Posts in the ‘general’ Category

Charity Donations

Here we are just over a month on from Speak the Web. The format seemed to be a great success with all four dates selling out, a couple hugely over subscribed. We’d like to also thank all the folk who emailed, tweeted & completed our questionnaire to give us valuable feedback. You told us what was good, what wasn’t so good and most importantly which charities you thought we should be helping to support. As you know Speak the Web was run as a non for profit organisation and the time has come to announce those charities now all the bills have been paid.

In total we’ll be donating a whopping £1500 to charity from these 4 events. We think that’s a huge success so thanks to everyone who attended, the speakers for dontating their time, the venues and all of you for your help in promoting the events. We’ve chosen 3 charities to donate to each of which are listed below.

Charity 1 – The Archer Project

Sheffield – £500 Donation

Linked to the cathedral in Sheffield, The Archer Project works with those who are homeless or in vulnerable housing to get the help they need. That may be through advice, providing food or hygeine facilities or counselling along with support in changing their lives.

We’ve chosen this because it’s run by very grass-roots kind of help people that trying to give. While it doesn’t cure a problem entirely, volunteers attempt to not only try and deal with people’s short term needs but offer support if it’s needed to help change people’s lives in a really positive way over the long term.  The website was set-up as part of Barcamp Sheffield’s outreach, which is linked to the work Jag does through The Gist Foundation, who was our ground support in Sheffield.

Thanks to those who suggested who suggested The Archer Project, we think it’s a really worthwhile cause.

Charity 2 – Eye Fund

£500 Donation

The Eye Fund is a national charity that help support people that lose or have severe impairments to their eyesight either through degenerative conditions.

We’ve chosen this because not only was it suggested to us by one our speakers, Jake, but because there’s link to web design too.  It was set-up in memory of Phil Sherry’s brother, Simon who himself experienced loss of sight and it seemed appropriate that where there was a story that was personal to someone around us, we should try and help.

Charity 3 – St. Gemma’s Hospice

Leeds – £500

Based in Leeds, St Gemma’s provide specialist medical nursing care to the terminally ill, predominently cancer patients.

We’ve chosen this because it’s another local charity from one of the areas we’ve visited but as cancer has affected so many people we’ve known, in particular Dan’s Nan & most recently, Uncle lost their lives because of cancer, this felt like something that had some meaning to us and that although it’s a large hospice, the work they do is tough so we hope this helps in some way.

Thanks also to those who suggested who suggested St Gemma’s.

What now?

It would be remiss of us to not mention that we have decided to keep a small amount of money in the bank in order to help us continue Speak the Web in the future. We’ve got a few ideas in the works that you’ll no doubt hear about in due course but for now, all we can say is if you want to be the first to find out what, join the mailing list, subscribe to our RSS feed and follow us on twitter.

Event #4: Manchester

I think leading up to this one, it felt different to me.  We’d managed to pull off three of these gigs and both from the positive feedback we’d had and the fact that we knew most of the audience at this one, Manchester’s gig was bound to be different.  We also crammed in four speakers because we’d invited up Remy Sharp up from Brighton as our special guest as the only non-Northerner on the tour.

There were a few last minute issues around what cables we had and getting everything up and running but come kick-off we’d got everything in place and NoHo had begun to fill up.  It’s always been tough with working out numbers for these different venues – although their capacity is often more that we’ve allowed, we didn’t want it to be too crowded – although there was seating, there wasn’t enough for everyone (or perhaps we would have had to allow less people in to make it so).  Every venue has it’s challenges when they’re not geared up for such things and perhaps the lighting was the downside in this one.

Hopefully we’d made it clear that this was a very DIY, rough and ready kind of set-up so people might not’ve been too surprised that we’d got the projector nestle atop a tall step ladder (masqueraded by one of our standee banners).  We’d also been very keen to get a balance between people that had spoken on the web circuit along with people that hadn’t – or that had never spoken before.

Ben Childs was first up talking about the complexities of mobile platforms, the difficulties of natives apps, how Apple has changed the traditional operator controlled model and how we can provide good levels of mobile web experiences to our sites.  I think he did really we communicating his experiences from his days at Orange along with what they do at Common Agency and it certainly must’ve been intimidating for him to be first on with an expectant audience in front of him in this strange context.

“The Hodge is a ledge” was posted out on Twitter for a reason; you don’t get something polished and perfect with Dom, you get something better – something real with his sessions.  Today we ventured through SEO tricks good & bad, misconceptions, mistakes and great Twitters stories.  Highly entertaining and very engaging, we were really pleased to have him on board!

