Smashing week

Smashing types

My slides from SmashingConf in Freiburg are on Speakerdeck, with some additional annotations. The video of the talk will go online at some point, but the slides capture the key points.

The stats on Speakerdeck suggest that people find the slides useful, but we are still a bit off from an easy way to host a presentation that makes the content searchable, taggable, connectable. The new TED system of linking the talk transcription to the video is very impressive, but difficult to imagine for smaller events with tighter budgets.

The effort put in to get “just” good video and audio from presentations is already substantial, especially for academic conferences and smaller events (i.e. tight budgets, uneven expertise). For speakers who plan their talks integrating images/video into the spoken narrative, the challenge is harder.

Immediately after SmashingConf, Joana Correia and Eben Sorkin captured almost the totality of the talks at ATypI Barcelona (which will be posted online over the coming weeks and months on the Association’s site). Their dedication and hard work was humbling, but it was obvious that even professional recording systems are external to the presentation proceedings. In a sense, the capturing setup is a plugged-in observer, rather than integrated in the presentation itself. Going further, I’d argue that capturing should be integrated into the authoring process, with markup, annotations, and linking considered from the outset.

This seems like a good time to revisit my thoughts from a year ago on capturing conference presentations, although – TED system apart – most of what I wrote probably stands.

Alice Savoie in BCN

We should be able to markup the slide with “Adrian Frutiger”, “Lucette Girard”, and “Ladislas Mandel”; “Deberny & Peignot”; the location, the attribution, and a description of what’s going on, during the making of the presentation! Alice provides a suitable caption, but video capture does not “read” it in a useful manner. 

Expert Shmexpert

KL asked what is an Expert. This is what I scribbled on the way home from the airport. (This was a brain dump, so apologies for the masculine articles; they are the result only of introspection.)


Starts with a knowledge of facts, insofar as they are known, and their interpretations. Combines this with constant observation and questioning of these sources.
Aims to have a deep knowledge in his field, and a wide understanding in relates ones. Knows where the gaps in his knowledge lie, and how to fill those in when they intervene with the ability to understand and explain. Recognises his limits, and tries to be conscious of his bias, such as it is.

Combines a long view to detect trends, and an appreciation of the potential impact of individual actions.

Has a refined bullshit detector.


Uses all of the above to explain patterns of development, the context of decisions made, and the perspective of the people and organisations making these decisions.

When communicating, tries to empathise with his audience’s perspective, and adjusts to their level of interest, but addresses them as equals.

Explains how his field matters, to whom, and why. Is able to engage peripheral audiences by revealing the connections between his field and their sphere of action or area of interest, if this is possible.

Combines confidence in his views with the humility to admit openly their limits. Has the patience to break down his explanations so that people will appreciate where this confidence stems from, and the openness to admit error or lack of insight.

Type Journal interview

Журнал «Шрифт»

In the summer of 2013 Alexei Vanyashin asked for an interview for the (then still to-be-launched) online journal «Шрифт». The questions ended up being the most comprehensive set I had ever responded to. Over several weeks Eugene Yukechev (the editor) followed up with additional questions and clarifications, to make sure that my points were clear. It is rare to have the space to go deeper in an interview, and this one was a pleasure to do — for this reason, and for the professionalism of the editorial team.

My original set of answers (which are not in the order of the final interview) are on this page.