About nine months ago a few of the speakers participating to BDConf in Nashville decided to get together for a few days and try to think about mobile, the Web and the challenges that companies, developers and designers face every day. Some of them blogged about it right away (Mobilewood, Future Friendly at Mobilewood).
Organizing the event
It was still cold and snowy in New England, but some of the original participants of Mobilewood thought it would be great to meet in this area in Spring. Although only ten people participated in the first edition of Mobilewood they wanted to open the discussion to more people, get more thinking and more ideas and build on the concepts that were defined the first time. Since I moved to Boston in February it was very easy for me to immediately say YES to the invitation to Mobilewood 2.
Josh Clark did an amazing job scouting rental properties and found the perfect place in Truro, MA, at the top of Cape Cod, surrounded by the Cape Cod National seashore park.
This time around nine of us made it to the work retreat. The plan was to arrive on Thursday afternoon and leave on Sunday. While Scott Jehl and I are local, most of the others were traveling from all over the US. We all knew each other either from previous conferences or because of previous work, yet we thought it would help to introduce ourselves he first evening. We talked about what keeps us up at night both in work and in real life, that would be the starting point for our work. We gave ourselves a night to think and the day after the real work started.
Moving the Future Friendly thinking ahead
Friday morning we got all our ideas on the wall, sorted them, grouped them and decided what we wanted to achieve during the weekend. When you have so many brilliant people in one place you want to reach for the moon, but time is incredibly precious and you have a clear deadline of about 48 hours. We had to be laser focused.
We split in three groups and started thinking about how can get more people to embrace the Future Friendly values, how we can help them and how they can help others.
We agreed that responsive Web design has evolved to a stage where you can create a good Web site or app applying the main principles, but that it’s still very hard, so we wanted to dedicate some time to think about what can be done better and more easily. Trying to look further ahead, we tried to imagine what is coming for the Internet and the Web in the next few years and what we can do, as the creators of Web contents to influence that future.
It was nearly impossible to cover all the topics we set for ourselves and that is OK with this type of meeting. You want to set some goals, but you also want leave space for improv and see what happens. We all agreed that the main goal of Future Friendly is to spread the word, in a way educate on how we can all create better content for the Web that works well on all sorts of devices. The more people read, learn and practice the principles the better it will get. We defined many steps that will help this happen, but we also tried to distill the most important elements. The result is a new page on the Future Friendly site titled “Come aboard“. If you don’t already know the site I recommend that you go and check it out now, if you already know it, see the new section.
The biggest take-away for me regarding the community engagement is that techniques evolve and then become deprecated quickly, but the thinking lasts long and that is what we want to do with the Future Friendly thinking.
Future of the Web
As geeks that carry all sorts of devices with us it was easy to agree that Internet and the Web are becoming pervasive. The technologies that were created to deliver Web pages are now used for much more such as audio, video and raw data (think about REST APIs that use HTTP as a transport, but show data such as your tweet or your open graph). We think that these are the foundations for a new set of devices, some of which will consume this data, some will display it, some will produce it and some will do both. Think about the Nest thermostat that controls the temperature in your house, but can be controlled via a Web site or an app on your phone. Think about the upcoming Leap motion that will let you control your computer waving your hands and pointing. Then imagine a future where multiple devices will cooperate, for example imagine having a Web browser on your TV, you will say “TV, open the Boston Globe site” and the TV will show the site, but then… How will you tell the TV which article to open? How will the browser know which link you mean? Now think about building the Web of the future, it is already complicated with click and touch events, think of adding “voice” events and you get the idea. Now think about the Kinect it’s an additional device that allows me to use my body and my hands to control what is basically a computer. What if many devices could interact with each other, each could offer certain inputs and outputs depending on what it is. A mobile phone with a touch screen can be used as a trackpad, the screen can be used to display the temperature of the fridge or the time until your cake is baked. Before this can happen and be useable some innovation needs to happen in the browser and of course in Web apps. We think we can and should influence some of the upcoming technologies.
We are geeks
As you would expect we all had our computers and various devices at hand. You might need some testing right?
The Mobilewood 2 gang
This is us trying to be serious… or not.