This is the celebrated journal of Mr. Simon Collison A.K.A Colly

New Adventures

26th July 2010

Last week, I announced New Adventures in Web Design, a unique and affordable web event that will take place in Nottingham, England. A few days on and it seems like the right moment to provide a little background, and quickly address a few things.

New Adventures website

A little background

I’ve long dreamed of organising a meaningful event like this in my hometown. Several years ago I instigated, organised, and directed two city-wide visual art festivals in Nottingham, which were a huge success. Working with a small team of volunteers, we managed to get just about every art gallery to work together, as well as commandeering unused and unloved vacant spaces, exhibiting homegrown artists alongside those with international reputations. It was a real buzz, and gained a solid, enthusiastic audience. I also learned a hell of a lot about event management.

Those events were a reaction to what was already happening in the city. Established, bloated art festivals with super-budgets and big staff teams were happening annually, but didn’t seem to involve the grass-roots artists or venues. As young rebellious upstarts, we thought we could do it, and do it better, and without much money. To a certain extent, we were right.

Genuine motives

Fast-forward to 2010, and I’m now throwing my resources and reputation on the line for a new web conference. I’m fortunate to be asked to speak at lots of events, so I get to see how things work not just for the audience, but also behind the scenes. I have to admit I find the whole thing fascinating, but often think “I’d do that bit differently”.

New Adventures in Web Design carries the spirit of those old art events into the web industry, and has clear aims and objectives. With New Adventures, the goal is to work with a faster format (more speakers, single-track, fresh and complimentary content) covering genuinely hot design topics, and bring all of this together to excite, enthuse, ask questions, and seek real outcomes.

Why the debates?

New Adventures has been in incubation for a long time, but it really gained momentum after my trip to San Francisco a couple of months ago. The EECI conference was beautifully organised, and a real inspiration. What really excited me was the freestyle workshop discussion that immediately followed Greg’s presentation. In a room full of smart people, a debate kicked off, with brilliant perspectives on editorial design (some call it “art direction”) from designers, developers, directors, representatives from media and newspaper sites and so on. It was fascinating, lively, and I just wanted the whole industry to hear the salient points and chatter we were enjoying in that room. It felt like we were organically finding answers and outcomes.

So, with New Adventures the aim is to involve the audience through a structured Q&A process (more on that another time) and two debates, with me and a couple of others roaming the fantastic open venue with microphones to keep the dialogue constant between stage and attendees. Some of the topics will be pre-prepared, some will be born out of the Q&A, and some will be directly instigated by attendees. Will it work? Hope so. No harm in trying, right?

Genuinely affordable

It’s worth mentioning the price. £80 early bird for all of this, and £60 for students. The motivation is not to make much money. This event is gonna cost thousands and thousands, yet it is one of the most affordable conferences anywhere. Let’s face it; Nottingham is a provincial city, and this is a new kind of event. We’ll do everything possible to make sure it’s professional, slick, engaging, and rewarding.

So far, the feedback and sales have surpassed expectations, and I’ve gone past being confident and have now hit “full-on excitement” mode. I’m gauging the desire for events the night before, and I’m talking to a couple of people about adding something special into the mix. As for the after-party, we can’t confirm anything just yet.

Rumblings of disquiet

There have been a few rumblings of disquiet, mostly centred around the choice of speakers. “The same old faces”. “New Adventures… with the same old designers” and so on.

All I’ll say for now is that I am carefully curating this event, and that I invited speakers who I know can deliver, engage and excite, have burning issues and opinions, and can get to the heart of what we all really care about. I trust them, and the event needs them. Once this first event is done and dusted, we can take stock, and begin to consider a greater number of fresh faces. That said, Tim, Veerle and Jon hardly ever present in the UK, and Greg has never presented anywhere except San Francisco. All ten speakers are new to most of the Nottingham-based attendees.

Now, I’m too upbeat to get stuck into this right now, and this post is not the right place to start defending or attacking. I would however ask that everyone takes stock of the location, the marginalised audience, the ticket price, the fact that this is our inaugural event—and show a bit of common sense.

