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14 Things I Learned at WebVisions - Day 2

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Welcome back! I hope you enjoyed 14 Things I learned at WebVisions – Day 1. How was dinner? Did you sleep well? OK, enough chit chat- it’s time for the epic conclusion of this 2-part series. Without further ado, I present the remaining 7 things I learned while attending WebVisions Portland 2012:

WebVisions keynote

“Mobile will be the dominant behavior”

According to Jason Grigsby, mobile development expert and author, we’ve been viewing mobile in a terribly flawed and ethnocentric light. In his “Casting Off Our Desktop Shackles” talk and accompanying slides, Jason argues that judging the value and significance of mobile by the size of the screen is not only a great disservice, both to ourselves and the technology, but that it is just plain wrong. “Mobile,” Jason contends, “is the most important technology since the printing press.” It is all too easy to think of the smartphone as a luxury item, a second (or third or fourth) computer albeit with a smaller screen. But in quite a few important ways, we are far behind many other parts of the world. Asia and Africa, respectively, are the dominant mobile markets; the USA/Canada, meanwhile, is a distant fifth. We have yet to fully take advantage of Mobile’s eight unique characteristics/abilities namely: Personal, Permanently Carried, Always On, Built-In Payment Channel, Creative Impulse, Accurate Measurement, Social Context, and Augmented Reality. Mobile is powerful, much more powerful than we realize, and it is silly to dismiss such a game-changing medium because of the size of its screen.

Please keep your crusty dogs in your shoes, and not exposed mere inches from me

OK, this is less a “thing I learned” than it is a request: please keep your feet in your loafers. Hey, don’t get me wrong- I enjoy liberating my footsies from their leather/canvas prisons as much anyone, but perhaps a conference isn’t the best venue for this kind of comfort. Also, the floor is dirty. Also, you were sprawled out on the ground right next to my chair and it made me feel awkward. Ah, never mind, do what feels right! Let those toes breathe!

Adobe Shadow is pretty neat, but I’d think it was cooler if I’d won an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription

I was quite confident, after adding my business card (of which I have millions- if you’d like one, please send a S.A.S.E. to Planet Argon headquarters) to the hat, that I’d be a shoo-in to win the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription; my business card is thick and brightly-colored. But let’s back up- Duane O’Brien and Charlie Scheinost, 2 computer scientists on the Adobe Shadow team, first took our business cards and effectively got our hopes up, and then introduced and demonstrated their app: an inspection and preview tool that allows wireless pairing and synchronous web browsing between multiple iOS / Android devices and a computer. While undoubtedly a cool product, Shadow has its share of gotchas: I’ve been unable to get it to connect successfully with our local Rails setup, it doesn’t work on websites running versions of Prototype older than v1.7, and, perhaps most critically, you still need to PHYSICALLY HAVE a bunch of different phones if you want to test your work on a bunch of different phones. Also, I didn’t win the Creative Cloud subscription.

the Adobe Shadow teamThe Adobe Shadow team, showing of their app

KendoUI vs jQueryMobile? WHO WILL WIN? Well, according to the guy who works at KendoUI, KendoUI

OK, that is a gross oversimplification of the comparison that Todd Anglin, VP of HTML5 Web and Mobile Tools at KendoUI, made during his “Using HTML5 to Build Mobile Apps” talk. Actually, KendoUI, “a HTML5, jQuery-based framework for building modern HTML apps” is quite a bit like jQueryMobile, which we’ve used here at Planet Argon to augment our Contiki Mobile Site development, but perhaps a bit fancier. Unlike jQM, which Todd described as a “one size fits all” approach, KendoUI automatically optimizes UI elements to look native- on iOS, the navigation will follow iOS navigation patterns; on Android, navigation will follow Android navigation patterns. Besides that, KendoUI is massive; I have no doubt that it is far more comprehensive and feature-rich a framework than jQueryMobile. And jQM is free while KendoUI is not- which, as Todd pointed out, means there are a bunch of people working full time to make sure KendoUI is as good a product as possible. I worry that, like any framework, using KendoUI would become increasingly painful as one tries to customize. From my experience, frameworks become less an ally and more an opponent the more the developer need to deviate from its out-of-the-box stying/behavior. But truly, the message is this: Mobile is indisputably important and, as Todd said, “the mobile world is going to be a multi-platform world for the foreseeable future. You cannot pick one platform and reach the majority of people.” So, rather than building an iOS app in the Objective-C language using XCode, an Android app in Java using Eclipse, a Blackberry app using… ANYWAY, instead of all that, write an HTML5 app, as “there will be more than 1 billion HTML5 mobile browsers in the market in 2013; and over 80% of all mobile apps will be wholly or in part based upon HTML5 by 2015,” according to the IDC. Yowza!

Todd Anglin presenting about HTML5Todd Anglin speaking emphatically about HTML5 Mobile Development

I’ve figured out the Web Conf Formula! No, wait, I’m confused

So, let me get this straight: Does WebVisions and other conferences of a similar ilk pay companies like Adobe and KendoUI and WebINK to come and host sessions a.k.a. sell their products, just as they pay the other non-affiliated presenters? That seems odd, doesn’t it? And if WebVisions isn’t paying these sponsor-presenters, why are we, the attendees, paying WebVisions to attend these advertisements? Is this obvious, or am I embarking on forbidden territory? Will the Web Conf mafia come and break my typing fingers? If so, I take it all back! Please! Sorry! Thank you for allowing me to pay to attend the live-action commercials!

In Conclusion

Here are my thoughts, in one run-on sentence: Even though I didn’t win a Creative Cloud membership or an iPad or a Kindle Fire, and even though there is a distinct possibility that Planet Argon paid for me to attend a few sessions that were little more than thinly-veiled sales pitches, WebVisions was great; in that, I met good people, I heard thought-provoking talks (as well as a couple thought-hindering ones), I got to feel a tangible sense of the oftentimes intangible web community, and I put new stuff in my brain – oh, for those counting, this only adds up to 12 things I learned at WebVisions, not 14, btw.

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