Webvisions 2010 Takeaways

A few months have passed since Webvisions, the annual conference “exploring the future of the web” in Portland, OR. Some of ideas presented in these sessions have remained with me, while others have receded into the Pit of Despair. Here are my favorite sessions and key takeaways.


Effective Personal Branding

Presented by Shashi Bellamkonda

In this session, Shashi Bellamkonda pointed out that your personal brand is affected both by your own activities on the internet and also by content produced by others. He recommended engaging in useful conversation online. Instead of merely broadcasting or pushing content to an audience, you should first listen, and then respond. If we were to take only one action item from his speech, he urged us to set up a Google alert for our individual names. Your Google search results, afterall, are a strong indicator of how you and your company are perceived by others. If you take a few minutes each week to follow up on these alerts, you can respond to the any statements made about you and take charge of your brand.


Life at Cheezburger: A Radical Plan for Success

Presented by Scott Porad

Wut's wif teh vejataryan krap?Even if you’re unfamiliar with the company Cheezburger, you probably have visited one of their sites — I Can Has Cheezburger, FAIL Blog, or Failbook. Despite being a huge I Can Has Cheezburger fan and a bit star struck, I did manage to pay attention to this session.

Scott Porad presented Cheezburger’s unusual work process, which he termed “the swarm method.” Instead of committing to long-term plans taking more than 30 days, the team works on one idea cohesively until completion. Cheezburger launches a great number of sites – one every two to three weeks. If the site proves successful, they leave it up; otherwise, they pull the plug. They measure success through user comments, ratings, and the number of submissions.

Employees constantly brainstorm new site concepts where quality content can be produced at minimal expense. Each idea earns a spot on the post-it note wall and may proceed to one of the following columns: Up Next, In Progress, Ready to Ship, and Done.

Because people tend to forward funny content to friends, Cheezburger’s sites have benefited tremendously in popularity. The company has discovered that by posting new content on individual sites at specific times everyday, regular users know when to re-visit.

The swarm method, the post-it note wall, and the forwarding factor proved to be integral parts of Cheezburger’s roadmap to success.


The Past, Present and Future of Web Typography

Presented by Mark Wyner

During this session, Mark Wyner reviewed the history of typography on the web. Designers and developers have long struggled to use a wide range of typefaces online while respecting rendering quality, load time, search engine optimization, and copyright. I was most excited about the Future portion of his presentation and the information on the “CSS @font-face selector.” This reliable and accessible solution allows developers to upload the actual font files and then refer to them from the respective CSS file. The resulting font display enjoys fast to modest browser performance, depending on font file size. You can gzip the files to increase performance, but not all browsers support this format. Setting up @font-face does require an initial font conversion step so you can upload all formats for various systems. Sites like Font Squirrel can help with this process.

One obstacle to @font-face implementation is that site visitors can potentially download the font files without respect to the copyright. Foundries have yet to agree on a solution to this quandary. One possibility would be to produce web-only versions of typefaces which would be unsuitable for print projects. Another would be to add DRM protection.

In the meantime, a number of @font-face services have cropped up to close the gap. For a subscription fee, Typekit, Typeotheque, and Font Deck will license and verify fonts and allow you to use them on your site. You will be dependent on an additional server, and you are restricted to whatever typefaces the companies provide.

The @font-face strategy to using typefaces on the web makes a tremendous amount of sense to me. Designers and site owners alike will appreciate the SEO, high rendering quality, and larger selection of fonts. I’m looking forward to the continued release of font files by foundries who have embraced the @font-face solution.


In Conclusion

I always find Webvisions to be well worth the cost of admission, and this year was no exception. The wide range topics make it a fascinating conference for business owners, account managers, designers, developers, anyone whose work day intertwines with the web. And these days, what day doesn’t? If you’re in or near Portland, why not add the conference to your May 2011 calendar?

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