To lazily fire shots at New Adventures off the back of your general conference anger is unhelpful, and all I ask is that the haters read the website, understand that we’ll be trying to do things a little differently, and give us a chance. If we fuck up, then by all means have a party on our ashes. Until then, shut up, or start your own conference.

It is also worth noting that I have special powers and manage to trace all spiteful tweets either myself or via my spies. The authors usually get one of my angry replies. I usually then get a twenty-paragraph explanation and/or apology by return. So, if you’re gonna lazily criticise the event before it happens, be prepared to invest some time in your reasoning.

Tickets are selling fast!

Yep, we sold over a third of the tickets within the first 24 hours, and we’re just short of 50% as I write. This is wonderful, and based on tweets and emails, it looks like we can expect a surge on payday and just before the early bird deadline. So, if you don’t want to miss out, I advise you get your skates on.

Thank you

Finally, I’d like to personally thank everyone who has already bought a ticket, and everyone who has sent kind words, support, thank-you messages and generally backed New Adventures. You are showing real faith in me and the tiny team and we will not let you down.

Thanks also to our incredible sponsors: Campaign Monitor, Fontdeck, Five Simple Steps, Typekit, Holiday Inn Express, Tenfold, Joff + Ollie, and Dribbble. More in the pipeline.

New Adventures in Web Design takes place on Thursday 20th January 2011, in Nottingham, England. Follow @naconf on Twitter for news and updates.

Responses

# Adam responded on 26th July 2010 with...

Sorry to hear you got some “hate” - although I kinda understand where it comes from, if I look at this line up, and that of DIBI, I see only 3 or so changes. However that should not lead to criticism. In different fields I’ve built national and international networks and totally understand that you have to stick with the people you trust in the early days to make things work. Besides that, even if it is the same people, at the cost - I’d much rather see the same people at the quality all speakers are (very high) than see another £100 on the price like other event management companies are charging.

To summarise - your reasoning is sound, I saw the line-up and despite seeing most of these speakers before can only describe this conference (along with DIBI) as the best value around. As you say, grumblers should stop vocalising and start doing.

Finally, just a simple congratulations - great choices, great vision, great branding and the idea of truly “curating” the speakers is fantastic, can’t wait to hear the train of dialogue that can be produced when folks of this quality are all discussing in the same room. Keep it up!

# Adam responded on 26th July 2010 with...

One other point… do we see a “New adventures in…” series if this goes well or just sticking to Web Design? Would love to see “New adventures in Open Source” or maybe even more focussed like… “New adventures in CSS” etc.

# Simon Collison responded on 26th July 2010 with...

@Adam: Yep. I spent ages and ages trying to find a suitable name for this event, including hours in the Thesaurus trying to be clever. In the end, New Adventures in Web Design seemed spot on yet unpretentious, and as you quite rightly notice, it is ripe for other events. New Adventures in Web Development for example.  I am thinking of running smaller workshops and events later, so things like New Adventures in HTML or New Adventures in [anything else] are on the agenda.

Thanks for the comments.

# Jamie Huskisson responded on 26th July 2010 with...

Hats off to you Simon, for doing this both from a business perspective (it takes a solid set of manly bits to jump into something like this) and especially for bringing it to Nottingham.

Looking forward to it, in every aspect.

# Tim P responded on 26th July 2010 with...

The longest running internet meme ever: criticising and running-down other people’s best efforts and ideas just to make yourself sound smart.

I saw you speak (at length and for free) at the Geek In The Park event last year which was fantastic and I’m really pleased that the background muttering of the clueless is being drowned out by the sound of the crowds rushing for tickets.

Hope the next few months goes swimmingly for you - it will certainly go fast.

# Gary Aston responded on 26th July 2010 with...

Until then, shut up, or start your own conference.

Says all that needs saying really. I for one can’t wait for the event, and I’ve said before — i’d pay twice the asking price to see those speakers.

