Web Surrentials ’05

Sitting here at home now thinking back about the last 5 days, It’s just sinking in. It’s surreal that I was in a lecture theatre full of my industry peers and leaders learning about the latest and greatest in web standards, and that I got to socialise with them many of them.

I mean, taking Eric Meyer for example, hearing the world expert on CSS talk about his field in the morning, meeting him and having a conversation with him after lunch, getting two books he wrote signed by him that night, hearing him talk again the next day, and then go out drinking with him and our new-found buddies and some of us end up at a nightclub in Kings Cross… THIS STUFF JUST DOESN’T HAPPEN! And it wasn’t just Eric either, it was Molly, Tantek, Doug Bowman, John Allsopp, Jeffrey Veen, Derek Featherstone, and so many more! It was so much more than an honour to meet these people; hanging out was a mindjob.

What’s weird at first is that the “big stars” are approchable and friendly in real life, they want to know who you are, because they know you know who they are. This is in comparison to many people in the lime light in other more fame-focused industries (music, movies, but not microcode) who are less likely to give you time of day than have a conversation with you.

As much as this will sound like I’m blowing my own horn or that I’m kissing up, the most humbling thing to discover at the conference was that some of these “big stars” had heard about “the guy who was fundraising through his blog to get to we05” and that when those individuals and I met, they had a suspicsion that I was that person — I didn’t have to tell them. These people knew kinda who I was!

So when I get home and discover that Molly and Tantek have left such generous comments that I have a grin from ear-to-ear, how am I supposed to react?

Really, it all comes down to respect: I could have an unhealthy respect for them bordering on holding them as idols, but one has to remember that they are just regular people. As the famous Bruce Dickenson once said “Easy, guys… I put my pants on just like the rest of you: one leg at a time. Except, once my pants are on, I make gold records.”

And when I think about it, and as hard as it is for me to get to grips with it right now, in reality, they are my friends and colleagues in this industry. Now to keep those friendships alive! Hey Tantek, I’d be keen to see the photos you took on your Matrix tour…

Mind you, he also said “I got a fever! And the only prescription… is more cowbell!”, so I won’t push that metaphor 😉

UPDATE: I guess the other side of the equation can happen too: molly.com » Moments of Doubt and Glory

Your Sydney Asplode

A third day in Australia

I like Sydney. It’s a nice place.

I got up comparatively late today: 8:30ish. I grabbed my windows lappy and my new WE05 messenger bag (all attendees got one) and went walking deeper into town. I passed many many electronics stores, all of which contained the same old crap. Then I spy this tacky looking camera store with neon lights and stuff, and I think what the hey, let’s check it out. I get in there and it’s not half bad. Actually, it’s pretty good: they have Apple stuff.

I had brought ~NZD$2000 with me to Australia, planning to buy a powerbook of some description, but a work payment didn’t come through as planned, so I only had half of the money I needed. But I digress. I had NZD$2000 and there was the opportunity to buy a mactop, like I’ve been planning for a while now. Duty free. Yum.

So I’m looking at this iBook G4 14″ deal and I’m thinking back to seeing Tantek’s laptop and how small that was, and I say to myself “hey, if it’s good enough for Tantek, it’s good enough for me!” So I commit.

The people at CCC Camera House are really friendly I say I’ve only got NZD and the the staff talk among themselves, and eventually come back and say they’ll accept my NZD, eliminating the need for me to go to a money changer. They try to ring it up on their system, but the exchange rate is out of date, and they can’t remember how they are supposed to enter the details so that I get charged the correct amount. But eventually they figure it out, and I leave with my iBook and a Targus laptop folder-style bag, with a mile-wide smile.

I love my Mac.

. . .

Before I came over to Sydney, my Mum recommended I catch a ferry to check out Sydney from a harbour view. So I figured I’d catch the train to the other side of the harbour, find the ferry terminal and catch one back to Darling Harbour, which is within walking distance of Wake Up. Oops.

After figuring out which train I should catch, how to buy a subway ticket, finding the correct platform, and getting on, I miss Milsons Point, my stop. The guard announcing the stops is just mumbling the next stop, and I’m too busy admiring the scenery. So eventually figure out I’ve missed my stop, and I resign myself to stay till the end of the line, seeing more of Sydney than I originally planned.

Sydney is huge. It’s the biggest city I’ve ever been to (but that’s not saying much, being the only city I’ve visited outside of New Zealand).

