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Speaking Engagements WordCamp

Thinking Inside the Box – My WordCamp San Francisco 2014 Lightning Talk

What started as a challenge ended up as a lightning talk at WordCamp San Francisco 2014: Explain the CSS Box Model in an understandable way to a crowd of mainly bloggers and designers. In 5 minutes. With no live code.

The video slides are unfortunately largely cut out of this video so you don’t get to see the fancy stuff the audience were privy to, but you get the general idea: On the web every tag is a box. And on the web magic happens when you think inside the box.

When you’re done, go check out the other great talks at WordCamp San Francisco 2014 over at WordPress.tv.

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Speaking Engagements

Building Themes from Scratch with Underscores: My WordCamp Montreal 2014 Talk

Below are the slides from my WordCamp Montreal 2014 talk Building Themes from Scratch with Underscores.

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Speaking Engagements WordCamp

See you at WordCamp

If WordPress has any part of your life – be that as a publishing application at work, your blogging platform, your CMS, or the tool you use to build websites – you owe it to yourself to attend a WordCamp in your neighborhood. WordCamps are locally organized Open Source conferences focussing on WordPress and everything WordPress related and is the best place to learn, share, and meet others to whom WordPress matters.

This year I’ve made my mission to go to several of these events, and I’ve even been given the privilege of speaking at a couple. So, if you’re going to a WordCamp in the near future and that WordCamp happens to be in Vancouver, New York, Montreal, or San Francisco, track me down and say “Hi!” I might even have something cool to give away!

Is WordCamp for You?

Every time I go to a WordCamp I meet a huge pile of new people who are attending for the first time. What do they all say? “I had no idea it would be like this! I can’t believe I took so long / hesitated / didn’t think there was any point in going!” The reality is if you are asking yourself the question “Is WordCamp for me?” then the answer is a big resounding “YES!” It’s an event for everyone who touches WordPress – from the absolute beginner who has yet to set up her first site to the seasoned pro who has built sites for the biggest corporations and has her name prominently placed in the WordPress developer credits.

One of the many great things about WordCamp is the atmosphere: Everyone has been a beginner and everyone remembers their roots so there is no elitism or clique forming to speak of. WordCamp also has a refreshingly high level of diversity. Attendance is usually close to a 50/50 split between the genders and visible minorities are gaining a stronger presence and influence.

In short you have a place at WordCamp.

2014 Speaking Engagements

As I mentioned I’ll be at several WordCamps this year: Seattle (this past weekend), Vancouver, New York, Montreal, and San Francisco. There may be others added as well (I’m eyeing Los Angeles and Toronto at the moment), but that’s it for now. In the cases of Seattle, Vancouver, and Montreal, I’m also speaking. Here are the short pitches:

Future Responsive Today – Embracing mobile-first with <picture> and FlexBox

WordCamp Vancouver, July 26th

Responsive Web Design is about to get a whole lot more responsive with the <picture> element for responsive images and Flexbox for responsive layouts. In this talk front end developer and web standards expert Morten Rand-Hendriksen will provide the audience with everything they need to use these new tools today and show how a true mobile-first workflow will help them make cleaner, more efficient, and more responsive WordPress sites. You’ve heard about <picture> and Flexbox and now you’ll know how to implement them in your WordPress projects today! The future is now and it is responsive.

Building Themes from Scratch with Underscores

WordCamp Montreal, August 16 – 17

Free and premium themes are great, but if you want to build a truly custom website with WordPress you need to build a custom theme from scratch. In this presentation designer, developer, and educator Morten Rand-Hendriksen takes you through the process of building a theme from scratch with what is arguably the best starter theme available: _s (Underscores). The presentation looks at design and development decisions and principles including mobile-first, accessibility, responsive design, and information architecture, and takes a deep dive into the structure of the Underscores theme to show the audience how to build a theme from the ground up to become what you envisioned and more.

Web Design is a Process (link to slides)

WordCamp Seattle, June 28 (past)

Web design does not start with a Photoshop comp. Web design does not start with a Photoshop comp. Photoshop is step 7. Or 10. Or 50. Before you draw a single pixel on your canvas there are a myriad of things that need to be covered. This talk is an exploration of the web design process, all the way from the first client meeting to the shipping of the final product. The audience will learn about IA and UX techniques, card sorting, personas, concurrent development, agile process, version control, the works. This will be a hyper-intensive flyby to give people who work in or want to enter the field of professional web design and development a better understanding of all the roles they’ll have to play and all the ground they’ll need to cover if they want to be truly successful.

