Another year over of the big SXSWi! It was a crazy year as usual, and the vibe felt a bit different this time, I think mainly because there were SO MANY people there this year. However, it was still a wonderful creative/passionate melting pot, and it was also very successful for Opera.
I'm not gonna make this a blow by blow account like I usually do (my longest SXSWi report was 27 pages or something crazy), but I will focus on the parts that struck a real chord with me this year.
I only got to couple of panels besides the workshop series I contributed to (Knowbility's accessibility day series), as I was so busy on the Opera booth, giving product demonstrations and answering questions about HTML5, CSS3, etc., but I still got a lot out of the conference. I was at the following talks:
- Accessibility: What It Is For and Where It is Going: In the first part of our accessibility workshop series, Sharron Rush and Richard Schwerdtfeger talked about the state of accessibility today, and Richard went through some of the tools IBM are working on that help facilitate accessibility for modern web applications.
- Cross-device accessibility: is it for real?: My main presentation took some of the WAI-ARIA examples from the previous session and showed how well they worked across the spectrum of available mobile browsers and other alternative browsers. The conclusion reached was that, well, they pretty much just didn't! I then talked about the other problems with getting web apps working on mobile devices, and showed some solutions using best practices (eg using fluid layouts and making things keyboard accessible), and nascent technologies (eg CSS3 media queries and HTML5 video)
- Web Education Rocks: The education panel - delivered by Leslie Jensen-Inman, Jeff Brown and Glenda Sims - was really fun. they went through some of the stuff we have been doing to improve web education recently (eg the new courses published on WaSP InterAct), and gave tips for making your classes more effective and fun. This last part took the form of a game of Jeopardy! The audience wasn't huge, but we did get to meet a bunch of new educators we hadn't bumped into before, and get some great new ideas. I announced myself as a useless hippy form England, when I got up to say a few words.
- Is Canvas going to kill Flash?: This session was very interesting - Greg Veen from Typekit moderated, then they had Ben Galbraith speaking up for Canvas, a Flex guy speaking up for Flash, and a couple of developers that had worked with both providing some arguments for and against. In short, I think was fair to say that Canvas won, but then again this is largely a web standards crowd. The Flex guy also suffered in places by having a lack of knowledge to back up some arguments. Plus there were some interesting inaccuracies stated about Opera, for example about using the WebKit engine (eh???), and WbKit being the world's most popular mobile browser (I don't think so!)
In addition to all that, I also did a web educator's breakfast talk at the Hilton at 8am on the Saturday, getting up to give a 15 minute talk on the state of web education. This was an event organized by my publisher - New Riders - to promote our new book (InterAct with web standards), and it was well-attended, given that it was so early in the day ;-)
As I mentioned before, this year was a huge success for Opera. The US is finally waking up to us ;-)
- The UI looks great, and people love it.
- The Dragonfly developer tools seem to work well, although they could definitely use a little UX love. People seemed impressed by the capabilities, especially the mobile debugging, the colour picker, the CSS editing, etc.
- The standards support has really caught up nicely. Great that we are on top of this again. Nobody had a thing to say about stuff that we don't support yet. No more bitching about rounded corners, and lots of love about HTML5 video, transitions, etc.
- The performance is really impressing people. On a few occasions I had folks come up and say "You claim to be fast, but let's try my site to see how you do" and then their jaw would drop at the rendering speed. The general pattern seemed to be that we were faster than Firefox, and about as fast as Chrome, but Chrome doesn't have developer tools available.
- The Mini on iPhone story is pulling in a lot of people. Huge buzz generator. I think this will be fantastic for us, whether we get accepted on the app store or not!
- I talked to loads of people this year who said that Firefox is getting too damn slow, so they are desperate to find an alternative browser. They all said they'd try Opera.
- We had non-Opera people going around evangelising Opera! I was so thrilled to see this happen. John Foliot was the major one, but we had students from TSTC and other places doing it as well. Hell, I even had random conversations with music peeps that revealed that they use Opera and recommend it to their friends.
- It was again really cool to hang with all the educators and have a great time discussing new things to do in the future, in terms of continuing to publish more educational material as part of the WaSP InterAct curriculum framework, new outreach strategies, etc.
- I loved seeing far-flung friends that I rarely get the chance to hang with, and making new ones
- I really enjoyed hanging out with the accessibility posse — Sharron, Rich, Patrick, Becky, John Foliot, et al.
- It was fun introducing Bruce "naughty pixie" Lawson to the crazy delights of SXSWi ;-)
- I loved attending parties that were so crowded that I couldn't get a beer or walk across the bar. no, wait ;-)