Web Essentials 2005

Web Essentials 05 Inspirational, energetic, insightful, encouraging. That’s how I’d describe the Web Essentials conference in Sydney, Australia last week. An excellent crowd filled with so many wonderful people. It seems the WE05 team is on to something very successful.

Going through the list of other talented presenters for this year, I’m still wondering why they invited me back on stage this year after my embarrassing performance in last year’s Smack Down. Well, I didn’t hesitate to accept. After thoroughly enjoying last year’s conference, it was a no-brainer to return for 2005. It was an honor and a lot of fun to be among all the other brilliant presenters. Among my own favorites: Jeff was dynamic, thoughtful, and engaging as always; Derek had some really cool practical tips to share regarding simple accessibility techniques; Tantek made the tedious details of microformats sound interesting and immediately applicable to all of us.

I was originally slated to talk about design and CSS. Somehow, for a repeat appearance at the same conference, getting into techniques and details didn’t feel right. After some convo with John Allsopp, I switched gears substantially, and went for a more theoretical topic: how today’s work and thinking is impacted by the potential of tomorrow. It was all-new material, and a little rough around the edges. But I think the messages and ideas contained within came through. Some of the ideas from my talk are topics I’d like to push further here in future posts.

The WE05 organizers step ahead of the curve by openly providing public podcasts of all the sessions for this year’s conference. This makes a great way to hear a few of the concurrent sessions I missed, and also lets me review several other talks I’d like to hear again. Of course, if you weren’t there, you also get the chance to hear what you missed as incentive to make sure you’re there next year.

The long flight down to Sydney was well-rewarded by so many interesting conversations with attendees and speakers. I had discussions with peers about microformats usage, design as a commodity, the oddity of Vegemite, little-d deaf and big-D Deaf, weather in Sydney, subtle discrimination, bungy jumping, and one of the topics raised in my presentation: making the web accessible to the poor.

For those of you that asked for copy of my presentation, I’m offering a PDF here, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License. The podcast is available from the WE05 site:

If you missed the first two Web Essentials, start planning NOW to head to Sydney around the same time next year. Whether you’re from Australia, or as far away as Iceland (as one of the attendees was this year — hey Erling!) Sydney is no doubt the place to be when WE06 comes around.

For even more on the event, check out:


  1. It was a fantastic 3 days, and I was inspired by your presentation. I am looking forward to next year already – and the opportunity to catch up again. See you there!

  2. Ryan Short monoicon.com

    It was great to see a change in the presentations this year to see some more inspirational rather than the purely technical. As I wrote in my blog I found your questioning of what might be coming up particularly good. It is a bit disappointing that I did not get a chance to meet you, maybe next time.

  3. Maxine westciv.com/

    Thank you so much for coming all that way yet again Doug, it’s always a pleasure to have you. Your presentation was actually one of the few that I missed entirely, but I’ve heard so many people comment on it. Maybe in a way I’m kind of glad I missed it because I just know your closing comments would have made my eyes water and messed up my mascara :-)

    Would love to have you back again next year!

  4. Chris

    It certainly wasn’t what I’d expected, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, the depth of talent and inspiration/information itself makes it more than a valuable event, plus actually meeting the people adds another side to the conference – a welcome opportunity to finally put a real face to a name.

    And if you decide to sneak in the back next year, in the unlikely event you’re not invited back as a speaker, I’m sure we can find a fake moustache, or a something.

  5. Cam selfgratification.org/

    It was awesome to meet you again, Doug and I thoroughly enjoyed your session (I’d rate it in the top 3 for the conference, along with Molly’s keynote and and Jeff’s “Beyond Usability” presentation… just don’t ask me to rank them :).

    Roll on WE06!

  6. Serdar Kilic weblog.kilic.net/

    Hi Doug,
    Unfortunately we didn’t get to meet, but it was great to both hear and see you at WE05. I concur with Ryan that it was good to have a “visionary” talk, something we could think about regarding the future of the Web, and what role (if any) we can play. Thanks for making the long trip down here :)

  7. Yannick godsporch.net

    I have been listening to the talks via the podcasts and I really liked it. Every one I heard made me want to be actually at the event instead of just listening. Maybe one year I will actually be able to make it.

  8. I’m sorry I could not get to WE05. But I question your description of Vegemite as odd. It is not ony a local custom to eat Vegemite, but a Federally mandated law that all Australians must eat it at least 5 times a week.

  9. Andrew K leftjustified.net/

    Thank you Doug!

    Thank you for getting us to pull our heads out of the angle brackets and semi-colons and focus on something larger and infinitely more important.

    Thank you for actually listening to my drunken ramble as I had a dig at you for calling an important technology (VoIP) a proprietry product (Skype).

    Thank you, and COME BACK NEXT YEAR! :D

  10. john F Allsopp we05.com

    Thanks Doug,

    for your marvelous presentation, and aboveall for believing in us when about two years ago 4 crazy people from the other side of the World asked “would you like to come to a conference we haven’t even started planning yet, which we hope some people will come to”.

    You have a lifetime invite


  11. Peter Asquith wasabicube.com

    Hi Doug!

    It was excellent to meet you and to hear your superb presentation – you surprised and delighted us with content I hadn’t expected (I’d wondered beforehand if zooming might be a new CSS technique to rival fixed and liquid!). So good to step back from the codeface and get the big picture. Wonderful stuff.

