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London Wrap-Up

January 26

They say the jet lag's easier going west than east. Either way, 8 hours is a heck of a time difference.

Parliament Buildings

I'm back and (mostly) recovered from a week in London, and boy was it ever great meeting all of you who came out to the Carson Workshop, or the Skillswap in Brighton, or the Geek Dinner back in London.

Though it was my first time in the city, due to various suggestions and other circumstances I won't get into here, it seemed like a good time to pack the week with social events. The hallmark of a good trip is the quality of people you meet, and London had it in spades.

Without delving into the minutiae of each day, I've mentally blocked out the trip into a few distinct chunks of days, which went a little something like this.

Carson Workshops

Gore Hotel

Of course, the main reason for going in the first place was to run a one day workshop with Carson Systems. Ryan and Gillian are top notch event organizers, with their ability of taking care of the little details, and making their guests feel like royalty. Seriously. Check out that hotel suite. It was unbelievable.

The first two days were preparation, mainly toward re-adjusting my body clock. I ended up going in completely sleep-deprived anyway, of course. C'est la vie.

The workshop itself went pretty well, I thought. A full day is a long time to get up and talk, but in the spirit of "it's better to be over-prepared than under-prepared" I actually managed to run into time constraints. Now that's a first for me. Feedback has been quite positive so far, I think it was a good experience for everyone.

What impressed me most were the questions and comments that came up later in the day. The last hour or so was pure Q&A-style discussion, and questions being asked were reassuringly sophisticated and clued-in. It's great when really smart people come out, I end up learning a bunch myself.

Brighton, Skillswap

Brighton Pier

Courtesy of Mssrs. Budd and Keith, I had a reason to go to Brighton on England's south coast, and a place to stay when I got there.

Andy runs an event for the local new media community called SkillSwap, and tendered the invite to come down and talk to the local crew. Jeremy and the lovely Jessica have opened their home to my fellow countrymen in the past, and so I found myself the lucky recipient of a night chez J&J.

I think I'll let Jeremy summarize the two days in Brighton, he's already covered everything I'd have to say. Except for the Dave Shea/Dave Seah incident.

At some point Andy asked me if I had seen the "I Am Not Dave Shea" post. I had no idea what he was talking about, and during the SkillSwap, he loaded it up.

Now, I may be biased since it comes across as pretty complimentary, granted (thanks Dave). But the real point is, my god is that ever a clever piece of writing. I couldn't resist commenting of course, and from what I read later, my UK IP address at the time was enough to flag it as a bogus comment. Whoops.


After Brighton, it was back up to London for a couple of days of playing the tourist. I managed to squeeze in lunch with Patrick Griffiths, but up until the geek dinner, it was non-stop sight-seeing. A brief list of what got crammed into two days:

Liecester & Trafalgar Square
Liecester Square The latter amid the Sunday morning bells from the nearby St. Martin's-in-the-Field. Great time to go visit, wouldn't want to live there.
St. Paul's Cathedral
I walked in during the first half of a Sunday morning service. The choir was singing totally acoustically, and the way it bounced around the vaulted ceiling was breathtaking. This was the highlight of the day for me, even though they don't allow photos/video.
The Tower of London
Tower Bridge After reading Stephenson's Baroque Cycle, it was an absolute must, despite the $30 CDN entrance fee. The place is steeped in history, and if you're into that sort of thing, England's crown jewels are stored there as well. (No pictures allowed of those either.)
Big Ben / Parliament Buildings
I didn't bother going inside any, but managed to get some nice evening shots along the waterfront and a few poor daylight shots.
Westminster Abbey
Worth the £10 admission, for the ornate decor, for the historical significance, and for the incredibly high dead kings per square foot ratio. Though I was never quite sure who was buried there, and who was simply memorialized. Cromwell? Chaucer? Tennyson? Olivier? I suspect it's a little of the former, but most of the latter. Again. No photos.
The British Museum
Rosette Stone The British Museum is an incredibly rich trove of world history, with artifacts from many important civilizations over the past 6000 years. Egyptian, Grecian, Roman, Chinese, Indian, and European to name a few. Anyone in the world can simply walk in and view this huge collection of mankind's history without paying a cent. They've got the original Rosetta Stone, by the way. (I did the Tate Modern as well, which I didn't enjoy nearly as much.)

There was much, much more, but those were the highlights.

Geek Dinner

And, finally, on my last night in town, I spent the evening with 60 or so of my new best friends. As alluded to earlier around these parts, Ian Forrester organized a superb Geek Dinner since I happened to be in town. Great times were had, beer was drunk, and I rambled on for a while about usability and Javascript and CSS and the like. There's actually quite a good transcript out there, though it's obviously not exact. Close enough for a crowded room with bad acoustics though.

