Open Web Vancouver opens with a Pirate Party and a look at Women in Open Source

I must confess, I wasn’t expecting much from the Open Web Vancouver conference. I read the schedule, and perhaps the strong emphasis on Drupal turned me off, but I didn’t find myself salivating like I do when I go to An Event Apart‘s website. And as the saying goes, you pay for what you get; so how good can a $150 conference be? Today’s conference proved me wrong.

This morning’s session was opened by two keynote speakers and left me inspired and eager to learn more about the Open Source community.

The first keynote was given by Rick Falkvinge on one of Sweden’s political party, the Pirate Party, whose platform is to reform laws regarding copyrights and patents and other civil liberties issues. The Pirate Party succeeded in gaining popularity and attention simply by using the Internet and very little money. In fact their campaign budget during the last election consisted of only $50K. As a result of the communication tools and methods they’ve used, they are now the political party with the largest percentage of voters 30 years old and younger. This of course as alarmed other politicians who have never been able to reach out to this age group.

Now that the Pirate Party has secured a seat in the European Parliament, it will be interesting to see if other political parties start discussing issues such as privacy and file sharing. Just like Al Gore has put Global Warming on everyone’s mind, Rick Falvinge is spreading the word about what needs to be done to create a better online world for all of us and he deserved the standing ovation which followed his presentation.

Following this great keynote, came Angie Byron who spoke about Women in Open Source or rather lack of. I was a bit surprised that this topic was chosen and discussed. I’ve been working as a so called “geek” for a over a decade and never experienced any sexism at work or conference and Angie admitted herself that until she started researching the numbers, didn’t think there was a problem either. Turns out the percentage of women in Open Source is staggeringly low. The reasons and solutions that were discussed were obvious and applicable to all minorities, not just women. At least they felt obvious to me, but a few hours later, I read about the incident at Flashbelt‘s conference just a few days ago. It seems like a lot of boys think that the saying boys will be boys still stands and should simply be accepted.

Angie provided great advice on how to create a safe and inviting community and how to stop tolerating bullshit. The gem, for me, were her views on contribution to Open Source. Having worked with Open Source during all of my coding years, I’ve realised that I’ve used the stuff, but never really contributed. Providing contribution whether it be marketing, documenting, designing and of course coding, is a great way to empower yourself and feel like you are part of the team.

I look forward to learn more during tomorrow’s event.

My thoughts about Northern Voice 2009

Northern Voice MascotThis year’s Northern Voice was my fourth one and I truly enjoyed it. I’ve never been to Friday’s Moosecamp and missed it again this year, opting to catch up on a never-ending to-do list. I heard that Stewart Butterfield‘s Keynote was very good. Luckily for me and all of you who couldn’t make it, the sessions were taped and the videos will be posted on the website once the organizing committee has had time to make their final touches.

The wonderful thing about Northern Voice is that it’s very informal. You won’t find any big wigs walking around with chips on their shoulder. Everyone is friendly and easy to talk to. While the subject of social media is not new to me and generally I’m hearing stuff that I already know, once in a while I find out about a few things that make me go “hmm, I didn’t know that”. For example, I didn’t know what a sock puppet was and even though I was told to check out Radio 3 on CBC years ago, I never did, and Steve Pratt reminded me why I should.

Attending conferences, takes a lot of time, costs money and can be exhausting, but I find the following benefits outweigh the drawbacks.

  1. I always leave each conference with new ideas and renewed energy.
  2. I love to see how great speakers behave in front of the audience. Brianna Tomkinson and David Eaves gave exceptional well articulated presentations.
  3. There’s always someone who makes me laugh and this year, Rob Cottingham‘s keynote was hilarious yet insightful.
  4. I always meet new people who share the same interest.
  5. I don’t always, but often connect with old friends.
  6. I’m reminded of things that were on my to-do list and never got around to.

Seeing how people use social media in every day life to help a group of kids and hearing how traditional companies are daring to break the rules proved very inspiring and I hope to see more examples of these next year.

The folks behind Northern Voice have asked for feedback and all I can say is keep up the great work. Your conference is always exceptional and well worth making time for.

Web Directions North returns in February 2009

This year, Web Directions North moves to Denver Colorado – a hub city for many airlines, and a non-stop flight from all over North America. And the skiing’s not bad either. The conference is on February 4 and 5, with workshops on February 2 and 3, and the now legendary ski trip February 6 and 7, in Breckenridge, the most popular ski resort in North America.

I’ve attended the previous 2 conferences in Vancouver and would recommend it to anyone wishing to freshen up their web development skills.

Web Directions North is a Wrap

There are many reasons why one should attend conferences. It’s a great way to meet new people, share ideas, learn from your peers and see what everyone else is doing. But more importantly, for me, the main reason is to convince myself that I’m not alone. Others have had the exact same problem and may have a solution that they can share. This year’s Web Direction North conference did just that.

Read more…

Highlights from An Event Apart Seattle

One of the things I love about being a web designer is that there is always more to learn, be it from other web specialists or your clients. Last week at An Event Apart Seattle Tzaddi and I had the chance to learn from some true experts. The speakers were not only masters in their fields, but engaging and generous with their knowledge.

Here are some highlights:

  • Watching Eric Meyer write CSS (you know you’re a geek when…)
  • Jeffrey Zeldman’s talk on “Writing the User Interface” confirmed my experience: the words in a web design matter much more than you might think and can really make a difference in how visitors use your site. So long as it invites clicking, it matters more what a button says than what it looks like.
  • Peaking into other designer’s processes, from beautiful sketchbooks to user research.
  • I enjoyed Jeff Veen’s succinct message which shows the benefits of doing your design research up front vs. the cost of changing your mind partway through the build. He also discussed why web design is so much more complex now than it was in the early days of the web, when everyone using the web were of the same type (geeks).
  • Shawn Henry shared insights for ensuring your site is accessible to varying abilities; from folks who read the web with braille or speech readers to limited vision users — who magnify screens to an amazing degree, but want the same site that was designed for regularly sighted users. Bottom line: there is no substitute for engaging disabled users in the design process if you want to build truly accessible sites. Her book on accessibility is free online.
  • Andy Budd shared how a delightful user experience is worth more than the sum of it’s parts in the loyalty that can create.