Opera at d.Construct 2009, September 3-4 2009!

Another great Brighton experience! Even a trip down to Brighton with no conference attached to it would be fantastically inspiring and jolly good fun, but to have another successful d.Construct to attend as well was a fabulous bonus. I'm always impressed that Andy and co always manage to think of a progressive, innovative theme, as many conferences these days seem to be stuck with a sizeable proportion of talks that you've heard once a year for the last five years. The d.Construct theme this year was Designing for tomorrow, covering futuristic interfaces, design principles, and suchlike. The talks definitely managed to stay original, although a couple of them were rather buzzword heavy!



The car journey down was great, once again catching a lift on the Jake Smith steed of steel. Rob O'Rourke also joined us for the ride and proved to be another top bloke to travel with. Loud rocking music was listened to, and great conversation was had!

Upon getting there, we ditched the scousemobile, met up with fellow Opera troublemaker turned decadent Brightonian Henny Swan, and went to the Gourmet Burger Kitchen for ... death by burgers, of course! Cheers to Dave Stone for organizing a nice meal.

The rest of the evening can only be described as death by beer ... it was lovely to see all those lovely people again! Steve Marshall introduced me to some Read-Headed Sluts (that's a cocktail...), it was nice to see Mike Stenhouse for the first time in ages, and we plotted dark evil things with the rest of the Northern contingent (Dan Donald and Rich Clark - dudes!)

The main event

With coffee and orange juice consumed, it was time to take on Brighton! My account of the talks is as follows:

  • Adam Greenfield - Elements of a networked urbanism: This talk was basically about ubiquitous computing and its implications for designers. This was very interesting, although I thought it was a bit heavy for first talk. Adam was a great speaker, and his charisma won the crowd over. I still disagree with the perceived future of ubiquitous computing; it is a noble intention, but I see it getting hijacked for evil - government population control, advertising, etc. I can definitely see good uses for it in terms of beneficial statistics leading to customization, automatic environment adjustment, but privacy and security are big issues. And also, I don't want everyone to know where I am all the time! one of the most enjoyable parts of visiting a new place is the uncertainty principle, and exploration. If you immediately know what and where everything is, surely it takes a lot of the fun out of traveling and visiting new places, and kills conversation? I don't know, just my thoughts. I'd be interested to hear other views on this.

  • Michal Migurski and Ben Cerveny - Let's see what we can see (Everybody online and looking good). These guys looked at some great ways of online promotion, data visualization and news story tracking, for example MSNBC tracking hurricanes and SFMOMA ArtScope. Check them out! One very interesting story was that SFMOMA used to only buy male artwork; now they buy female artwork, but their dataset still betrays their historical prejudice. Also check out Visual thesaurus From language to behaviour, we are becoming more and more self aware about our data, and interactive data models are becoming more normal. The second half of the talk was more theoretical, and a bit buzzword-heavy, but overall it was still fun.

  • Brian Fling - What's next? How mobile is changing design. I missed this talk because at the time I was doing a really great interview with Paul and Marcus for BoagWorld, all about education. Henny however didn't so over to Henny:

    I wasn't quite sure what to expect and wondered if it may be a talk focusing on the merits of building separate sites for iPhone and .mobi sites, instead I was pleasantly surprised. Brian debated the question "can 'one web' cater for mobile users and if so how?'. His answer was yes and the way to doing that was at everyone's fingertips today: use web standards such as HTML 5, CSS 3, JavaScript and W3C widgets.

    He also debated how design for the mobile web can inform design on the desktop; something that I've long thought very relevant as designing for the mobile context makes you much more user focused which is often overlooked on desktop.

  • In my education interview I covered the Opera WSC, WaSP InterAct, and the W3C OWEA, and had a great discussion about the state of education. I'll have to bug Paul about when it is going to be published!

<p>Lunch was rather fine - Henny, Rob, Jake and I went out to lunch with Remy Sharp, and we had a good chat about his <a href="http://2009.full-frontal.org/details">Full Frontal JavaScript conference</a>, which Opera are sponsoring in November.</p>

<p>We were all excited to see the after-lunch talk, so we rushed back to the venue, and saw:</p>

			 <p><strong>Nathan Shedroff and Chris Noessel: <q>Make it so: learning from sci-fi interfaces</q></strong>. This was a fantastic talk, and featured some of the finest looking slides I have ever seen (it was one great big mind map slide - probably created using a solution such as <a href="http://www.prezi.com"> Prezi</a>), or maybe a custom Flash app. They looked at how sci-fi interfaces from films such as Star Trek have influenced modern interface design, with a lot of really fun video clips.</p></li>
			<li><p><strong>Robin Hunicke - <q>Loving your player with juicy feedback</q></strong>. Robin&#39;s talk was fun, all about game design and how to make your players love games by providing good feedback, and making them <q><em>juicy</em></q> ;-). Some of her examples were slightly flawed (for example when she talked about some of her
			games not necessarily having goals, when they obviously do to me), and
			she probably could&#39;ve gotten all her most salient points across in about five to ten minutes, but she dressed it up in a fun way, and her personality shone through - quirky, cute and fun. Juicy interfaces from now on, folks!</p></li>
			<li><p><strong>August de los Reyes - <q>Experience and the emotion commotion </q></strong>. August was another charismatic speaker, talking about creating users&#39; emotional investment in your applications. Natural user interfaces, and how emotional design may seem counter-intuitive to begin with, but it will certainly have applications now and in the future. He showed a great film about <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XXi_ldNRNtM">prickles
				and goo</a>, created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, but written as a visual to a spoken word piece by Alan Watts, all about different types of people and how they require different design. Very interesting. He also talked about an IA pioneer
		 called <a href="http://web.media.mit.edu/~minsky/">Marvin Minsk</a>y - check him out!</p></li>
				<p><strong>Russell Davies - <q>Dematerialising a web of data (or what we&#39;ve learned from printing the Internet out)</q></strong>. I&#39;d not heard of Russell before, but from what I can gather, he&#39;s spent a lot of his time working in advertising. This initially made me feel uneasy, but when he started talking I warmed to him immediately! He was incredibly witty and quick humoured, and his talk was quite frankly hilarious all the way through. The description of Russell&#39;s talk was about how the next step of web evolution was <q>designing data that can live on the screen, in devices, on paper, as things, whatever.</q> It certainly provided a lot of food for though, amidst the fun. The last quote was gold -
				 <q>We are moving from representing the world on the web, to embedding the web in the world.</q></p></li>

The aftermath

The evening was very eventful too. I went to Henny's new flat to check it out, and had lots of good conversation with Remy Sharp, PPK, and Julia Gosling. We then went out for a nice Italian meal, with Jake Smith joining us after a few minutes. Afterwards we high-tailed it along to Above Audio for the closing party, where I had so many good conversations with Swedish folks, the Scottish contingent (Roan Lavery et al, pity Alan White couldn't make it!), loads more Brightonians and Lahndaners, and ... at this point the evening went a bit hazy. A lot of good web standards, Opera and education evangelism got done.

The drive home the next day was made far easier by a large fry up, and a very loud application of Cave In, Ned's Atomic Dustbin and Mr Bungle on the car stereo. Thanks to Jakey for driving us there and back, and Rob for being great company.