now

The Web Is… Like Water

Scott Jenson @scottjenson

  • standardising pull to refresh, just like the steering wheel…?
  • but steering wheels started as tillers with rear wheel steering
  • User Unfriendly, Joseph J Corn
    • people preferred the tiller at the time
    • needed irreversible steering to prevent too much feedback from potholes
  • browsers have a DOS prompt on the top…
    • the browser needs a browser
  • the web = Loki — proud, vs iPhone = the Hulk
    • “I am a God, you dull creature. I will not be bullied”
    • …body slam…
  • the web is currently following native, not driving the future
  • we have app myopia
  • “thin crust of effort” around apps
    • people will only install them if they’re important
  • apps are our technology tiller…
  • Apple iBeacons are per-app at the moment
    • go into a mall — install one app for each store…
    • then delete them all afterwards as they’re all crap
  • the web is good at the long tail
  • break down the internet of things into several layers
    • coordination
      • devices talking to each other
      • toast automatically ready when you come down for breakfast
      • cool but will take a while
    • control
      • where we are right now
    • discovery
      • commonly ignored — usually “download our app”
  • think small — just a bit of information for each thing
  • Bluetooth Low Energy beacons just broadcasting a URL
    • like QR codes but without having to get so close
  • URL with information
    • bus stop
  • URL that sends info back to the device
    • vending machine
    • GSM modems are really cheap
    • Sigfox offers $1/year plans
  • URL with javascript talking BLE direct to object
    • object can make use of all the capabilities of the phone
    • so much cheaper per device
    • Chrome already has Bluetooth library but behind Chrome apps
    • but creating a proposal with Mozilla to put into web sandbox
  • two kinds of ideas:
    • truck ideas — products
    • road ideas — infrastructure
  • Malcolm McLean — invented container shipping
    • created lots of patents then gave them away
    • realised he would make more by having a smaller percentage of larger market
  • physical web beacon
    • currently no security etc — just for testing
    • configure it by pressing the button
  • the Google Chrome team is staffed by boy scouts
    • just want more URLs in the world

The Web Is… Still Young

Benjamin Hollway @benjaminhollway

Slides available at

  • how can we support young coders under 18?
  • cheap/free tickets for conferences
  • opportunities to speak
    • unique perspective
  • alternative after party venues
    • accessible to people who can’t drink or are too young
  • help introduce kids to computing
  • mentoring
    • work experience
    • paid internships — 2-3 weeks during summer holiday
    • deeper insight into how the industry works
  • future
    • inclusivity
    • < 5% use IE, but at least that or more have disabilities

The Web Is… Turning Difficulties Into Opportunities

Robin Christopherson, @USA2DAY

  • AbilityNet: leading experts in technology & disability
  • also do assessments: one of first was Prof. Stephen Hawking
  • technology can really help people with disabilities
  • light detector
    • helps to see if lights/indicators are on or off
    • especially for enabling oven light (they don’t make speaking ovens)
  • talking goggles
    • reads any text from camera
    • also recognises some images
  • word lens
    • translates and can then read out using voiceover
  • TABs — temporarily able bodied
    • it’s likely everyone will have some kind of some kind of disability eventually in their lives
  • also mobile use cases are often very similar to accessibility cases
  • a blind date with an iPhone
    • woman prepares all her responses before the date…
  • google glass captioned audio
    • speak into Android phone, see captioned audio on glass screen
  • FaceXpress
    • identifies emotions from faces
  • live facial recognition
    • identify people coming to your door if you’re bed-bound
  • directions in maps apps
    • audio directions are very powerful
  • Moto Hint
    • Google Now as an earbud
  • IBM Watson now has a developer kit
  • self-driving cars
    • 30% of city driving is looking for a space
    • eliminating human error accidents
    • need to have speech output
    • otherwise can’t tell if arrived or just stopped at a traffic light!
  • direct brain interface
    • completely paralysed woman able to move a robot arm
  • technology4good lifetime award given to Prof. Hawking
  • 73% of people with a vision impairment are out of work
    • there’s no longer any reason why they can’t work

