TheWebIs in Cardiff


The Web Is was a 2 day web conference in Cardiff, the successor to “Handheld” from the year before, that everyone raved about for what seemed like months, so there was no way I was going to miss it. Especially as part of my effort to go to more multi-day conferences.

When the day actually came though, I have to admit to being super reluctant to start. It had already been a long week and when I missed the last off-peak train and had to shell out an extra 100 quid, I almost didn’t go. (Side note: really beginning to hate trains.) But I’ve been won over, these talks were just great.

Chris Murphy started us off and was one of the highlights for me. Excellent guy, knowledgeable about the web and a great speaker, but in these waters that doesn’t really set you apart. Rather it’s his insights into education that really interest me as Higher education for the web is such a rarity still, talking about all the parts that “normal” education misses and how the whole paradigm needs to change.

Nathan Ford gave a nice talk on the web being constantly unconstant, the ground ever shifting under our feet, which struck a chord with me having worked on so many translatable, CMS-able and responsive projects that mean the designers and developers actually have almost no control over the site!

Anna Debenham gave her “people browse the web on consoles” talk which is always interesting and backed up with stats and examples. Surprise take-home that browsing on a Wii U is pretty powerful and the web might be moving in unexpected directions.

Seb Lee Delisle was notsomuch about the practical discussions but gave a very engaging talk on doing random real-world stuff with lasers. Sounded very fun.

Emma Mulqueeny gave an insight into what she calls the “97ers”; those born after 1997 who have grown up with social media, the peer-to-peer generation, forming a web community about storytelling and identity, to police this will mess with the fragile identity structure.

Keir Whitaker spoke about a life audit in these crazy, noisy times: looking for some focus: what do we want to be known as or for? But then the more you output, better you’ll feel, and the more of your voice you’ll find so maybe the point is just to get stuff out there. Certainly something I try to do a lot: Love what you do, share it, be good at a lot, be great at less.

Phil Hawksworth gave a rallying cry to stop messing with links, the lynchpin of all websites. The line that stuck most was no one has javascript while they’re downloading your javascript

The day finished up with some panel-type chats on mental health in the industry lead by Andy Clark.

“Sometimes depression is being sad but sometimes it’s being angry and sometimes it’s pulling it together and going out with all your friends an having a great time and then not being able to speak to anyone for three days because you’ve used up everything you had.”

I think on the second day I was still digesting much of what was said on the first: much less of the second day stuck with me. My favourite talk was probably Robin Christopherson who spoke about the opportunities that computers can afford for those with with disabilities. It was interesting seeing how simple phone apps like a light-detector can have unexpectedly life-changing uses for a blind user. One funny and insightful thing he revealed was how people with impairments refer to the abled-bodied: “TABs”: Temporarily Abled-Bodied (because everyone ages!).

So I’m super privileged to be able to take so much time off and afford these trips away but I’ve seen many of these people speak before, and though they’re great, there’s probably diminishing returns. There’s so much other stuff I should probably be learning: disparate and obvious stuff like command-line git, Illustrator, Angular / Ember, portraiture, maybe even Yoga!? Basically I enjoyed the couple of days and would recommend them, I’d like to go again but I don’t know if I should.