Scripting Enabled - the 2008 London Event - is over and I still have trouble grasping that we managed to pull it off. On day one about 100 people learnt an amazing amount from the speakers who did a sterling job showing barriers that we unknowingly put into web sites. We spent a full nine hours in the lecture hall of the Metropolitan University, with an hour of lunch break and a few minutes break before each speaker. We had a few complaints about the air conditioning, but other than that all the feedback I got from the audience was very positive bordering on the “amazing”.
The speakers and presentations
I have to say I am very very grateful to all the speakers. The main idea of Scripting Enabled - removing barriers both for disabled users and between geeks and non-geeks - was fully understood and every speaker stuck to giving a lot of great facts and showed examples that lead to a lot of “oh, so that’s how it works” moments. Nobody showed off, tried to get an own agenda through or was “purely inspirational”. Pragmatism ruled, and I loved every bit of it. Well done, Ladies and gentlemen (incidentally, I am quite sure that this was the internet related conference with the largest amount of female speakers in London so far).
Showing videos of real users testing sites and getting stuck at seemingly easy barriers was technically more challenging (Murphy’s Law kicking in heavily) but also very effective. It is so much easier to see the issue when a human shows it than when some expert explains it and the geek in us takes every expert advice with a few pounds of salt.
The slides of the presentations are available right now and I will pick up the video material this week to get it transcribed. I will be out of the country for a week (touring the US - sort of) and then upload them one by one.
The participants and the hack day
I also have to say a big “thank you” to all those who came to see, collaborate and hack. I was very happy to see that it worked out and a lot of people that signed up also came. This is an issue with free events, people are happy to sign up - and effectively hog a ticket - but then don’t show up as there is no pain (i.e. loosing money) in not going.
The people that came were interesting, interested and managed to drive the conversations forward by asking the right questions without showboating or wasting people’s Q&A time with comments instead of grilling the experts.
The hack day was a revelation to me. I am organizing and participating in a lot of hack days and witnessed a decline in drive and commitment in the ones I participated lately. The mashup culture is in a small pickle, as almost everything has been done and a lot of small and cool ideas are instead of being released considered the foundation of the next new big startup.
The normal procedure of a developer day or hack day - built something, then show it to everybody in a minute and get prices - was not happening at Scripting Enabled. First and foremost was that I wanted to disrupt the process by not offering any prices but entice people to release things and start communicating across geek boundaries instead.
Boy did we manage to do that! The original schedule planned from 4 to 5 presentations of what has been developed but albeit things being ready, nobody cared much to show what they did if there is more time to work on it and get information straight from the experts we normally cannot reach. We left the building at 7.15 only because we had to leave, not because of people losing interest! It was great to see developers, designers, screenreader testers and researchers work together on building solutions and several people who asked me if it is worth while to come as they are “not geeks” went home having built their first hack with the help of others.
The outcome of Scripting Enabled might not be the amazing amount of hacks normal developer days have, but it was not meant to be that. It is a start, not a factory. All the releases of the London 2008 edition are posted and will be tracked on the Scripting Enabled wiki and we will report on them one by one here on the blog.
Thanks, Thanks, Thanks!
As said before, I am still pretty much floating on air seeing that everything worked given the fact that my planning for the event was pretty topsy-turvy. There is no way I’d have managed to pull this off without the help from the people involved.
First and foremost I want to thank the sponsors:
- Matt Locke of Channel Four for the initial funding.
- Sophie Major of Yahoo Developer Network for giving me the time to pursue this alongside my day job and sponsoring the food on day one.
- Simon Doggett of justgiving.com for catering on day two
- Rain Ashford and Ian Forrester of BBC backstage for filming 9 hours of presentations!
- Henny Swan of Opera for agreeing to get these 9 hours transcribed!
- Marco van Hylckama Vlieg for an amazing job in taking beautiful photos of the whole event
Very much I would like to thank the crew of Gameslab and the Metropolitan university for sorting out the venues for me. Martin, Ann, Kumy, Andy and the forgotten ones - you saved my butt!
Now that this is over Scripting Enabled will go into phase two: chasing up the hacks created, releasing all the information and videos out into the wild wild web and enticing others to carry the idea into other places, more on that later on here.