# David Roessli responded on 27th July 2010 with...

Hey Simon, never mind the “haters”, their tweets and bad vibes.

The silent majority is welcoming open hearted this event and its spirit, believe me. Congratulations for your courage and determination in organising it, and as far as I am concerned, you’ve chosen the best way: single track, focused and curated. I too would have easily paid the double.

Thanks! Enjoy the oxytocin now… ;)

# John responded on 27th July 2010 with...

The site looks great. I’m glad you organized an event like this!

Your site looks great as well. However, why use underscores for permalinks instead of dashes. Everyone uses dashes for SEO reasons. It’s pretty basic.

# John responded on 27th July 2010 with...

And seriously, where did you come across all these haters?

I came across another post of yours about redesigning the undesigned and you also mentioned about haters and that you are preparing and a “big revenge list” which you are putting out one day? I don’t see any negative comment in the replies section other than one “constructive” criticism from Jonathan Snook.

Until then, shut up, or start your own conference.

I can’t believe you said that.

You have talent, Simon. And you have achieved quite a lot in the course of your career. You should be thankful and consider yourself blessed. I can’t quite comprehend why you still take to heart these little negative comments that shouldn’t even mean anything. And you’re a bit older (I don’t mean that in a bad way) so you should have developed a thicker skin by now and handle it like a grown man.

My advice to you is, stay away from all these negativity. Looks to me like you actually scour the web for these negative comments rather than accidentally stumbling upon them. WHY? That is a waste of time. Seriously. It will only give you wrinkles. It will not only make you feel ugly but it will also make you look ugly. Rather than wasting your time worrying about all these negativity, spend time being grateful for all your blessings. If you were an actor and saw all these sh*t the tabloids have been saying about you, you would’ve probably gone on an angry tirade by now. I can imagine you turning out worse than Mel Gibson.

I say take it easy, man. These naysayers are not even worth your time. You have talent. Be thankful. Period.

# Simon Collison responded on 27th July 2010 with...

John: Thanks for your frank comments. Sorry if you think I’ve exaggerated things or seek out the negativity. Actually, the negativity finds me.

It rarely happens in blog comments because as you’ll see on 99% of blogs, most people who comment are “on your side” or regular visitors and supporters. You obviously have no idea about the debate that kicked off as I launched my redesign - born out of several blog posts where my site was somehow adopted as the example to kick around.

There isn’t much negativity at all. I get off lightly. What there is comes from numerous channels, and yes, if it is inaccurate, spiteful, or damaging (as it is when lazy tweets get retweeted and spread around) then it bothers me. There are a lot of spiteful (or some say “jealous”) folks out there, ready to attack the “elitist gentlemen’s club”, “A-listers”, “designers’ circle jerk”, “big egos” or whatever they keep saying. I just like to correct people if they’re wrong, or ask them to explain in more than 140 characters sometimes.

Regarding the “shut up and start your own conference” comment, I stand by that, and quite a few others said it last week on Twitter too. All mouth and no action bothers me. If you know me, have seen me speak, or have regularly read my posts over the years, you’ll know this is how I am, that I am frank and honest, that I say what I think, and (unless I’m ever guilty of doing what I dislike in others) I won’t apologise for that. I’m generally a nice chap, level-headed etc, and don’t waltz around being a poncey designer, so I also get cross when people make accusations about the character of myself and my friends.

I welcome constructive criticism. I always have, and I use it and think about it. What I do despise is lazy and thoughtless tweets and comments where the author clearly hasn’t bothered to read in more detail or has completely missed the point and then goes mouthing off.

I know I’m lucky and “blessed” in many ways professionally (although I have worked bloody hard for that), but not all across my life, I assure you.

# Kris Noble responded on 27th July 2010 with...

Not much to add to the comments above except another member of the “silent majority” standing up to be counted.

Really looking forward to this - will be my first conference. Therefore it’s a first opportunity to see and meet people who’s work I admire and draw influence from, plus a great chance to meet other members of the community.

