Awesome conference was awesome

Incredible! Mobilism 2011 was more than two weeks ago, but it still feels like yesterday. It took me this long to recuperate to the point where I can blog about it. So let’s blog! And let’s watch Stephen Hay’s session while we’re doing it.

Mobilism was a blast; just ask the speakers and the attendees. The worst thing that happened is that the wifi didn’t work for the first hour; it worked fine for the remainder of the conference. If you want specific details on the type, size, and texture of the Mobilism blast, see our coverage page.

When we started our planning back in September 2010, we weren’t quite sure whether the time was ripe for a conference focused on mobile web design and development. Meanwhile we doubt no more: 275 mobile geeks congregated to listen to twelve speakers and a panel, and a good time was had by all.

We’ve also firmly decided to run the conference again, in May 2012 in Amsterdam. We’ll let you know when dates and venue have been set.

Speakers and sponsors

Our speakers were beyond awesome, and you can judge for yourself at our Vimeo account. Just now we added Stephen Hay’s session about meta layout and media queries. You know you want to see it. And the browser panel video is there, too, as well as the two-minute compilation. And we will add all other videos in due time.

Thanks, too, to our sponsors, Nokia and RIM. They did not give us money. Instead, what they gave us were devices. This allowed us to share out five BlackBerry Torches and ten Nokia X3-02’s among the audience. (X3-02? What’s that? It’s a touchscreen S40 phone, and I hand-picked it personally. Web developers will have to learn that not all users are on high-end smartphones.)

Attendees

Our attendees were beyond awesome, too. The thing I liked best is that only 40% of our audience came from the Netherlands, which proves that Mobilism is a true international conference. (For comparison, the Fronteers conference audience is two-third Dutch.)

We got most of our foreign attendees from Scandinavia (18%, of which Norway alone took 12) and Germany (14%). This is not surprising: (western) Germany, Scandinavia, and Belgium have been the natural hinterland of Amsterdam ever since the late sixteenth century. This historical pattern is holding up quite well, thanks so much.

Unfortunately Brits don’t travel abroad for conferences. There were more Norwegian than British attendees. This is unlikely to change in the future.

Mobilism 2011 attendees by country
Excludes organisers, speakers, and sponsors
Countries Attendees
Netherlands 109
Germany 35
Norway 29
UK 11
Sweden 8
US 7
Denmark 7
Belgium 5
Costa Rica, France, Ireland, Poland, and Switzerland 4 each
Austria, Australia, Brazil, Estonia, Finland, Israel, Latvia, and Portugal 2 each
Canada, Hungary, Romania, and Spain 1 each

Browser panel

The browser panel was also a blast; see for yourself. Nokia, Opera, and RIM representatives discussed a lot of interesting questions about mobile browsing. This feature bears repeating next year.

Still, we may have a problem with future editions.

Setting up a desktop browser panel is pretty easy: there are five browser vendors, and Apple never turns up, which makes for a panel size of four. This is quite doable, as Arun Ranganathan has proven time and again during SxSW.

Compare that to the mobile space. Currently I count fifteen browser vendors: Access, Apple, Bitstream, Google, HP, LG, Microsoft, Mozilla, Nokia, Obigo, Opera, RIM, Samsung, UC, and 4tiitoo. (4tiitoo? Yes. I’ll explain later.)

It may be prudent to consider each Android vendor a separate browser vendor — there are differences between, say, Samsung Android and HTC Android. That forces us to add HTC, Motorola, and Sony Ericsson to the list — LG and Samsung were already on it for other browsers.

That brings us to eighteen.

How in hell are we going to fit eighteen mobile browser vendor representatives on one stage, never mind in one panel? OK, Apple never turns up, so it’s only seventeen.

Still, seventeen’s way too much. Jeremy is adamant: he wants at most four panelists, to which he is added as moderator. Maybe I can talk him into allowing a fifth, but that’s the absolute upper limit.

So let’s say only those vendors in that have at least 1% market share according to StatCounter are allowed in. With Android vendors still counted separately, that brings the number of eligible vendors back to eleven: Access, Apple, Google, HTC, LG, Motorola, Nokia, Opera, RIM, Samsung, and Sony Ericsson. Apple never turns up, so we only have ten to worry about.

Then again, the big Asian corporations are nearly as bad as Apple — they don’t ever talk to anyone, either. So we discount Access, HTC, LG, and maybe even Samsung. That brings the total back to six or seven, but even six is too many.

Besides, bringing an Asian browser vendor on stage would be a major PR stunt, so I’m certainly going to try.

Anyway, you see the problem.

Smurf panel

Dutch political debates sometimes run into the same problem. Back in 2006 there were nine parties in parliament, but polls showed that three others had a good chance of entering it. Thus the three newcomers would have to be treated fairly, i.e. get time on TV, which in turn meant that all nine established parties also had to go on TV.

The organisers didn’t want a debate between twelve party leaders, though. Instead, they decided on two times six parties. The first debate was for the six largest parties, while the second one featured the six parties that were expected to stay below 5 out of 150 seats. D66 leader Pechtold coined the name Smurf debate for the latter.

So should Mobilism 2012 run a Smurf panel for four to five small mobile browser vendors in addition to the main panel for four to five large vendors? It’s a possibility, but as a conference organiser I’m also seeing big problems. Will the attendees be interested in a panel with browsers they’ve barely heard of? Besides, will Jeremy agree?

On second thoughts, maybe a Smurf panel is not a very good idea. Still, it’s the only solution I see — besides not inviting the majority of browser vendors.

You’ll see which way I jumped when the Mobilism 2012 browser panel(s) is/are announced.

This is the blog of Peter-Paul Koch, mobile platform strategist, consultant, and trainer. You can also follow him on Twitter.
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