Speak The Web, Leeds, 2013

I went to see Speak The Web last again week in Leeds. I say again because I went to the last one (Feb 2010) which was ace so I made a bit of an effort to go to this one. It didn't disappoint.

I arrived at the Wardrobe a bit early and was ushered downstairs where just a few people had already arrived and were scattered around the place. The room itself is a bit like a jazz/comedy club with a little sunken area in the middle with tables and stools surrounded by kind of balcony seats around the edge and flanked by a bar at the back. It was actually just the right kind of venue for this kind of thing.

There were four talks during the evening.

Syd Lawrence

First up was Syd Lawrence who gave one of those "here's a load of stuff we’ve done" talks which was entertaining and totally impressive – as talks like that should be. Some excellent little ideas which had been thoroughly followed through on and that had occasionally resulted in some real big-name commissions. It was ramshackle in places but all the more inspiring for being so; giving you such a tangible idea of how possible some of the things were that it made you want to rush out and start building that thing you'd had bouncing around your brain recently. Highlights were a wonderful networked high-five machine and a great piece of live-coding / audience participation involving us texting a message to (and getting a reply from) an app we were watching him build.

Ruth John

Second was Ruth John who works for O2 in their The Lab thing which sounds like an excellent excuse to muck around with cool tech and get paid for it. Ruth talked us through the new Firefox OS for mobiles and gave us a brief rundown of how easy it is both to create / distribute apps but also to use the device APIs which Firefox has enabled. It sounded very very good and, with just that (rather important) caveat of performance not being great, it’s incredibly exciting to finally be seeing something like this hit the market. Excellent news that apps can be deployed directly from the web (unless they need to access users more private data) rather than though a mandatory App Store too. Ruth also threw herself under the bus of live-coding and chose (of all things) the light sensor API to demonstrate in this most dark of darkened rooms. It did work finally and fair play to her for keeping on. I can't wait to see what’s going to happen with Firefox OS.

Phil Hawksworth

Next up was Phil Hawksworth from RGA. His talk: I Can Smell Your CMS was actually one I'd heard being mentioned somewhere before so I was delighted to realise I was going to see it live. It was brilliant. Not only did he rattle through a thoroughly excellent set of (well kerned) slides but the point was perfect. One of those times where you have at the back of your mind an idea, or maybe even just a sense of unease, and it’s not until you see someone talking about it that you really realise what it is. Not only his point about the piles of crap which many CMS's leave in your code but also (maybe more so) about the idea that most CMS's allow clients to destroy their website far too easily.

Clients + Markdown = ?

It’s pleasant at events like this to hear from people who think similarly to yourself. It’s an extra delight to hear someone who has not only faced the same problems but as thought further ahead and has some suggestions for real solutions. The idea that you could ask clients to enter their content in markdown is so tantalisingly crazy that ... it just might work! ;-)

Rachel Andrew

I was unable to stay long enough to see the end of that last talk by Rachel Andrew. It was a real shame because I was really looking forward to seeing her talk. I'm a huge fan of Perch. The idea, the code, the business model, the approach, the direction it seem to be going in. Again it’s one of those web things which just makes sense. It does things right and having spent enough time grappling with things that don't that’s like a breath of fresh air. I have heard Rachel talk about it before so I'm hoping I didn't miss too much I haven't already heard. Still it was a shame to have to go.

I had a really great time at Speak The Web this year. I really hope Dan and Jack come back again for another some time.

Cheers guys.