MrQwest

Points, Brighton!

Last night was the first (hopefully of many!) Points Brighton evenings. An evening of informal discussions relating to the web industry. I wrote a blog post about Points last month.

The night before, I was packing a few things into my bag as I was heading to Brighton straight after work on the Thursday; when my phone buzzed with a new tweet.

simianstudios</a> <a href="http://twitter.com/mrqwest">MrQwest don’t fancy doing a talk tomorrow do you?

uhhh… I hate public speaking but Mike is a friend and he needed help. Both Kris & I agreed to do a 10 minute talk each at Points. And it was the first time either of us had done any public speaking.

24 Hours later and Kris, Mike, Simon, Alex & I were sat in a pub in Brighton getting ready to head to the venue to set up, soon joined by Paul, Kevin & Clive. It very quickly started feeling like the CroydonCreativ.es on tour!

The venue soon started filling up with guests and it was great to meet some new people and say hello to old friends. I love small events like this!

Paul Adam Davis

Paul was up first. It was his first time public speaking too but he done a great job. His nerves came through ever so slightly but they soon dissapeared as he found his flow. Lots of WordPress hackery in his talk, with some chunks of code for adding function into WordPress but without adding plugins. So basically, writing the code yourself without relying on other peoples plugins. Writing your own code ensures that everything will work when you update WordPress or move locations and saves all the hassle of upgrades & maintenance.

The last couple of minutes of Paul’s talk also briefly touched on LESS and how it saves so much time when it comes to writing CSS and gave some great code examples.

Alex Sexton

After a short drinks break and some flash points, Alex approached the stage with his talk on the relationship between design and the golden ratio (Phi = 1.618). I never realised Alex had done Geology at University and was well informed on the Golden Ratio and the Fibonacci scale. My day job involves numbers and touches slightly on maths so I found his talk rather interesting, especially the golden ratio section. This followed nicely after I watched a documentary on it only a few weeks ago!

Great talk though on how the golden ratio is carried through architecture, nature and our own web design community. As an example, twitters profile pages follow the golden ratio as does the Apple logo.

Kris Noble

Kris was up next with his talk, Frameworks 101 where he gave a brief introduction to frameworks, libraries and the pros & cons of using them. It was a great insight into other frameworks available and also highlighted some points to look out for when choosing a new framework. A bloody good talk!

Anthony Killeen

That’s me! I was last on for the evening and tried to round it off nicely with a talk about the Importance of Local Meetups – or as Alex put it, Getting drunk with geeks

It was a brief talk (5 minutes although it felt a lot longer!!!) on why I think stepping away from the screen and meeting fellow designers or developers for a few pints every now and then can teach you new tricks, open up new networking opportunities and create some nice collaborations too!

I wrote a nice talk which I wish I had stuck to now, but not wanting to stand up and read directly off my iPad (I didn’t prepare slides) I decided to wing it and I spoke freely.

For the record though, I’ve posted my ‘written’ talk below. This is what I had planned to say, and I generally followed the words but missed some bits out. Have a read and let me know what you think!

All the talks were video’d too so hit up Points on Vimeo for the links – here’s my one.

Summary

Overall, I think everyone had a great night. It was exactly what it set out to be. An excellent evening event which allowed freelancers or people with day jobs to attend without having to worry about booking time off work etc.

I found the talks enlightening, it was great to spend some time with my friends (who incidentally – I know through local meetups!) and it was awesome to meet some new faces!

Thank you to Mike who organised Points, I do hope he organises more! If I ever organise a small CroydonCreativ.es event (and I’d love to do that at some point!) I’d hope it’d be as awesome as Points was.

Oh, and I think I may want to speak again at some point :)

The Importance of Local Meetups

You’ll have to excuse me this evening as this talk is somewhat unplanned. I wanted to talk about something I feel quite strongly about. You may find it doesn’t apply to you, but I definitely think that it’s important in our industry – given the fact of how open the web community is.

You may have noticed over the last few years, the web conference scene has exploded. From one or two a year to literally two or three a month.

Along with the hundreds of design blogs and the rise of social-media (twitter, facebook, google+ etc), the way we – as creatives – learn from one another has ballooned. Not only are we reading tutorials, posts & RSS feeds, we are also attending large conferences & listening to our peers. Everyone is telling everyone else how to do X, or why we should be doing Y. They are giving their opinion.

Many of these sources of learning also provide some theory behind the decisions, but that’s not always helpful. If you’re like me and are sometimes a little slow on the uptake, it may be difficult to understand why we should be doing things.