Indeed, I have already had some discussions about journey-sharing for the train ride up to Nottingham. Fingers crossed there’s enough demand for a social the night before too!

# Paul Lloyd responded on 27th July 2010 with...

I’ve been looking forward to you writing this post, as it’s great to hear a little more background information about its foundation, and your aspirations and hopes for what will hopefully be a groundbreaking conference.

As the author of a—shall we say, controversial—blog post, I hope you found it to be in the spirit of considered and constructive criticism rather than the pithy ranting of a ‘hater’! I feel awful that it meant your hard work was once again the focus of a storm of, at times, negative feedback, but I am grateful for the largely well natured debate I was involved in both online and off.

As I discussed in the opening to my post, your conference follows a growing trend for conferences and workshops held in locations outside London and the South East, at prices that are truly affordable. This is to be loudly applauded, and a number of comments on my post backed up the desire for such events within the community.

Whilst other comments relied on the tired and unfounded ‘gentleman’s club, web celebrity’ point of view (one to which I don’t subscribe), there were a few that agreed there should be more opportunities for new speakers—although it could also be argued that people interested in speaking should use their initiative and actively seek out the opportunities to do so as well.

On the point of ‘the same faces’ I realised soon after posting that whilst many of the speakers at New Adventures are not regular speakers, they are familiar within our small section of the design industry. Whilst the chance to see Jon, Veerle, Tim and Greg speak in the UK is a rare treat, I was hoping for a conference with a few speakers that practice design outside the confines of our close-knit community (i.e branding, product and game designers).  On reflection, maybe this first New Adventures isn’t the place for such speakers, yet I would like to see such experimentation at the more established conferences. Perhaps this sentiment suggests there is room for a conference that appeals to the more ‘seasoned’ web design professional too.

Anyway, these are thoughts that are still percolating in my mind, but in closing I wish to apologise if my post cased any unintended offence, and I look forward to seeing New Adventures push the boundaries of web design conferencing as you describe above.

# Jon Moss responded on 27th July 2010 with...

Simon,

I feel like I am reliving exactly what I went through with HDLive last year…

Tim Ferriss wrote a superb post on Mashable a while back, all about dealing with haters, and these points really resonated with me…

1.  It doesn’t matter how many people don’t get it. What matters is how many people do.

2. 10% of people will find a way to take anything personally. Expect it.

3.  “If you are really effective at what you do, 95% of the things said about you will be negative.” (Scott Boras)

4. Keep calm and carry on :-)

See you soon!

Jon

PS As to “shut up and start your own conference” - amen!

# Matt Kempster responded on 27th July 2010 with...

To sum up my thoughts on this: Hats off to Colly for putting together a conference that I can actually afford to go to! I’m not sure how you can be criticised one bit for such a thing when there are companies and organisations quite frankly taking the p!ss with their ticket prices. As controversial as it may be to say — £100 is what a web design/development conference should cost to attend.

# Chris Morledge responded on 29th July 2010 with...

Following #naconf on twitter shows a large number of people who have never been to a conference before so there will be nothing “same old…” for them. I love the fact something like this is being held in Nottingham and would quite happily signup for the “New Adventures in Web Development” today.

Great idea all round…

# Webton Webdesign responded on 29th July 2010 with...

Keep on the good job! The site looks great. I’m glad you organized an event like this!

# James Allen responded on 30th July 2010 with...

Sounds like an interesting event and not too far from home either. Love the website graphics too they instantly got my attention with all the colours.

Hope the Q&A process works out nicely as it seems like a cool idea.

# Jenni responded on 3rd August 2010 with...

Simon,

Just a quick note to say we’re excited to be on board as sponsors and great job getting it all organised!

# Richard Bateman responded on 11th August 2010 with...

I shall be booking my ticket - if there are any left! Great job Colly.

# zebno responded on 19th August 2010 with...

Seems some great designers from all over the world will be there! the site describes it well! good luck to all for the meet up.. hope this event will go successfuly.

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