Fourth

Decoded Chats – fourth edition featuring Sarah Drasner on SVG

At SmashingConf Freiburg I took some time to interview Sarah Drasner on SVG.

In this interview we covered what SVG can bring, how to use it sensibly and what pitfalls to avoid.

You can see the video and get the audio recording of our chat over at the Decoded blog:

helicopter interrupting the interview with Sarah

Sarah is a dear friend and a lovely person and knows a lot about animation and SVG.

Here are the questions we covered:

  1. SVG used to be a major “this is the future of the web” and then it vanished for a while. What is the reason of the new interest in a format that old?
  2. Tooling in SVG seems to be still lagging behind in what Flash gave us. Are there any good tools that have – for example – a full animation timeline?
  3. SVG syntax on first glance seems rather complex due to its XML format and lots of shortcut notations. Or is it just a matter of getting used to it?
  4. Coordinate systems seem to be easy to understand, however when it comes to dynamic coordinate systems and vector basics people get lost much easier. When you teach, is this an issue?
  5. What about prejudices towards SVG? It is rumoured to be slow and very memory intense. Is this true?
  6. Presets of tools seem to result in really large SVG files which is why we need extra tools to optimise them. Is this improving with the new-found interest in SVG?
  7. There seems to be a “war of animation tools”. You can use SVG, CSS Animations, The Web Animation API, or JavaScript libraries. What can developer do about this? Should we learn all of them?
  8. There are security issues with linking to external SVG files which makes them harder to use than – for example – images. This can be discouraging and scary for implementers, what can we do there?
  9. Does SVG live in the uncanny valley between development and design?
  10. Is there one thing you’d love people to stop saying about SVG as it is not true but keeps coming up in conversations?

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Help making the fourth industrial revolution less scary

Last week I spent in Germany at an event sponsored by the government agency for unemployment covering the issue of digitalisation of the job market and the subsequential loss of jobs.

me, giving a keynote on machine learning and work

When the agency approached me to give a keynote on the upcoming “fourth industrial revolution” and what machine learning and artificial intelligence means for the job market I was – to put it mildly – bricking it. All the other presenters at the event had several doctor titles and were professors of this and that. And here I was, being asked to deliver the “future” to an audience of company owners, university professors and influential people who decide the employment fate of thousands of people.

Expert Panel

I went into hermit mode and watched, read and translated dozens of videos and articles on AI and the work environment. In the end, I took a more detailed look at the conference schedule and realised that most of the subject matter data will be covered by the presenter before me.

Thus I delivered a talk covering the current situation of AI and what it means for us as job seekers and employers. The slides and screencast are in German, but I am looking forward to translating them and maybe deliver them in a European frame soon.

The slide deck is on Slideshare, and even without knowing German, you should get the gist:

The screencast is on YouTube:

The feedback was overwhelming and humbling. I got interviewed by the local TV station where I mostly deflected all the negative and defeatist attitude towards artificial intelligence the media loves to portrait.

tv interview

I also got a half page spread in the local newspaper where – to the amusement of my friends – I was touted a “fascinating prophet”.

Newspaper article

During the expert panel on digital security I had a few interesting encounters. Whilst in general it felt tough to see how inflexible and outdated some of the attitudes of companies towards computers were, there is a lot of innovation happening even in rural areas. I was especially impressed with the state of robots in warehouses and the investment of the European Union in Blockchain solutions and security research.

One thing I am looking forward to is working with a cybersecurity centre in the area giving workshops on social engineering and security of iOT.

A few things I learned and I’d like you to also consider:

  • We are at the cusp – if not in the middle of – a new digital revolution
  • Our job as people in the know is to reach out to those who are afraid of it and give out sensible information as a counter point to some of the fearmongering of the press
  • It is incredibly rewarding to go out of our comfort zone and echo chamber and talk to people with real business and social change issues. It humbles you and makes you wonder just how you ended up knowing all that we do.
  • The good social aspects of our jobs could be a blueprint for other companies to work and change to be resilient towards replacement by machines
  • German is hard 🙂

So, be brave, offer to present at places not talking about the latest flavour of JavaScript or CSS preprocessing. The world outside our echo chamber needs us.

Or as the interrupters put it: What’s your plan for tomorrow?

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