At the table, left to right: John Downer, Spyros Zevelakis, Matthew Carter, Akira Kobayashi
It was satisfying on all accounts. Here are a few reactions of technical and non-technical interest.
His lecture on Typography as Quantum Mechanics explored the contrast of the predictability we get from mechanized systems with the unpredictability of reality. If you look at a handwritten document, you’ll see that not every instance of the letter ‘a’ is written in exactly the same way. This difference isn’t random but is part of the human element that distinguishes calligraphy from the output of a typewriter.
We’ve gotten into the habit of programming computers to reproduce the same result time after time, and in 99% of cases this is a good idea. But reality is not always predictable. The beauty of the situation is that current technologies such as OpenType make it possible to embed multiple variations of a letter into a font, and software can take advantage of this when rendering a document. For example, he showed an Arabic-language plugin for the InDesign page layout program that allows a designer to specify the probability with which different variations of a letter will be used.
How does this apply to website development? I’m not quite sure. We wouldn’t want to show random search results or pull a random article from a database. And, the point of the lecture was to achieve better aesthetic representation, not to change content.
Right now the concept that I’m chewing on is how to get the human element back into programmatically-generated content.
In an afternoon panel, directors from Microsoft and Adobe answered a question about DRM. Apparently Adobe has tried three times to develop a copy protection system for fonts, but they have never completed it. The reason? They weighed the financial benefits against the user experience and determined that it was better to keep selling fonts without DRM.
A type designer who asked not to be named said that he knew his fonts were being pirated, but they also served as a sort of free advertising. People who did the pirating were probably not likely purchasers of his fonts anyway, and a person who discovered him via file-sharing networks might end up becoming a large-scale corporate licensee of his typefaces.
I believe in paying for quality software that I use. I paid US$1,600 for the Adobe suite that I use daily. The last font family I purchased cost about $400 and I would have gladly paid more.
I know that some episodes of PeepCode are being pirated, but I’ve chosen to sell screencasts without any DRM. Legitimate purchasers have converted the videos for their own use on other devices such as the Sony PSP, and Linux users who have subscribed have converted them to Flash video or other formats so they can view them more easily. I don’t want to punish legitimate users by restricting their ability to use content that they have paid for. It’s affirming to hear that the second largest software company in the world has also made the same decision.
Speaking of which, I’m now offering Team Licenses of PeepCode. Several companies have bought licenses for their development team or even their entire company. Each developer will receive a license code and can maintain an account at PeepCode, or you can choose specific screencasts and distribute them to your employees on your local network. Email email@example.com with the number of developers you would like to buy for, and how many screencast credits you would like to purchase.
As I hoped, most of the presentations communicated clearly and were delivered with style. Technically, the most amazing thing was the fact that every speaker had access to both video and audio amplification. Even more amazing was the fact that they actually used it!
The founder of P22 talked about the hand-printed covers for their companion record label, and he was able to play clips of the music he was talking about. John Downer impersonated one of his fonts for 20 minutes and used music to accompany the dramatization.
I’m taking bets on how long it will be until I attend a tech conference that provides every lecturer with audio amplification in addition to a video connector. In the meantime, people will continue to detach their lapel mic and press it against their laptop’s speaker anytime they want to show a video clip or play any audio. Or if you’re Adam Keys, you bring a live musician with you.
I’m putting together a separate article on how to create a top-notch presentation and will post it before RailsConf in Berlin.
The F-bomb was surprisingly popular. It was dropped twice before lunch on the first day of lectures, and was presented to the audience 5 times by a single speaker on Saturday.
I’m not sure if David Heinemeier Hansson is into typography, but I can only guess that his single slide would have been a non-event at this conference.
I haven’t mentioned much about the rest of the artistic inspiration or personal conversations I had at the conference. Overall, it was a great experience. Next year’s will be in Buffalo, NY. There is also a related conference coming up this fall in Brighton.
I spoke with the conference organizers and I may be able to donate bandwidth to serve the audio recordings of the lectures. I’ll post here if that happens.