Yesterday morning I returned from my first visit to San Francisco, where I delivered my first real solo presentation at the Voices that Matter: Web Design conference, as well as visiting Yahoo! and wandering around town a bit. All in all it was a wonderful experience.
Unfortunately I did less sight-seeing than I'd hoped, mostly because my presentation still required a lot of work. Nonetheless I've now seen enough of San Francisco to give it a firm positive recommendation, and I'm very certain I'll return there, combined with a web conference or not.
Just next to my hotel there was this slightly shady neighbourhood called the Tenderloin, which reminded me of parts of Amsterdam (Nieuwmarkt!) I used to frequent back in the late eighties (no, not for the drugs; my favourite pub was located there). In San Francisco, even the tramps and addicts are reasonably well behaved, which makes for a nice change.
A question several people asked me is "Wouldn't you consider moving here?" Although I'm firmly committed to Amsterdam, being born and raised here and having this great bunch of friends, as well as my family, I can definitely picture myself living in SFO for a few months a year doing interesting consultancy jobs and that sort of stuff. Nonetheless that will have to wait until several important projects here in Holland have been brought to a conclusion. One of these projects is Fronteers.
On Friday, Nate Koechley picked me up and drove me to Sunnyvale, where I visited the Yahoo! team and did a presentation on Fronteers, the guild of front-end developers we're setting up here in Holland. I haven't yet watched the video (I hate looking at and hearing myself), but I already received a few positive reactions from people outside Holland who want more information.
During the Q&A, the most important question was "What can Yahoo! do to help?"; and about a week later David Storey of Opera asked the same. My answer to both was: Help us set up a skill list for front-end developers.
As far as we're concerned creating such a list is the most important action to be taken right now; without it we can't start up any form of certification, and the profession of front-end developer (or engineer) will remain only vaguely defined. Once we have a preliminary skill list I will post it here to get some feedback. Fortunately Nate is already working on something that might grow into such a list.
Another question was whether Fronteers is an international endeavour, or a national one restricted to Holland. Currently it's the latter, mainly because we have so much to do that we don't have the time to reach out internationally at the moment. Setting up something that's more than just the umpteenth online community is a LOT of work, and my fellow fronteers and I are swamped in it right now.
One of the fundamental tenets of Fronteers is that if you want something to happen, you should organise it yourself. Therefore I'd like to ask all interested people to start thinking on what they themselves want to do in their own country. Don't expect us to do what you want; we don't have the time to give too much help, apart from the odd bits of sage advice that you may choose to follow or not, but that you have to implement yourself in any case.
(Incidentally, Eric Miraglia, who wrote the YUI blog entry, interpreted "Fronteers" as "Front-End Engineers", something we ourselves haven't considered yet.)
It was very well organised: every session started and ended on time, and there were no glitches that I was aware of. Kudos to the VTM team, and especially event organiser Barbara Gavin, for pulling this off.
A podcast was recorded, too, during which I talked about my education, the Later Roman Empire (not my idea, Peachpit wanted me to), and several other topics (web development, probably, but I can't remember too clearly). This will probably be released, too, somewhere in the not to distant future, so I'll have one more podcast I won't take a look at.
Finally, there was the social stuff and the beer, which was great as usual, with conversation topics reaching from blackface minstrel shows to adding extra markup to your page despite not needing it right away. It also allowed me to discover the very high cuisine standards San Francisco is setting. On my last night in town I met a few people at the Rock Opera party that I haven't seen since Austin.
All in all this first visit to San Francisco was a wonderful experience, and I'm determined to repeat it, even though I'm not yet sure when. Many thanks to everybody whom I met there. See you all later.
I’m speaking at the following conferences:
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