Mix:UK 07 Round-up

We’re back up north after Mix:UK 07 and I thought I’d follow up my earlier post with a few thoughts on the event and it’s content.

Before I do that, however, I need to give a cheer for our guys: Jonny performed incredibly in the Guiter Hero competition to  be triumphant in front of his screaming supporters, and Sam, Mat, Tom and Jonny cleaned up the the goody-bagging stakes of the Swaggily Fortunes quiz!

Anyway, back to the plot. Day two of the event had some good sessions. Kicking off the day with good humour was a pretty inspiring talk by Beau Amber of Metaliq.He apologised for not being awake, having not slept. He then showed the fruits of his sleepless night by demoing an iPhone built in Silverlight! It was a great session on what kinds of things you can do with Silverlight 1.0 and I look forward to his continued development of the Silverphone.

Next up was Todd Landstad, who was infectiously enthusiastic about mobile devices. He was showing interesting stuff using tablet PC, Sideshow and a suit of UMPC devices. As an avid Engadget reader none of the devices came as a surprise, but it was a great demo on how a little lateral thinking can result in useful software for people on the move, and the things to consider when targeting mobile devices.

Now it gets tricky. The next session was all about accessibility. It wasn’t bad, I have to say, and the guy running the session showed a couple of things I didn’t know about how to kick ASP.NET into generating some of the elements that are needed when doing accessible tables. The trouble is, that it was like watching a presentation from about five years ago. The points covered were all WCAG 1 level A, with little mention of level AA. More worryingly, the speaker referenced WCAG 1 but called it WCAG 2. He didn’t seem versed in current thoughts and best practices regarding semantic structure, skip links and access keys. He even admitted to using tables for layouts!

I appreciate that he only had an hour, but I’m not convinced that anybody left the room really understanding what their obligations were or where to go to find out more.

So, if you were in the room and want to find out about accessbility here are a couple of links to get you started:

  • AbilityNet – a UK organisation who give support and advice on accessibility.
  • JuicyStudio – the site of Gez Lemon, who’s involved in WCAG 2 and knows his accessibility onions.
  • Joe Clark – extremely passionate about accessibility across a broad spectrum of areas.
  • Accessify – a community site founded by Ian Lloyd and a hub for accessibility discussion.
  • Further Ahead – run by Derek Featherstone, who’s a really cool guy and knows his stuff.

Overall I was at times impressed, inspired, disappointed and frustrated at Mix:UK, but I have to say that at all times the guys running the conference were helpful and organised and all the Black Marble posse had a great time.

In the Mix

Well, it’s just after 3pm on day one of Mix:UK 07. I’m taking a break with a coffee so I thought I’d post.

It’s mixed bag down here (sorry – no pun intended). The technology is fantastic – the stuff that can be achieved with WPF and Silverlight is excellent. I’m still a little uncertain that usability has been sacrificed on the sacrificial alter of bling, however. To be fair, that’s more telling about the rapid-development nature of conference demos, where the wow-factor is more important, but I think it’s a very, very significant issue which should not be allowed to get lost in the excitement.

So, keynote was good, but a little patchy, with lots of people showing off their latest and greatest example of of WPF or Silverlight. The first session was really useful for me. I’ve done some XAML, but to watch a guy who really knows his way around Blend really helped gel things in my mind.

More interesting still, however, was the next session, where a gret guy called Nathan Buggia from Live Search talked about SEO. It was a good session, with a lot of straight talk from a guy who works at a search engine about SEO, nicely pointing out some of the less honorable practices of SEO sharks. Overall his message was what I’ve said all along – build good, semantic pages with informative content and you’ll get good rankings. There’s a bit more to it than that, obviously, but that’s broadly it.

What I did discover during that session, which I really ought to have seen before (I may even have seen it but not have it register), was the XML sitemap format, detailed at sitemaps.org. This can be pushed to the search engines to give them prior information, if you like. It doesn’t let you ‘fix’ your results, but it can be used to give helpful hints to the search engine, particularly on refresh rates for changing pages or even just giving them the nod that things have changed. I will research this more thoroughly now – I may even manage a post on what I find.

Anyway, I will sign off with an apology – sorry Nick, I’m in London and I haven’t called. Next time, I promise!