See You at WordCamp!

Are you going to a WordCamp this year? Have a story to tell or a question to ask? Make your voice heard in the comments below, go sign up for a WordCamp for yourself, as an attendee, a volunteer, or a speaker, and maybe I’ll see you there!

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Events

A Simple Guide to Conference Panel Moderation

A couple of months ago I was approached by a soon-to-be conference panel moderator who asked if I had some tips. Having attended a fair number of conferences and having moderated panels, debates, and meetings in both politics, web development, and several other professional settings, I had a fair bit to say.

For conference newbies it may be surprising to learn that panels are quite controversial, and for good reason. Panels are often the fallback option when you have multiple speakers pitching the same topic, panels can become the place a conference chooses to stack women speakers in an attempt to bring up the gender ratio, and panels are often poorly prepared, executed, and moderated leading to boredom or catastrophe, sometimes all at the same time.

Much has been said about how to organize and moderate panels at conferences and I don’t purport to be an expert on the topic. What I do have is extensive experience dealing with politicians, clients, and people who can’t agree on anything, and I have accumulated a wide range of tools and skills to coax a conversation towards a chosen goal. And these tools and skills have proven invaluable in when moderating a conference panel.

So here, mostly unedited from my original email, is my Simple Guide to Conference Panel Moderation:

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Events WordPress

Empowering Women’s Voices in WordPress

WordPress Women

Let’s face facts: While the WordPress community is comprised of at least 50% women and attendance at WordCamps and WordPress Meetups is generally equally balanced, women are underrepresented as speakers and presenters. This is not unique for the WordPress community. The underrepresentation of women in leadership positions is a systemic problem in the tech sector and in society as a whole. What we as a community need to figure out is how to fast-track the process of equalization to make the people who represent us better represent the composition of our community. And that all starts with encouraging more women to stand up and be heard from the speaker podium.

Women Talking WordPress | A Workshop on Speaking at Meetups

Women Talking WordPress | A Workshop on Speaking at Meetups

Saturday, Mar 1, 2014, 1:00 PM

The Network Hub
422 Richards Street Vancouver, BC

20 WordPress Enthusiasts Went

Women Talking WordPress is a workshop for women who are thinking about speaking at WordPress events, such as WordPress Meetup and WordCamp. The focus of the workshop will be to help generate topics to give a talk on, boost your speaking confidence, and allow you to practice speaking in a safe space. At the end of the workshop you will have a few id…

Check out this Meetup →

In November of last year, before all the hoopla in the community took off, Vancouver WordPress developer and WordCamp organizer Jill Binder reached out to Vanessa Chu and I suggesting that the Vancouver WordPress Meetup Group organize a speaker workshop for Women. Like most event organizers Jill discovered that getting a representative number of women speakers at WordCamp Vancouver was surprisingly hard and she wanted to start workshops to get more women on the rosters of future events. This fitted in nicely with plans Vanessa and I were working on for more women speakers at the Meetup and so the work began.

After some initial discussions Jill, Vanessa, and Kate Moore got together and planned out the first of what will hopefully be a series of Speaker Workshops for WordPress women right here in Vancouver.

Women Talking WordPress | A Workshop on Speaking at Meetups is an all-women workshop with the goal to help the participants brainstorm ideas, create quality content, discuss the challenges and rewards of public speaking, and get valuable real-life experience talking in front of a crowd. If all goes as planned this workshop and others like it should foster a new group of women speakers ready for the podium and provide new role models for aspiring women speakers in our community and beyond.

The three hour workshop takes place at The Network Hub in downtown Vancouver on Saturday March 1st from 1pm to 4pm. The cost of attendance is $5 and the only requirement for attendance is that you identify as a woman and want to boost your public speaking skills. If that’s you, go sign up now and get empowered!

