Ask Later #1 (Not a Techa Kucha Night. Honest)

I’ve been very remiss about blogging the July Ask Later evening, organised by Steve Coast and Tom Carden. The format was different to any presentations I’ve seen before, each speaker had 20 seconds to present each of their 20 slides, and no way of altering the timing. BWHAHAHA.

The first speaker had me worried, without trying to sound harsh, his timing was off and my fears about sudden rushing as a slide changed before he was finished and awkward silences in between came flooding back to me. His material was good but he didn’t hit his flow and in an enforced slide schedule it was a lot more visible than a “normal” presentation. I was mentally hunkering down for a painful evening. But then something clicked.

The gaps started to vanish and the over running started to reduce, I don’t know how much time the speakers spent practising and timing but it paid off big time. Paul Hammond, who I’ve commented about before, hit every prompt in his Constraints talk, which felt very 37signals, (hopefully he’ll give it again elsewhere). The only person with better timing was Jon Crowcroft who presented 9 levels of indirection (and got a lot of laughs) and only looked around at his slides a couple of times. And his timing was near bang on. Oh, and football jokes - which were actually well placed.

Other highlights were Simon Willison, who reached a new speed of vibration, as he dived in to Javascript closures (the most tech talk of the night and a nice intermission among the other, softer, talks), Muki Haklay on why mapping sites suck (it’s all about screen size) and one of the best usability talks I’ve seen, presented by Natalie Downe. I know I’ve missed some of the dozen or so speakers but I stopped taking notes through most of the sessions, I was enjoying them too much. So take me missing your name as praise, not me being slack ;)

The only downside of the evening is that was criminally under-attended. A combination of the school holidays, night of the week and unbearable heat seemed to keep the crowds away, and that’s a shame as it was a great evening, from the presenters to the pub chat afterwards. The best one evening event of the year so far, and yes I’m jealous as hell it wasn’t one of mine!