I get all the way to Hornsby, the end of the line. I hop off to grab some refreshments from the platform stand and get back on the train. I hadn’t seen a guard the whole trip — they don’t check tickets like they do in Wellington, as they have turnstiles at most of the stops. The train departs, and I hop off at Milson’s Point, and travel down the hill to the ferry terminal.

Then it hits me — I’m below the Sydney Harbour Bridge! Out comes the camera. Oh wait, there’s the Opera House — I didn’t know it was there! Snap snap snap. Oh wait, there’s Luna Park! click click click. On the ferry I get, and eventually I get back to Darling Harbour.

I don’t have a map, but that’s OK, I think I’ve got my bearings. I know that Paddy’s Market is between me and Wake Up, and I know some landmarks that will tell me I’ve gone too far in either direction. I find Paddy’s Market, and decide to scout it out. Disappointing is all I can say — so much crap, so many stalls with the same crap. I did find some gems, like a place that sells imitation iPod skins, a place that specialises in socks, and I was very surprised to find a pet store in one corner too!

I fly back to Wellington in about 12 hours, which is too soon. I’d like to explore Sydney some more. I’d like to make some more friends, and grow the ones I just made at the conference.

I’m really looking forward to WE06 — I can’t wait!

Fear the CSS Brace!

Today at WE05 was awesome: More visionary presentations, more hilarious photos!

After more legendary presentations from Molly, Eric and Derek, I attended the Ajax session by Tim Lucas. I found myself wanting a bit more, but it was still VERY good.

Lunch came around, so I caught a cab to Found Agency. I got to meet Zak, the guy I talked to on the phone just over a week ago. He showed me around his office in Bondi Junction, and gave me a very in-depth insight into the world of SEO and Pay-Per-Click marketing. Basically, there is OMG HUGE money to be made — seeing some of the Google Adsense windows brought it to life. He also described something called A-B Testing: serving up two identical ads going to slightly different convert pages, observing the difference that the slight difference made, and deciding to keep that change. Zak said that click through conversion can be increased phenomenally just by iterating through this every 1000 clickthroughs.

I also learnt that there are three types of “SEO” people: Super Affiliates (those who partner with a company who wants to sell something and enter into a huge referral rate in the hundreds of dollars per customer), Pay-Per-Click marketeers (those who manage their adwords and search terms they appear on) and Hybrid marketeers (those who do both).

I also learnt that Google doesn’t really like what some Super Affiliates are doing sometimes, and that the Super Affiliates are listening to what Google has to say, including the rel="nofollow" microformat. It becomes obvious to me that the ones comment-spamming blogs don’t really know what they are doing; shooting themselves in the foot when it comes to Google.

I spent so long talking to Zak that I was late for the 2:15pm sessions. I really wanted to see Cameron Adams’ Javascript and the DOM session too. Oh well, there’s always the podcasts.

Thank goodness I made it back in time to catch Tantek’s Microformats session — fascinating stuff. I guess I already knew about XFN and rel=”nofollow” but I didn’t know that these were called microformats. Yay for learning! 😉

Then Jeffrey Veen got up and did yet another PHENOMENAL session giving us all the boost we needed to go back to our jobs and do this stuff we’ve been learning about. I’m totally pumped. I’m gonna go out back and kick that tree.

For some reason, because I was that-guy-who-did-the-blog-donation-box-to-get-to-WE05, I was given a collectable WE05 belt pouch for a digital camera or iPod or the like. Sweet! Thanks people!

The WE05 afterparty was at The Pumphouse in Darling Harbour. Putting my Flickrazzi hat on, I caught some hilarious moments of the presenters on NVRAM and have put them up on Flickr for all to enjoy, namely Doug Bowman dancing, Eric, John Allsopp and Mark Harris doing the WWW, Derek Featherstone getting drawn into a pint, Tantek searching for Wifi at a dance club, and Eric giving Doug in his patented “CSS Brace”

Tantek tells me that I can probably go find many of the places where scenes from The Matrix were filmed here in Sydney; something I was hoping to do, but didn’t realise actually how easy it will be — 10 minutes of Google Searching apparently… hmm…

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here in Sydney. Will I be back for WE06? Heck yes!

Oh, and don’t forget to keep the middle of May 2006 free in your calendars — a web conference in New Zealand is being planned, and you will highly desire coming along… but more on that later… 😉

Woo We Woo WE05!

7:02am AEST (Sydney)
So seeing that the wifi at the conference is so utterly crap, and since my laptop weighs like a crapton, I figured since I got up so early this morning, and I don’t have to be at the conference till about 8:30, I’d come by a cybercafe and make post!

I haven’t gone far from Central Station in Sydney, but the fast food in Australia is of par standard. It’s nothing special, but it’s certainly edible. The food at the conference is great.