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Speaking Engagements

Why WordPress? My WordCamp Seattle 2013 Keynote

Earlier this year I was honoured with the privilege of being the keynote speaker at WordCamp Seattle. The topic of my talk: Answer the question “Why WordPress”. My talk featured over 300 slides and took a look at the impact and importance of WordPress on the web over the last 10 years. Short synopsis: WordPress changed everything. In addition you get anecdotes, statistics, and a fair portion of nonsense and Vikings – exactly what you should expect. I’m not one to toot my own horn, but what I will say is that during my talk my handle @mor10 trended on Twitter, and there were people who claimed this was the best keynote they had ever seen. I’ll let you be the judge of that.

The presentation is 48 minutes long and contains one swear word. The slides are a little wonky in this video version but the important components come through clearly.

Watch it here or go to WordCamp.tv and take in this and all the other awesome presentations from WordCamp Seattle and beyond.

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Speaking Engagements WordCamp

WordCamp Vancouver 2013: Speaking and Moderating

WordCamp Vancouver is returning to our fair city on August 17th. For the past two years I have been one of the organizers, but this year I am going to attend as a speaker and moderator instead. It’ll be a nice change of pace for me and it gives me an opportunity to share some insights about how I work with WordPress with the Vancouver community. Very exciting.

Can WordPress Really Do That, Take 2 – my talk

The title of my talk is, quite cryptically, “Can WordPress Really Do That, Take 2”. This talk is a follow up of sorts to a talk I did at WordCamp Victoria 2012 and will be a full breakdown of the process of building an extremely complex site. Since the site is still being built I’m not going to reveal what it is or what it entailed here (you’ll have to come watch the talk to get that info), but what I will say is that the talk will involve insights into everything from design, information arcitecture, working with clients, working with designers, managing unusual assets, to setting up custom post types, adding custom data points, importing enormous databases, creating custom searches and loops, and beyond. What can I say? It’s a complicated project.

Can WordPress Really Do That, Take 2 is a talk targeted at anyone working with WordPress professionally – be that as a content manager, a site owner, a designer, a developer, or all of the above. And yes, WordPress really can do that.

Running a WordPress Development Business – moderating a panel

The organizers have been kind enough to ask me to moderate a panel on running a WordPress business. This is going to be an exciting discussion with lots of valuable takeaways for everyone. The panel consists of four well established WordPress developers from Vancouver and beyond and I’ll make sure we get a lively discussion going about everything from managing clients to getting paid to hiring minions and building great sites.

If you have any questions, topics, or other things you want me to bring into the discussion, let me know either in the comments below or by harassing me on Twitter or sending me a message. The whole point of a panel discussion is for the audience to learn something new, so your input and participation is essential.

Come join the fun!

As of this writing there are still tickets available so whether you are a seasoned pro or you’ve just started looking at WordPress you should go get your ticket and join the fun. This is the event for our community, so go get your fill of WordPress and meet lots of new people who share your interest in open source and web publishing!

 

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Events

WordCamp Seattle 2013 – source list

At my keynote at WordCamp Seattle I used a lot of external sources – for images, statistics, and fun. Here is an incomplete list for your reference:

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Events

Teaching WordPress on the WP Watercooler

I dropped by the WPwatercooler today to talk WordPress teaching and learning with the gang. It was a fun experience and I hope I’ll be able to join again some time in the near future.

WPwatercooler is a weekly 30 minute Google Hangout where people talk WordPress.

Episode page with all the links

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Events

Judging the App Pitch Vancouver 2013

Every now and again I get asked to participate in interesting events. The App Pitch which takes place in Vancouver on March 13, 2013 is no exception. I will be part of the 6 person panel that will be judging pitches for new Windows 8 apps from developers and students. Up for grabs is a $500 gift card and tickets to the upcoming Polyglot {Un}Conference. It’s all going down at Lauch Academy in downtown Vancouver.

From the official event description:

During Round 1 (The Round Robin Pitches), teams will be broken up into groups to take turns pitching their app in three minutes to the judges assigned to that group. As a group, the judges’ job is to select the Top Six Finalists to go to the Final Round and pitch in front of the entire audience. The judges will be basing their selection on the following criteria:

  1. The “Great At” Statement
  2. The App Design
  3. The Business Side a.k.a. Making Cake

The judges are Boris Mann, Tea Nicola, Kharis O’Connell, Richard Smith, Richard Campbell, and myself.