During the break we had Gavin from DIBI, not only venturing all the way down from Newcastle again but really unwell.  Again, generous with the t-shirts and a free ticket to their conference – we appreciated his and Ellie’s efforts coming down to spread the word about DIBI – that’s dedication people!  We had the last of our donated books from O’Reilly, No Starch & Paul Boag to give away – hope the winners get a lot our of them!

We did try and cram a lot into this one but we wanted to break our rule/guideline about having local speakers and get Remy Sharp up from Brighton to dazzle up some tech talk about HTML5 APIs.  We’ve tried to balance the content of these and we knew any particularly technical talks would divide the audience a little but Remy’s style and depth of knowledge is really valuable stuff and not something you can hear just anywhere.  While the talk around HTML5 mainly focusses around different tags in mark-up, the APIs seem to super-power javascript working with it in so many ways.  It was great to have him come up and talk for us, if only to show how much appetite there is up North both for events like this and the kind of content he talks about.

Not only had Andy Clarke headlined our Leeds gig the week before, then visited our one in Liverpool as a member of the audience but also rounded out our line-up tonight, on our home turf.  He’d incited heckling on Twitter and he had a few hecklers!  On great form, he walked us through what he means by Hard Boiled web design, which is the subject of his next book and the theme he’ll be working through various talks through the year with this chapter called ‘I, the Jury’.  It’s great to see him at work – a natural performer and he made a persuasive argument for going beyond graceful degredation and effectively being less graceful but appropriate with how we cater for less able browsers.  His ‘universal IE6′ stylesheet would get people muttering as this effectively serves a plain text version of a site to IE6 but the premise is sound: design for the most able browsers first, then find an appropriate display for those less able.

It’s been a whirlwind fortnight for us to get these all done and quite fitting to finish on home turf.  We’re really grateful to all that attended, tweeted and generally supported us in making these happen.  It’s certainly shown that there is demand for this kind of thing in the North, there is a wealth of talent around us and that we can make it happen up here ourselves!


Dan & Rich

Event #3: Liverpool

Two done, on to the third!  We’d be lying if we weren’t a little worn out by this point.  While we’re keeping the set-up on the night as simple as possible, we’ve got back home in the early hours after the previous events and getting in a full days work after.  There’s something compelling though about the reaction we’ve had about these events, which makes any moaning we might feel like doing meaningless – how cool has this been?

The people at Leaf Tea Shop & Bar were really helpful in helping us get set-up but we had to wait until non-Speak the Web folk had finished their food & drinks before we could get set-up.  The meant a slightly frenetic seating organisation session, turning the Chesterfields round and lobbing plastic seats around the floors.  Hopefully this rag-tag kind of set-up is in keeping with our DIY ethos on these events ;)

As the speakers arrived early on, you couldn’t help but notice how Colly wasn’t quite himself.  After a back problem has lead him to be on painkillers, he was a little out of sorts.  We’re really grateful he made it all the way over to Liverpool to do his session for us!

Each one of these nights has a different feel about them; the venue, the audience, I guess it’s obvious really but they have each had a unique feel about them.  While tonight’s crowd were maybe a little more subdued than Leeds, that’s not to say they weren’t generous with applause when Jake Smith took to the stage.  He’s not a ‘speaker’ and hasn’t done much of this kind of thing before. However, you would never have guessed.  What you got was someone who clearly knew their stuff that had clearly put a lot of effort into their presentation while retaining a mix of banter and facts.  Talking about typography could literally have taken all night but I think he gave us all a great overview of the journey we’ve taken to try and find a decent workable solution to having decent fonts available, which worked well for designers and developers alike.

Patrick Lauke (the third in our quest to collect UK based Opera staff it seems!) gave us a great sojourn through the winding roads of HTML5.  While the guys from Opera did have elements of their sessions that overlapped, I think there were enough different elements and certainly in the delivery from all 3 (Pat, Bruce & Chris) to keep you interested if you happened to catch all 3 talks.  We probably would’ve let him go on for a while longer but as we’d already overrun and the break was getting cut shorter, we had to wrap it up!

Through all of these gigs we’ve had cool stuff to give away from O’Reilly, No Starch, Paul Boag in terms of books and t-shirts and Ellie again made her way down from Newcastle to do a bit of promo for the upcoming DIBI conference.  She gave away a few t-shirts and also a free ticket – cheers guys ;)   Before Simon Collison took to the stage, we gave away 2 sets of Andy Clarke’s DVDs and a Transcending CSS book to some lucky people out there in the audience. We hope all the winners enjoy their prizes!