The Web Is… Too Slow

Andy Davies @AndyDavies

  • shopdirect (run littlewoods brand):
    • on average, each purchase is across 2.4 devices
  • Tammy Everts: only 12% of top 100 US retail sites render feature content under 3 seconds
  • we perceive delays around the 1s mark
    • 100ms appears instantaneous
    • 200-300ms fast enough
    • 1s start to feel it
    • > 1s we start to task switch
  • the web is for everybody …but only if we make it that way
  • Chris Zachariah: made youtube pages faster
    • but time to view video went down
    • turns out they were reaching new audiences
    • that hadn’t been able to use the site at all before
  • Guardian’s new design:
    • speed was a feature in the press release
  • Walmart have released conversion rate vs load time
    • all conversions concentrated in first 4 secs of load time
  • Staples increased conversions by 10%
    • cut 1s from median home page
    • 6s from 98th percentile
  • we’re more tolerant of slow experiences in some cases
    • when we’re more committed, e.g. further into conversion funnel
    • when we’re used to it
  • kayak study: we don’t trust comparison sites that are too quick…
  • Matias Duarte: “design is finding solutions within constraints .. if no constraints, it’s not design but art”
  • need to set a performance design constraint
    • e.g. an event that matters to the user happens within a certain time under certain network conditions
  • doesn’t mean anything to measure page sizes or number of objects
  • Etsy: have lots of feature flags
    • all staff see a performance bar at the top of the page
    • indicates if the page has met requirements
  • PerfBar
    • plugins for different browsers and sites
  • WebPageTest
    • can run tests & set a budget based on competitor sites
  • speedcurve
    • used by the guardian
    • have a performance chart outside the financial director’s office
    • performance budget lines coming in November
  • headline network speed doesn’t include latency
    • often matters more than bandwidth
  • network connection closer to a bucket brigade than a pipe
  • TCP has a slow start algorithm that directly affects initial page latency
  • rendering:
    • CSS Object Model blocks Javascript execution
    • Javascript blocks DOM construction
    • complex CSS can really slow the initial rendering
  • dealing with fonts
    • Ilya Gregorik suggested new font-timeout & font-desirability properties
    • would allow us to choose to render the page without the font
  • HTTP/2 has server push
    • server can push additional files that it knows the browser will want
    • if the browser has a cached version, it can reject the push

Slides will be available at (eventually)

The Web Is… Our Responsibility

Sally Jenkinson @sjenkinson

  • concept keyboards provided touch-based input to BBC Micros back in 1984
  • symbiotic relationship between technology and experiences
  • remember it’s as much about people as it is about development
  • all the roles need to work together
    • e.g. performance cuts through all layers
  • responsive design mostly seen to be to do with screen widths
  • but there’s much more (especially in CSS level 4 draft)
    • whether the device supports hover affordances
    • the current ambient light level
  • invisible requirements
  • Open Data Institute guest book
    • iPad with keyboard
    • can sign in with touch or typing
    • or can add an existing RFID card (e.g. Oyster or bank card) to check-in in future
  • GE Healthcare adventure series
    • MRI scanner dressed up as spaceship
    • children can imagine the spaceship rumbling through space
    • much less scary
  • be aware of the choices we make
  • try to think beyond ourselves
  • you are responsible for things you build
  • if someone presents you with something that you don’t agree with, then question it
    • even if it’s not officially your responsibility
  • try and educate people as to why things should be done differently
  • if you are in a big project that you disagree with, try and make little changes

The Web Is… Read/Write

Owen Gregory, editor @FullCreamMilk

  • acts as a conduit between writer and reader
  • the web has a closer relationship between writers and readers
  • publishers & editors need to be advocates in their community
  • jason santamaria: where is the cultural and aesthetic discourse on web design
    • writing is mostly about the new techniques and looking forward
    • where does a common language for web design discourse start?
  • jakob nielsen: we should accept that the web is too fast moving for big picture description
  • book: nicely said: writing for the web with style and purpose
    • nicole fenton & kate kiefer lee
  • Sir Thomas Browne: The Garden of Cyrus
    • drawing parallels between lots of different fields
  • W G Sebald: The Rings of Saturn
    • new style of writing, referring to the author
    • tracking Thomas Browne’s work
  • deploying a text can be a continuous process — Mandy Brown
    • comments, talks, reframing, etc.

The Web Is… Progress

Mr Bingo, @mr_bingo

instagram: mr_bingstagram

  • apparently the web is blue…
  • D&AD brief: put the fun back in to the web
  • hand-drawn aesthetic — much easier in flash…
  • 2010 selling prints of drawings for £5 each for Haiti earthquake
  • internet commenting is like toilet graffiti
  • worried that if I die, when my life flashes before my eyes, all I will see is square pictures of food
  • weird stock photography… (just watch the talk!)
  • opened a service for sending people insults on postcards

The Web Is… Progress

Brad Frost @brad_frost

  • web enabled linking to anything we want (was a radical change…)
  • open by default
  • the most sharing community in the world
    • e.g. css-tricks license
    • “I want the web to get better and being all Johnny Protective over everything doesn’t get us there”
  • pittsburgh food bank
  • why share?
    • because we can — it’s cheap
    • but it can be really uncomfortable
    • other people can contribute
  • trying to solve everyone’s problem is in some cases easier to solve just your own
    • an idea can snowball into a plugin just a few hours later
  • our first drafts can have their own value
    • in some cases they can have more value than the finished work
  • the web is for everyone — but that means all the violence, hate and anger as well…
  • guardian, bbc and designing in the open
  • other companies and even other countries can use this as a blueprint for their own work
  • each of us is individual and has unique different experiences
  • knowledge is an iterative and cumulative process
  • depending on sharing and combining our different perspectives
  • even if lots of people contribute similar things, they still contribute
    • e.g. 162,000 youtube videos on how to re-wire a plug
  • your post might not be the most original, but it might be the one that tips over the scales
  • it has never been easier in the history of the world to contribute to the knowledge of the world

Thursday 30 October 2014

The Web Is... Day One

Another excellent conference from Craig Lockwood — and this is only the first day.

