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17 June 2006   8:51 AM

@Media 2006 ("atmedia") was a web development conference held in London with speakers on various topics from across the country and beyond. If you want to find out what it was like from a web development perspective, you're in the wrong place. I did say it was an alternative review. This is the not-the-conference review.

As I said, it was in London, which for those people who don't know is in the bottom right of England. It's not too hard to find, there's lots of roads and trains and things pointing there.

montage of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Starbucks, Burger King and Boots logosPeople always tell you that London is a truly cosmopolitan city. That's obviously true - just look at the wide range of shops within 200 yards of my hotel that you simply wouldn't have seen anywhere else.


From the hotel, the first step was to find the nearest tube station. As you can see from the picture, the building housing the tube station was very old, and the sign probably hadn't been repainted for more than sixty years. This was obviously an area of London synonymous with urban decay, youth unemployment, a high crime rate and probably property prices that weren't quite as ridiculously high as elsewhere. What was it called again? Kensington, I think.


Gloucester Road tube station, showing a faded sign reading: Metropolitan Railway station. Trains to All parts of LondonThen, you have to navigate the London Underground, which Robin Christopherson of AbilityNet pointed out, can be quite difficult to do if you're colour blind because a number of the lines and keys look identical to people with different sorts of colour deficiencies. Fortunately, as I don't suffer from colour blindness, this wasn't an issue, and so I was able to hop onto the tube and travel the four stops to my destination.


Okay then, I've reached my destination. Now, how to I find the conference centre. I'm out of the tube, somewhere in London, and I need something to navigate by. Are there any nearby landmarks? Well, there weren't really any noticeable landmarks, other than a couple of old buildings that were right next to the conference centre, one of which could be seen directly from the window.

montage of Big Ben and Westminster Abbey

So what exactly happened at the conference then?

I turned up, got a cup of coffee and bumped into various member of AccessifyForum, I could name names, but as there were quite a few, I'll just say that.

Then we all went and listened to some people talk about web stuff for a while and we wrote some notes.

Then it was lunchtime and after an unsuccessful attempt to fit a large portion of food onto a small plate, it was outside for a little walk.

The Shouty Man was brought to you by Carlsberg Special BrewFortunately, entertainment had been laid on for us in terms of the Shouty Man With Cans ensemble who performed his "shouting something incoherent with his coat half hanging off" routine. However, he was only providing a brief stagger past so it was back inside to take in the explanation of the new WCAG 2.0 stuff.

It emerged that nobody else fully understood them either and then it was time to listen to some stuff about Web 2.0. And then it was time for the football. A short walk to @media's specially selected exclusive venue was made longer than expected by our desire not to climb over the police barriers, walk through the Queen's birthday bash and get shot. I was at first slightly disappointed not to have been invited, but then I remembered I'd not sent her a card, so I'd probably offended her.

So, the @media party. Firstly, after being delighted at the beer prices near the hotel (£2.52 for a pint of Greene King IPA) I was a tad disappointed to discover that the @media crew had chosen a place with no draught bitter (or lager for that matter), and it was either bottles at £4 a pop or you were on wine or cocktails. At these prices the two free drink tokens I got weren't going to save me much money.


It was happy hour until half sevene and bottles of wine and cocktails were reduced in that time. And that was where my cheap night began. Firstly, I bought a pitcher of a cocktail called Dorothy's Orgasm (don't ask), and ask the guy was making it, the lid fell off the bottle of spirits he was pouring in meaning I had about four times as much of that spirit as expected.

He apologised and offered to make me a new one, but I told him I'd cope somehow, and handed over my £10 note, and received £1.15 change. Not a great deal, but given that the price was meant to be £9.85, a pleasant surprise.

And then someone bought a jug of a cocktail they didn't like, so they gave me that. Very kind. It wasn't particularly nice but it was free. And then I was asked to help finish off another cocktail, again without having to pay out cash. I do like to be of assistance to people in their hour of need, particularly when that involves drinking alcoholic drinks on their behalf.

I spent some time debating definitions of accessibility, universality and usability with Isofarro - similar to last time only without either of us going down the 'handbags at five paces' route and I think us both understanding where the other person was coming from, even if we didn't necessarily agree. Oh, and they had the match on, which Ing-Er-Land won 2-0 in the end. Hurrah! Hurrah! Wave flags etc.

I then went out with dotjay and asaxton in search of some food, and dotjay and myself stood outside while Andy ploughed into the "London Tat For Visitors" shop in search of something for his daughter. I didn't actually see the name of the shop - I just deduced it from what was on display in the windows.

We were then passed by a group of drunk women shouting "Come on England!" despite the fact that the match had already finished and they probably wouldn't be able to hear them in Germany. These were closely followed by a group of Hare Krishnas, and then a strange woman walking the same way as us who'd obviously also seen the Hare Krishnas and thought it was uproariously funny to continue shouting out "Hare Krishna" at random points over the course of the next half mile. Why, my sides almost split with laughter. How could you possibly top that?

I didn't make it back to the @media social after that, but it seems reasonable to inger that is descended into an evening of drunken debauchery, probably culminating in a mass orgy, or at least the geek equivalent (more looking at websites on laptops and a lot less sex).

And on to day two.

Using my infallible sense of direction, I get off the tube at Westminster and walk the wrong way for about five minutes before realising that Alex_A, dotjay and asaxton were approaching from the other direction. Fortunately I managed to convince them I was just having a walk around because I was there early (ha ha, the fools! they'll never realise) and I wandered over to the QE II Centre with them.

There was some more talk about the internet until lunch. Lunch was relatively eventful for me, but I did spot an English bloke at reception with a conference confirmation letter in his hand enquiring why he was unable to find any information about whihc room his conference was in. The woman on the reception desk gently informed him that his conference didn't start until the following monday, and that was precisely what his letter was telling him. After a long bewildered moment, he announced that he was getting everything wrong today and wandered off. I just hope he wasn't expecting a hotel reservation to be waiting for him somewhere!

The conference for me then closed with someone talking about microformats, which can be should not be confused with Nissan Micra formats. I then bumped into Andy Clarke aka Malarkey who had been on alongside microformats so I'd missed him - disappointing 'cos he's a great designer and a right diamond geezer but as work were paying for the conference I thought I'd better attend the streams most relevant to us. Anyway, it turns out he's got a book out in November that he's wriiten and designed himself. Gratuitous plug warning: Don't forget to buy it. It would be the perfect Christmas read for anyone — from your five year old to your granny — assuming of course that they have a passion for web design.

And then it was train home time. So, how was it for you?

armcurl [19 June, 2006] 

you're kidding right? You were in town and didn't tell me ??

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