Sometimes, you’re left with unanswered questions or maybe the post you’ve read or the talk you’ve just heard has raised further questions. Usually the only avenue of conversation available to you is email or twitter – which can be ideal, but most of the time, end up being taken out of context. Coupled with delayed responses, the conversation or discussion becomes fragmented and generally, I (it may be different for you) end up even more confused than before…

Which is why I truly believe face-to-face conversations are just as important, if not more important than reading or listening.

This notion has been rolling around in my head for the past few months ever since I started organising the CroydonCreatives. a Monthly meeting of web-folk in Croydon where we can sit down and chat about the web in general over a pint and something to eat.

Every time we’ve met in the pub, I’ve learnt something new and that’s because I’ve been able to ask questions at specific points during the conversation (not waited until the end and then furiously tapped out a tweet hoping for a response). If I don’t understand a point, or a theory – then I ask for clarification. I Find it easier to learn that way.

Lets take LESS as an example. Two months ago, the talented Paul Davis (who you heard earlier in the evening) popped along to a CroydonCreatives meetup and gave us all a 15 minute run through of LESS. Not only was this an ideal opportunity to see it running in action but it was great to be able to pick Paul’s brains about the best way of doing things, and more importantly, WHY it was the best way.

And 3 months before that, the clever Stephen Fulljames gave us all a run through of GIT and how it helps his workflow, his teams workflow and aids in the development of their work through iteration and version control!

You could google GIT or LESS and find a bunch of tutorials or screen casts showing you how someone else does it, but it’s not teaching you anything.

It reminds me of the statement: –

Give a man a fish; you have fed him for a day. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime

Ok, that doesn’t translate exactly to our industry, but you get the idea. Show someone how to do something and they can copy. Teach someone, and they know what they are doing and why.

We can all view-source and copy code to replicate something but surely it’s better to have the know-how and the understanding to make those design decisions ourselves.

It’s that understanding that makes us better at what we do.

But that’s not the only benefit of local friendly meetups. There is of course, collaboration opportunities. Ideas often spring up during conversation, and it’s often through the excitable discussions that follow; that these opportunities arise.

And what better way to flex your design or development muscles than on a little side-project? You’re the client on this little venture so you can go to town on the design. Experiment with HTML5 & CSS3, dose up the interaction with jQuery or really go mad on the functionality.

It’s these sorts of projects that I love. There’s no seeking permission if you want to build a new feature, nor is there any client sign-offs to wait for. It’s design & build, as fast as you can and as fun as you like!

We’re so tied down with client work, often sticking to strict briefs and worrying about scope creep. Every once in a while, it’s nice to throw all that to one side and just work on something you want to work on.

It’s side-projects and fun little ventures like this that keep us sane. They stop us from getting bored in this ever moving industry and keep us on our toes whilst teaching us new tricks.

And getting back to the notion of collaboration, why not learn from someone else while you’re doing it… And don’t just learn, ask questions too! Figure out the theory behind new technologies or tools that you’re playing with.

And of course, the third benefit to these local meet ups is socialising. I am absolutely useless as socialising, especially in busy places. I much prefer smaller groups or more intimate events like Points!

If you’re freelancing and working from home or your own office, it’s difficult to actually get out and socialise with other designers and developers.

I work in a completely different industry to web design so I’m unable to down tools for a few hours and go out to meet up with another designer or developer over a cup of coffee so to me, evening meetups or events like Points! provide a perfect opportunity to meet up, make friends, network, collaborate and learn from others.

I think local web meetups in pubs or bars are great. They happen all around the country and if there isn’t one near you; why not start one?

I hope you’ve enjoyed my brief chat, thank you for listening. If you’ve got any questions, do say hello or drop me a tweet; @mrqwest

Comments

  • 06 Jan 2012 12:22:07

    Hey Dude!

    Planning to blog about it myself, but wanted to say thanks to you for what was a great read, and thanks so much for letting me contribute! Fingers crossed you might ask again in about 11 months ;)

    Jack.

  • 06 Jan 2012 12:49:17

    I echo what Jack says. Great project with some thoroughly interesting articles – it was an honour to be a part of it.

    Hopefully I can contribute again next Christmas.

  • 06 Jan 2012 12:59:03

    Gents, it was truly a pleasure to have you guys on board :) You both produced interesting and inightful articles and I can’t thank you enough for helping out!

  • 06 Jan 2012 22:49:04

    It was good fun writing the article, and the site seems to have been really well received. Well done guys, looking forward to the next set!

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