SXSWi 2006 session summaries

This is a quick summary of all the sessions I attended, with links to my complete and somewhat random notes.

DOM Scripting

An excellent refresher of Keith’s book, with some good in-person examples. Jeremy and his co-presenter, Aaron, worked very well together, bouncing back and forth in a good-natured collaborative style. Very little of the material was new to me from the book. A nice analogy that I don’t think was in the book was made between DOM scripting & CSS: both techniques have “getters” and “setters.” For unobtrusive use of scripting, plan carefully for functions/content that work without it, and then implement it through method-detection. Also, use frameworks carefully.

Global & local play

Something of a high-concept panel, which began by talking about virtual and actual worlds and the social uses of play, but most of the actual time of the session was taken up by a deceptively simple social game. A common thread in the following discussion was the role of physical space in influencing the experience. The key question from (danah boyd?): are you designing to help people interact in a more fun interesting way?

Design & social responsibility

Primarily this panel served for me as a re-inspiration for the sort of socially meaningful work that I like to be doing. Gordon (???) was intensely intense and that got me fired up, much like BJ Fogg’s presentation at WebVisions, or like reading anything by Joe Clark. He used the word complicit twice, which is worth remembering. A good demo of accessible Flash, a game that actually changes modalities entirely to give visually-impaired kids a rich experience. One question that I don’t think was well-answered by the panel: what should you say to grassroots organizations, progressive organizations, etc., that have inaccessible sites? I found the panel’s answer pretty weak. The best answer I can think of, having been around a non-profit or two, is offering to help…and following up on that offer. If you care about the org’s mission, then maybe that’s the best way you can help.

Whose butts should we be kicking?

This one has been discussed pretty well by other bloggers. I’ll merely say that it was just before lunch on the day that I completely went to hell in a handbasket (asleep by 8:30!), also that I walked out halfway through. I still don’t know what I was expecting, but that wasn’t it.

Kottke/Dooce keynote

Just a nice conversation, like listening to the authors of your favorite books chitchat about nothing in particular. Of special note: both recommend that the best way to be a better blogger is to keep writing.

Making Web 2.0 accessible

A decent panel on general accessibility, but I hardly got anything new out of it. Two exceptions: WCAG 2 is going to have a lawyer version & a normal people version, and Basecamp is painfully inaccessible. It would have been nice to have one of the 37Signals guys on this panel, to talk about the practical issues involved. Or to have some concrete examples of making Web 2.0 type stuff accessible. A neat idea that I heard and would like to use: make the error message or instructions part of the label element.

Digital archiving & blogs

This was possibly my favorite panel. Carrie Bickner is an amazing moderator who led and engaged the whole panel in turn. The upshot: there’s a lot of material being created and not archived, and we don’t know what parts or who will be important in 50-100 years. Of course, that’s always true, but it’s less likely that there will be a hard drive accidentally left undisturbed for half a century than that the same thing will happen with a box of papers. Also, I have a vague half-formed idea for a WordPress plugin to help preserve the historical context of a blog. And I want to look for Josh Greenberg’s VCR project when he’s done with it.

Standards & SEO, part 2

Another session where I didn’t learn much new, although I did come in late. The upshot: “if you follow accessibility standards, then you’re following SEO best practices.” Most important accessibility improvements in relation to SEO: descriptive page titles, good navigation, and good link text.

WaSP panels

There were two sessions, a panel about WaSP task forces, and the annual meeting. The task force panel covered all the main WaSP projects: accessibility, DOM scripting, education, Dreamweaver, and Microsoft. I paid the most attention during the education segment, with a nice reminder of the education proliferation project and its email list. Learned that they are (or will be) working with the W3C on a standardized curriculum project. They are also trying to pull together a presentation for HighEdWebDev in October. One thing I’d like to see the ETF take on is advocacy in colleges for improved standards support in educational web applications, both instructional and administrative.

About half of the annual meeting covered the history of the Web Standards Project, and another quarter was in introductions of various members. Then Molly H. took comments from the room. Task forces that were suggested: mobile and government, both of which may well be underway shortly. Personally, I’d like to see more discussion time, maybe groups, during next year’s annual meeting.

Convincing your company to support Web standards

Good tips from folks working in a very large company — I think they were all Netscape/AOL/Time-Warner people — about propagating standards throughout that sort of organization. Mostly fell into the social engineering, interpersonal relations arena, techniques for making friends and having fun. This session gave me some ideas about working in the state system as a whole to promote standards in all of our sites and in the system-wide web applications.

Next-generation web applications

Possibly one of the more visionary sessions. Big focus on user experience and rapid prototyping. It gave me the sense of a fun frontier of stuff that’s personally useful and at the same time quite pretty. Also, I may try getting C to audioblog. At work, I want to put some of these ideas into play, probably on the book exchange at first. One last thing…my original notes have a great comment from Dorothea about archiving and Typepad.

Open source management

Entirely different from what I expected, mostly in a good way. Heather Gold, the moderator was funny, energetic, and shockingly effective in what turned out to be a fascinatingly weird situation. Most of the session was focused on one particular fellow from a tech company; he was looking to us to figure out how to get popular momentum to get the telcos to buy his product. The general consensus: his business model is crazy, the telco are teh suck, and we’d love to play with his product.

Bruce Sterling keynote

A little bit like taking one of his books, condensing it into an hour, and pouring it directly into one’s frontal lobe. Luscious techno-poetry. Spimes, of course, but also our completely fscked political system and the entire craziness of the Former Yugoslavia, ending with a tough sad Great Depression poem. He may have cried, I’m still not entirely sure.