dConstruct 2006Sunday, September 10, 2006
The event known as dConstruct 2006 is over. Its an interesting event - a decent selection of speakers. I was a little put-off by the madgex sales pitch. Perhaps I'm jaded by my positive experiences of BarCamp and @media 2006 - particularly the latter where the organisers make great efforts to avoid sales pitches in their speaker spots.
Amazon web services
Jeff Barr's presentation was interesting, leading us through the diverse web services offerings of the Amazon Web Services platform. The built in torrent support in S3 - their shared storage facility - is an exceptional boon to podcasters. Even though they pay the download costs of media stored on their service, the nature of Bit Torrent means that the number of downloads from their S3 storage is greatly minimised for popular and regular podcasts.
The Mechanical Turk struck a chord with both of us. Here was a system for allocating out human-powered microtasks. This can benefit disabled people in two ways:
- Allowing a person who is battling to get through a CAPTCHA challenge by submitting the CAPTCHA image as a task - with appropriate payment, and hopefully a rapid response, and the visitor has the answer, and the CAPTCHA barrier minimised.
- Pixeldiva had a better idea - the mechanical turk offers people working from home an opportunity to complete tasks for micropayments. That means people can work when they like and for as long as they need or want to. This offers a means of supplementing their incomes. Disabled people with internet access are particularly benefitted by this sort of offering.
Yahoo! web services
Simon Willison and Paul Hammond talked about the mashup culture growing within Yahoo! and highlight some of the solutions that resulted from Hack Day activities. Simon is preoccupied with mapping APIs and the Flickr APIs - the combination results in a number of imaginatively useful APIs. Some of the lesser known, but equally impressive mashups were outlined, including an interesting "link the prime minister" mashup that combined details from Yahoo's keyword extractor with Wikipedia's entries on Prime Ministers.
The other interesting Mashup was Flickr's recent geo mapping addition - which allows pictures to be geo-tagged. With a maps mashup its possible to see at a glance all the pictures taken in a particular region of the world.
Joy of ... the afternoon
Jeremy Keith talks about his web love affair, from the days of creating his band's website, through to his interest in APIs. He compares various APIs, and not surprisingly Flickr takes the biscuit, particulary because of its new geo-tagging APIs.
Fish and chips down on Brighton pier ensured that we missed Aral Balkan's Flex 2 presentation. I was a little gutted, but not as gutted as the piece of cod on my plate. So Paula and I snuck back to complete the big Soduku puzzle next to the Yahoo! answers bus.
At last it was Derek's slot - a talk I've been eagerly awaiting ever since I bought tickets for dConstruct. With Ajax style applications all the rage, best practice for accessibility still remains a few steps behind even after the marvellous work done by Gez Lemon and Steve Faulkner.
Derek's presentation covered a number of live examples of typical AJAXian widgets that go horribly wrong. Even the web-standards based Corkd.com fell apart under Derek's scrutiny. I'll cover Derek's presentation in a separate entry, but suffice to say it was the best presentation there.
I did finally catch up with Niqui Merret and Aral Balkan. I have to admit I didn't cotton on that she was the one who dealt with my registration early that morning. A recent haircut was quite sufficient disguise for her!
The final speaker was Jeff Veen - and after his brilliant talk at @media earlier this year, someone not to be missed. Spectacular again, Veen talked about the concepts of usability - about thinking in terms of customers when constructing sites, including talking their language. Information architecture was a key point - its not enough to define the absolute perfect architecture for the launch of a website, it has to adapt to when new content is added.
The sticky note comparison between what users expect from a website, and the content and features available for implementation is a neat and elegant way of prioritising the order of content on a website, and identifies both the areas where content is needed as well as areas where the content is of no use to the audience.
Immediately after Veen's talk, Paula, pixeldiva and myself tagged along with Aral, Niqui and Paul for sushi where we had a laid back discussion of the days events.
On the way to the after-conference drinks, I was completely surprised by the coolness of Aral's heelies as he glided his way through the Brighton streets with us in tow.
I got to meet Jeff Veen and Thomas vander Waal - the latter was enough to make me regret passing up his session. Had a brief chat with Derek Featherstone before the pressing need to head back to Brigton train station and homewards.
All in all, dConstruct was a good event. Its also the first event I actually decided to skip a talk and spend some time in the hallways instead. Its true, there's some excellent conversations going on out there.
Chris Heilmann's written a great post about his dConstruct experience, and he's picking up the same vibe that I'm feeling:
In between [Aral Balkan], Niqui Merret, the WaSP web accessibility and DOM scripting taskforce we have the chance to finally get Flex and Flash out of the pure design corner into the rich user interface application world and create accessible products that don't look bland.
Absolutely. It would be criminal if the accessibility community continued to ignore the accessibility abilities of Flash. Lets not let this enthusiastic flame die out without trying.
- Christian Heilmann: dconstruct 2006 review
- Aral Balkan: Mash my Flex up at d.construct 2006
- Niqui Merret: d.construct
- Mildly diverting: d.construct 2006