Despite his medication (mixed with a couple of beers), Simon’s journey through his rediscovery of the stuff he learned at Art College was lucid and engaging.  It wasn’t as though this was an opportunity to show off but how we can and should look back over how and why certain things work in design to help us to keep improving and moving forwards.  This worked well when we’re thinking about how relatively recently, discussion about grid systems used on the web is quote a hot topic – in part this may be because many people working on the web (such as myself) don’t have a background in the sort of thing.  His journey, briefly touching upon modernism and post-modernism, his personal experiences and how being quite reductionist with our design work can be difficult but can often lead to something that communicates more effectively – which is after all the point of the web.

Once again, we’ve been bowled over by the feedback we’ve had!  We know that there are things to work on and that every venue is different and can have it’s challenges.  Leaf provides access to the studios above, so I know at the back of the room there was some coming and going of people and gear.  Perhaps the volume of the PA needed to be higher?  We hope these things didn’t dampen your experience.  We’re certainly up for any constructive feedback you have for us so please get in touch!

Three down, one to go.  Back on home turf in Manchester, which promises to be the busiest of the lot and a little stranger as we’ll no doubt know most of the audience!


Dan & Rich

Event #2: Leeds

These events are experimental in many ways.  Rich & I haven’t organised anything like this before, so we really grateful for the feedback we got from Mondays gig in Sheffield.  One recurring comment was seating, so never let it be said that we ignore this stuff – in Leeds we sorted seating!

It was interesting for us to see how each event could really have a very different feel: because of the venues, the line-up of speakers and the audience – perhaps after doing our first in Sheffield, our increased confidence too?  With that in mind, we’re really looking forward to the next two in Liverpool on the 15th and Manchester on the 17th!

The venue (upstairs at BarRoomBar on Call Lane) seemed to work pretty well and gave a nice intimate feel about it.  Really nice to be able to look out from the stage to see so many faces.  I have to admit, I did actually quite enjoy being the compare this time around ;)   First up, Stuart Smith gave us an overview of the complexities around developing native apps and widgets for mobile devices, which I’m sure many that haven’t really dipped into mobile development might not’ve realised – and you can’t go too far wrong with a slide of a corn on the cob shaped vibrator!

Chris Mills from Opera regaled us with songs from his far distant homeland gave us some great insight into HTML5 and all of it’s idiosyncrasies – which although did share a bit in common with Bruce’s talk from Monday, also showed how much there is to take advantage of with this new version of HTML.  A couple of great plugs for HTML5Doctor that Rich contributes to, which were welcomed!

Part of what these nights are about is socialising – talking to people you’ve not met before, so hopefully the break started people on that path.  We again had some books and merchandise to give away, kindly donated by No Starch Press & O’Reilly but were fortunate to have Gavin & Ellie, organisers of the DIBI conference down from Newcastle and generously gave away some t-shirts and a ticket to their event.

We were really pleased to be able to welcome Andy Clarke to our little gig series, not only as a speaker but as a sponsor, so we started by giving some jammy lucky winners a complete set of his For a Beautiful Web DVDs and a copy of Transcending CSS (enjoy!) before getting stuck into Chapter 1 of his Hardboiled CSS talks ‘I, The Jury’.  As someone said to me after, it was like seeing a famous comedian doing a warm-up show in a pub in London – one of those rare moments where you get to see something they’ll be using in some capacity at bigger gigs, working it through and being able to feed back to them.

There was a loads of great examples and ideas to digest and while being a little controversial in some eyes, there’s some great reasoning behind it.  Aim for the edges, do the best you can with the capabilities the browser has to offer and find a good level of experience for browsers that maybe don’t support everything.

Also in the audience it was great to see Sam (@nocturnalmonkey), who’s done all of our design work for the gigs and Rich Quick who’s Squizzle app is one of our sponsors and has helped make it all possible – especially after traveling all the way down from St Andrews to be there last night!

All in all, we’re really pleased that so many people came and made it a success and we’re grateful to all of the speakers and sponsors who have helped to do this.  Roll on Monday… after some much need sleep ;)


Dan & Rich

Great to read a few opinions on last night’s gig already:

Event #1: Sheffield

So last night was our first of these Speak the Web events at the Showroom Workstation in Sheffield.  All of a sudden this idea we had became real!  Our man on the ground Jag (through the GIST Foundation) did a great job of sorting out the venue for us, as did the staff there.

Seeing attendees arriving was a great sight..almost like this was a real conference or something.  With the technical details more or less sorted, we had a room full of really interesting people and I’d guess both Rich and I and the audience didn’t know what to expect!

