2010 Conferences

Last year, was the first year that I really got going with conferences, managing to attend FOWA London and EECI2009 in Holland.  This was part of a very deliberate plan to get out there and meet and talk to people.  I also managed to get away from my desk / iMac to meet up with a few people I’d only previously talked or worked with via Skype / Twitter / etc.

So, carrying on this year, these are the conferences / events I’m hoping to attend.

The CSS3 Online Confernce – Online (duh!) – Mar 22nd 2010
CSS3 is on my never ending list of “must learn more”.  This looks a pretty interesting line up.

EECI 2010 – Leiden Holland – Sept/Oct 2010
Last years, first event was a fantastic one, and confirmed that the choice to adopt ExpressionEngine and CodeIgniter as my core platform was a wise one!

FOWA 2010 London ?? 2010
Last years 2 day event wasn’t overly fantastic at speech/talk content, but was blooming awesome for networking.

So, any that I’ve missed or should attend?  Which ones are you planning to attend?

New Host

Sorry for another tedious post!

I’ve finally gotten around to moving away from a small Slicehost VPS, to a much beefier one at VPS.net.  So far seems to work well.. please let me know if the site slows down, or has any weird issues!

Thank you.. normal service can now resume.

Finally Updated WordPress

I’ve finally gotten around to upgrading WordPress and giving the site a new theme.

Yet again the control panel has been flipped about, probably the main reason I tend not to offer WordPress for my clients.  I’ve been bitten before! Train the client on the WP Control Panel, a few months later, install the security update and boom I get support calls saying “Hey!  WTF you done!  I cannot find anything”

Deep joy!

Microsoft joining the W3C SVG Working Group

A couple of days ago on the IE Blog, it was announced that Mircrosoft would be joining the W3C SVG Working Group.  So what? I hear you cry!

Why is this important?

SVG or “Scalable Vector Graphics” are, in a nutshell a way to describe scalable graphics using XML, or as the W3C dryly puts it:

SVG is a language for describing two-dimensional graphics and graphical applications in XML

Currently the “modern” browsers (Webkit, Firefox and mostly to give them credit Opera (the great browser nobody uses)) all have pretty decent levels of SVG support.  As always the spawn of Satan IE, lags behind.  Are you surprised? No I didn’t think so.

If in either a patched version of IE8, which compared to previous versions isn’t *that* bad, or in IE9 whenever it appears SVG support is decent, and built in then this means that web developers like me, can start using SVG a hell of a lot more. Mix this in with improved CSS3 support and we can start building accessible as well as interesting websites, without relying on (generally) non-accessible crap like Flash.

A whole wodge of very cool examples of SVG (often sprinkled in with some JavaScript magic) can be found here: http://www.carto.net/svg/samples/ (For best results use a modern browser!).


In an effort to give this poor neglected a blog a little kick, I’ve signed up to Project52.  The aim is simple, to post at least one new entry a week for the year ahead.

Future subjects will mostly include ExpressionEngine, tech events, php, work, rants and pointless waffle.

Should be… interesting!

ExpressionEngine Evangelism

During the few days at and around FOWA last week, I got to spend a lot of time talking to people about ExpressionEngine.

So for those that are interested, the following it a little mind-dump / link store of EE related gubbins.

So what is it?  According the the official site:

ExpressionEngine is a flexible, feature-rich content management system that empowers thousands of individuals, organizations, and companies around the world to easily manage their website.

Ok.. that tells you very little!  Basically ExpressionEngine is a commercial, PHP driven Content Management System that is truly flexible, powerful and extend-able.  As a core product, out of the box, it supports blogs, news feeds, rss, xml, pagination, navigation, mailing lists, wikis, membergroups, galleries etc etc.  It does come with a fairly steep learning curve, but it is a path worth climbing.

Unlike many other CMSs, EE’s templating system is completely flexible.  By default it works from the URL structure of:


Inside your templates, you can just have nice, simple, clean html/css or xml, or JSON, or whatever format you want EE to spit out for you.  Just drop in simple tag / tag pairs for you content.

When you first get started with EE, the first thing to do is to rename the rather misleading “weblogs” to “sections”.  Each “section” can have unlimited fields, group, categories, status levels, membership levels etc associated with them, so that really you can do more or less anything with it.  I’ve seen people build simple websites with EE, I have also seen those that have really pushed the system, using it to power betting syndicate sites, live racing results, plotting the position of boats on the ocean etc etc.

Anyhow… as you can tell, I am a big fan of EE.  There are other systems out there for sure, even those that are free and can do much of this stuff, however none that I have used have come close to the speed at which I can now knock out sites with EE.