Considering the goal of the contest it should come as no surprise that The App Pitch is hosted by Microsoft Canada, and based on previous events hosted by said multi-national software corporation it’s going to be a fun night with plenty of surprises.

If you want to take part there are still tickets available. You can also get more info over at wootstudio.ca.

To be honest if I wasn’t a judge I’d be pitching my own app at the event. But I’m a judge so that would be weird.

What are you waiting for? Come up with a pitch and join in!

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Events

Reflections and take aways from FITC Vancouver 2012

“Next year you should never have to design in the browser!”

I love going to design and development conferences. Nowhere (except maybe at political gatherings) do you get exposure to more dichotomized views, more hyperbolical statements and more entrenched and dogmatic attitudes. And paradoxically enough, nowhere do you get exposure to more level headed, pragmatic, non-combattive views. I guess that’s what you get when you build your profession around technologies that (d)evolve faster than anyone can keep pace and methods and methodology that requires people and skills from disciplines that in every other respect are polar opposites.

With this as the backdrop, and thanks to my good friends at Microsoft Canada, I found myself attending the FITC conference in Vancouver over the weekend. “FITC” stands for “Future. Innovation. Technology. Creativity.” and the conference functions as a catchall / melting pot / convergence point for anything that falls into these four definitions – if those things relate to the web and design that is. Or something like that. The conference consisted of a workshop day on Friday and two full days of talks Saturday and Sunday. I’m not going to provide a play-by-play of the conference or the talks – others will undoubtedly do a better job at that – so if that’s what you came for, I’m sorry. Instead I’ll share with you my take aways from the talks and the conference itself. Read at your own peril.

#1: Look inwards, get creative

Feeling creatively stunted? Don’t we all. Personally I spend a substantial part of my day being frustrated of how I’m not being creative enough and how I have all these great ideas I can never manifest in reality. Apparently I’m not the only one.

You know you’re on to something when four talks at a conference, on different topics, by different speakers, from different fields, completely unrelated to each other, bring forth the exact same message. The talks, Make Something Ugly: An Experimental Creative Process by Myron Campbell, How to give everything away by Kyle McDonald, Create More, Better, Different by Jason Theodor, Simplicity Through Complexity by Alex Beim and Design Renegade by James White could all be summed up in the same way:

If you want to be more creative, start by asking yourself a simple question: What is it I do that makes me happy? Answer that question and do it.

Through their stories and examples all the five speakers touched on this simple idea of doing what you love even if it doesn’t have a purpose in itself other than doing what you love. This rings true not only in creativity but in life itself, but it is especially true in the creative fields. To paraphrase James White: If you only do creative work when someone pays you to do it, you are limiting yourself and your creativity. Something like that. He said it better and had a cooler jacket on.

Regardless, the message, brought to us through Myron’s poorly drawn bird from his 8 year old self, a drum machine wired to Kyle’s face, Jason’s 16 (or was it 18?) personality types, Alex’s well lit Promise Ring and the forest of James’ mind, was loud and clear: Creativity comes from forcing yourself to let go of your adult limitations and start doing creative things like you did when you were a child.

I’m scheduling creative time from now on.

#2: The term “Responsive Design” is driving people insane

If you work on the web, have a web site, know someone who has a web site, or ever visit the web, you will most likely have heard of “Responsive Design”. And you probably also know that it is the be-all and end-all of current web design and development. You would be correct. However, like with pretty much any other trend word and new technology on the web, the term “Responsive Design” is being thrown around, dissected, dismantled, lauded, abused, and misused by pretty much everyone, and the only thing anyone can agree on is that the term and the technology is causing a lot of pain everywhere.

The conference had several different Responsive Design elements including a panel discussion and a couple of talks. And in the spirit of cooperation, togetherness, and all that is good and holy about the web in general, everyone contradicted everyone else. Which is amusing, but also a clear sign that this much loved/hated term is causing more pain than it should.

Here’s a short summary of the Responsive Design Chaos:

Responsive design as originally defined by Ethan Marcotte in his famous A List Apart article “Responsive Web Design” is the utilization of CSS media queries to change the layout and presentation of content on a web site depending on the size and capabilities of the device visiting the website. While this pure CSS approach works well in some cases, it can also cause a lot of problems, especially when it comes to small screen low bandwidth devices (aka smartphones). If we design and publish content meant for a large screen like a widescreen desktop monitor and then use media queries to resize the content to fit on a small screen we force that small screen device to download content that should never be put on that small screen like hugenormous images, ads and other junk.

