Heart & Sole Web Conference Review

30th January 2011

Heart & Sole Web Conference Review

On Friday night I headed over to Portsmouth straight from work to attend my first web conference / meet-up style event. I was a little unsure of what to expect from the night because a) it was the first event the organiser has put on, b) the tick price was incredibly low compared to other events and c) I hadn't been to anything like it before. The evening was aimed at bringing students and industry people together for an evening of talks, networking and enjoyment.

After arriving rather early (why is there never any traffic when you plan for it?) and finding some food I met up with a course mate from university and we headed over to the Spinnaker Tower. Once we were registered we headed into the bar where there were already lot's of people around chatting away about everything and anything web related.

First up was a quick introduction for the guys that were hosting the event - Tom Kentell and Alex Stanhope - it sounded like there was a great night ahead.

For the first talk, there was a choice of learning about the basics of HTML 5 canvas with Rob Hawkes, or getting advice about working in the industry from Anna Debenham. I chose to stay downstairs and listen to Rob's talk about HTML 5 canvas because this is something I want to have a play with in the future.

Rob gave a fantastic talk introducing canvas, discussing what it's good for and what it's not good for, giving some examples of basic use before finishing up by answering some questions that seemed to focus around accessibility. I thought Rob done a fantastic job of introducing canvas to us. Whilst the talk didn't go into much depth, it covered everything it needed to in the short amount of time he had. Here are the slides from his talk.

For the second talk of the evening, there was again a choice to be made - to stay downstairs and listen to John O'Nolan talk about designing for WordPress - or head up to the top of tower to hear Syd Lawrence give a talk about making AJAX content search engine and user friendly through the use of the history API. Whilst John's talk was very tempting, I decided to go up the tower for what turned out to be a very useful talk from Syd.

Like many people in the room, I'd never heard about the history API before. Syd started off by introducing the problem with AJAX content which in a nutshell are the fact search engines can't crawl it, and it can't be shared via a URL. Browsers were built to show pages of content, not one page with multiple sets of content. Syd then covered almost everything you need to know about how to use the history API. The main downside as Syd mentioned, is the lack support for it in browsers (none at all in any versions of IE or Opera, and only in the very latest releases of Chrome, Safari and FireFox). Overall it was an incredibly useful talk on something useful that I knew nothing about. Here are the slides from his talk.

Next up everyone came back together downstairs for the sponsor talks from Darren Waddel of Abacus e-Media and Neil Dennis from Strawberry Soup. Unfortunately being at the back of the room I didn't get to everything Darren was saying about mobile development - but the advice I did manage to hear and the info on his slides covered the principles of making mobile sites accessible. Next up was Neil, the managing director of Strawberry Soup - a local agency. He told the story of how Strawberry Soup was started and the troubles they went through in getting where they are toady. He also gave plenty of helpful, sensible advice about how to survive as an agency - some of which is included in his slides.

The last talk which was from Christian Heilman about "Building a better web" was definitely the highlight of the evening. His inspirational talk focused on HTML 5 and how everyone should be using it on a daily basis to help build a better, more open internet. He provided good answers to the common comments around HTML 5 not being ready to be used. Christian was a really interesting guy with what sounded like some great experiences in the industry. This slides from his fantastic talk are available here.

After staying around for an hour chatting and waiting to find out I hadn't won anything in the raffle, it was time to head back home. It's safe to say that a fantastic time was had by everyone there - the attendee's, the speakers, the sponsors and of course the organisers. All the speakers that I had the pleasure of hearing not only gave great talks, but were friendly, interesting people. The organisers done a great job, and I look forward to the next Heart and Sole - hopefully it's a bigger and warmer venue though! I look forward to seeing the photos from the evening, along with the video of the talks I missed.