Success, Process and Failure

Sunday, 17 June 2007
by hannahdonovan
filed under Tips and Tricks
Comments: 14

Yay! Having started this post a week ago, I win the “slowest to blog about @Media” award. (Like usual, it’s been busy at last.HQ)

Last Friday I spoke at the @Media conference alongside the veritable roadrunner-speaker Simon Willison, about how we helped build successful websites. When it came to Last.fm, I really had to give the truth: “Sometimes we fuck up a lot.”

Success is just finding out what works and doing that consistently. How do you find out what works? A lot of trial and error. If you’re interested in what works and what doesn’t, check out the slides. (podcast will be linked here shortly).

The conference was quite a lot of fun. I didn’t get to see all of it—as I was back and forth between the office, but of what I did catch, here are the highlights: Internationalisation guru Richard Ishida (I was quietly laughing through most of his talk recollecting some of our own i18n nightmares); Jason Santa Maria, who has designed some absolutely beautiful websites < wee sigh of jealousy/ > and (eee!) one of my favourite typographers Mark Boulton! (Do check out his slides, it’s a lovely presentation). I was a little worried about meeting him, because heroes always seem to be disappointing in person, but Mark is an exceptionally cool down-to-earth guy.

On the last day, I was looking forward to sparring with Jeremy Keith on the Hot Topics panel and injecting some real-world experience into the proceedings. (The speakers had undeniable experience, but most of the attendees I met had more commercial than theoretical concerns).

The Hot Topics panel didn’t happen for me however, as the conference organisers and Jeremy had different ideas about who should be on the panel. A bit unexpectedly, this led to Jeremy raising the issue of the panel’s diversity.

I wasn’t fussed about not getting to be on Jeremy’s panel (there were small fires to put out at Last.fm HQ anyway), and it really wasn’t a question of having a woman on the panel either. Jeremy’s point is that all factors in choosing a panel need to be carefully weighed, and in his opinion, they weren’t.

By now you’re probably groaning… the issue of diversity always comes up at conferences and we’re all a little sick of hearing about it too. Nonetheless, good on Jeremy for bringing this up; it’s sort of like being the one to tell people to stop playing drums in the office at 2am because the police have been called… not exactly fun, and not something that should really be an issue anyway.

Still not quite sure to make of this non-issue/issue, but for the record, one of my most moving memories was hearing Paula Scher speak for the first time; it completely changed my perspective on my career.

Where was I? Right, process and not being afraid to fuck up. Because the real world is a messy place. Get your idea out; put perfection behind you (as long as you refine it later). There’s often very little room for ideals and balance, especially in this industry.

Additionally, it sounds like Jeremy did a great job of moderating the panel dispite being unable to pick his exemplar group of panelists.