The Future of Web Apps was held this year in Las Vegas, Nevada, and I had the opportunity to attend all three days. FOWA is run by Carsonified, an online learning center for web developers, graphic designers, and start-ups. I highly recommend their instructional site Think Vitamin.
So, what goes on at FOWA? I can sum it up in three subjects covered: Marketing, Development (code), and Inspiration.
I took a full day class called “Next Generation Branding for Your Web App” by Alex Hunter. This should be a class everyone takes if you touch social media at work. Alex was the global Head of Online Marketing for the Virgin Group and is also an angel investor. His stories and insights on how you can success and fail in social media were highly informative.
My other favorite presentation was by Deanna Zandt. I loved the title of her presentation: “Everything I Ever Need to Know About Social, I Learned From the Muppets”. I think her suggestion of creating serendipitous moments for your users was so true. Check out her video on Youtube titled “What Would Kermit Do?”. Anyone who loves the muppets is A+ in my book.
There were some great technical presentations as well. The big conversation was of course HTML5. Mozilla and Microsoft were both on hand to demo some new HTML5 features such as hardware camera access through the browser and some crazy graphic processing with just WebGL and CSS3. I found it kind of funny that Microsoft was there pimping HTML5 on IE9, when everyone in the room was thinking about how IE6 and IE7 have burned them at some point. The term HTML5 seems to be replacing AJAX+CSS3+DHTML, etc. When will someone coin it Web 3.0?
Aaron Gustafson of Easy! Designs went through a very comprehensive survey of proposed HTML5 tags. He showed demos of the ‘section’ element and improved usability for button styled links. There were other demos that showed IP Geolocation and tailoring the user experience based on that info. I think this is something we can implement at UCLA.
This was a part of FOWA that I expected to hear about, but didn’t know how amazing it was going to be. Tony Hsieh (Zappos.com) and Jenn Lim (Delivering Happiness) gave a very inspirational talk about company culture Zappos is famous for. To be able to sit on the front row and hear them speak for about an hour was a treat. Jason Calacanis of Mahalo spoke and gave a “state of the union” style talk. His observations about Facebook acting like the mob and their relationship with developers was spot on. Joe Stump of SimpleGeo spoke about start-ups from inception to fundraising. I think every person who wishes to be an entreprenuer should read through his deck. It’s simply honest and brutal. I will always remember that “investors are not your friends”. Kevin Rose, founder of Digg and Milk, as well as angel investor appeared twice on stage. He did a Q&A session with Gary Vaynerchuk and a talk with Ryan, CEO of Carsonified. Kevin talked about stepping down as CEO of Digg and wanting to be a product guy. I think everyone strives to be their own boss and become a CEO, but insights from Kevin suggest to follow your passion and not to worry about titles.
The best inspirational talk was delivered by Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary is an insanely successful online wine merchant and host of WineLibrary.com. He’s written two best seller books: “Crush It” and “The Thank You Economy”. On top of that, he’s also a self taught social media expert, public speaker, and angel investor. If you’ve never heard of Gary, you’re missing out. He’s loud, entertaining, and virally inspirational. My favorite quote from GaryVee was “if you don’t bring value, you shouldn’t exists”. He’s a must follow on Twitter. Simply brilliant and entertaining.