In response to this realization the Mobile First approach was born: Rather than design for the big screen, design for the small screen and scale things up for larger screens. After all, people use their mobile devices to access the web more than they use desktop devices these days anyway, so that approach seems to make more sense. This in turn spurred a new discussion about why we litter our websites with stuff anyway. When you design for a small screen you make the content the focus. When you design for a big screen, you cram it full of graphics and ads and sidebars and other junk that takes attention away from the content.

Thus was born the Content First strategy which was adopted by a lot of people including Microsoft (which being an American corporation is legally defined as a person). But was the Content First strategy well received? Of course not. Especially because Microsoft employed it in Windows 8. And since pretty much anyone who calls herself a designer must hate Microsoft and must own at least 8 Apple devices, this was automatically labeled as “boring” and the Content First designs were accused of appearing to look like cheap templates. Woe is everyone.

So where does this leave us? With conferences in which multiple talks about Responsive Design contradict each other and everyone has a different interpretation of why Responsive Design is not the be-all and end-all solution it should be but that we all have to live with it.

To all this I say: Get off my lawn!

Seriously people. This is not complicated. Responsive Design as defined by Marcotte is an outdated definition. While the CSS media queries only approach works well in some cases, it is but one of many tools that should be used to make truly responsive websites. The other tools, oft mentioned but also prefixed by warnings that this is not “proper responsive design”, include server-side scripts that deliver different content to different devices, JavaScripts that detect browser capabilities, and a slew of other more or less known tools. Together they can be used to create content focussed easy to access web experiences on all devices, current and future, but for this to happen one major thing has to change:

We have to stop talking about what’s wrong with “Responsive Design” and start talking about how to build cross-device websites. End of story.

I could go on but you would get bored.

#3: The One True Solution to all Responsive Design Problems!

The quote at the top of this post, the one about never having to design in the browser ever again, came from the first talk of the conference, furnished by Adobe. The talk itself was a typical software pitch poorly disguised as an innovation talk, but that is to be expected at these types of conferences. And to be honest there is nothing wrong about it: By giving these types of talks software vendors are able to show off the latest and greatest in technology to the end users and get them to try the applications out early on in the development phase. That means the people who will be using the software get a potential chance to chime in on its development before it is released which in turn can lead to better outcomes at the end of the day. It does happen, occasionally.

Anyway, the Adobe talk was on a yet-to-be-released application called Edge Reflow which aims to make the process of designing responsive websites easier by combining the regular WYSIWYG interface of IDEs of old with a new responsive approach in which you can define screen size breakpoints and allow the application to create CSS media queries to accommodate these break points. Sounds great! If it works that is.

Just as a side note, I had a meeting with an unnamed individual at a large software corporation (not Adobe) some 3 years ago in which I pretty much outlined this exact software model including UI drawings and said “This is what I need”. Apparently people are reading my mind or something. But I digress.

The demo (or rather video slides) of Edge Reflow was pretty impressive, but apart from a few quick screenshots I did not get to see any actual code input or output so it’s hard to judge at this point where the application is headed. The idea is a sound one and it falls in line with Adobe’s renewed attempt at making web design a point-and-click experience (something both Microsoft and Adobe have attempted in the past with horrendous and internet breaking results), but I have hope that this time they may actually get it right. I have a request in for beta access, so hopefully you’ll hear more from me on that front.

Of course there is a reason for my rather snarky section heading here, and it relates closely to the next section: What Adobe is trying to do with Edge Reflow is solve the mysterious problem of designing for multiple screen sizes. And just like fighting dragons and climbing bean stalks to the sky, this is a honourable quest in pursuit of an imaginary problem. To me the notion of “never having to design in the browser again” smacks of a disconnect from reality that justifies these ridiculous comparisons. As far as I’m concerned you can’t design or develop a website outside the browser. That would be like painting without a canvas or taking photos without a camera. The browser is where a website lives, so that’s where it needs to be designed and developed. Simple as that. That’s not to say Edge Reflow has no place in the design process, far from it. Edge Reflow will fit nicely into the larger toolset of designers and developers and may become a great teaching tool for responsive design. However it will not nor should it replace a proper design and development process. And like I said, that process should always be centered around the browser.

