I looked beyond tellerrand

Three weeks ago I attended the first beyond tellerrand conference in Berlin. And I really got to say, it was an awesome experience.

This was the first time ever I attended a conference, so as you might imagine, I did not really know what to expect from it. In the past, I read a lot of blogs, listened to podcasts and watched some conference videos on YouTube. I noticed that I often took a lot out of watching people talk about things they are passionate about and I guess a lot of the stuff I learned over the past couple of years was inspired by watching videos of conference talks.

Somehow, actually attending a conference felt like the next logical step, something I wanted to do for a long time now. beyond tellerrand was one of the conferences I heard a lot about. It seemed like my entire german twitter timeline has been there in the past and everyone was always so excited about it. So when Marc announced that he was going to run an additional btconf in Berlin, right on my doorstep, I just had to buy a ticket.

And I guess I could not have picked a better occasion for my first conference. The lineup was pretty awesome and although there were ups and downs, I really enjoyed every single talk. But I guess what's even more important about this conference (and that's exactly what you miss out on when you just watch the videos) is the atmosphere around there. beyond tellerrand is full of really nice people who love to chat and connect. As a newbie to this whole scene, I felt really welcome there and I had some pretty nice conversations with folks I by then only knew via twitter or not at all.

And I think a lot of this atmosphere is due to the nature of the conference itself. You don't have to decide which talk to miss out on, because there is only one at a time. Which also means that everyone is on the same track and you get a pretty common ground to build conversations on. Which you have enough time for during the reasonable breaks in between the talks, or the casual get-together after the evening session.

Which leeds us to the most important thing about a conference: content. Every talk I listend to gave me something to think about, triggered the urge for discussion, or was inspiring in some way. So here are some of my favourites of the two days:

(I will link the videos of the talks here once they got uploaded :-))

Tim Kadlec (@tkadlec) - The Space Between

As an expert on performance related things, Tim talked about the space that originates between the execution of interactions. Like the time we spend waiting for content to load, staring at loading sipnner, or some other kind of rather useless animation. It is a space we often tend to forget about, because we usually do not develop those experiences on old hardware with a crappy Internet connection. Who cares about these few milliseconds, right?

Tim showed how even these milliseconds can make a difference and gave some pretty cool examples how to make use of these in-between spaces to show something more sensible than a loading spinner. In this context he also talked about perceived performance and how it can actually differ a lot from measured performance.

If you are in any way involved in something related to UX, or Frontend Design, make sure to checkout his talk. The workingdraft podcast also did a pretty interesting interview with Tim about his talk at beyond tellerrand.

Zoe Gillenwater (@zomigi) - CSS Lessons Learned the Hard Way

Zoe talked about the importance of making mistakes in order to learn something. She showed some of the mistakes she made along the way and how she actually learned a lot by investigating them. It really showed how important it is to screw up from time to time to get down to the basics and learn about the insides of the technology you are using. It is always nice to see that the ones you look up to also make mistakes and that it is actually a good thing, something you even need to do if you want to make progress.

As a bonus, I learned somme pretty neat CSS tricks and tips :-)

James Hall (@MrRio) - Security is Everyone's Responsibility

This was one of the talks that make you scared, entertained and give you the feeling you should change pretty much everything you're doing online at the same time. James talked about the current state of website security and gave some pretty cool examples on how easy it is to hack into data you're not supposed to see. I guess we need to be reminded  about how broken some parts of the web are from time to time and that we really should care about improving them.

I guess this was also the first time somebody could give me a really great illustration of how encryption works. Because of the non-existing WiFi (thanks Telekom), he improvised a little experiment with two guys of the audience to show how a message gets sent over the wire, encrypted, as well as in plain text. Educating and entertaining at the same time :-)

Stefan Sagmeister (@Sagmeister­Walsh) - Design and Happiness

Somebody told me that the evening talks at beyond tellerrand  are always kind of special. And yeah, I guess one can say that :-) Stefans talk about Design and Happiness was definitely one of the highlights of the whole conference.

He talked about the possibilities of achieving happiness as a designer and tactics to keep a healthy balance between work and leisure. For the climax of his talk I found myself standing in a room full of 500 webworkers singing together about the booboos of being a webdesigner or developer to the tune of "Freude schöner Götterfunken". It was a great kick-off for the following get-together and I guess at least this time, everybody left the room with a smile on their face :-)

So, thanks to everyone who made my first conference such a great experience. There are many really nice people out there and I can't wait to meet more of them. Because one thing is clear: beyond tellerrand really infected me and I'm eager to attend more conferences. I already laid eyes on some events that look really promising and of course: I already got the ticket for the next beyond tellerrand in Düsseldorf ;-).

So I hope to see some of you out there :-)