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FITC Roundup

April 13, 2005

Some disjointed thoughts about Toronto and Flash in the Can.

I just got back from the better part of a week in Toronto for the annual ‘Flash in the Can’ conference. The most common reaction I got after mentioning that I’d be speaking at this particular conference was, naturally, why? I very rarely use Flash, and my topic was CSS-related anyway.

As I said while speaking, the best I could come up with was that I got invited as the ‘token CSS guy’. There were other non-Flash presentations though, some more creatively-inclined (with obvious relevance) and some more technically inclined (with slightly less obvious synergy). In that context, I think for both myself and the audience, the talk I did actually fit in.

What surprised me was the interest. For my 9am presentation, arguably the worst time slot of any conference, the room was surprisingly full. During Q&A at the end, some very thoughtful and considered questions came up. I could tell that many in the audience were experienced CSS users. Not quite what I was expecting.

Flash in the Can itself was a well-organized, smoothly run conference. I never did get a chance to meet and thank the organizers, so thanks for the invite Shawn.

I alternated my time between seeing a few other presentations and exploring Toronto. I managed to catch most of David Carson’s talk and a few minutes of Yugo Nakumura on the last day. It seemed that the presenters I specifically wanted to see were content to show their work, say a few words about their process, and end without having covered anything terribly profound.

The highlight of the talks I saw was James Patterson, a guy I’d never heard of before. When he started running through his work though, I immediately recognized his style. He’s done enough TV spots that you may too. While you could never call it pretty, it’s uniquely distinct in a grungy, ‘flawed beauty’ sense, and I found his creation process absolutely fascinating. He’s into automatically generating a final result from simple animation components. He starts on a very low, modular level and strings together a sampling from his huge library of previously rendered and animated pieces to create the final result. Quite an eye-opener.

It being my first time in the city (I’m surprisingly non well-travelled in my own country), I made a point of exploring Toronto. The first day or two were extremely disorienting. Almost every flight I’ve taken over the past three years has landed in the US. Deplaning from a 4.5 hour flight to a city that was still a part of Canada took some adjustment.

Yep, I did the CN Tower. The top observation deck is equivalent to 147 stories high, which (it’s claimed) makes it the highest one in the world. There’s a glass floor on one level which is about 110 stories high. Talk about a psychological barrier — I’m not afraid of heights, but walking on a clear floor that high up was extremely uncomfortable.

And finally, the people. What I most enjoy about going to conferences is the cool people I get to meet. After my presentation on Sunday morning, I shook hands with a guy who turned out to be Daniel Burka of SilverOrange (and Firefox logo) fame, and his former co-worker Geoffrey (sorry, I never did catch your last name.) Both were great guys with whom I ended up grabbing lunch and wandering the city.

And we did a dinner with the group. As bad with names as I am, I believe those present were Joe, Daniel, Suzanne, Mike, Brice, Joanna, Craig, and no doubt one or two others I’m missing. It was good to hear about a group across the country doing what I wish we had going here in Vancouver. It might be time to get moving on that…

Coming tomorrow: a discussion of Microsoft’s FITC presentation of Avalon (their new rendering system) and XAML (the code that goes along with it).

Craig says:
April 13, 01h

’Twas good to finally meet you in person — and I can assure you, the waitresses in Toronto usually aren’t as bad as the ones we encountered during our meals.

Ethan says:
April 13, 02h

Ah, I used to work with James P.; he’s a great guy, and insanely talented. If you’ve not checked out some of the stuff he did with Amit Pitaru[1], it’s worth your time.

And if you’re up for a bit of digging[2], the Kermit Intermissions are so very, very wrong (and oh-so-NSFW).


Dante says:
April 13, 03h

That picture of the glass floor brought back a flood of memories of it from when I was 4. Thanks!

Chris says:
April 13, 06h

You’re incredibly lucky you’ve got no fear of heights. I’d probably avoid that floor like the plague. Even the picture of it gave me vertigo, which just means my phobia is getting worse.

Perhaps to conquer it, I’ll go to Toronto and jump on the glass. Or maybe I won’t, because if it broke, I’d be dead as a doornail. A very, very squished doornail.

April 13, 11h

Glad you enjoyed my hometown. Certainly the variety of the city is its greatest strength. In just an afternoon, you can walk through China, Greece, Korea, and Italy. I kind of like that.

It would have been great to come to FITC, but my poor student budget just couldn’t justify the cost. Thanks for sharing your experience though.

Oliver says:
April 13, 11h

Wow that’s awesome. I wish I could go to Toronto sometimes (I live in vancouver as well). How were the new Flash gadgets they introduced in FIC? Each year they are supposed to have some new stuff/projects that are supposed to amaze everyone.

Jon Clark says:
April 13, 11h

Ah, come on Dave, I went to the CN Tower for my 10th birthday and my friends and I all jumped up and down on the glass, testing the “eighteen hippopotamus” weight limit. It was fun as heck, and it even got my mother worried and agitated, which was the plan.

I’m hoping to get to the FITC conference in a few years when I have something to gain from it other than a feeling of awe at the scale of information there. Oh, and I need money. Being a student is awesome.

Eric Wright says:
April 13, 12h

Wasn’t the Firefox logo by Jon Hicks?

Who’s Daniel Burka?

Magnus says:
April 13, 12h

Straight from
“The final chosen design was a concept from Daniel Burka and sketched by Stephen Desroches,”

Marco says:
April 14, 07h

To quote;
“It was good to hear about a group across the country doing what I wish we had going here in Vancouver. It might be time to get moving on that…”

I definitely concur. Seeing these types of events come and go from other areas of the world, it would be nice to have something close that I could have a chance at attending and contributing to.

Rick says:
April 14, 08h

Dave, glad you enjoyed your time at FITC. I’m also glad to hear that you found some method to our madness for inviting a CSS guy to a “Flash” conference. As I’m sure you noticed, the conference this year was less about Flash and more about design and technology. CSS of course is one technology used to facilitate the delivery of design and thus a perfect fit. When looking for someone to represent the CSS front we could think of no one better.

Unfortunately due to the mass amounts of content we try and squeeze into a limited schedule you did end up being the token CSS guy despite our hopes for that to not be the case.

Hope to see you back again next year!

Daryl says:
April 14, 09h


Coming into the FITC weekend, your presentation was the one I was most looking forward to. Flash is nowhere near my thing, and I have fully adapted my web design to web standards.

After the first day I met some of the presenters and reviewed some of the other presentation write-ups… I will be honest, it was a huge toss-up between yours and just about every other presentation 9am on Saturday. The search engine one and the Keep It Simple looked interesting; I figured I had known what you would present anyways.

I decided to attend yours, even though I am fluent in CSS and Web Standards, and boy am I glad I did.

Dave, you explained flash’s co-existance with web standards really well. I like how you pointed out that websites designed entirely in flash are not SEO and not accessible. Your examples were valuable and relevant. I hope some of those less familiar with web standards took away some important key points.

Also, standing around after Yugo’s presentation, I found your notes on the podium. I took them… hope you don’t mind. =)

Did you happen to catch Colin Moock’s presentation?

Christen says:
April 19, 12h

Here is a link for anyone interested in web standards CSS and Flash.

From Claus Wahlers of DENG fame.

Great site Dave.
Many thanks,