I’m always impressed by the groundedness and open-hearted feeling I get when I attend Craig’s conferences. He curates the speakers not just for their intellectual knowledge and not just for inspiration, but also for their ability to connect to and understand the world and the people in it.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow!

The Web is… Knowledge

Christopher Murphy @fehler, Teaches MFA at Belfast School of Art

  • recommended reading
  • interaction design course (part of Master in Fine Arts)
    • get started with a github profile
  • teaching to see:
    • bauhaus model & visual grammar
    • point > line > plane
  • charlie munger
    • warren buffet’s business partner at Berkshire Hathaway
    • latticework of mental models
    • learning new models in related fields
    • all useful fields to understand interaction design…
  • lollapalooza effect
    • power of ideas together is greater than each by themselves
    • e.g. put a designer & developer together and get more than you would get by themselves
  • nuance and human interaction easier to learn from humans
  • master and apprentice
    • not just a one way relationship
    • master learns to see the world in a new way with fresh eyes
  • apprentice moves on then becomes a journeyman
    • going to different masters
    • gradually starting to teach others
  • ken robinson: have to move to an organic process of education
  • teach a whole mind:
    • need self-belief, manners, confidence, politeness
    • as well as skills in business, design, technology, etc
  • universities move at a glacial pace
    • takes 5 years to change a curriculum…
  • short form courses
    • patterns: josh long
    • general assembly
  • those who can, do; those who care teach

The Web is… Constant

How do we design for constant change… and not go mad

Nathan Ford @nathan_ford, Monotype,

  • web design not yet nailed down as a discipline
  • creating repeated success in a volatile environment
  • previously worked as Creative Director at Mark Boulton Design
    • these ideas come from that time
  • team
    • bring the client into the team
    • or bring your team into the client
    • embedding
    • learn empathy…
  • look for a champion on the client side
    • someone who trudges through all the muck
    • make sure they can involve all the stakeholders
    • get the problem stakeholders involved as early as possible
  • no big reveal — eliminate surprises & blame
  • wicked problems
    • term from sociology: massive problems that are hard to define and difficult to resolve
    • web sites are a simpler thing, but their implications often make them behave like a wicked problem
  • measure goals by improvement, not completion
  • when you don’t know, try a lot of things
    • don’t be afraid to throw stuff away
    • failure is ok, but you must keep learning
  • ensure the client writes the user stories
    • can help with a workshop to elucidate
  • work in iterations
    • each iteration should include research, design & building
    • then evaluate and repeat
    • don’t forget to evaluate…
  • always have an available prototype
    • brings the pain of the project earlier
    • lets them show the working consensus to others
  • start with real content
    • if you don’t have any, make it up (NOT lauren ipsum…)
    • motivates client to actually make their own
  • build out grids from content
    • grids within grids
    • content-based items
    • no high-level overarching
  • choose the right css units
    • percent for scaling
    • vw & vh for headlines & page framing — relative to the viewport
    • pixels for media queries — one to one, easier to understand
    • ems and exes for typography
      • exes work better with newer web fonts
      • work on x-height
  • let things get big: but limit on content items
  • example: typekit blog — building out a design based on the Chapparal typeface
  • also leads to simpler testing
    • but still need to test on devices
    • especially type sizes — can be surprising on actual hardware…

