blog.davemo.comthoughts on software, music, art, and meaning.

3 things I learned at BarCamp Saskatoon 2009

I attended Bar Camp Saskatoon today and while I wasn’t able to stay for the entire series of presentations what I did manage to see was great. I presented on SASS, Compass and CSS Frameworks. My presentation didn’t go exactly as I’d planned but I learned things from that experience and from other peoples presentations.

Your presentation doesn’t have to be long to be effective

Nate Heagy’s presentation on JavaScript was perfect, IMHO. It was about 15 minutes of airtime that offered about another 10 to 15 minutes of discussion. The time slot allotment is just about an hour (including time for questions) but I felt like given the open format of Bar Camp less talk and more group discussion works really well. Also, kudos to Nate for imbuing his presentation with a healthy dose of humour in addition to the excellent information. Engaging++

If you do live coding, be uber prepared for failure

After last years presentation on using Yahoo Pipes for one of our corporate website projects I thought it might be nice to do some actual live coding for a bar camp presentation. Admittedly I had no idea how this would go over given the skill level of attendees, technical capabilities of the presentation environment, scope of my presentation and a whole bunch of other variables I hummed and haah’d over. My goal was to take a web page design from zilch to completion using the techniques I’d learned in with SASS and Compass while providing some tips / insight into tricks I’ve integrated into my development process along the way.

It turned out to be more of a brief feature demonstration of SASS, some extended use of Firebug as an inspection tool, and some examples of what I feel is wrong with the way CSS frameworks are used these days. I think I could have condensed it to be shorter with less live coding and focused on the idea I opened with, that CSS Frameworks go against the very nature of what CSS was provided to do, but SASS and Compass fix this by allowing you to continue to use the frameworks without presentational class names.

I made a few flubs and things didn’t work out exactly how I thought, but the experience of presenting in front of a large group of people is very valuable and the more I do it the more I learn what works and what doesn’t. (If you’re interested in the very disorganized collection of assets I produced for the talk they are available here). If I could retool it I think I’d go back and stick to my script more (I generated a series of notes that I kind of “forgot” to use during the presentation – nerves and all that), condense it significantly and offer more time for discussion.

Saskatoon has a vibrant, growing tech-community.

I’ve lived in Saskatoon since 1999. In the 10 years I’ve been here I have to say I don’t think I’ve ever been as excited about living somewhere as I am right now (and I’ve lived coast to coast, north to south within Canada). There are so many people here with similar interests and it’s great to see technology enthusiasts out at these events. It promotes the development of Saskatoon as even more of a western tech-mecca than people already perceive.

It’s great that people like Ginger Koolick and Ryan Lejbak have taken the initiative to develop this sort of community (and my apologies if I missed your name and you were a key part of the involvement of Bar Camp Saskatoon) and companies like zu, Point2, YasTech (and more) are willing to spend time and effort sponsoring the events. (Wanted: VendAsta as a sponsor for next year!)

I’m stoked to connect more with people in the tech-community within Saskatoon and continue to learn from interesting people. Can’t wait until Bar Camp Saskatoon 2010