Well my head’s just about stopped spinning following the Future of Web Apps conference. The third day consisted of a series of workshops, the idea being you chose one for the morning and one for the afternoon.
The morning workshop I chose was Khoi Vinh – who is the design director for NYTimes.com – talking about using a grid technique to design web sites. I hadn’t been sure if I’d find this one interesting or not but it turned out to be a fascinating insight into web site design. He’s a properly trained graphic designer and unlike me (who used to be a web designer many moons ago) actually knows what he’s doing – I’d always had a “keep tweaking until it looks right” approach to design whereas he demonstrated a very impressive technique for designing web content. I left the workshop immediately wanting to redesign this site and any others I can get my hands on so it must have worked!
The afternoon workshop I went to was run by Stefan Magdalinski who is the CTO of Moo. Moo, in case you haven’t heard of them, are a company that make business cards. Doesn’t sound very exciting, but they make them with a twist. You can choose pictures for the front of them from your Flickr or Bebo photos, they’re a different size to your standard, run-of-the-mill business cards and they’re made in such a way that they look incredibly cool. As soon as I saw some in the flesh I immediately wanted some! They’re so cool you’ll want to give them out to people at parties. Go check out the site, order some and then come back here to keep reading… Off you go!
Stefan’s a really interesting guy. He’s been in the software game for years and is a bit of a start-up veteran. He’s a proper techie and led us through the challenges of creating Moo along with some of his other past work (particularly UpMyStreet). He had some interesting stories about how Moo came to being, the pitfalls of working to someone else’s API (such as Flickr’s API – something I know all about with John’s Background Switcher) and 3rd party libraries, the problems of getting popular FAST and a host of other things you’ll likely come across if you start your own web app company. Very interesting stuff and I’ve already ordered my Moo cards and persuaded some friends to do the same – all it takes is to just show people and they consistently say “wow, I want some!”.
I must take this opportunity to thank my good friend John Topley. Attending FOWA07 was his suggestion and he had the misfortune of being stuck with me for the whole 3 days! How he managed to cope with my dry wit and terrible sense of humour I’ll never know! Fortunately he’s a long-in-the-tooth cynic like me so we were on the same wavelength for most of the time and both cringed every time we heard buzzwords like “mashup”.
John also introduced me to the exciting world of the Mac. There were far more Mac users there than PCs and playing around with Mac OS X for a while showed me just how much Vista’s GUI is a copy. Really, pretty much every “innovation” is a straight copy from the Mac and when you see some of them in the context of the Mac they make a lot more sense than on Vista. And it’s true what they say, out of the box the Mac really is full of creative-enabling software whereas the PC is all business and starchy shirt and tie. Those Mac vs. PC ads are right!
I’ll definitely be going to the conference next year and you never know, by then I might have some exciting web app that’ll change the world myself! All I need to do is think how I can bring background switching to the online world – or port it to the Mac where it’ll be much more fun for starters…