Highland Fling 2011 Review

It has taken a little longer than I had anticipated but here is the download link for my session entitled “Lifting the lid on HTML5” which I presented at The Highland Fling conference in Edinburgh a few weeks ago.

Preparing for a talk, especially your first, is hard. Pulling together the content took me somewhere in the region of two months, whittling down my notes took somewhere in the region of two weeks and then coming up with a slide design pushed me close to the three month mark.

During the slide design process I realised that it would be pointless for me create this slide deck using keynote or powerpoint because I’d never really used them before and I certainly wasn’t going to try and figure it out for something as important as this. So I decided to stick to what I knew best; HTML, CSS and a little bit of JS (thanks to Maykel Loomans.) Thankfully, just weeks before I’d seen Lea Verou give an amazing session at @media London, where she presented her slides using just this technique. When I arrived home I had a quick Google and realised that she had thrown the framework up on GitHub.

The advantage of using an HTML framework meant that I would be able to live demo these new HTML5 elements and utilise things like @font-face and some CSS3. Although it is worth noting that many of these demos currently only work in Opera.

One major problem I came across when pulling together the content for my session was when I realised that even though I’ve attended several conferences I couldn’t recall more than one or two talks where a speaker spoke entirely about code. It became clear that when I’ve attended these conferences, the speakers I’ve been going to see were people talking about design related subjects. This is something which I will need to address.

In layman’s terms, and I hope I don’t offend anyone, when people speak about design related subjects the slides normally follow the same pattern; sticking up a slide with a beautiful picture and a heading which then enables the speaker to talk freely about the slide, often adding things in on an ad-hoc basis.

So how do you present a talk on code without ladening the slides full of code examples? Well, you can’t. Admittedly this is far from ideal but what else can you do? If anyone has a solution to my problem or has seen a talk which tackles this problem then I’d love to hear about it. Even better if there is a video online somewhere.

During my talk I think it was clear for all to see that I was incredibly nervous. I was in a line-up packed with leading industry professionals, professionals that everyone in the audience knew. These were people who I’ve been following for years; whether through Twitter, their blog or having seen them speak at events I’ve attended. Being third on the bill and having witnessed two stellar sessions by Steve Marshall and Rachel Andrew did little to calm my nerves. I can only hope that my nerves didn’t impact on my session too much and that the people in attendance were able to enjoy it. I have also heard that videos of the talks are due to be published, so you will all be able to have a laugh at my expense.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank everyone that came along to the event for two reasons:

First off, Scotland has got a great web community but we don’t have the events to back this up. If we take Northern Ireland as our base, they’ve got lots of tech meet-ups like we do but they’ve also got a conference in Belfast which people from all over the globe flock to. Why don’t we have something like this? We’re definitely capable of it. Hopefully with the return of the Fling, we’ve finally set the wheels back in motion and we can have something which the community can be proud of.

Secondly, I’d like to extend a massive thank you to everyone who came and listened to me. Without you, I wouldn’t have been presented with the opportunity to do something that I’ve always wanted to try. There are a lot of people out there, like me, who would like to give public speaking a try but have never been presented with the opportunity. The Highland Fling provided me with just this and if we continue to back events like this, it will enable others to do the same.

Onwards and upwards!