A Blog Not Limited

to web design, standards & semantics

Webmaster Jam Session 2008

Oct 07, 2008

Published in

Webmaster Jam Session 2008

I finally recovered just returned from Webmaster Jam Session 2008 in Altanta, GA, this past weekend — October 3 & 4 — and wanted to share my thoughts about this great two-day conference.

WJS is a unique event. Casual, intimate, informative and overwhelmingly fun.

The format is particularly nice, with sessions that encourage audience participation and between–session–breaks that are perfect for talking directly with speakers and other attendees.

Other than the format, the topics covered are great. Everything from high-level discussions of a company's re-design process to specific examples of improving usability to universal design (the coolest–of–the–cool).

And the speakers are just as great as the topics they cover. Knowledgeable, passionate, approachable and down–to–earth.

So Good the First Time, I Did It Again

This year is the third year for the event and my second year attending. Last year's conference was held in Dallas, TX, the former home of WJS host company, Coffee Cup. Coffee Cup has since moved to Atlanta, which is why this year's event was relocated.

Last year, I thoroughly enjoyed the event, but I was a fly on the wall.

I really didn't participate or attempt to talk to any speakers or even make connections with other attendees. Given the intimate nature of the event, that was just plain stupidity on my part.

This year I wanted it to be different, and it was. I met so many wonderful and talented people, and I made sure to spend some time with some of the speakers (also wonderful and talented).

The Learning

Aside from the professional and social connections I made (which, admittedly, was my top priority this year), there was so much to learn.

Thankfully, many of the speakers have put their presentations online (hopefully they all will at some point, and I'll update accordingly):

Making Accessibility Sexy
Web accessibility is a topic that isn't treated with the respect it deserves. This is partly caused by the larger divide plaguing the Web development world: Developers and designers don't talk much. However, great design and great accessibility usually means the same thing: both designers and developers are trying to make things easier and make content available to as many people as possible out there, regardless of ability.
Chris Heilmann, Web Developer with Yahoo!
Dan Rubin, Author/Producer/User Experience Designer
Universal by Design
Numerous examples — from behavioral psychology to cyber-kinesiology — of how accessible, universal design benefits not only those with disabilities, but society at large, enabled or disabled … everyone. Personal note: One of my favorite presentations.
James Craig, Senior Web Applications Engineer with Apple Inc.
Web Design and Development: Behind the Scenes Day One & Day Two
A multi-session presentation covering the design and development process from start to finish using the recent redesign of the Blue Flavor Website as a backdrop. Everything from the branding strategy behind design decisions to development with frameworks.
Jeff Croft, Designer with Blue Flavor (and one of the coolest and most "real" guys I met)
D. Keith Robinson, Principal & Creative Director of Blue Flavor
Social Media on the New Internet
Understand why social interactions are a big deal: The shift from one-way communication online to two-way dialog creates marketing that people actually enjoy interacting with. Ways you can get involved, like creating content for social networks (widgets, branded pages, etc.), adding social features like commenting and tagging to your Websites, and creating a full social network around a brand or product.
Jason Ford, Senior Director of Interactive Services with Tocquigny
Webmaster Jam Session Hack — Quickly fixing a web site with YUI grids
A 15-minute redesign of a site submitted by an attendee for a critique; uses the YUI grids.
Chris Heilmann, Web Developer with Yahoo!
The Seven Commandments of User Experience
Techniques, tips, and tricks for Website design, information architecture, Website interactions, and markup sure to make your users happy. Presentation deck references a bunch of great, must-have book resources.
Nick Finck, Principal & Director of User Experience with Blue Flavor
Comps vs. Code: Couples’ Therapy
The intersection of quality code with top-notch art direction. For developers: strategies to achieve that extra level of "bulletproofing" in their templates. For designers: tips on how to better convey creative requirements to coders. Personal note: Another one of my favorite presentations.
Ethan Marcotte, UI Developer with Airbag Industries
Increasing Your Web Visibility
Creative ways to use Twitter, YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn, personal blogs, and more ways to see and be seen. How to leverage these technologies, plus some old fashioned ingenuity and hard work to become well known.
Christina Warren, Writer, Designer and Wannabe-mogul
Jeff Croft, Designer with Blue Flavor
Dan Rubin, Author/Producer/User Experience Designer
Garrett Dimon, Designer/Developer/Founder
Running Commentary (of sorts)

To get a feel of my personal experience during WJS08, you can check out my tweets during the event.

