A little european web tour

This article was written in 2013. It might or it might not be outdated. And it could be that the layout breaks. If that’s the case please let me know.

Last week was weird. I gave a talk about the weird, weird web in Oslo, and a day later in Nürnberg, two cities I had never been to before. It was a wonderful week, in which I lost my passport, traveled on a laissez-passer, met lots of great people, and saw some very interesting talks.

The first thing I did in Oslo was losing my passport. While walking around the city, and visiting the beautiful Astrup Fearnley Museet I had noticed that my passport wasn’t in my back pocket any more, but I thought that I had put it in a saver place since leaving the airport. Which I didn’t. I lost it. This gave me the opportunity to meet the local police (quick, nice and helpful) and finally visit a Dutch embassy (also very quick, nice and helpful). I traveled from Oslo to Nürnberg with a so called laissez-passez, a handwritten, temporary passport. This made me feel like a 18th century traveler (well, a bit. There were no planes in 1773).

I had a truly wonderful time in Oslo. It is a beautiful city, and the weather was not bad at all. I expected snow and ice but it was actually quite pleasant. And so was the company I spent my time with. I met some new friends, shaked the hand of, and shared the stage with some web heroes (Zeldman! Håkon Wium Lie!) and got a change to talk to some people I hadn’t seen in a while. And, above all, I visited a great conference where I saw some excellent talks.

Nürnberg was very nice too. I did the same talk there, and people definitely seemed to like it, both here and in Oslo. That’s always nice. Bruce Lawson once warned me never to look at a video of yourself, but I did look at the video of my talk in Oslo, and I actually managed to not cringe too much. I noticed that I continuously walk from one side of the stage to the other. Which looks a bit weird. But then the topic of my talk was weird. I talked about designing for the weird, weird web. About things we could maybe learn from other professions when working with the highly flexible and unpredictable medium that we work with. I looked at things we can learn from tattoo artists (don’t give a fuck), the fashion industry (mobile first), music (test on fantastic and on crappy hardware), graphic design (understand and use the measure for layout) and ourselves (keep things simple). And I finished with the hypothesis that it would be nice to see what artists would do with the web. Artists have been studying the interaction between their work, the environment it’s in, and the relation to its viewer for centuries. Once they start playing with the flexible canvas of the web they might come up with some interesting ideas we would never think of.

I got some pretty positive feedback from both audiences. People told me they like the fact that my story, and my message, was so positive: the web is fantastic, and it’s easy to create stuff for it once you get it, and here are some simple tips if you don’t get it yet. Some people who read my blog, and who follow me on Twitter are confused now. A positive attitude? Well, yes. I kept my talk a bit naive on purpose.

Stuff I learned

I saw some fantastic talks. There are a few, clear topics that pop up: there are wonderful things happening on the web, like new, clever layout modules. There’s a lot going on there. Performance is becoming an important part of the whole web design and development process. The tools we have for testing become better and better. Responsive web design doesn’t exist anymore, we call it web design now. But apart from all this good stuff, at the same time there are some very scary things happening as well. Bastian Allgeier gave a fantastic talk about the dangers of governments trying to gain complete control over us, over what we do and say. He explained why it is so scary that people simply don’t seem to care about it, and he showed us what can be done about it, at least, about our data on the web. An uncomfortable, but very important talk. He should be talking on every conference, regardless of the subject.


I have to thank the organisers of the conferences for inviting me, without really knowing me. I’m not really a well known speaker, so they took a big risk. I’m happy most people seemed to like it. So thank you very much, Geirr, Marc and Joschi for inviting me. I hope to see you next year on the second edition of your wonderful conferences!