Favourite Talks from Web Directions Code

I loved being around coders talk about code for two days. It felt like there was less bullshit than there’d normally be in a big room of people… these aren’t the people trying to sell things. These are the people who make things.

Andrew Fisher – A Device API Safari

@ajfisher talked about some of the interesting APIs that are available (and upcoming) for devices (anything connected – like smartphones, laptops, info kiosks in shopping centres, robots, clothing with computer chips, Jawbone UP/Fitbits, etc).

For example, we can get devices to do different things based on:

  • temperature
  • humidity
  • pressure
  • device proximity
  • user proximity
  • battery status & use
  • ambient light
  • the device’s vibration functionality

For demos, Andrew had a web form (see the Form Vibration Prototype) that makes the device vibrate when you fill out the form incorrectly, and a web page set up where the colour scheme changes depending on how light or dark it is around the device (see the Ambient Light Contrast Demo). His demo code is on Github.

This stuff is fascinating. Imagine being able to change everything in an app – content, appearance, functionality, anything – depending on all of these external circumstances! It’s night time, it’s cold, a person is trying to navigate to a subway station… the subway entrance could glow brightly when they’re 20 metres away, then gradually go back to normal as they get closer and closer. Anything!

See the slides for Andrew’s talk.

Alex Feyerke – Offline First

@espylaub talked about the future, and how some technology companies’ visions of the future have been pristine, perfect, with zero problems or errors… I believe Alex’s quote was, “a choreography of wealth and status.”

He talked about how his passion is for building apps that work offline as well as offline, and how important this is for users – for example, when we have bad (or no) reception and we’re trying to use Google Maps in a foreign place, and there’s no easy way to cache the maps – or when our daily train commute takes us through underground tunnels, and we have to remember to refresh our news/RSS/social apps with the latest content before we disappear underground. He asked the audience, who takes screenshots of apps because they know they’ll need that screen later on, but they aren’t sure if they’ll have connectivity? – and basically everyone raised their hand.

Then he talked about how the infrastructure of an app needs to work, to get it to work offline and online, and showed us a demo “to do list” application where he was able to add new items, whether it was connected or not. Once it was connected again, the offline and online items synced together.

Lastly, he spoke about the new UX (user experience) problems that we’ll face, once apps are able to do this. For example, we need to let users know that they can still use the app while it’s offline, and that whatever they add will be saved and synced later.

See his piece Designing Offline-First Web Apps on A List Apart, and the slides for Alex’s talk.

Tantek Çelik – The Once and Future IndieWeb

@t talked about his movement for the Indie Web, which I hadn’t heard about before.

He ran through the history of the personal web, starting around 2002, when people who went to SXSWi didn’t know each other by name, but they knew each other by URL, because many people had their own domain and had built their own website, and that’s where they shared their thoughts, photos, work, etc. Then from 2002, there were more and more services that were siloing our content – Flickr for photos, Delicious for links, Upcoming for events – and before long, we didn’t have a home base for our stuff, and people stopped buying personal domains and setting up their own websites.

In 2011, Tantek founded indiewebcamp.com, which aims to help and encourage people to own their own content, control their own content, stop being siloed, better connect their content throughout the web, and syndicate their content the way they want to do it. Tantek and the others at Indie Web are building functionality (like WebMentions, which is a much more elegant version of trackbacks/pingbacks) that you can include on your personal website so that you create the content, you specify where it can be syndicated (e.g. also share this to Facebook, also share this to Yelp) and you have one home base for all your stuff – so that, finally, we can know each other by our own wonderful personal domains, and not just by stumbling across an article on Medium here, an Instagram photo there, a Facebook event here, a comment on someone else’s blog post over there! (Note: the personal domain can still be built using a framework/service; for example, Dan Gillmor‘s site is powered by WordPress and he’s using IndieWeb functionality.)

See Dan Gillmor’s piece Welcome to the Indie Web Movement on Slate, the slides for Tantek’s talk, and their guide for getting setup on the Indie Web at IndieWebify.

Many thanks to John Allsopp and Maxine Sherrin for the opportunity to volunteer and hear all of these super interesting people and talks… it was loads of fun, and a great event.

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