Breaking barriers at Beyond Tellerand (talk, audio and impressions)

A few days ago I was fortunate enough to attend the Beyond Tellerand conference in Dusseldorf/Germany.

The conference was organised by an old friend of mine, Marc Thiele and it showed once again that the success of a conference is very much dependent on the passion of the organiser. As it were, Beyond Tellerand was amazing and had a very cozy vibe to it. This could be because of the location, an old-school theatre for variety shows, complete with small tables with lamps on each (no telephones to order champagne though).

I was kicking off the day with my “Breaking the barriers – moving browsers and the web forward” talk. The slides and audio are available here:


(navigate slides with cursor left and right, go through bullet points with up and down and toggle notes with “n”)

I will publish a more detailed post on Mozilla about the content of the slides. Here, let me quickly go through the other talks I attended and was able to follow (I had a cold and felt awful).

(Some of) the talks

  • Aaron Gustafson’s “Crafting Rich Experiences with Progressive Enhancement” was a nice reminder on how to create rock-solid sites and apps by layering complexity instead of throwing the kitchen sink at the browser and wondering when things break. His book on Adaptive Web Design covers the same topics in a very understandable fashion. I have had lots of work together with Aaron but we met for the first time IRL, which is very cool.
  • Naomi Atkinson’s “Going Beyond” was a talk about self-promotion and how to get known online. It was not a seedy SEO talk but more about the irony that we spend days making our products look amazing but fail at doing the same about ourselves. That she managed to use three celebrities as examples that I heartily despise and still keep me interested shows that it was a talk worth your while.
  • Heiko Behrens’ “Mobile Apps with JavaScript – There’s More Than Web” was a whirlwind tour of all the different options we have to build mobile applications using JavaScript. He covered Appcelerator, PhoneGap and many other tools and live coded the examples to show us how you can use emulators to get going. A bit packed as a talk, but I managed to follow and enjoy it.
  • Vitaly Friedman’s “The Invisible Side of Design” showed a lot of shiny web site examples but reminded us that the real value of design is not in its visual representation but in the effects it has on the visitors and the benefits it brings for site owners. A nice reminder not to chase the shiny but use effects in moderation and where they reap benefits.
  • Seb Lee-Delisle’s “CreativeJS – Beauty in the Browser” was a live coding session showing some particles in Canvas and creating 3D animated snow. Much like the stuff he keeps making people create in his great workshops. Pretty unfair to show people how easy it is to create beautiful things and then end with “but don’t do that” 🙂
  • Yves Peter’ “Trajan in movie posters: the rise and fall of the Roman Empire” sounded really far-fetched but actually was a very entertaining research into how many movie posters used the font “Trajan” which is known as the “make it an Oscar movie” font. Whilst one can argue with the analytics methodology (amount of movies vs. percentage of movies released in the year, which, IMHO, would be a more interesting number) I thoroughly enjoyed the journey into the OCD world of a typography enthusiast. And, no, simply using Trajan does not automatically get the movie an oscar.
  • Simon Collinson’s “Notes from the Edge” gave us a good reminder that building things with design tools and software is a craft and that we should put pride into what we do instead of complaining about lack of resources or response from the outside world.
  • Tomas Casper’s “How to sneak Accessibility into your project without anybody noticing it” showed a lot of expertise and ideas of how to sell accessibility to large organisations where the “it is the right thing to do” doesn’t quite cut it. Lots of good info there, but IMHO far too much packed into a single talk. This could be a kick-ass workshop
  • Dan Rubin’s “Hands-on Prototyping with HTML & CSS” told the tale of user testing the changes in a huge old-school web site by showing HTML and CSS mockups (done with image map-like positioned elements to click and enter data). Very good information on how to make user testing much more agile and get faster results
  • Jake Archibald’s “Reusable Code, for good or for awesome!” told the tale of historical phalluses and had some info about code. Seriously, it is a kick-ass talk about building reusable JavaScript solutions.
  • Jon Tan’s “Welcome to the brave new world of web type” was a very inspiring talk on using the right font-faces on the web and common mistakes being made. Instead of just talking about the aesthetics of different fonts Jon also talked a lot about usability issues and quality concerns in rendering. All in all, a kick-ass talk about a subject I know zilch about but made me interested in doing more.

All in all Beyond Tellerand was well worth my time and the organisation was great. The format of having 15 minute breaks between speakers worked very well and took the rush out of the conference. The lack of stable or working wireless was annoying but actually meant that I listened to the other talks more than usual (no distraction with company emails).

I especially enjoyed that while being very specialist topics, none of the talks was elitist or left people not “in the know” confused and lost (or bored). I wouldn’t know Arial from Helvetica to save my life (funnily enough I am good at Cheese or Font though) but I was really inspired and interested in the typography talks as they talked about real issues and solutions for them. Being in Germany was weird for me, as I am so used to speaking in English as the first language in conversations but helping other people (and buying cold medicine for Jake) was fun to do.

All in all I had a great time, I hope I inspired a few people to have a go at modern and bleeding edge technology and I can safely say that #btconf is a great place to go.


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