Skillswap: Intro to Rails

Last night I presented a skillswap, “Introduction to Rails”. This was meant to be a fairly quick overview for people who’ve done some web development before, but are completely new to Rails (and Ruby). The event was presented in two parts. First, a set of slides about what Rails is, why it works and a brief overview of Ruby. Then, a practical session.

For the practical, I installed Locomotive and we ran through a quick session of getting started with a rails application, building a model and putting up some scaffolding on top of that. There were only five macs, so people had to work together, which probably helped. I have to issue a huge thanks to lighthouse for the opportunity to use the fantastic venue.

I did actually have further slides and handouts, which progressed the practical, but it was already getting on for 20:30, so it seemed wiser to halt whilst things were still going well.

Like all live things, not all went to plan. The main annoyance was the fact that Locomotive-generated projects (well, Rails really) default to using MySQL. A quick switch to SQLite made things work a lot better. Servers can be a pain when you’re trying to get things running.

The slides and handout are available for download.

Also many thanks to Jane for the kind words. 🙂


SkillSwap on Typography

Last Thursday evening, Richard Rutter gave us a talk on Web Typography Sucks. It was a hugely successful event. It turned out that there were nearly 17 of us in the small room. Richard’s talk was essentially a preview of his SXSW talk, so if you can catch it there, I really recommend it.

Richard covered various aspects of what typography applies to the web (hint: it’s not just about fonts), and how we can improve on what we’re doing. He correctly pointed out that if the sun can do it, then so can we.

I was personally really pleased because a lot of the topics that he covered are things that I’ve had to a little bit of at work, but not really clearly got my head around. I now feel ready to go forward and make my next web site far more pleasant to read.

Interestingly, I’ve just noticed this article: Web Design is 95% Typography. How serendipitous.


Skillswap is back!

I’m pleased to announce that Skillswap is back. Our first event is Web Typography Sucks by Richard Rutter.

For too long typographic style has been overlooked on the Web. This SkillSwap will show how new technology demands that websites receive the refinement that has been applied in print for centuries. The session will examine what currently sucks about typography on the Web, and how to implement those typographic principles which are so severely lacking. It will also highlight what is being done right typographically, and how that can be carried forward.

By explaining how everyone involved in a website can and should take typography to heart, the session will provide a blueprint for introducing typography at all stages of a project, thus ensuring that sound typographic principles and techniques become an integral part of the future of Web.

Richard Rutter is Production Director at Clearleft in Brighton, UK. He curates where he slowly battles to improve typographic style across the Web.

Please come along—just drop us an email at

Now, I just wish that I had managed to organise all this earlier… Mea culpa. I’m just grateful to Andy Budd for allowing us to pick up his excellent work. And also to my cohorts, Ribot, Rosie Sherry, Danny Hope and Glenn Jones who have really helped to pull all this together.


Brighton SkillSwap

SkillSwap is a really neat idea set up some time ago by Andy Budd. It’s all about getting the local web design community together to provide free training for each other. I managed to get into it fairly late on, and gave a presentation on subversion.

Unfortunately, in the last couple of years, Andy’s been really, really busy with his new business, clear:left. So there’s been no time to organise anything SkillSwap related.

I met with Andy and Ribot at the BBC Backstage Bash late last year and we all expressed an interest in reviving SkillSwap. To that end, we’re all going to the pub. From my mail to BNM:

Ok, I’ll be in the Earth & Stars along with Mr Ribot and Mr Budd on Thursday 18th (a week tomorrow). I’ll be there from 18:30 onwards.

If you’re at all interested in reviving SkillSwap, please come along. Hopefully we can have a good discussion and get some ideas about what people would like to see.

If you can’t make it, but still want to contribute, drop me an email with your suggestions and I’ll bring it along on the night.

I’m really excited about this—SkillSwap was an incredibly useful thing and I’d very much like to see it come back to life. But that’s only going to happen if we get people interested. So please spread the word and come to the pub next week!



Finally, after much nail-biting I gave my skillswap presentation this evening: An Introduction to Version Control. Thankfully, I had a delightful audience, who asked lots of very sensible questions. A few people said that they’d go away and try subversion, so that’s a win. Version Control is such a safety blanket to me, I don’t understand how people can do without it…

Anyway, it seemed to go well and I didn’t manage put anybody to sleep. :-)

Huge thanks to Andy Budd of course, for organising the whole SkillSwap thing. It’s a great idea, and I’ll certainly be enjoying more of them in the future (and contributing where possible).

Update: One question that came up that I didn’t have an answer for was the question of dreamweaver integration with subversion. There appears to be some commercial support from SVN for Dreamweaver. Costs $59 (£33.90 according to Might be useful.

One other option might be to set up the WebDAV autoversioning support in subversion. This means that you can just use Windows’ “Web Folders” to copy files in, and store them in the repository. It’s not as slick, however, and does involve extra server side setup.

Update#2: Damien Tanner kindly posted a photo of last night’s events:

SVN Skillswap