@media2008

This is the first @media I’ve actually made it to.  It was good – worth doing again (though I’m not sure Digitas will stump up again for @media Ajax already).

Summary of talks:

Jeffrey Veen talked about redesigning Google Analytics.  Well, except he actually talked about other stuff more.  Like 1974.  For ages.  But I think the gist of what he was saying is that you don’t want people to think about stats – you want them to think about what it’s saying “the story”.  Fair enough, so we dumb down the graph to only show useful info.  He then skimmed across what he’d actually done, which wasn’t really this at all, but just laid out all the info in a nice way, so people could easily find out what they wanted from the data.  This makes sense, and I’m jealous that he got to work on such a decent bit of software.

One of the things he skipped past, was using a Mental Model, which I then went to see (more because I didn’t want to see a presentation about the BBC site, which I don’t like, technically).  Indi Young sold the concept really well.  I like it.  I haven’t before seen a “good” way to present business requirements like this, matching them to services offered, and identifing missing areas.  If Amazon sold the book in the UK, or accepted Maestro in the US, I’d buy the book.

Getting your hands dirty with HTML5 was really anything but.  The presenters spent most of the time justifying it, and the new methods, rather than really getting down into code.  Seems ok though.

After lunch (so bad), I skipped the probably-useful CMS presentation justifying myself because I’ve been doing CMS’s since forever, and I’d rather see reuse instead of “next time you build a cms…”.  Instead I went to Andy Clarke‘s talk about comic book design influencing his newspaper website designs.  His designs weren’t bad, though apparently the only connection with comic books I saw was a boxed grid.  Like, ooh, websites.  My verdict was that this was a) not very interesting and b) not a good result.  All those background images won’t be accessibly friendly, absolute positions and sizes of text areas will be a bitch to CMS, and all his images will need to be chosen with very specific focal areas – not easy for a busy news team.  Having said all that, I thought it was quite pretty.  I liked the black and red transparency.

Probably proving that I’m no longer a true geek, I dodged the discussion of HTTP status codes. (Really?) I stayed in for Dan Rubin‘s Designing User Interfaces.  This dude knows his stuff.  I like his simple hints.  Not sure he understands all about accessibility, since he discussed drop shadows on text, but I like the idea of just adding a few elements to polish a site.  Notepad was out.  I’ll try it out on Dots.
It was also fun to hear the HTMLers swearing under their breath when he said “it only takes 5mins to add this in PhotoShop”, since it’s usually these 5min tweaks that add 5days to the HTML/CSS. 🙂

Calling an end to the day, I ran home without even having a beer, which will lose me points at Pub Standards.  But it was my birthday, so I may be forgiven.

Next day wasn’t as much fun.  I liked Nate Koechley‘s talk (what I saw anyway), but building from the ground up (as he recommends) is often only required for sites like his (Yahoo), where supporting the extra 1% is worthwhile, or for sites with a long shelf life (again, Yahoo).  The microsites we build really don’t need this, and I admit, I miss being able to do a proper job, like he describes.

Jonathan Snook just discussed how he built mashups from various sources, and how little code this takes.  Kudos to his mashup skills.  What was interesting is something he mentioned briefly, which quite a few people picked up on:  once you’ve built a little free app (snitter, for example), people expect you to support it and add features indefinitely, for free.  This becomes tiresome quickly (for me anyway), and I would love to have heard more of his experiences of that.
Updated:  I read Gareth53’s notes here http://gareth53.blogspot.com/2008/05/more-notes-from-atmedia-2008-jonathon.html, and actually he made some really good points.  I liked “developers like to reinvent the wheel”, and his Flash points are good.

John Resig was so good I won’t mock his hair.  I hoped he’d skim over the justification of JS libraries and actually give out comparison information, and he did.  No audience patronising. Great stuff – where can I get the slides?

Attending WAI-ARIA was my concession to real work.  Figured it’d be useful. Steve Faulkner said it would be easy and it was.  In fact, this should have been 10 minutes long, or a fact sheet.  I regretted missing the other room’s talk, and it was just painful to see this go on and on.

As a finale, I saw introductions to Rails and Django from James Adam and Simon Willison.  Both great demos.  It would be good to try this stuff out.  I’ll pick one for Dots and try it.  Django probably.  Sorry, James, but I think Ruby’ll be a bigger leap for a dinosaur like me.