The Cahoona boys did us proud starting off the night sharing their experiences with getting their agency going some of the things they’d learned along the way, both good and bad.  Jon & Ben held the stage well and worked great double-teaming their talk and entertaining the crowd before them.  The term ‘can you make it shitter’ will no doubt stay with us all for a while…as will the tales of the Manchester Egg ;)

In between the speakers, we gave away some prizes kindly donated by our sponsors For a Beautiful Web & Melbourne IT as well as supporters No Starch and O’Reilly.  As people registered, we’d given them raffle tickets, so the bit of suspense as we called out the numbers was good fun.

Bruce Lawson was on great form despite coming down with his daughter’s cold.  HTML5 demoed by a man that knows is a great experience.  He never preached but showed the possibilities of what this long overdue upgrade to the language might bring and the hurdles we have to deal with to get there.

After a short break, Brendan Dawes took to the stage to talk about Cushions.  There was some great use of metaphors, a rallying cry for more females in tech and mind-expanding examples of what design can and should be in many interpretations of the word.  His delivery was a great as ever and inspiring.

We would love to hear your feedback about the speakers, venue, pricing and anything else you care to mention. We appreciate that a few of you would have liked some more seating. Sorry about that, we didn’t want the event to be too formal which you tend to get when you’ve got rows of chairs. We figured that you’d likely be stood for several hours at a gig and expected it to work in a similar way. It’s something we’ll look at for future events.

Hopefully the attendees our guests, enjoyed this first event.  We certainly enjoyed the variety of the subject matter and we’re really grateful for all of the guys giving up their time to talk to us all!

Rich & I are doing these as a not-for-profit – we’re actually not paying ourselves for doing these.  We want to show that we in the North can make things happen, there’s the demand and there’s some incredibly talented people we can get to speak at events like these.  We can only do these for this low cost because of the sponsors and the fact that we wanted to try something different and to make something happen …


We know it’s taken a while but we can announce that the venue for Leeds is Bar Room Bar (or BRB as it’s more commonly known) on Call Lane near the Corn Exchange. That should be central for pretty much everyone! As with the other events we’ll be open registration from about 6.30pm, with the first speaker at 7pm so you’ve time to grab a cocktail beforehand.

Specific details about BRB can be found on their website.

Leeds, like the Manchester & Sheffield events has now sold out. Thanks to everyone that’s bought a ticket, we look forward to seeing you all there!

Speaker swap

We’ve all done it right? Screwed up I mean? You know how it is, you’ve got a list longer than your arm, you’re spinning plates, juggling projects and just sometimes you forget to do something or forget to check something?

OK glad it’s not just me then because that’s exactly what we did. We forgot to check with Stuart that he was available for 17th February (we’d already moved the date) and it turns out he’s off to sunny Barcelona then (lucky git). We hope Stuart accepts our sincere apologies for screwing up.

Fear not though we have a plan

In order to jump this little hurdle that we see before us we’re going to swap Stuart and Ben over (yes, we triple checked). So now Stuart will be speaking in Leeds on Thursday 11th February and Ben will be speaking in Manchester on Wednesday 17th February.

As both of them are going to be speaking on the subject of mobile so we hope that everyone is cool with that?

Not cool with that?

If you were really hoping to catch Stuart and Ben in there original locations, don’t worry you have two options:

  1. We will gladly transfer your ticket from Manchester to Leeds or vice versa, just let us know
  2. We will refund your ticket if you can’t make the other venue, again let us know

Just to reiterate, we’re sorry we screwed up but we hope you understand and it’s not caused too much inconvenience.

Don’t forget that in Manchester we’ve got a special guest lined up, anyone want to have a stab at who it might be? We’ll even send you a free book if book if you’re the first to get it.

The gates are open…

Hello and welcome to our online abode for Speak the Web.  It’s been a challenge to pull these together (we often wonder why we chose to do 4!) but we’re officially off an running.

We’ve tried to keep it simple: come out to hear some talented guys enthuse on stage and have a few drinks for the fraction of the price of a full conference.  Hopefully you’ll agree that we’ve gathered 12 great speakers for your listening pleasure from names known across the globe to those you won’t have heard before.

We’ve asked the guys to talk about what they think is cool or what they love.  From the sound of things you’ll have everything from HTML5 through to setting up in business and from typography to the mobile web.  Each night we’ll have a few prizes to give out too.

So go on, buy a ticket or a tour pass now, tell your friends and we look forward to seeing you there!


Dan & Rich