Product director at Future Insights Davin Wilfrid tells us about the new company behind the Future of Web Apps, Future of Mobile and Future of Web Design conferences
.net: How does Future Insights work now that it's not part of Carsonified?
DW: We have the best of both worlds now. The amazing conference producers and logistics coordinators in Bath continue to do amazing work, and we've added staff at our new parent company headquarters in Boston. The time difference is a bit tricky to manage at times, but so far so good. We have regular meetings and catch-up sessions, and of course communicate constantly via email and chat to make sure we're all pulling in the same direction.
We've spent most of the past year getting oriented and refocusing on content. It's very easy as a conference company to fall into the trap of booking the same speakers for the same events year after year. This year we've doubled down on content – we identify the content that we most need and fill those slots with the best available speakers. We also push our speakers to create brand new presentations each time, to always keep things as fresh as possible.
.net: Are you looking to take things in a new direction at all, or is it business as usual?
DW: We are absolutely not doing business as usual. We're expanding our events business to new geographical areas and new markets (we are bringing our Future of Web Design and Future of Web Apps conferences to Prague in November, and will launch our first Future of Mobile Marketing conference in December) and we're expanding our web presence pretty dramatically. We launched the Future Insights community in April 2012, and plan to add several offerings to that site in the near future – including live online sessions, video chats with web tech superstars, and other projects that are too nascent to discuss.
It's also our mission to bring our great conference content to people who can't justify the cost of travel or can't take time off from work. We're in the early stages of building a video site that will allow community members to view or download videos from our conferences at their convenience.
Internally, we've changed how we evaluate the success of our own events. We've always monitored Twitter, blogs, and email for feedback on our events, but now we're being more scientific about it. For example, at Future Insights Live last spring, we worked with Formstack to create a survey-style form that people could use to evaluate each session. This feedback proved invaluable as we were putting together our fall events.
.net: This year you're combining what used to be separate conferences. How is that working, and why have you decided to do it?
DW: Web technology is headed for a convergence where the distinction between web and mobile falls apart. When the web is embedded in cars, billboards and eyeglasses, it won't make any sense to separate development initiatives by screen size. Obviously we're not there yet, so we need separate tracks for mobile and web app sessions, but the idea is to help developers and designers plan for a time when the distinction no longer exists. As a practical matter, there are very few web apps today that have no mobile component, and vice versa. Plus it's just fun to have a lot of different folks in one place. It makes the parties that much more lively.
.net: You're holding an event in Prague this year, that's new! How did that come about?
DW: The beauty of the web is that you can make amazing things from anywhere. Travelling to far-away conferences is not as easy, so we're always looking for new places to take our events. There's nowhere on earth we wouldn't take our conferences if we felt there was a demand for them, and we knew that there was a lot of interest in our events from mainland Europe (through web traffic, past attendees, etc.). Prague has a burgeoning tech scene, as evidenced by TechHub's expansion there last year and the success of several smaller conferences. So we knew we could find talented local speakers and reach enough designers and developers to make it work right out of the gate.
.net: What's the Prague web design scene like?
DW: It's emerging. I heard from a few speakers at the recent WebExpo that the audience was young, enthusiastic, and ready for inspiration. There aren't as many design agencies as there are in London or New York, obviously, but there are plenty of designers there looking to get better. We also expect a lot of attendees from surrounding countries, especially Poland, Austria, and Germany, which all have varying degrees of a web design scene.
.net: There are some new faces on the speaker list for Prague, tell us about some of them...
DW: We always want to have a mix of 'star' speakers, fresh faces, and as much local talent as possible. I think what you see on the speaker page for our Prague event reflects that.
We're incredibly excited about all of our new faces. Peter Gasston literally wrote the book on CSS3 (The Book of CSS3), so that's a huge feather in our cap. Addy Osmani from Google is an amazing guy who will make developers faster and better immediately after they leave the room. Rob Borley is a great fit for anyone interested in web design. He's a very talented designer whose talk at Future of Web Design London last year was very well received. He recently left a position at Headscape to found Dootrix. I saw their work on the Simpl iPad app, and was really impressed. He's also very nice.
And of course Bruce Lawson will challenge everything you thought you knew about development and design.
.net: Tell us what you anticipate will be the highlights of the upcoming events – who or what are you most excited about?
Obviously education and networking are the most important aspects of any conference, but I'm personally most excited about the fun stuff. At the Future of Web Apps / Future of Mobile conference in London, we're hosting our second ever 'App It Out' contest, in which app creators deliver mini-sessions in a competitive (but still fun) environment. We had a blast doing it at Future Insights Live last April, so I'm really excited to be a part of this one.
We're also celebrating Ada Lovelace Day on 16 October, with a special panel on the future of apps. We're thrilled to have Keri Lambden, founder of Web Heroines, on board to toast Ada and run the panel.