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Geek in the Park 2008

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Although the weather made the picnic impossible, 40 alpha geeks and an 11 year old girl congregated in a Leamington Spa bar for 2008’s Geek in the Park. The talks were really good: Jon Hicks on icon design was fun, because it’s always fascinating to see people talking about stuff they’re passionate about. Drew Mclellan was inspiredly wierd when linking Brian Cant to microformats.

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting up with old chums and local heroes like Owen from fullcreammilk and Mark “fam fam fam” James. One Black Bear bought a round of drinks for everybody (yay!). The event was organised by Trovster. It’s totally free and 100% grass-roots. A brilliant job; I take my hat off to him.

I used four minutes to talk about Opera as we were sponsoring. A few people asked me for links to some of the things I said, so here they are and a rough record of what I remember saying.

The four-minute Opera pimp: test with Opera, please

Opera works best with good, valid code. If your boss tells you it’s not worth cleaning the code to allow Opera users in because they’re not numerous enough, point out that Opera on 135 million mobile phones. Most bosses are very interested in the mobile market—even ultra-conservative organisations like banks. (Barclays, for example, recommends Opera for mobile banking.)

Opera on a phone is the same as Opera on the desktop; we use the same core (called “Presto”) for all the browsers, so if your site works in Opera desktop (and it will, if the code is clean) then it’ll work on Opera phones. Should you need to test a phone application, our developer tool, Opera Dragonfly, allows you to remotely debug a phone from your desktop (typing in test data via a phone keyboard fast becomes tedious!).

I mentioned Web Standards: Opera is the most standards-compliant browser. Some people claim that Web Standards are now the norm. We wish it were so, but it isn’t. We’ve done some research (which we’ll publish in the next couple of weeks): on a large sample, only 0.71% validated in 2001. By 2006 that was up to 2.6%. By January 2008, that was a dizzying 4.13%. Of the Alexa top 500 6.6% validate. Amusingly, of sites that display a w3c “valid” badge, only 50% validate.

So we’re very active in Standards promotion. We help make them: our Head of Standards was involved in the Mobile Web Best Practices guidelines which became a w3c recommendation last month. We’re involved in HTML 5 and CSS (which was invented by our Chief Technology Officer).

We also educate people about Standards; we’ve produced the Web Standards Curriculum which is free, open and available to anyone. If you hire a new developer and you want a crash-course that will teach them the right way, give them that. We do university tours; a UK one is scheduled 13-16 October.


8 Responses to “ Geek in the Park 2008 ”

Comment by Stuart Langridge

I suspect that when people say “Web Standards are now the norm” they mean “giving a shit about Web Standards is now the norm”. Now, that isn’t true either, but it’s a bit less untrue than before: all those 50% with a W3C badge and invalid sites are _trying_ to be valid, and they were valid at some point. It’s the “dark matter” people who don’t go to conferences and clock out at 5pm and don’t have a personal website and have never really heard of the W3C that we need to chase, not the existing web community.

Comment by Bruce

“the “dark matter” people”.

Totally agree. I don’t know if they’re reachable, to be honest. That’s why Opera are focussing on the next generation, with a university curriculum.

Any ideas on how to chase the dark matter people?

Comment by Stuart Langridge

A few.

Idea number 1, though, is one of the reasons why people don’t do this: it is distinctly unglamorous. You don’t get to speak at conferences, to gain the respect of your peers, to have people talk about you in admiring terms, to push the envelope or to build th state of the art. Since the whole web community runs on ego-gratification (well, there’s money in it too for our freelance brethren, and I confess that there’s also the desire to Do It Right in an altruistic sense), that’s a fairly major motivating factor yanked out from under those who want to appeal to dark matter developers.

Nonetheless, a few thoughts.

Dark matter developers don’t care about their job when they’re not at it. They don’t read blogs, they’re unaware of trends in the industry, they don’t really know what RSS is, they’re unaware of validity and the point of it, they’re Internet Explorer users who may have heard of Firefox but almost certainly haven’t heard of Opera. They don’t go to conferences or join local meetups or use Twitter. As far as I’m aware, they have two, and only two, points of contact with what we’d call the web community: books (and that infrequently), and the tools they use. This means that reaching out to this rather disconnected group either involves creating a new way to talk to them, writing a new book which everyone reads (unlikely, since people doing the job already think they know how to do it and don’t need new books), or adapting their tools. To my mind, the thing that needs to be done is _not_ to use these channels of communication to teach people web standards. Instead, use them to bring dark matter developers into the web community. That’s a significantly more impactive thing to do; once there, the rest of the education happens by itself. Don’t try and teach the Right Way to dark matter developers; instead, _stop them being dark matter developers_.

I can lay out thoughts later this week in the pub. 🙂

Comment by Bruce

“Dark matter developers don’t care about their job when they’re not at it.”

Thst is absolutely the case, I think. I know of loads of local developers who didn’t go to Geek in the Park, which was absolutely free. Either they didn’t know about, or simply couldn’t be arsed on a Saturday night.

Conversely, some people had come from as far away as the Wirral, Manchester etc

Comment by Nick Fitzsimons

Ah, crap – I would have popped down from Leicester for it if I’d known about it 🙁

That’ll teach me to keep on top of my feeds… oh hang on, the only one who seems to have mentioned anything about it [I]before[/I] the event was Jon Hicks, back in June. I guess I need to keep on top of my telepathy.

Anyway, it sounds like it was a good one, and I’ll be checking out Dragonfly ASAP 🙂

Comment by Nick Fitzsimons

Ah no, Drew also mentioned it in early July, but the latest version of NetNewsWire seems to be somewhat broken when showing feed content, and the mention of it was forced way below the fold by an undisplayed image 🙁

Sorry for the dodgy markup in the previous post – I’ve been spending too much time with vBulletin lately. Should have been <em>…<,/em> of course 🙁

Comment by Bruce

Yes, I’ll be coming to the next Multipack meeting, definitely. I was chatting to Stuart Langridge last night about it — is there a way we can attract the “Dark Matter Developers” to the scene?

there must be a hell of a lot of developers in the West Midlands. Where are they?

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