Kudos to Ian for putting on such a great evening, and everyone else for coming out and saying hi, though I didn't get a chance to talk to even half of you. The room was absolutely packed, so maybe if we'd had another few hours...


A fantastic trip. One of the best I've done yet. As always, it's the people that really make it, and without exception everyone I met in England was simply Good People. Now I can't wait for @Media. In the interim, I'm pulling a Molly and jetting off again tomorrow for yet another event. Honestly, I have no idea how she does it.

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Site Launch: Rosenfeld Media

January 13
Rosenfeld Media

Ah, at last! I've been looking forward to writing this up for a while now, one of my latest projects just went live. Rosenfeld Media is a brand new publishing company for our industry, with a bit of a twist. Instead of putting out a few epic doorstopper technical manuals each month, the books are going to be short, focused, and will take advantage of technology unlike any other traditional publisher.

The founder, Louis Rosenfeld, is a name a lot of you are likely familiar with. I've had the pleasure of working together with Lou over the past few months on the visual identity for the company, the web site design, and the technical implementation, as well as a few other things still to come. This is one of the broadest projects I've tackled yet, as I've spent my days living in Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop, Movable Type, BBEdit and ssh in almost equal chunks.

The site itself has a few goodies you might be interested in. Make sure to resize your window and see how we've dealt with that. Big thanks to Cameron Adams for writing what's proving to be one of my favourite scripts in the past year.

Almost all the content on the site is being managed through Movable Type. I've learned that if you treat the output MT generates as little content modules, instead of full pages, you can do some pretty powerful stuff with common include files and some selective PHP. I'm still a little annoyed that I have to flatten my HTML for the sake of comment .cgi pages, and my PHP scripts for working around that were always more trouble than they're worth. Still, starting with a clean slate with Movable Type 3.2 on this site opened my eyes to some of the great new stuff they've been adding recently, since I haven't been upgrading my templates on this here site to take advantage of them yet. If you're still old school and running MT like me, 3.2 is a worthwhile upgrade.

A big congratulations to Lou and the rest of the folks involved with Rosenfeld Media for launching this new venture, and if you would like to throw your two cents in about what sort of books you would like to see, go tell 'em!

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Geek Dinner

January 10

Geek dinner. Monday January 23rd. The Crown and Anchor, Covent Garden. London. Will I see you there?

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Open Flash?

January 2

Total speculation alert. I don't want anyone to read further into this than what I say, since I have no insider knowledge. But I was just re-reading a post of my own from December, Macromedia No More, and one paragraph particularly jumped out at me this time 'round.

Which brings us back to the web. AJAX is hot, but Javascript can’t do everything. When faced with its limitations, Flash is currently the most practical alternative. From a business standpoint, it’s a no-brainer to develop and promote this emerging/existing platform (in whatever form it may take). So I’d expect to see a lot more effort toward making Flash development easier.

I got to thinking that if I were to go back and re-write it, I'd probably clarify and say that "...I'd expect to see a lot more effort toward making Flash application development easier." And then I got to thinking even more.

What do we know about Ajax? It relies on text-based Javascript, viewable (and stealable) by anyone. View Source led to the web's popularity, and I have no doubt that View Source and open libraries are inspiring a lot of scripting developments lately. Javascript is far easier on the developer than Flash currently, which (accessibility and functionality concerns aside) goes a long way to explaining its resurgent popularity. The web now needs this sort of functionality; unobtrusive Javascript is likely the most responsible and easiest way to provide it.

Now, there are methods of creating Flash content other than through Macromedia's Adobe's Flash IDE (Integrated Development Environment). But as far as I'm aware, you're still chained to the official software if you want to do much more than simple timeline-based animation.

What could possibly give Flash an edge over open source technology? An injection of the open source philosophy. If the IDE were opened, and Flash movies were View Source-able, wouldn't life be a lot easier for the average Flash application developer?

Update: It has been pointed out numerous times in the comments that there are ways of viewing source on a Flash binary. In fact, Adobe themselves are trying to facilitate this even further—check out this demo and right click for the option. There you go.

I highly doubt Adobe will do it quite like that, if at all. Flash is a big money-maker, always has been. And imagine the out-cry of thousands of content creators who are relying on Flash's inherent closed nature to protect their creation. It's not a likely move, but if the goal is a platform with which to compete against open source technologies and the upcoming XAML/Avalon combo from Microsoft's camp (and that's what it looks like from where I'm sitting), it might be the only way to capture developer mind share.

Of course, it sounds like the new Flash/PDF client is likely to be a new thing, existing "in addition to" rather than "instead of" stand-alone Flash and PDF. Were that different enough to avoid the existing content problem, and were it an open source technology, and were Adobe to somehow figure out a way to quickly get it out to the existing huge install base of the two current technologies, well... I think they might just have something. Big ifs, but this one should be interesting to watch.

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