There are 100s of available plugins, modules and extensions, some free, some commercial.  These allow things like fully featured forums or bridges into other systems.

As things stand, EE is at version 1.6.8 or so, the revamped version 2 is in private beta and is due out “when it’s ready… soon… ish”.  Version 2 promises a revamped work-flow, new control panel, 101 new features and most importantly will be built on top of the excellent Code Igniter PHP framework.

To me, the biggest advantage of EE, is it’s support and community.  The forums are just plain awesome.

Later this month I will be travelling to Leiden in Holland for the first ExpressionEngine / CodeIgniter Conference (woo hoo!).

Righty… link dump…

Hope this helps, and if anyone wants a demo of an EE site, just yell… I’m always happy to gush about it!



FOWA London – October 2009

FOWA London 2009, was held in Kensington and Chelsea Town Hall.  This was a 2 day event.  What follows it a very brief write up, in no particular order, and does not aim to waffle about every talk!

Day 1

Taking you Site from One to One Million Users – Kevin Rose / Digg

A rambling, dull opener, though mainly because I think I have now heard the same talk/presentation at least 3 times.

The Future of JavaScript Design Patterns – Unleashing Full Object-Orientated Capability – Dustin Diaz / Twitter

Dustin is great and likeably, but to me this was far far too short on any tech details.  Maybe I drifted off, but it seemed to be lots of lists of different frameworks.  “jQuery is like crack.. one line and your hooked”.  Oh and Twitter will be doing a Google style “Labs.twitter” type thing. God knows what will be on it.

How we Built HelloApp….

Yawn… I walked out, obvious advert / sponsor slot for Microsoft and their MVC.net thing.

Advanced Web App Marketing Strategies – Chris Abad / Spymaster

This was a controversial one, Spymaster was a Twitter game, that as you played spammed the hell out of your friends.  Really questionable morals on this one “Well it’s sort of opt-in.. sort of opt-out”.  Again, like the majority of the talks at FOWA, it was very light on any real detail.  What was interesting was the story that on day 3 or so after the game was launch, Twitter had one of it’s epic failure moments, and was down for hours.  This killed off most of the momentum of the game.  Interesting moral there!

Going Global: The Future of Facebook Connect – Cat Lee

Facebook Connect and Facebook Translate were pimped here, Cat was “lovely”, had stunning shoes.. but really just gushed for 20 mins

Future of Social Web Apps – Ed Anuff & Mike Malone / Six Apart

Another advert slot, from the guys that bought and closed Pownce (with 1 weeks notice).  Nice idea of a system, but I find it hard to trust them with my sites / data after Pownce.

The Future of HTML5 – Bruce Lawson / Opera

Cracking talk, finally some techy bits, even code on the big screen at last.  Really fired up now over HTML5, lots of very lovely things coming.  Will experiment more in the coming days.  Lots of resources here: – http://my.opera.com/ODIN/blog/2009/10/05/future-of-web-apps-london-html5

How the Guardian is using APIs, Framworks and Tools to Build a Mutualised Newspaper – Chris Thorpe / The Guardian

Interesting, meandering talk.  Need to investigate more into their platform.  Also mentions of the UK gov. trying to open up it’s data.

How People will use the Web in the Future – Aza Raskin / Mozilla

20 minutes of blue-sky thinking.  Very entertaining and a good one to finish off day 1.  Must investigate their Ubiquity thing http://labs.mozilla.com/ubiquity/

Day 2

During day 2, I skipped a lot of the talks, as I was too busy waffling to people / pimping myself.

The Future of the Cloud – Simon Wardley / Freelance

Probably the best talk of the show, very entertaining, very interesting.  Basically Ubuntu have hedged their bets on Amazons EC2 standard for cloud computing / services.

The Future of Print – Lynne d Johnson

Very American biassed talk.  Didn’t catch a great deal of it, was basically a “Print is Dead!  Long live Print” type thing.  Journalists become online content creators, editors become Online Commutity Directors.. etc etc. Not very convincing.

Startup Metrics for Pirates: AARRR! – Dave McClure

Again, half listening.. lots of it seemed to involve the idea of stop adding shit to your web app.. instead cut stuff.. if people complain.. you’ve found what your users love.. so bring it back.. but better!

At the end of Day 1, I was kindly invited along to a dinner at Sticky Fingers by Benjamin Dyer (of Actinic) with around 40 or so varied and interesting folk.  Thanks again for the invite.. was a *lot* of fun.  After far far too much red meat, we skipped the invite to the “official” party, which was miles away in Piccadilly Circus.  Instead we ended up in some dodgy pub in Kensinginton *hooray for random pubs!*.


