Beyond Tellerrand 2013 conference was great fun. It was the second web design conference I attended after my premiere at last years Smashing Conference, also organized by Marc Thiele.

The notes I took

Following Brad Frosts example at Smashing Conf, I took as many notes as possible:

I didn’t take notes from Kate Kiefer Lees and Christian Heilmanns talk since I arrived late to them. Besides their talks had great similarities to the one Kates co-worker Aaron Walters and Christian Heilmann gave at Smashing Conf. Needless to say there was no point in taking notes for Josh Brewers and James Victores talks. If you weren’t there, you have missed two of the greatest comedic performances probably ever given at a web design conference.

Best publishing workflow I ever had

I wrote the notes in plain text files using markdown in Folding Text. All files were on my MacBooks hard drive in the /drafts content folder that kirby CMS uses to generate this website. Publishing simply meant moving the article folder from /drafts to /articles and all files synced to my web server in the background via Dropbox.
When my MacBook went out of juice during Mandy Browns talk I simply picked up my iPhone and completed the article with Nocs 1.
And when my iPhone couldn’t connect to 3G, leaving my MacBook disconnected from the internet, I turned on my local server with jancbeck.com running as a virtual host on the same directory as the one that gets synced to my web server via Dropbox, giving me full access to my website at any given time. Sorry, I’m a geek - I just had to tell you.

9 things I take with me from this conference:

1. Progressive Reduction

Aaron Gustafson introduced me to this great technique termed by Layer Vault. They have a blog post about the idea and one about the implementation.

2. The Internet forgets

Jeremy Keith reminded me that preserving content is as important as creating content. A digital burning of the Library of Alexandria is not generations away from us; it can happen at any time 2. It is our responsibility to care for our content if big companies don’t. Our descendants will judge us from what we will leave behind. If there is anything we leave behind.

By the way when I was designing this website I already had many thoughts like these wandering in my mind. For example I am using Kirby CMS to display all contents of this website. Everything is just plain text files. Even if this whole internet thing goes away or my server get corrupted the content is still there as a folder on my hard drive that I back up using the 1-2-3 backup rule and sync to my Dropbox.

kirby

3. Communication is bidirectional.

Aaron Gustafson again compared a website that forces it’s agenda onto its users to a person that just keeps on talking to you. Empathy requires listening, observation and patience.

4. Building the web means building spaces for people to live

When I was 8 years old I wanted to become an architect. Blaine Cook brought back some memories from that time when he compared the impersonal skyscrapers from Hong Kong to the countless instances of Bootstrap in the web. Building websites does not mean we have to build wooden cabins (to stay with the metaphor). Examples like Unité d’Habitation by Le Corbusier show that mass production is not bad when it’s done with human care for detail.

5. “CSS [to me] is the space between classes.”

This poetic piece was passed to us by Harry Roberts and was inspired by a quote from Claude Debussy. What he was trying to say is that CSS itself - it’s syntax, it’s vocabulary - is very easy. What makes CSS complex is the interplay of the growing numbers of classes as a project evolves.

6. Books and the web are no antipodes

Instead they are two sides of the same coin: humanities effort to distribute and preserve information, knowledge and memories. “The web is what the book always wanted to be” – Mandy Brown.

7. Designing for today’s web actually became better than it used to be when we used PSDs

Meagan Fisher explained why the water fall process is dead. Instead we are working on content strategy, design prototypes and visual style in parallel with the client. The Big Reveal must die.

8. Testing on multiple devices can be fun

There was a device lab that allowed you to test your sites on a wide range of gadgets: Phones running Windows, Android and old versions of iOS; touchscreen-enabled laptops and tablets. Devices I have never used before. I was curiously happy like a child trying to browse my website on a 5 year old Blackberry.

devicelab
testing my websites on some of devices

9. I want commit to Firefox OS

This time he got me: Christian Heilmans talk about a technological world that is not behind walled App Store gardens and truly for everyone made me decide to commit to this wonderful project in the future.

10. James Victore is a very wise and funny man. And especially funny.

The Venue

The whole exhibition area deserved to be called beyond Tellerrand (beyond the edge of the plate).
There was Stefan Kuhnigk who drew paintings from coffee stains, people from the skaters scene who created all the artworks and logo for the event, the aforementioned device lab, the developer garden where not so known developers could introduce their projects to a large audience and a 3D printer - how cool is that?!

The People

I quickly realized that attending to conferences isn’t just about listening to talks given by great speakers. It is about meeting people. People you only knew from their work, their twitter nicknames, from articles they have written or you have never even heard of before.
This time I tried to connect to as many people as possible. I was happy to get to know Carolin Zisch from gagazin and Martin Weber from gugler.at. Bastian Allgeier, the man behind kirby CMS that is powering my website, was incredibly nice to talk to. And last but not least… I met Vasilis van Gemert again!

Pictures from the conference on flickr CC-BY 2.0


  1. Nocs: text editor with Dropbox and Markdown support for iPhone 

  2. Curiously enough Jeremy was referencing to the closing of geocities.com just a week after Yahoo had announced to acquire Tumblr for $1.1 Billion leaving us all with a stomach in knots. 

Written by Jan Beck on in Düsseldorf, Germany.