WebVisions 2005 Wrapup

I attended the [5th annual WebVisions conference][webvisions] which was held this past Friday (7-15-05) in [Portland, Oregon][portland], and I must say that I have mixed feelings as to whether or not it was worth my while. On the one hand, I live in Portland and it’s not very expensive ($95) so other than missing a day of work, it’s almost a no-brainer. But on the other hand, I sure didn’t learn very much that I didn’t already know. I think that the basic problem is that WebVisions attracts a diverse audience, but the conference agenda doesn’t accomodate that diversity. Not only do you have end users, designers, developers, programmers and managers, but you also have experience levels ranging from newbie to net.god and everything in between. I think that the solution to this problem is that the conference organizers need to either narrow the focus of the conference so that the audience self-selects more appropriately, or they need to re-organize the agenda so that the individual sessions are more targeted towards skill level and interest. Or both. Here’s a couple of examples:
One session that I attended was called [Looking Beyond the Desktop][desktop session] which was presented by [Molly Holzschlag][mollys summary], a woman whose work I greatly admire. The basic thrust of the session was that website designers and developer need to target output devices other than the desktop web browser, in particular, handhelds (PDAs and cell phones), printers, projectors (i.e. slide shows) and screen readers. The session itself was fine as far as it went. The problem for me was that I would classify the session as targeted at a beginning to intermediate skill level, but I really wanted the advanced version. I wanted to see some examples of sites that were both designed for handheld devices as well as some that weren’t, then to see them displayed on actual devices to see what works and what doesn’t work. I wanted some discussion of the various strategies that might be employed when targeting handheld (and other devices), and what are the trade-offs encountered. I wanted to know which devices supported the “handheld” media type and which did not; which supported [XHTML MP][xhtml mp] and which did not; which supported Javascript and which did not; and so on. In other words, I wanted to get into the nitty-gritty details, but there simply wasn’t time for that in a session which included people who didn’t even know what the [“media” attribute][media attribute] is for.
Another example was the panel discussion entitled [The Future of Content][content session], where the panel was composed of [Nick Finck][nicks summary], [Molly Holzschlag][mollys summary], [Keith Robinson][keiths summary] and [Kevin Smokler][kevins site], all fine folks. I found this one particularly frustrating because there was hardly no actual discussion on the future of content. Instead, we spent about 10-15 minutes just trying to define the term “content,” another 10-15 minutes discussing how to extract content from clients, even about 5 minutes answering the question “What is RSS?” Now, that’s a perfectly legitimate question in an entry-level session, but not in a session called The Future of Content at a conference called WebVisions, both titles which imply a certain advanced, forward-looking orientation. Now, I happen to think that the future of content is a very interesting and timely topic for the year 2005. I had some very interesting post-panel discussions with some of the panelists, and I think I’ll do a more in-depth post on the topic sometime in the next few days. But still, I found the panel as a whole quite disappointing.
So to reiterate, I think that the conference organizers need to do one of three things: 1) Take the name WebVisions to heart and refocus the conference on the future and not cater at all to the newbies; 2) Reorganize the conference agenda into tracks which target various skill levels and interests; or 3) Don’t take the name WebVisions too seriously, and just be the local Portland web gathering.
[webvisions]: http://2005.webvisionsevent.com/ “WebVisions 2005”
[portland]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portland%2C_Oregon “City of Portland, Oregon”
[desktop session]: http://2005.webvisionsevent.com/presentations/desktop/ “Session description”
[content session]: http://2005.webvisionsevent.com/presentations/future_content/ “Session description”
[xhtml mp]: http://www.developershome.com/wap/xhtmlmp/xhtml_mp_tutorial.asp?page=introduction “XHTML MP tutorial introduction”
[media attribute]: http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-CSS2/media.html “Media type section from CSS spec”
[mollys summary]: http://www.molly.com/2005/07/16/blurred-vision/ “Molly’s summary of WebVisions 2005 from molly.com”
[nicks summary]: http://www.digital-web.com/news/2005/07/webvisions_2005_aftermath/ “Nick’s summary of WebVisions 2005 from Digital Web Magazine”
[keiths summary]: http://www.7nights.com/asterisk/archives05/2005/07/webvisions-2005-roundup “Keith’s summary of WebVisions 2005 from asterisk*”
[kevins site]: http://www.kevinsmokler.com/ “Kevin’s site”

2 thoughts on “WebVisions 2005 Wrapup

  1. Good point about skill level vs. information presented. Sounds like you may have missed Cameron Moll’s presentation, which directly followed Molly’s. He addressed some of the specific questions you raised, such as mobile browser support, which mobile devices can handle what XHTML tags, etc., complete with a few screenshots from hand held devices. If I remember correctly, I think he said he would post his presentation to his site soon (www.cameronmoll.com).

  2. I had that same frustration at the last two Webmaster World Conferences. It would be nice to have advanced sessions for more capable developers. I’ve always found the best education comes from the relationships I establish post-conference, which makes attendance worth it for me.
    BTW, I was at the One Show Interactive Awards in NYC in 2002 when Paris, France won several awards. It made me proud to see our city representing on the national level.

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