The Web is… Everywhere

What we can learn from console browsers

Anna Debenham @anna_debenham,

  • new style of inputs: gestures & voice
  • think about small screen and a very big screen
  • everywhere you can stick a screen, eventually there will be a browser
  • “don’t fall prey to convenience of device silos” cameron moll
  • console browser users are (currently) likely to be younger and lower income
  • consoles and web TVs have low memory
  • performance is crucial
  • the xbox browser can pretend to be a windows mobile device
    • probably added to allow simpler interfaces
  • large screen doesn’t always mean more pixels…
  • handheld consoles often have very wide screens
    • often misidentified to show full fat design
    • should probably have a simpler design
  • the PS Vita includes Amazon’s Kindle Fire Silk UA in its agent string…
  • dual screens often have odd behaviour
    • Nintendo 3DS has two screens with different widths…
  • Wii U aiming to be a full entertainment system
    • four different ways to zoom
    • really important for viewing web on TV when text is often too small
    • supports various presentation modes
      • turning mirroring on and off
      • draw curtains, prepare then reveal
      • play video on main screen, while continue to browse
    • can use multiple wiimotes as pointers
  • similar for xbox one
    • using xbox smartglass app
    • supports split screen: game/tv + browser
    • voice and gesture works really well
  • vimeo couch mode:
    • user choice for big screen support
  • microsoft’s design for xbox and windows phone is truly scalable
  • x-webkit-speech — for speech synthesis
    • currently Google Chome only…
  • microsoft has a design guide for kinect
    • really good read to understand gesture design
  • 30% of people this year used a smart TV to browse the web

The Web Is… Playful

See Lee-Delisle @seb_ly

    • used microphones to detect nerf bullets hitting a screen
  • smashingconf opening animation
    • laser light show mapped onto a dome & pipe organ…
    • definitely worth watching the video
  • lunar trails
    • records its trails into
    • then built a physical arcade machine
    • full screen browser, controlled by an arduino pretending to be a keyboard
    • all linked up to a giant wall-hanging plotter
    • based on polar plotter, but using DC servos rather than stepper motors
  • playfulness on the web has died a little bit
    • the little flash games got taken over by the marketing agencies
    • became viral campaigns that nobody wanted
  • internet of things — nobody knows what it’s for yet
    • much more space for being playful :-)

The Web Is… In The Hands of the 97ers

Emma Mulqueeny, Founder of Rewired State and Young Rewired State @hubmum

  • people born in 1997 and later, grew up with social media
  • those born at the beginning have no leadership
  • Ivan Illich: deschooling society
    • “educational webs … transform each moment … into learning, sharing & caring”
  • the 97ers are already doing peer-to-peer learning
  • the discussion about teaching how to code is almost irrelevant
    • the teachers won’t be teaching how to learn line by line
    • role of all-knowing teacher will become irrelevant
    • much about flipping the classroom and enabling the teacher as guide
  • refugees united: dealing with families split up as they crossed the Somali > Kenya border
    • refugees would have similar names, might lie as they’re scared etc
    • YRSer Kevin figured out that storytelling was important
    • designed service to speak a local story into the phone
    • then find stories that roughly match
    • reunited families went from 3% to over 79%
  • identity is crucial to 97ers
    • their stories (not their names) are their identifier
    • tagged photos
    • peer verification
  • try not to police community as that affects identity
  • have a very early understanding of how to influence community
    • they get immediate feedback from youtube/facebook/etc
    • have figured out how to tweak and skew their message until it works
    • can be quite an arrogant generation — they know how to get those likes…
  • going into the world
    • the most unsafe thing they could do would be to work for a big organisation
    • self-employment is much more attractive — feels safer
    • not about making lots of money — more about long-term employment
  • the Wi-Fi is the bedrock of their needs
    • it’s the gateway to their community and therefore their support network
  • they can’t engage with politics until 18 — it’s too late…
    • they engage with policies rather than parties

The Web Is… All Consuming

Keir Whitaker @keirwhitaker, Shopify

Best to watch this when the video comes out — I couldn’t do it justice with notes.

  • daily todo: 1 big thing, 3 medium things, some small things

Phil Hawksworth, R/GA @philhawksworth

  • Paul Downey’s 2008 “uberdoodle”: The URL is the Thing
  • Ted Nelson: coined the terms hypertext, hypermedia & transclusion (and teledildonics…)
  • you can link to anything from anywhere — the whole becomes more than the sum of its parts
  • :// => “double-meh”
  • Paul Downey: The Web is Agreement
  • browsers are very liberal in what they accept
  • browsers starting to obscure URLs
    • mobile Safari already hides everything but the host
    • Chrome Canary doing similar thing
    • Jake Archibald: the URL is the share button of the web
  • taco bell #onlyintheapp — no longer have any content on their website
    • and only with access to lots of permissions on your phone
  • google experimented with different shades of blue for links (#41shades)
    • apparently the change made about $200m difference
    • but they lost a designer who said he couldn’t argue for all his design decisions
  • this is for everyone (with javascript enabled) — Dan Williams
  • more than 60% of population of India & China is still offline
    • we will need to support them…

Unfinished Business Geek Mental Help @ The Web Is

An enormously important discussion, started by Andy Clarke a few days ago.

The discussion was recorded as an episode of Unfinished Business and included Chris Murphy, Cole Henley, Relly Annett-Baker and @pumpkinsouper.

There are many more articles to be read at — go and read, even if you think you don’t need to.

I think the most crucial advice I heard, was “keep talking” — this discussion is not over…