    Thank you!

  12. Nathan Kelly infiniteeye.com.au

    Thankyou for your great presentation Doug, as with many of the other speakers at WE05 it was nice to see the focus shift from the “well this is what we know so far” approach to the “we haven’t even started yet” one.

    By the way, Vegemite is not odd, granted if you have never eaten it before it takes at least 5 attempts for it to stop caving your face in, oh and it will put hair on your chest…

  13. Benson sprae.com/

    Hey Doug! Great to see you back at WE05. Again your presentation was excellent and would love to know if you’ll be back again.

    Also, I hope that “Zooming Out from the Trenches” can be padded out into a full fledged book of design and web inspiration. In a world of coding and design books, we really lack a forward looking literature that has a holistic view of what we are actually doing and contributing to the world outside of our “trenches”. Keep it up!

  14. Nathanael Boehm purecaffeine.com

    Yeuck! Richard, I mustn’t be a true aussie … I can’t stand vegemite!!! :)

    Ditto to everyone else; thanks for coming over Doug! Much appreciated!

  15. Amit Karmakar karmakars.com

    So good to see you again Doug. Your presentation was really truly remarkable. Loved every bit of it. I shot almost every slide from yours. Not to mention the way you ended your presentation. Touching!! Guess I’ll leave it for Molly and Derek to mention that :).

  16. Anderson Mendes


    During your presentation I was like WOWWW… in the end of it I was moved and really inspired.
    Drinking with you in the first day’s after conference gathering was awesome but having drinks again on the second day and listening to your ideas was priceless.

    Thanks heaps for coming down under and sharing. I might see you in Austin.


  17. Russ Weakley maxdesign.com.au

    As others have said, it was a great presentation. Inspirational. Thanks for coming to Oz again and more importantly, thank you for letting me call you a monkey :)

  18. Ben Buchanan weblog.200ok.com.au/

    Considering the result, I guess it’s a good thing you changed gears ;)

    Seriously, your presentation really capped off an amazing day and it really helps to pull ourselves out of the code once in a while.

    I had hoped to catch up with you down in Sydney to tell you in person how much I enjoyed it, but somehow I missed you in all the excitement :)

  19. Calrion anthesis.com.au/

    I know I’m echoing others here, but great presentation, great to meet you — great conference all ’round, actually!

    I took some good pointers from your presentation, the most important being that what we do today affects (and effects) what we do tomorrow — that doing things propperly today, makes a real difference tomorrow.

    I really enjoyed lunch on Friday with you, Lisa and others! A wonderful experience.


  20. angelday plastik.hu/

    Technical concern: I tried to drag-and-drop the podcast link directly into iTunes (http://we05.com/podcast/mp3/we05-9-douglas-bowman.mp3) but it says something is wrong with it. Yes, it doesn’t have a feed, apparently. Then why the podcast icon? Try MP3 instead or it could be the case that I’m missing out on something.

    Sorry for the stir.

  21. Mary

    Hi Doug,
    I travelled from Auckland, New Zealand to be at WE05, and I have to say that your first day talk was by-far the most inspirational. Thanks for getting the “creative juices” flowing!!
    I look forward to seeing you next year :-)

  22. Douglas Bowman stopdesign.com/

    Hey angelday (20): The link you mention above *does* point to an MP3 file. However, iTunes is a little weird about MP3s vs. actual podcast URLs, which usually point to an RSS or other XML file.

    You can do one of two things:

    1. Download the single MP3 file as normal, then drag it into iTunes.

    2. Or you can use iTunes to subscribe to the entire WE05 podcast feed by copying this podcast feed link. Then back in iTunes, select Advanced > Subscribe to Podcast, then copy the URL into that dialog box. Once you do that, you’ll see all the WE05 sessions, and you can pick and choose which ones you actually want to grab and listen to (by clicking the GET button). Sounds more involved, but you actually have more options this way.

  23. Maxine westciv.com/

    Umm, wow Doug – just read all the comments. I think you better leave the second half of September empty again next year :-)

  24. angelday plastik.hu/

    Doug thanks for the fix, (22) I really appreciate it! It’s much better to listen to podcast files in iTunes podcast panel because it tracks position — really nice.

    And now for something completely different..

  25. Kevin from Canada igotmojo.com/blog/

    Doug, it was a pleasure to meet you at WE05. You were one of the main people I travelled all the way from Vancouver, Canada to hear. I, like everyone else here, thoroughly enjoyed your presentation, but I am also very interested in the material you had originally planned to present. Will you be making it available online in one format or another? Perhaps in future log entries or even a book?

    Thanks again for your inspirational work!

  26. Ruth Ellison ruthellison.com

    Hey Doug, it was good to (briefly) meet you again this year. I enjoyed your presentation. The content was interesting, and it was visually beautiful as always. Thanks!

  27. Jessica liversociety.org

    Sorry I missed it but you make it sound like it was worth not missing the next one. So when will be the next one? And will you be speaking thier as well?

  28. Mike usagestatistic.com

    I was there I thinkall the presenters didi an excellent job with thier presentations.Was wonderful to be in Australia lots of great sites and weather.

  29. Steve globaladvancedmedia.com

    I think it is bold, and shows a real intent of being in the future, that they public podcasted at the same time… very good idea, I hope other events use this incredible option to spread the word!

    I also wonder (with kevin above) if you will still present the other css material you were originally going to discuss?


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