Jammin' with the Webmasters

As I write this I’m in the Dallas/Ft. Worth Airport, waiting to go home (my plane has been delayed a second hour) from the first annual Webmaster Jam Session presented by Coffee Cup Software. The following paragraphs only cover half of the presentations as there were two tracks for most sessions. The good news is that barring technical difficulties, the presentations will be podcast from the conference web site, and most presentation slides should also be available in some format or another, so you can follow along at home.

Eric Meyer opened the conference with a keynote presentation entitle A Decade of Style, and entertaining ten year retrospective on how far CSS has come. Great talk. Eric has been doing a lot of speaking of late, and you can tell. I remember seeing him give his first keynote address several years ago. He was good then, but you can tell he really feels comfortable in front of an audience. His presentation and timing were spot on, and he did a great job keeping the talk moving, helped in large part by a well thought out, quick moving slide deck.

Next up was a presentation by Chris Wilson on IE7. Chris is the Group Program Manager of the Internet Explorer Platform team at Microsoft, and has been involved with both IE for Windows as well as web standards (via the W3C) since IE 2.0. It was good to see how far IE7 has come, and to hear that we won’t be waiting another 5 years to see IE8. The key take away from this one is to download RC1 and fix your sites since RC1 is feature complete.

After lunch it was a presentation by Cameron Moll. I first heard about the Webmaster Jam Session on Cameron’s blog, so it was good to see his presentation. He gave us all 9 essential web skills in the form of his popular Good Designers Redesign, Great Designers Realign article at A List Apart.

Derek Featherstone was up next with an excellent talk on Building Accessible Websites. It was good to hear him point out that there is more to the accessibility equation than just the web developers making sure the site is accessible. User Agents also have a responsibility to keep up as do authoring tools, such as Flash. As we continue to evolve the web with things like Ajax and Hijax, we will continue to be challenged in this area.

Bryan Veloso took the stage after a short break to give us some Photoshop Tips and Tricks. While you could tell that Bryan was relatively new to speaking, there was still something to be learned by everyone in the audience. I learned some new keyboard shortcuts that will come in handy, and have been prompted to try once again to make the pen tool work for me rather than against me. We’ll see how long that lasts.

The first day ended with a presentation by Jared Spool. This was the first time I saw his classic presentation, Good Content Must Suck, and it was entertaining and informative.

Saturday opened with a roundtable discussion of several of the speakers answering questions asked by the audience via cards filled out on Friday. The best quote was from Andy Budd: “Design is solving problems in a creative space.” And it’s pretty much unanimous that gas is preferred over electric.

Nick Finck gave an informative lecture on Layout Standards and Techniques, introducing a number of tools including wire frames…

Ethan Marcotte and James Craig gave some great pointers on using CSS in your design.

Scott Fegette showed off some things from Adobe, including a sneak peek at their new Apollo framework.

Finally, Andy Budd gave his famous talk on How to Be a Web Design Superhero, including a cameo appearance by yours truly.

Once again, however, the greatest benefit of this conference was not in the things learned as much as it was in connecting with people. At about 400 in attendance it was a friendly atmosphere with the speakers always accessible and ready to talk. And I made some new friends as well. It truly was a Webmaster Jam Session.

UPDATE: My photos of the event start here in my flickr stream.

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My review of the first annual Webmaster Jam Session conference in Dallas, TX

September 29, 2006 | web standards

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