Let the sunshine in – Update Conference 2011

There’s so much I could say about the last 3 days I’ve experienced in Brighton. I have to say experienced because I didn’t just go to any town, to any conference. I went to Brighton for Update 2011: The Human Touch – iOS & Beyond.

Now I’m a big advocate of conferences and I enjoy not only the opportunity to learn new stuff but the chance to network and meet new people. I can safely say I have never met so many amazing people in such a short time ever. I’ve also not been to a conference that ran as smoothly and had so much going on to compliment the conference, not forgetting the high class of speakers and workshops as well.

Treated like Royalty

The experience started with a trip to the Brighton Royal Pavilion for a pre-conference banquet and tour of the Pavilion, this place was ridiculous! From Asian style décor which consisted of expensive wood made to look like Bamboo to elegant statues with female heads on male bodies (and vice-versa) as well as a mechanism in their shoulders which made them the oldest bobble-heads I’ve ever laid eyes on! The meal was fantastic with plenty of banter between the web devs and musicians at our table and ended with us having both of our pineapple’s from the centerpiece sliced up by the waitress and I.

A fresh take on conferences

On to the conference day itself and it began with much needed coffee and meeting lots more new people in the bar before the start of proceedings. Obviously I have to mention the extremely interesting opening to the conference itself…Mr Aral Balkan singing his heart out with a live band welcoming us all to the day – now that is how a conference should start!

I’m going to try and keep this relatively short so won’t go through all the talks but there wasn’t a single one that disappointed. Matt Gemmell (Unusability), Sarah Parmenter (Designing for iOS), Jeremy Keith (One Web), Joachin Bondo (Going Beyond Delicious) and Cennydd Bowles (The Things of the Future) all gave some great inspiring and informative talks and I took quite a lot from them all. There were also music acts dotted throughout the day, the highlights being Ithaca Audio who live mixed video clips and a performance using the Microsoft Kinect to great effect. I have to also mention quickly the interview Aral did with Ronald Wayne the 3rd founder of Apple who was exceptional to listen to, a very inspiring and interesting man and I think Aral did a great job in bringing him to the conference and the interview itself.

Earlier this year I went to a Geek Ninja Battle Night which Aral organised and I was glad to see 2 of them during the conference day both equally great but completely contrasting which I think showed how great a tool it is. The first on platforms did the word “Battle” in the title very proud as 2 extremely passionate people argued they’re points superbly, however I have to agree with Seb Lee-Delisle who mentioned that he sits on the fence and that there’s a time and a place for both. The second on tools, technologies and design challenges was more collaborative but some good opinions were expressed and all that contributed gave great advice and examples of how to approach a variety of problems and what really winds them up!

Top notch stuff

So there are 3 talks I haven’t mentioned and they were the ones that I thought were fantastically inspiring, entertaining, educational and deeply concerning. Seb Lee-Delisle did a live coding example of how to make an Angry Birds clone using Corona and presented in such a great fashion that I was engaged throughout and left me wanting to go play with the platform. Relly Annett-Baker did another of my favourite talks entitled “Ass over Tit” which I think sums up her personality and style of presenting brilliantly. She was great to watch and spoke lots of truths about how we do things backwards as devs and tend to leave the most important things till pretty much last. She also made me very jealous throughout her talk speaking of her recent trips to CERN – oh and not forgetting Italy’s “Physics Bucket”.

My favourite talk by far however was by the very young and extremely wise for her age Anna Debenham, talking about how incredibly rubbish our schools are at delivering even the basic knowledge about IT (the internet is not owned by Microsoft!). The standard of education about the web as well is so poor all that’s taught most of the time is the “Save as web page” button in Word or Powerpoint, which just makes you angry! Her talk resonated with me also because I’m not long out of University and have for the last year or so been becoming more concerned about the lack of good education and foundation knowledge that is delivered in degree courses. However she pointed out that it goes much further than this and that in an extremely modern and digital world children are just not getting enough good education in how they can be a part of it. I was also very lucky to speak to Anna later that evening about what she does to try and improve this aspect of education given to children but it seems like she’s fighting a tough battle as even when she can get into a school to give presentations and workshops she’s extremely limited by what the schools will allow to go on their networks, something as simple as having an up-to-date browser is like climbing Everest it seems.

A great finish

Anyway getting back to the rest of the conference, it goes without saying, I’ve been thoroughly inspired once again and I’ve got some new found motivation for my work and for things that I want to do thanks to the speakers and happenings during the conference day. Of course no conference would be complete without a boozy after-party and once again Update didn’t disappoint with A Night at the Museum! Yep that’s correct, Aral only went and hired a flipping museum for us all to go have fun in. I don’t really think I can say much more than that other than I met some fantastic people again and had some interesting talks about the art and exhibitions in the museum.


I feel pretty guilty as due to the partying the inevitable lack of sleep meant I wasn’t at my best today for Drew’s workshop and also still being fairly new to iOS development I wasn’t able to complete many of the exercises without jumping ahead and looking at the solutions. Drew however encouraged me to do so and I managed to take a lot from the day and given a few more months working on it I would be confident I’d be able to get a lot out of the things I learned today thanks to Drew.

So there you have it, these last few days have been an incredible experience and certainly one of the best conferences I’ve attended so far. Aral’s experience as a conference speaker I think allowed him to put together something really interesting and unlike any others that have gone before. The combination of speakers, live coding, Geek Ninja battles, music acts and also the show and tell stage which I’ve not even mentioned here was certainly a winning formula and topped off with the offer of a range of workshops from leading industry professionals and some amazing social events I can safely say I will not be forgetting this for a long, long time.

Thanks Aral and the Update Team who made this all possible.