#4: Microsoft is not what Microsoft was

As I was brought to FITC by Microsoft I feel obliged to give them special mention. And to be frank, it is well deserved. Microsoft was represented by the very un-Microsoft-y Thomas Lee who I am glad to say is now a permanent fixture in the Vancouver web community, and he ran a workshop as well as two talks at the event. Again I won’t give a play-by-play of the events. Instead I’ll tell you what became apparent for many at the event – something I’ve known for a long time: Microsoft anno 2012 is not Microsoft anno 1996.

Working on the web industry in North America you’d think there is only one computer manufacturer out there, and it is called Apple. The people in my industry have the Apple Kool-Aid hooked up intravenously and have a hard time wrapping their heads around the fact that while they may see their grey homogenous already eaten fruit computers as the pinacle of modern society, the people who actually use the stuff they build generally own something running either Windows or a little green robot.

Over the last several years Microsoft has taken great strides to get over the massive moat they created for themselves in choosing to let Internet Explorer 6, 7 and 8 more or less ignore or at least lag behind web standards. And with Internet Explorer 9 and now 10 they have gotten themselves up to par with the competition, though you’d never believe that if you talked to an Apple user whose last experience using Internet Explorer was in 7th grade IT class. And that’s just the browser. With Windows 8 Microsoft has taken a huge leap of faith on a completely new design and functionality approach to personal computing in general, whether that be on a desktop, a laptop, a tablet, or a smartphone. And what they have produced both looks good and works well (so far at least).

Being a Windows user myself, and having beta tested Windows 8 since February, there was little new information in Thomas’ talks, but for the fruit lovers in the crowd his talks, and in particular the design talk on day two, were a serious wake-up call. Of course they would never admit to it – after all, the fact that Apple has turned into the Big Brother monster they portrayed Microsoft as being back in the early 1990s is no reason to accept that the company they believe to be the devil incarnate might actually have something to teach them about design is a hard pill to swallow. Even so I heard a lot of positive comments and ideas come out of the talk. And that has to be chalked up as a big win.

#5: No food = lost opportunity

One last thought, and this one is for the organizers (and for organizers of all such events actually): One of the biggest benefits to attending an event like FITC is the interaction with other attendees and speakers. And this interaction mostly happens at lunch. Therefore there should always be lunch. FITC Vancouver was hosted at The Centre for Digital Media at Great Northern Way Campus. A great venue, but it is in the middle of nowhere and the closest food establishment (ignoring the horrible “cafe” in one of the buildings and a couple of vending machines) is a good 10 – 15 minute walk away. In the pouring rain. The result of no food being offered at the event was that at lunch on Saturday and Sunday the attendees and speakers dispersed like a flock of scared birds and the interactive component that could have been never was.

As a conference organizer myself I have learned that providing food is a must to ensure people get the most out of the event. Which is why even at free conferences we make sure there is food available. If it was a matter of financing that prevented food from being provided at FITC I urge the organizers to add to the ticket price at future events or provide food as an optional add-on. By forcing everyone to leave a great opportunity was squandered and it left a lot of attendees less than pleased. I would gladly have spent $20 to get to share a table and a meaningful conversation with more attendees and from conversations with countless others I know that was the general attitude. Lessons can be learned here.

Regardless, I’m looking forward to the next time FITC swings through town and I might even make an effort to attend one of the many other events happening all over the world. If you’re interested in attending any of these conferences yourself go check out the FITC website for upcoming events.

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Speaking Engagements

Speaking Engagement: Vancouver Photo Workshops Photography Seminar Event Saturday September 8

For the 2nd year running I’ll be speaking about photography and the web at the Vancouver Photo Workshops Photography Seminar Event on this coming Saturday (September 8, 2012). My talk is vaguely titled “Photographers Online” and will be 50% technical and 50% audience based. From the talk I did last year I realized a lot of people need answers to the same questions so I’m allotting a lot of time for Q&A this time around to address the concerns of those in attendance.

The event itself is prety cool with lots of talks and activities. For $35 you get access to three talks of your choice, lunch, and access to the Photo Gear Garage Sale.

For all the information and signup head on over to Vancouver Photo Workshops.