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New Adventures 2019

a happy return

This year brought the return of the NEW ADVENTURES conference… and I am still in awe, still feel inspired and still amazed that Simon and his team managed to make this as wonderful as ever! Have a read of the Editorial and check out the Coverage page.

The day was like a perfectly wrapped gift. A brilliant start with a delightful and insightful talk from Jeremy. This was followed by an inspiring mix of excellent topics / speakers — including the wonderful Brendan Dawes. All leading to a glorious finale - Ethan's powerful talk which resonated with so many of us.

In previous years (2011/2012/2013), I tried to capture as much of each talk as I could via sketches and notes. This year, I decided to simply sit, enjoy and absorb instead. And I enjoyed every minute of it :)
What follows is merely a glimpse of the day, my personal highlights alongside quotes and slides.

Jeremy Keith

Jeremy Keith


There is no way I will be able to do any of the talks justice, and definitely not Jeremy's! He took us on a wonderful journey of the evolution of ideas and concepts across different fields. In the most eloquent manner he made the case for resilient design and bemoaned the fixation on the next new library. My favourite part was Jeremy cursing bootstrap and quipping something along the lines of "2 new JavaScript frameworks have popped up since I started this talk"! Made me smile :)

As the talks have all been recorded and will be available to view online in due time - I can only recommend that you watch this talk. This summary and slides can not be enough! However, you might want to read the "Resilient Web Design" book which Jeremy refers to as "history book" and which covers some of the concepts touched on in his talk. Highly recommended too.

talk description

Every new medium looks to what has come before for guidance. Web design has taken cues from centuries of typography and graphic design. Web development has borrowed metaphors and ideas from the world of architecture. Let's take a tour of some of the most influential ideas from architecture that have crossed over into the web, from pattern languages to responsive design. Together we'll uncover how to build resilient, performant, accessible and beautiful structures that work with the grain of the materials of the web.

quoted from speaking.adactio.com

Tales of persistence and success

Claire Sutcliffe Confessions of an Overnight CEO

CodeClub is such a brilliant initiative and I've enjoyed following its evolution online. It was a real pleasure to hear Clare tell the full story, from small beginnings to an amazing number of clubs running in ever more locations. Wonderful to hear how NAConf was part of this as well as personal changes for her :)

Ashley Baxter Idea to Execution and Beyond

Ashley started by highlighting her background and the fact that she started solo - how brilliant to hear. Ashley shared the evolution of her insurance company, With Jack, with all its trials and tribulations. What a great journey and lots of lessons learned. Loved the delivery and sharing spirit, thanks, Ashley :-)

Helen Joy

Helen Joy

Whose Design is it Anyway?

Helen's talk addressed an issue we find all the time with our clients: varied levels of digital skills combined with very different uses of technology in other places but the office. It was great to listen to her accounts of case studies, unexpected scenarios and highlight the importance in understanding people as individuals.

talk description

As creators of products and services, we’re pretty good at thinking we’ve got it all sussed. We map user journeys, we create roadmaps, we write user stories. We know what we want people to do; what actions we want them to take. But do we really know who these people are? Do we really know what they need? Do we take the time to find out, or are we building products and services based on our own assumptions and biases?

And what about those who lack our digital privilege? Digital exclusion is a reality for many people. It’s our responsibility to look out for everyone, not just those who are the most visible or the easiest to design for. As designers, we have the power to massively hinder or improve lives; not those of ‘users’ but of people. This talk looks at what it means to be digitally excluded and how by adopting a practical user research-led attitude to design, we can create products that are not just appealing to us, but life-changing to those who use them.

quoted from noti.st/helen
Ethan Marcotte

Ethan Marcotte

The World-Wide Work.

Words cannot describe how this talk resonated with me! Like many of us, I'd been learning from Ethan's excellent writing and been watching his talks online — I was certain I would enjoy seeing him speak in person. However, I did not quite expect such a powerful talk — such pertinent points, such depth — the many details and stories beautifully woven together and delivering such an emotional message (to me, anyway). What a remarkable closing talk! I know I will remember it well, already look forward to watching it again — I can only urge you to watch it when you can!!

talk description

These days, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. The tech industry is facing a veritable raft of ethical, moral, and political crises. Automation and industrialization are reshaping our world. And sitting in the middle of all that? You and me. We’re digital designers, we’re developers, we’re product owners. But each day, our work is changing—more quickly than it ever has before.

Here’s the question we have to ask ourselves: what do we want that change to be? In this talk, we’ll look at some of the challenges facing our industry, and ask ourselves: what kind of work do we want to do?

quoted from ethanmarcotte.com

Ethan spoke of the power of design, of the ethics involved, of automation across times and fields. He told stories of racial bias in design and the unmistakable effect on our lives and society, of low pay and inequality and the rapid changes within our field. He painted a glum picture of the current state of web work and led onto more hopeful events such as the walk-out action of Google staff.

At the beginning of the talk Ethan showed images and a video (see below) of starling murmuration - a perfect analogy and a powerful and poignant visual. As you can tell by this page, this has struck a chord with me, such a rallying call to us all to step up! Again, all I can say is watch this talk!

Opening of the talk

In this talk, I want to look at some ways the Web is changing, and how our work is changing alongside it. I want to talk about web design as an agent of power, and about its potential to do harm. I want to suggest that web design has, as a practice, become industrialized, and I want to look at how that will change the nature of our work in the months and years to come. I want to talk about how the web has excelled at creating new kinds of work, and then rendering that work—and its workers—invisible.
And then I want to talk a little bit about hope.

quoted from ethanmarcotte.com

Thank you, Ethan—from the bottom of my heart—for your talk, for the insightful stories, for the important message, for making us think! This was really powerful and I know I will remember it for a long while to come!

Ethan Marcotte @ New Adventures 2019

closing thoughts

When the news was confirmed that NAConf would be back - I was extremely excited! In my view, NEW ADVENTURES is a truly unique conference which for those first three years meant such a great start to the year. I found it so special that I was a little concerned it might be difficult to follow up on, especially in these troublesome times. I needn't have worried at all — it was another uniquely inspiring day!
I love going to meet-ups and conferences but over the past few years, I am finding myself less and less motivated due to a few reasons. Life, work and time being one, the change in topics the other.

In the good ol' days, there would be a great mix of topics. Experienced and inexperienced web folk would give talks, telling stories of working on the web, about small-scale and large-scale projects and teams, coding tricks would be shared and a lot of laughs had along the way. Design, development mixed with technical specifics and even topics such as marketing. Always interesting, always fun ~ conversations were flowing.

Now the web's growing up and changing. As everywhere else, the corporates are throwing their weight around and changing things. Where in the past, people would work for mixed size teams, more and more seemed to aspire to work with large brands. The topics covered at meet-ups and lots of conferences seemed to change with it. For me personally, it became too many talks on managing large teams, the latest framework or library - or how to best automate tasks etc.

While the social aspect was always fun, the topics and talks spoke less and less to me. They'd be something I'd recommend to my web students who are beginning their path and should explore all avenues. This is a personal preference, of course - and the topics and talks were interesting to many.

Personally, I preferred the mix of talks and more varied subjects. Not only on the latest technology - but more focus on people, individuals and also those less digitally savvy. At times we're too entrenched in the medium of our work, we forget how others might see, understand and use the web.

It's the smaller projects, the focus on people and outcomes for community and their inherent passion that I miss. Might be just me - but I think there are great stories in small projects, too. And while my own preference might mean I'll never be rich — I love the nature of my work, quite personal with plenty of face-to-face time with only a handful of people. There simply is something quite special about smaller projects/teams.

As naïve as it might be, I think there's a place for both, small and large projects and teams. In a time in flux - this might be more important than ever. Forward to NAConf 2019 — sitting here, trying to summarise the day... it strikes me how things have changed, how the web has changed — and how I have changed. Very glad to find that others in our web-wide community not only agree but are calling for change.

Thank you, Simon, Geri, Relly et al
for bringing back NEW ADVENTURES! For all your hard work, all the time and love that went into making this day another amazing experience. ❤

All speaker photos, courtesy of NEW ADVENTURES website.
Photo of murmation:
Rigg, Gretna Green on 4 January 2014
Starling murmuration season - in pictures, TheGuardian
Photograph: Srerobinson/ GuardianWitness
CONTENT: graphiceyedea.co.uk © 2019