Wednesday, June 27, 2007

An Event Apart - Seattle 2007 - Day 1

An Event Apart - Seattle 2007 - I was there. I usually sign up for technically oriented conferences, but this time I thought of attending an event that had a lot of the web celebrities speaking. I was attracted to web design for a long time now and I wanted to hear these guys. I flew to Seattle on Wed. June 20th. It was sunny and in the mid 50s I guess. I just loved it, having to escape the heat back in Atlanta. After checking in, I decided to take a stroll to the Bell Harbor International Conference Center to register myself for the event. It was nice walking the streets of downtown Seattle. About 8 blocks and 20 mins. I was there. I registered, got my badge and a bag for the next day. I went up to the terrace and took some pictures.

The agenda had some interesting topics and celebrated speakers like Jeff Veen (Design manager, Google), Andy Budd (“CSS Mastery”), Khoi Vinh (Design director,, Tim Bray (Co-creator of XML), Shawn Henry (Web Accessibility Initiative), Shaun Inman (Inman Flash Replacement, Mint), Mike Davidson (CEO, Newsvine), Jason Santa Maria (A List Apart, AIGA), Jeffrey Zeldman (“Designing With Web Standards”, A List Apart) and Eric Meyer ("CSS: The Definitive Guide").

So far, so good.

On the opening day, I walked into a hall which seats 300, and the there were people standing at the back. So, I thought, well they over sold. But, I found out that there were a lot of seats unoccupied and I found myself one.

The opening statement was done by Jeffrey Zeldman.

Eric Meyer was the first one to speak. "Secrets of the CSS Jedi" was the topic and I found out the secret was "how to transform a table to a bar graph using CSS". That is it. That did not seem like a Jedi trick to me. I know Eric is very knowledgeable as I read his blog, his book Cascading Style Sheets: The Definitive Guide, 2nd Edition, but I was disappointed by both his presentations. His second presentation talked about CSS features that IE7 implemented. I did not pay $800 to listen to what has been published several times, all over the internet. I wanted to hear about his style, his process, his thinking...

Next was Jeffrey Zeldman. One word - just brilliant. He spoke his mind. He spoke what he goes through each day. His experience. I liked his sense of practicality. I loved the fact that I learned something from his experiences. His second presentation was just as good. He talked about another practical aspect - selling. He taught. He inspired. He was fun to listen to. He let me peek inside his brain to see how he thinks of user interface design. I just loved it. I met him in the party later in the night. His book Designing with Web Standards (2nd Edition) is a must-read.

[With "The Jeffrey Zeldman" at Belltown Billiards, Seattle]

Jason Santa Maria was charismatic. I knew I was looking at a designer. He had that thing in him. He spoke his mind. He talked about his process from start to finish. It was interesting to see how a designer copes up with print medium, web medium and then with technology. I had already read about the re-design projects that he talked about, but he was fun listening to. I asked him if designers should learn the technology (CSS, HTML etc.) and he said that he did. I asked him if getting distracted by the learning curve of technology takes them away from thier core design talent - and he said that it was not true for him. He said that he had to learn the technology behind printing when he was involved in the print medium, and the web medium was no different. I guess so. I met him later at the party and shared some thoughts.

[With Jason Santa Maria at Belltown Billiards, Seattle]

Sometime between when Jason started talking and lunch, a gentleman with a hat on, came and sat at the seat next to me. I did not pay too much attention as I was checking my emails. Later on, I found out that it was Tim Bray. The Co-creator of XML, Director of Web Technologies at Sun Microsystems. Wow! I would have loved to talk to him. He did not show up at the night parties either, so I missed a chance to talk to him personally. Well, I did get the chance to hear him speak. He talked about trends, web 2.0, web in general but nothing in particular. It was interesting and inspiring. He evangilized about ATOM a little bit at the end. You can read the books - Developing Feeds with RSS and Atom by Ben Hammersley, RSS and Atom in Action: Web 2.0 Building Blocks by Dave Johnson or Beginning RSS and Atom Programming by Danny Ayers to get an insight about the Atom publishing format.

Shawn Henry, opened my eyes to the world of accessibility. It is not that I have been unaware, but she made me aware that it takes a lot to be complaint, to be useful to the people who need it. Riddled with technological barriers, she is pledged towards the fight for a better, accessible web. Show support for her efforts by reading her book Just Ask: Integrating Accessibility Throughout Design.

Next up was Andy Budd. I have read his book CSS Mastery: Advanced Web Standards Solutions. Very good book. I loved it. Just as I loved to hear him speak. The best thing about his presentation: one focus topic. He talked about user interface design and that's it. He pounded on the same point over and over again, to drive his point through. Nice approach. While many people talk about a lot of things in the same paragraph, and make no sense at all at the end, Andy knew his stuff. I liked that attitude. He had the best of the slide decks. One picture. One caption. That's all was required to convey the message. I was inspired by his Apple Store example. His story about the vending machine selling memory cards made me laugh. He got his point of "great idea, bad implementation" across. His case about StarBucks was so true. "You pay $2.89 - not for a cup of coffee, but for the whole experience." I have felt that before. That is what keeps taking me back there. And, then there was humor. The company that wrote funny things under milk cartons. He was right - "An innate thing like a milk carton made me smile. It made my day." I get that. It is a nice feeling. I got a chance to meet him upfront at the night party. I asked him why was he pushing for CSS 2.2 specs. Well he said, CSS 3.0 is not real and is never be done. So, since most of the browsers have actually started implementing subsets of the CSS 3.0 spec, why not just time box it into CSS 2.2 and called it a day. I am fine with that.

[With Andy Budd at Belltown Billiards, Seattle]

Adam who blogs at, graciously took the photo with me and Andy.

That was end of Day 1. With my mind racing with thoughts, I headed back to the hotel. I washed up and then headed back to Belltown Billiards for the opening night party. The place was packed with people crowded near the bar and where the billard tables lay. Pizzas and booze was on the house.
I mingled, ate and drank, talked and clicked a lot of photos. That is what I call a party, after a hard day's work. I retired for the night, looking forward to Day 2.


  1. The after parties looked like fun. Also a good place to meet the pundits on a more human level.

    Being a Seattleite, it was difficult to make time for the parties, because of other obligations (like celebrating my wedding anniversary). That is where it pays to be an out-of-towner, because all you can do is go to the parties!

    Ah well, another day! Cheers.

  2. hi, just read your review--great stuff! really enjoyed the commentary and your photos with the speakers! wish i had done the same :) i also posted a review at my blog here: