Future of Web Apps – London 2012

9 Nov 2012

A few weeks ago, I went to the Future of Web Apps 2012 in London. 2 days of talks, and general geekiness

Why Go?

Why should I go to conferences, especially when I have to pay for it myself?

I work for myself, and most days I work on my own. Events are a chance to meet other people in the same field, to talk, to get excited, to get enthused, and to learn how much I don’t know. I’ve come home and there are things I’m excited about, some contacts, lots of people to follow, things to read, learning to do … and yes, it is worth it.

These are the talks I attended

The ones I really enjoyed are emboldened

Day 1

  • The New Craft of Web DesignJeffrey Zeldman
    Zeldman gives a great talk. Summarised here in sketch notes http://ow.ly/i/11xmZ from James Fenton

  • The Mobile RevolutionEwan McLeod
    Numbers, numbers, numbers … on this planet: 4.2bn toothbrushes. 2.2 billion internet users and 5.9bn mobile phone subscriptions, now 7bn by Jan 2013 36% of emails are opened on mobile devices (up from 13% in 2012) Mobile Internet – 10+ billion units sold in 10 years. 72% of smart phones are Android.
    The future is here – we’re living in it. And stop designing for desktop browsers. Just stop it right now.

  • Touch me if you can! – Giorgio Sardo

  • The return of the client – why the web app no longer rules – Jonathan Howell

  • The Future of Clicks is Bricks – John Lunn

  • Back to Front Web PerformanceDrew McLellan
    Make it go faster! Frontend matters, but don’t forget the backend … check speed of each page, look at minifying, look at caching, look at the server configuration. And the million dollar question – why do people spend months (or years) developing a site, and then host it on cheapest shared server going?

  • App it Out! – App Contest

  • Gaining Traction for Start-ups: Your First 1,000 CustomersDes Traynor
    What do startups fail? Reason number 1 – the co-founders fall out. Reason number 2 – no customers. This was a great look at marketing, and why we need it – an area which is too often ignored, over-looked or despised by developers.

  • Stillness and Mindfulness in Digital Design – Ben Hammersley

Day 2

  • The Future of the Future of Machine to Machine – Daniel Appelquist

  • Writing Software for HumansDrew McLellan
    Developers should support their own software – I do this! Basically I was sitting there through this talk, nodding and saying “yes, yes, that’s right, that’s so true…” Definitely going to look at PerchCMS

  • Native, HTML5, and Hybrid Mobile App Development: Real-Life Experiences – Eran Zinman

  • Hiring, firing and everything in between – Methodologies to follow and pitfalls to avoid. – Mark Edgington
    How to manage projects, teams, people without fail. And yes, some of this does apply to the one-woman-band. Use SVN correctly, use continuous development, setup a development, staging & live servers, pick your tools and learn to use them expertly, all projects need a contingency, and do not make promises you cannot keep. Also, the bestest slides, with drawings by phantomdoodler.co.uk

  • Building better, connected mobile apps in minutes with Windows Azure – Steve Sanderson

  • Tech-Shift: There’s light beyond LAMP – Stephen Tallamy

  • Marketing Without Being A Douchebag MarketerPaul Boag
    Sins of marketing – we all know these – spam, evil defaults (tick this box if you do not never want to not receive email from us), more spam, fake virals, pestering (you haven’t yet replied to my email from 10 minutes ago), hiding your motivations (I speak at conferences because I want to share)
    And the virtues – content with value, show your passion & enthusiasm, persistence, personality (don’t pretend to be a corporation when you’re working out of your bedroom), presentation (people remember mailchimp because it’s a chimpanzee) and honesty. Honesty is a great virtue – if you screw up, don’t fake it, admit it, apologise and move on.

  • Know your UX: Make the killer App! – Olga Howard

  • How to Destroy the Web – Bruce Lawson
    Brilliant sarcastic rant on usability. And the New York Stock Exchange has the stupidest set of Terms and Conditions ever.

And talks which I didn’t see, but wanted to (:

The videos are available for attendees, but it’s not quite the same.

  • Bitestats: from API to PDF – Lorna Jane Mitchell

  • Pushing The Boundaries Without Breaking The Web – Rachel Andrew

  • Startup Infrastructure Secrets – Simon Willison

General Random Thoughts

Best food I have ever had at a conference – the twitter stream was full of people going “Breakfast! Wow! Lunch! Wow! Coffee break! Biscuits Wow!”

No give-aways. At conferences, you normally get handed a little bag of swag when you check in, but not at FOWA. And I didn’t miss it, it’s generally just some more stuff to carry around.

The WIFI was great, it worked, it was fast.

A chill-out area at the back of the main conference room where you could flop in a beanbag and watch the talks in exhausted luxury.

Pen and paper are still my preferred user interface when taking notes, and I wasn’t the only one using them. I have to make notes; it focuses me on the speaker. If I’m not making notes, I’m not listening.

I felt very old, the venue was full of young boys who looked as if they had just wiped the milk off their chins. Zeldman mentioned the launch of Mosaic in 1993, and I think there were people in the audience who hadn’t been born at that point.

The talks which work best are the ones where the speaker has a story to tell. I don’t need the how, or the coding examples – I can do that myself online. I want to know what it’s about and I want to know why I should care.