The event was sponsored by the following:

Microsoft – They were showing off their Expression Web / Blend / Thing software (*yawn*), their MS Table/Surface thing (*Wow.. huge fun*), and a few other touchy feely things.

PayPal – Showing off their new platform at www.x.com I had a 10 minute chat with one of their guys, and I was still none the wiser as to what it was all about.  Felt I was playing buzz-word bingo.

Yahoo – No talks from them on the main stage, but they were upstairs in force.  Great schwag, and got to talk geo stuff to them… Lots to play with on – http://developer.yahoo.com/

Ordnance Survey – Wow.. finally OS data coming *slowly* and painfully onto the web.  http://openspace.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/openspace/

Vodafone 360 – Vodafone is attempting to take on Apple App Store/iPhone or Google Android with it’s own open platform for developing widgets/apps for a range of handsets.  Interesting stuff… doubt it will gain much traction for now. – http://info.vodafone360.com/en/experience/index

Sun / Sun Startup Essentials – These guys took over most of the basement.  Interesting!  Got an idea? Need hardware/funding.. These guys offer it (in exchange for some of your stock etc…).

To Sum Up…

The venue suffered from tech failure.  The WiFi was dire, just plain didn’t work.  I ended up paying for 24hrs access on the BTOpenZone which was in the building and more-or-less worked.  With so many geeks in one room, most were on iPhones on O2, which meant that cell-phone reception was also pants.

Overall a great show for me for the people I met, new contacts, faces put to skype/twitter accounts etc etc… The talks though, generally were not really up to what I expected from the event.  I paid a semi-early-bird price of £230 for the 2 days (ignoring the cost of the hotel / travel / 3 days away from invoice-able work etc).  If I’d paid the full price of £400, I’d be asking for at least a part refund.

Carsonified (the event organisers) need to try a lot harder.  Pay more for proper wifi, pick less obviously promotional speakers, and learn that if you want to talk about the Social Web.. that there is more out there than just Digg and Twitter.

Networking – 9/10
Venue – 5/10
Tech – 1/10
Fun – 7/10
Talks – 6/10

Overall – 6/10 – Must try harder!

Queenstown, South Island

On Kingston Flierour way from Te Anau to Queenstown, we indulged Brod in yet another geeky train thing.  This time it was a genuine antique steam train called the Kingston Flyer.  It is has a history in New Zealand railway folklore and now runs on *13Km* of track from Kingston on the shore of Lake Wakatipu to a turnround in the middle of nowhere.  This is the only remaining part of the main railway from Dunedin and Invercargill to Kingston, where the train used to connect up with a steamship to Queenstown.  Brod spent most of the time photographing the loco and standing grandly on the open deck of the last carriage like an American president going through the Wild West.

WeQueenstown spent 2 nights in The Lofts Apartments in the town of Queenstown.  Queenstown is a year round resort, with busy snowfields within 20Km of town during Winter, and a busy, sporty & warm climate during the Summer.  Queenstown claims it is the inventor of the Bungee Jump, it also lays claim to the worlds first commercial jet boat on it’s rivers.  Our plan was to take the Shotover Jet Boat, down river, however after a morning reading the local paper, and it’s headlines about how the river was closed, due to the police and rescue services continued search for the two bodies of two jet-boaters, we decided to give it a miss.

We took a drive out to the Kawarau bridge over the icy-cold river where there was a bungee operation to watch lunatics hurl themselves off.  Before you jump off, the staff at the top ask you if you want to stay dry, touch the water, or be completely immersed (upside down of course).  Judging by the reactions of some who got soaked, we are not so sure they paid too much attention!  One young lad of about 10 was having real last minute nerves, which meant the whole crowd watching started to cheer him on, we were standing next to the jump platform and had every sympathy with him!  After about 5 minutes of coaxing by one of the staff on the platform he went over.. poor sod, he didn’t look overly happy at the bottom either.  All jumpers Queenstown Bungeewere collected by a little rubber raft, bouncing about in the freezing cold torrent.  After which they had to climb up a bloody big flight of steps back to the top, usually freezing cold and all alone!  Seems a bit of a downer for NZ$165 each!

Leaving the madness of the jumpers behind, we drove up to Arrowtown, a former gold-minding town.  Here in the museum I found more of the Cowan clan, this time an owner of a coal-pit nearby.

After the shiteness of the Te Anau cuisine, we were pleased to be in Queenstown, where they appear to employ chefs and waiters with some form of training.  We had two very good meals here, including one, where we even ‘bought to t-shirt’.