What I Missed

Due to "competing sessions," I didn't get a chance to see everything I wanted. But some of those speakers have already put their presentations online (I'll update this list, too, as I find more sessions online):

Design Disrepair
A creative spin on the Website redesign process as it relates to home renovation, including hard-earned tips for the novice designer and a perspective that will benefit anyone involved in Website design and maintenance.
Jason Beaird, designer and author
The Web Planning Process
The process of getting from "we need a new Website" to a blueprint for the site that designers, writers, and coders can use to build it.
Jason Ford, Senior Director of Interactive Services with Tocquigny
Striking a Balance
Philosophy and techniques for achieving balance in that gray area between idealism and implementation. Includes code tips and design insights.
Nathan Smith, Front-end Developer with Viewzi
Firefox Web Development
Using the Firefox Web Developer extension to develop and debug Websites. Details of the features of the extension, as well as tips and tricks on how they can be used to speed up your development process.
Chris Pederick, Technical Architect with Avenue A | Razorfish (I owe this man a debt of gratitude for this extension. Actually, who doesn't?)
Creating Sexy Stylesheets
Insight on the power of CSS3, which browsers support what properties, and what the future could look like when CSS3 finally becomes mainstream.
Jina Bolton, Designer/Developer/Artist
Podcast Coming Soon

The entire event was recorded, and I've heard talk the WJS folks will be posting the podcast soon. I'll update this article with a link when it is made available.

I also suspect some of the presenters are holding off publishing their presentations online until after the podcast is ready. Makes sense, since many presentation decks (i.e., James Craig's Universal by Design) may not "translate" without the accompanying audio.

No matter. Trust me, these will be worth any wait.

The Partying

So, it is worth reiterating just how fun this event is. After the first day, Coffee Cup hosted a "Jam Party" at Fandangles in the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel. Just a nice chance to talk about the day's events, meet more folks and talk to the speakers.

After the second (and last) day, Seattle-based web design consultancy Blue Flavor hosted a closing party downtown at the Bazaar Urban Lounge.

There really are no words to describe how much fun the closing party was. I took a few photos if you care to enjoy.

I had more than my share of fun and, from what I can tell via Twitter and Flickr, I wasn't the only one.

Next Year?

As for returning next year, I would love to. However, I also hope to attend SXSWi in March 2009, and my employer usually only approves one professional development event per year.

Yet, for the money, WJS can't be beat. I may just have to foot the bill myself for WJS09.

HTML5 Cookbook

Interested in HTML5?
Get the Cookbook!

I was a contributing author for HTML5 Cookbook, available for sale on Amazon! Get yours now! (I hear chapters 1, 4 and 5 are particularly good.)

P.S. Don't forget my book Microformats Made Simple is still for sale!


Share the Love

Sean's Gravatar

Sean opines:


Thanks for sharing the links, I’ve got a lot of reading/viewing to do now. Unfortunately, living in Asia, it’s not really possible to attend events like these, so I’ll just have to do it vicariously.

Virginia's Gravatar

Virginia opines:


Ooh, this sounds so good. I wish I’d been there, but appreciate getting a vicarious look through your eyes.

Emily's Gravatar

Emily responds:


@Sean & @Virginia - Glad to share and hope you guys can get something from the presentations the speakers have provided online.

If you happen to have any specific questions about the sessions I attended, don’t hesitate to ask.

J. Cornelius's Gravatar

J. Cornelius opines:


Emily - Nice write up. I’m glad you made it and I hope to see you at the next WJS.

Chris Harrison's Gravatar

Chris Harrison opines:


Emily, Excellent write-up. I definitely got a lot more out of this conference since I committed to networking/socializing more. I’m glad to have had the pleasure of meeting you and so many other great folks at the Jam. Can’t wait to do it again next year.

Emily's Gravatar

Emily responds:


@J & Chris - Thanks for reading and the compliments.

And I’m so glad to have met both of you. Honored, really.

I’m already looking forward to next year.

Also, J, just in case you don’t hear it enough: Thank you and the folks at Coffee Cup for putting together a great event. What you do is simply amazing.

Michael Montgomery's Gravatar

Michael Montgomery opines:


Emily, thanks for the summary. It was a good conference; great to meet you (and Chris too).

Looking at your blog content made me smile—I’ve been using hCard on all recent sites.

I’ll be in Austin for SXSW; not sure about WJS09.

Emily's Gravatar

Emily responds:


@Michael - It was great to meet you, as well.

Not at all surprised to find out a fellow standards-lover is using hCard. Microformats make me so happy :)

I will definitely be at SXSW, so we must meet up. As for WJS09, I’m planning on it but it is a bit too early in the game to know for sure.

Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

The Coolest Person I Know

Emily Lewis

Yeah, that would be me: .

I'm a freelance web designer of the standardista variety, which means I get excited about things like valid POSH, microformats and accessibility. I ply my trade from my one-person design studio in Albuquerque, New Mexico 87106 USA.

A Blog Not Limited is my personal blog where I pontificate about web design, web standards, semantics and whatever else strikes my fancy. Head on over to Emily Lewis Design if you'd like to see my work or, even better, hire me.


I Tweet, Therefore I Am

Follow @emilylewis on Twitter!