Thoughts on WebVisions
Like everybody else that didn’t purchase a workshop (and it seems like there were quite a few of us), the Community track was the only option until lunch on Day 1. I enjoyed Matt Haughey’s talk, **Becoming a Professional Blogger**, even if there wasn’t much meat beyond the standard “do what you love, and uh, eventually traffic/money will follow.” While I agree with him that ProBlogger sometimes reads a bit “salesman-y”, I was hoping to get more specific tips on making a blog generate income. I mean, there’s got to be a a middle ground between creating splogs targetd to mesothelioma and writing endlessly about a topic that pulls in 1-cent adsense ads and drives zero traffic.
I skipped the **Global Perspective** talk because I had some pressing client work to finish up, then hit the **Practical Business Blogging Panel** with DL Byron, Matt Haughey, Andy Baio and Derek Powazek. I shy away from panels unless I think the conversation is going to be somehow enlightening, because usually it never gets past a surface treatment of the topic at hand so that everybody can get their ancedotes in. There were a few funny stories of how not to do it (Dell was a frequent piñata) and a couple of positive experiences shared, but I didn’t walk away with anything I hadn’t picked up during the course of day-to-day life online.
**Designing for Social Sharing** was excellent — Rashmi Sinha gave a great talk and I furiously typed notes the entire time. One highlight was when she pulled up Digg Spy; even though the majority of the audience has experienced it before, a palpable calm came over the crowd as we all stared like zombies at the newly created diggs. The strongest message I took from her talk was the idea of letting your users be individuals on your site, but allow them to “feel” the community around them.
Michael Buffington showed off his game coded in **Ruby on Rails**, and while it was obvious he had his speech down pat, with pre-recorded scrolling in windows of code even, it was difficult to follow for a while because he went so fast. I’ve read a bit on Ruby, a bit on RoR, I’ve watched the infamous video where DHH builds a blog in 5 seconds flat. (that link goes directly to a MOV) This was basically the same thing, without live coding. Some of the Q&A at the end was informative though.
The **Mobile Development Panel** with Kelly Goto, Brian Fling and Gavin Lew was decent. I enjoyed their speech (although I wish Gavin Lew would have spoken up more, his work sounded interesting) but it didn’t feel like it applied to a large percentage of the audience. The standard “we’ve been hearing about mobile revolution for years and it still hasn’t arrived, what gives?” question was answered by Kelly Goto with a “people are making money, it’s here!” response, which while may be true, hasn’t seemed to trickle down to where us audience members were at. Some of our pre-talk questions ranged from how to offer a weekly videocast for mobile devices, micro mobile payments and how to develop with standards, but the biggest impression I got from the panel was that MVNO’s are raking in cash hand over fist (contrary to what I’ve read elsewhere), and that marketing specific phones/plans to specific niches is a brilliant idea. I’m not sure about the other audience members, but I’m not starting up an MVNO any time soon…
Mike Davidson gave a great talk bright and early on **Designing for Community Interaction**, using a lot of examples of what he’s learned from Newsvine. There were a couple times I thought he was going way off on a tangent (although the Valleywag video/People Aggregator critique was hilarious) but he definitely got the day started with a high energy vibe. On an fanboy sidenote, I was particularly pleased when he remembered me from an email exchange months ago, so that makes him aces in my book.
**About Interface: Designing for Lifestyle** was Kelly Goto alone, and it too was informative, although not exactly what I was expecting from the title. Mostly it covered mobile again, although thankfully she breezed through the financial stats quickly. Not a ton of actual interface/UI discussion, although she did recommend a few books that looked good. Tons of talk about the practice of “design ethnography.”
I had originally planned to go to the Design Panel but instead decided to give **Thinking Globally** a shot. Tristan Louis definitely knew his stuff, had some entertaining slides and made a persuasive argument, but like the rest of the audience (who were a little more adversarial), I doubt his vision of an America filled with only the “creative class” in 20 years will be entirely accurate. I’d guess he doesn’t mean it quite so black and white either, but that’s how it came across.
Luke Williams of frog design gave a great keynote called **The Naked Interface** covering ubiquitous computing, designing intuitive interfaces and his mum. It was almost like watching a young Australian Jobs up there, except for the few times he flubbed his nearly perfectly memorized speech and made it a bit too apparent. Great slides, good humor, informative and entertaining all at once.
I was most excited about Hillman Curtis’ keynote, **Short Films for the Web**. I saw his interview/video of Milton Glaser right when it first came out and have been a fan of his work since back in the 1.0 days. The stop-motion/tree navigation site was pretty cool, but his video of Pentagram and stories of how his career has progressed were what really inspired me. It was one of those seminal moments of a conference that make you want to jump up out of your site and run home to start producing something new. His new book looks outstanding, although I couldn’t bring myself to throw down the conference-markup price when I knew it was cheaper on Amazon. Hopefully I’m not cheating Hillman out of an extra few bucks.
Jared Spool’s keynote, **The Dawning of the Age of Experience** was alright. The chicken sexing analogy hit home but also kind of tuned me out to the rest of his speech — basically, you just need to immerse yourself in good experience design, absorb it, and eventually you too may create good experiences. In a way, it validates a lot of the arguments against “designer bullshit” — the idea that a designer must come up with some fully rounded out thesis on why they did what they did, when really, a lot of it is just plain intuition and gut instinct. I’ve never felt that was a bad thing (using a lot of intuition), but have definitely felt the pressure at times to come up with an academic reason for why I made a certain choice in a design, to “prove” what I did is correct, so that was a bit of validation.