Back from the Sud Web 2012 conference and 'élaboratoire'

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A little over a week ago, I attended Sud Web, a regional conference for people who work in Web site development: front- and back-end developers, designers, project leaders, consultants, educators, etc. The language is French and the audience comes mainly from the southern half of France and a bit from Paris. A few invited speakers are from outside France. (Rudy Rigot, one of the Sud Web staff, provided live English-to-French translation.)

The conference is a spin-off of the Paris Web conference. The latter has some 500 participants from all over France and is held in the autumn, the former has 150 and is held in spring.

This was the second year for Sud Web. Its goal is to be in a different places in the south of France every year, keep the cost of participation low and favor interaction between participants. Sud Web works well as a place to learn about the Web industry in France and to make contacts. The organizers (all volunteers) do their best to keep the atmosphere informal and make people talk to each other.

The program had two parts: one day of plenary talks (5-minute lightning talks and 30- to 60-minute presentations) and one day of 1- to 2-hour workshops, 3 or 4 in parallel.

In French, a workshop would typically be called an atelier, but the creative minds behind Sud Web instead invented the élaboratoire, a clever portmanteau between elaborate and laboratory. The creative minds, b.t.w., were easy to recognize by the (fatalistic?) text on their t-shirts: Nothing Toulouse. (The t-shirts were also bright orange.)

The talks and workshops dealt with Web technology, but even more with various aspects of the job of a Web developer: product testing, project management, dealing with clients, keeping up to date, trends… Several participants were there precisely because they were in the process of changing careers and wanted to learn about working for the Web.

W3C members Opera and Mozilla gave talks, about the need for diversity/competition and the benefits of participating in Open Source, respectively.

Here are, in random order some of the topics that passed, either in talks or in hallway conversations.

Web & TV

Some developers are starting to be asked to develop for smart TVs. Samsung was explicitly mentioned as a target platform. (Earlier, I had already heard about LG's efforts to make its TVs a Web application platform.)

TV screens are getting more comfortable to read from, so you can now display things that don't move, without giving people a headache, but interaction is still a challenge with the various remote controls. Some remotes have accelerometers, but that doesn't really replace a mouse or a touchpad.

And a problem with designing interaction for TVs is that it is impossible to know, in general, what interaction devices are available: there are no relevant CSS Media Queries and the User Agent strings of the runtime environments, already not very useful on desktops, aren't useful to distinguish TVs at all. (The problem is being worked on, though: W3C has a Web & TV Interest Group for discussing issues such as this, and a Device APIs Working Group to define programmatic access to devices.)

ISO standards

I heard somebody ask about ISO standards and I was happy to be able to report that our Recommendations are being turned into ISO standards. That will make things easier for some people.

CSS preprocessors

One of the workshops explained how to use CSS preprocessors, such as SASS (with or without Compass), LESS and Stylus. SASS and Compass seem to be getting quite popular, especially now that there is (not free, but not expensive either) GUI for it. Some Web developers apparently don't like the command line…

Et la gagnante est…

And the winner is… Several of the sponsors of Sud Web contributed prizes for a lottery. W3C did as well. We offered a place for one of our online training courses: Mobile Web 2: Programming Web Applications, which starts later this month.

And for the sharp-eyed readers: No, the reason the title above says la gagnante instead of le gagnant, is not my lousy French. The winner was a woman. (The odds of that? I estimate it must have been around 20%.)

Past, present and future of CSS

During my workshop CSS : hier, aujourd’hui et demain (“past, present and future,” the slides are in French), I gave a brief history of CSS's goals and an overview of the process by which it is being developed.

The rest of the workshop was about examples of things you cannot (yet?) do with CSS. I hoped it would make people talk about what they needed most from CSS. They did, but they talked even more before and after the workshop. Nothing wrong with that; that's what conferences are for.

Together with Eva Kasal, with whom I already did a tutorial at WWW2012, I've submitted another workshop proposal to the Paris Web conference. If accepted, we'll explore old and new ways to position blocks of text on a page. Maybe by then also some new tricks will be available in (experimental) implementations.

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