SXSW Monday: Panels

Mobile Applications Panel

I spent the Monday of SXSW Interactive attending panels. I went pretty geeky this year.

First, I hit Mobile Application Design Challenges and Tips. The panel was moderated by Kevin Cheng of Yahoo!. It included Simon King, who works on ZoneTag for Yahoo! Research, John Poisson of Radar, Matt Jones from Nokia and Anita Wilhelm from Caterpillar
. I personally haven’t done a lot of development for cell phones. I’ve watched the mess that is J2ME and the consensus on this panel was that things are still a bit of a mess. It’s difficult to deal with the carriers. There are still a lot of problems with compatibility. I learned that there’s a version of Apache for Symbian 60 phones called Raccoon. The consensus also seemed to be that Flash Lite is no good for applications on the phone. Matt Jones seemed to be a bit of a comedian. I did like his mention
of the carriers as a “proud pipe”. I remember Russell Beattie mentioning Anita a couple of years ago as someone to pay attention to for mobile application design. The panel assembled a group of smart people with a lot of experience in mobile application design. I think it could’ve been moderated a little better though and kept a bit more focused. Small Surfaces was mentioned
as a good mobile design site and more than one person mentioned that Brian Fling’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know About the Mobile Web…but Were Afraid to Ask. I’ve been hoping a podcast of that one would appear, but it hasn’t yet. You can watch for it here as well.


Next up was The Growth and Evolution of Microformats, which began with Tantek Celik of Technorati going through the history of microformats by removing a t-shirt as he made each point. He started out wearing roughly 12 t-shirts and removed each one as he went through the timeline. He could’ve used a microphone stand as he had to stop talking and put the mike down as he removed each shirt. He later gave
the shirts away to those that asked questions at the end of the talk. This panel introduced me to the Operator plug-in for Firefox. Michael Kaply, developer of Operator, gave a good overview of his product, which seems like a great way to get acquainted with microformats. Jeremy Keith made a surprise appearance to try and
give a demo of the hCard microformat in action. Unfortunately, the wireless connection was slow and there seemed to be confusion among audience members as to whether or not their blog platform supported hCard or other microformats. I think that’s the biggest challenge here and part of the talk was spent talking about coming up with standards and adhering to them. I do think they’re useful and was grateful for the introduction. Definitely something
to keep an eye on as the web evolves. Some of the members of the panel helped reformat the SXSW site to use microformats such as hCard and hCalendar.

Microformats PanelMy last two panels were the shorter 25 minute “power sessions”. I’m not sure how well this format works for the more technical sessions. I sat in on the RAILS
and AJAX: Building Enterprise-Class Web Applications
session. I’m looking at incorporating AJAX to enhance my company’s product offerings, so I thought I’d check it out and I’ve been wanting to find out a bit more about how Rails works. Unfortunately, I think this talk was targeted towards someone who’s already familiar with Rails. Steven Smith, CEO of FiveRuns, and Marcel Molina, a core RAILS developer, were the two presenters. You can download the presentation here.
I learned about Selenium and Firebug for debugging and testing AJAX applications.

The final presentation for the day was Luke Wroblewski’s Design Patterns: Defining and Sharing Web Interface Design Languages. Luke’s been around since the beginning, starting his career at NCSA, birthplace of the first web browser, Mosaic. He talked about his experiences at Yahoo! and eBay among others and discussed the work of Jenifer Tidwell and Bill
. Not surprisingly, the Yahoo! Design Pattern Library figured prominently into the talk.

After the panels, I stumbled on the newly opened, Salsarita’s, which is situated in the old party room of the Copper Tank building. It appears to be a relatively new nationwide chain in the same vein as La Salsa. The food was decent. It’s not really any better than other mexican fast food. I think I prefer La Salsa or Freebird’s, honestly. I’m not
sure that Austin has room for so many chains, but you can’t argue with the location on Trinity between Fifth and Sixth. I think the location alone will allow them to survive. There’s not much fast food that close to the Convention Center and the Hilton. You’d usually have to walk several more blocks to find something.

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