I uploaded the best photos I had from the conference onto Flickr last night via Telstra wifi from the comfort of my 6-share. My favorite has got to be Tantek and Eric Meyer staring each other down 🙂

There was an emergency evacuation yesterday. Apparently it’s the first almost-live podcast recording of a building evacuation! One of the guys from the conference was telling me he got a hilarious pic of Eric Meyer crouching outside the venue with his laptop out on his knees trying to get on Wifi! [photo]— can’t wait to see that on Flickr! Check out all the we05 photos on Flickr

All the talks yesterday were awesome. I especially liked Jeffrey Veen’s presentation on usability, Kelly Goto’s presentation on workflow in the agency, and Douglas Bowman’s visionary presentation reminding us that it’s only been 10 years and our art will most definetely look completly different in 10 years.

I’m really looking forward to the AJAX session, as well as Cameron Adams’ Javascript & DOM session. Tantek’s microformats session should be very interesting too.

I’m off to meet Found Agency today too. Probably around lunch time. We’ll see.

Babies, First Flight Overseas

So here I am in the international departure lounge for my first international flight. I’m writing this about 2:33pm. My gate opens at 3:10, with the plane taking off around 3:40.

CJ and I did the duty free store – there was hardly anything. CJ tells me to wait till I see Sydney’s duty free area – much better a selection. That said, I’ve never seen such a big bottle of Baileys or such a big bar of Toblerone in my life.

I’m listening to the Daily Source Code on my iPod. I really like listening to podcasts – they fill time so well, and there is always something interesting to listen to. IT Conversations especially.

If you can’t tell, I’m rambling. I try to blog when I have something interesting to say, but today, I’m blogging for the sake of blogging. An almost-live thought-dump if you like, seeing as I’m not posting this till I get onto some sort of internet connection.

I’ve told a few people that I used to have this recurring dream that I’d be flying to somewhere in the world, and I’d get to the other country, get to customs and I’d forgotten my passport; I’d left it on my desk at home. Of course, that’s not possible, because you need to show your passport before you get into the international departure lounge, but I was pretty scared that I’d forget something pretty important by the time I got to Australia.

I’m pretty excited about getting to Sydney. The flight is just a necessary boredom between here and there, even though I’ve never left New Zealand before; yes, this is the first time in my life.

I hope I can get a bed at wakeup tonight. The place looks pretty trendy from the website, but if I get there about 8pm on a Wednesday night, I’m concerned that they won’t be able to put me up.

. . .

So here I am on the Airbus A320 to Sydney. I don’t know what time it is, because I don’t know what time zone I’m in right now, and I my cellphone is off. (EDIT: When I wrote this, I didn’t think to look at the time on my laptop.) I’m in row 5 behind, the 2nd row from the front of the main cabin, behind Business Class. I can’t recommend this seat, because the front row of business is equipped with bassinets for baby travel, and there’s three babies traveling with us today. After 3.25 hours of this I can imagine I’ll be all “Argh! SHUT IT OFF SHUT IT OFF!”

It’s lovely above the clouds. I wish I could tell you how high we are.

OK, on goes the podcasts – damn babies.

So I got into Sydney about 5:30. I say 5:30 because there was a HUGE line at customs. But once we got into Sydney proper, we drove off to the centre of town to the Mercure where CJ was staying. The bellhop at the Mercure gave me bum directions to Wake Up, and I ended up walking around nearly the entire railway station. Man they have some really long pedestrian subways in Sydney; so long infact that in this particular subway there were two buskers who weren’t within earshot of each other.

So eventually after asking some random people where this place was I found it. It’s a really nice place – trendy, and really busy. I’m in a six-share with five other girls.

So I went to wake up’s bar “Side Bar” – a fitting name for a guy who’s a web developer. I ordered the special of the day (Steak & Kidney Pie + a pint – WTF, I hate kidney!) and grabbed a seat with some randoms. Backpackers are friendly people, always ready to strike up a conversation – I guess this is of necessity, as people don’t know anyone, and are looking for people to hang out with. I met two people from the US, one from Denmark and one from France.

Right now I’m lying on my bed typing on the laptop. It’s hard to keep my head up, especially with all the beer I just consumed. I should save this and go to sleep. BTW, I’m typing all this into Word, as there’s no public wifi available from this room.

Actually, there is, but it’s pay wifi, so I went and hunted down a AUD$20 Telstra PhoneAway card. So I’ll post this now and hit the sack.

No photos as yet. Will take photos at the conference tomorrow