I'm a developer in Melbourne, Australia, and co-founder of Hello Code.

Published Sat 29 September 2007

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Web Directions South 2007: A Review

Web Directions South 07 was my first ever web conference, and what an excellent introduction it was. Set over two days at the Sydney Convention Centre, the conference offered a range of talks on design, development and management of all things web-related. There were some really great speakers and I left feeling very inspired and motivated.

The turnout was great — around six hundred people, which is apparently double last year's amount, and a really great effort for the Australian industry I think. However it meant that upon turning up we were slightly overwhelmed! There was also a mini expo with stalls from the big sponsors such as Microsoft and Adobe, and some smaller names like Freshview and GlassOnion. Free stuff abounded — I just wish I'd been quicker to snare the very nice Adobe swag.

A couple of speakers really inspired me, so I thought I'd give them a bit of a plug before listing some other things I noted.

John Allsopp

John AllsoppJohn seen here looking very serious

John is one of the people responsible for organising the conference, and seems like a great guy. He gave an opening talk on day one, and I also attended his talk on predictions for the web. Both times he was so full of enthusiasm (and words!) that it seemed like he could keep talking for hours and still have something relevant and interesting to say.

John left me feeling very inspired and pumped to do something new and innovative.

Mark Pesce

Mark PesceMark likes walks along the beach and Robot Chicken references

Mark was absolutely brilliant. The choice to make him closing speaker was an excellent idea, as he is such an excellent public speaker I really left the conference on a high. Mark invented VRML back in the nineties and since then it seems he has not been resting on his laurels. A copy of his talk can be found here and it really is worth reading. Mark gave us an insight into the future of "mob rules" — what is happening as a result of the web's crumbling hierarchy. All I have to say is, I'm glad I have time to prepare...

The good, the not as good, and the interesting

I wasn't sure what level of technicality the talks would go into, and it turned out that very few discussed techniques at all — with the exception of a very helpful JavaScript talk, and the forms talk by A List Apart's Aaron Gustafson. So I suppose you could say the majority of the content was higher level, and discussed things like innovation, accessibility and the like in fairly broad terms. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. It's good in that it is relevant to a far wider audience than those at a specific level of skill in the particular language... but bad in that occasionally the content was far too simple in its desire to reach everyone. I don't want to name any names, but one talk on relationships between data basically descended into a repetition of the theme "explore the relationships between the data in your database". For almost an hour. I imagine ninety-nine percent of the people at Web Directions were there because they are professionals with experience who wish to expand their knowledge — not learn basic tips on database relationships.

As for the interesting things:

  • I saw at least eight Threadless tees (not including my own, which fortunately no-one else was wearing).
  • We got an apology from Microsoft's Chris Wilson for IE6! (Can I get that in writing please?)
  • There were a million and one Macs. If Macs are a metric for measuring designers then I guess the conference was 50% designer. I've never seen so many Macs in one place, and by the end of day two I almost wanted one. If only to play around with :)
  • There were also large number of women, which was great. You never hear about the women in our industry, and to be honest I assumed the number to be lower than it seems it actually is.

See you there next year

In all, I really enjoyed the conference and hope to make a regular thing of it (if I can afford it). Hopefully next year the content will be just as interesting, and I might even manage to network a bit more. I recommend it to anyone who wants to keep ahead of the curve in terms of technology and technique.

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