What I Learned at the University of Illinois Web Conference 2013

University of IllinoisThe web conference at the University of Illinois was an excellent event! This conference was not my normal scene. Being a web conference, the sessions covered all pertinent topics from pure design and UX all the way to distributed real-time apps and TDD. Along with the heavier design focus, this conference was outside of my normal circle of friends. In fact, I didn’t know a single other speaker or attendee before the event!

This was a great growing opportunity, and I met some very engaging personalities! I highly recommend this event.


  • Standing behind a podium for your entire presentation makes a short talk seem really long.
  • Plan for square screen aspect ratio, so that your content doesn’t get cut-off in the projector.

A Responsive Process

Steve Fisher (@hellofisher) started the event off with a series of zombie videos to illustrate a responsive process. I had a chance to get a drink and talk with Steve after the event, and he seems to be a great guy who definitely knows his stuff!

Check out his websites for more details!

Test Driven Development: A Love Story

Nell Shamrell (@nellshamrell) walked us through her experience as a new employee maintaining a horrific legacy codebase, and how she continues to overcome it with TDD.

  • Sometimes your dream job can turn into (or turn out to be) a knightmare
  • TDD is the key to maintaining legacy code
  • Coming to terms with legacy code can take you through the 5 stages of grief
  • Testing your code is a journey
  • After embracing TDD, I no longer code out of fear and pain, I code out of love.

Real-Time Web Apps at the Assembly Hall

David Iffland (G+) described a software project he worked on that used real-time communication between web browsers with ASP.NET WebAPI and SignalR.

  • Real-time apps are good for things like notifications, games and collaboration
  • Real-time == Real-time(ish)
    • Time can always be divided into smaller increments
    • Web Sockets are best method available, but not widely supported
    • SignalR allows graceful fallback to forever frame, long-polling, etc.

The Honeymoon is Over

Brad Ward (BlueFuego) closed the conference by describing social media and content strategy in terms of our family and romantic relationships.

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