Last week 2 of the Mutant Labs team attended the #DigPen V developer conference in Plymouth.
#DigPen is a grassroots movement of people who make web and digital stuff in the far South West of England. They run community conferences and events, and support meetups, hackdays, barcamps and anything else web and digital going on in Devon, Cornwall, West Somerset and West Dorset.
#DigPen first appeared in 2011 with its inaugural ‘un-conference’ held in the Universities Roland Levinsky building, hosted by Frankie Dolan of Medworm. Mutants (‘Lil) Ben and Alex were fortunate enough to attend and speak at this first event. Since then #Digpen has been on the road visiting Exeter and Falmouth for conferences and a dev hack and Jam in Princetown on Dartmoor.
Over the past 18 months this loose gathering of software, web and game developers has matured into a tight nit community and a great resource for socialising, learning, sharing and collaborating with fellow like minded people.
Returning to Plymouth, #Digpen V was held at the University’s Robbins Conference Centre on Saturday the 29th of September, with an introduction and hosting by Sophie Dennis from Cayenne. Sophie also co-organised the event, so we have to extend a huge thanks to her for what we thought was an excellent conference
Friend of Mutant Labs, Ian Lobb of Dull Dude Games kicked off the morning session with an insight to his extensive experience working in and managing creative, innovative studios. Ian provided us with some great tips and advice, and left every agency in the room with one mission: to “hire a goth”. You can see a video of Ian’s session here: http://vimeo.com/50514251
Freelance Developer Andy Mantell treated us to an on screen code walk through of CSS PreProcessors – in example he used SASS. He also gave a nice roundup of Compass and showed us how to breeze through sprites, and CSS mixins to make CSS3 & vendor prefixes with fewer lines of code. Andy showed us how SASS can make our love for functions and variables work in our favour, and save us heaps of time and effort when writing CSS. You can see the slides for his presentation here: http://slides.andymantell.com/digpen-v-css-preprocessors-why-how-and-wow/ (tip – use keyboard arrows to navigate).
In the seminar room during session 3, we were treated to a live coding introduction to Django by Stuart Marsh, a discussion hosted by Shirley Atkinson titled “how do we get more kids to code?”
Session 4 introduced John Nye giving us an in depth look at testing websites across a range of devices, and Luca Sale sharing his insights on the web ecosystem, and how things are evolving.
In the main auditorium, afternoon sessions were presented by event sponsor GOSS’s Robert McCarthy, Gary Ratcliffe, and Cayenne’s Sophie Dennis.
Myself and fellow Mutant Ben Reynhart were also invited to speak. Ben Kicked off the fourth and final session with his creatively titled “Whiskey and Web Design” – an in depth overview of how over the past few years, we at Mutant Labs have refined our processes, made mistakes, learnt how to improve upon our methods, and continue to refine our formula for improving our process of delivering great products. You can see Ben’s slides below:
I concluded the final session with a short presentation on the importance of collaborative working in development teams, and as freelancers. I gave a synopsis of my experience over the past 5 years and collaboration has led me to improve my skills rapidly, try new methods, ideas and techniques, and ultimately keep an open mind to how I work, and the tools I work with. Following this session I opened the floor to the audience to discuss collaboration tools and methods they use, and fielded questions and answers to and from the conference attendees. You can see my notes on that session here
All in all – a great conference. Thanks to Sophie Dennis & Andy Robinson of Cayenne, Shirley Atkinson of UoP, as well as sponsors Plymouth university and Goss Interactive.