Sunday, May 31, 2009

Ignite I/O - Growing Up Geek: My Dad, The Computer Scientist

"Ignite" is a style of presentation: 5 minutes, 20 slides, 15 seconds each, auto-advance. It's probably the most challenging style of presentation out there (lightning talks are a breeze in comparison), which is why it intrigues me. I did my first Ignite in Sydney a few months ago, with a talk entitled "HTML 5 versus Flex for RIAs". It went well, as I was able to remember all of my lines, and I managed to squeeze quite a bit of content into those 5 minutes. But I discovered that the best Ignite talks there weren't the informational ones, like mine - they were the narratives ones, the ones that told stories and left the audience feeling moved in some way.

So when I was asked by Brady Forrest to give an Ignite talk at Google I/O, I decided that I would find a story to tell, and hopefully one with a geeky twist. Thinking of how much my JAOO Brisbane audience loved the slide in my App Engine talk about my dad not giving me allowance unless I'd programmed Java that week, I formulated my talk: "Growing up Geek: My Dad, The Computer Scientist". I didn't have an exact outline for the talk when I proposed it, but I figured I had enough entertaining anecdotes about life with geeky parents (my mum ultimately became a computer scientist as well) that I could fill up 20 slides.

Creating the slides took ages, since my search for authentic pictures for the slides meant digging through our old archive of 5000 digitized family photos to find evidence of our myriad PCs, and using the Wayback Machine to capture screenshots of my original websites and Perl programs — and man, nolstalgia is a bitch of a distractor. Soon, a real story began to emerge amongst the slides: the story of me wanting to do many things — including programming, my dad disapproving of these non-programming activities, and me perservering on with my renaissance approach to scholarism and finally gaining his approval. The point I want to make with the talk is this: you should always encourage your kids to explore everything that interests them. Yes, this may mean that they don't become a specialist, or that they don't become the particular profession you've set out in your heart for them — but it means that they're doing what makes them happy, and people always excel the most at what makes them happiest.

The final slides are embedded below, with my pre-scripted lines pasted in the slides (it's impossible not to script them, trust me). I've also entered the slides in a "Tell a Story" contest that Slideshare is running now, since they happen to tell a story; you can vote it up on Slideshare if you like. The video is now up on Youtube. Enjoy!


seph said...


Gabriel Svennerberg said...

Awesome slides! Would have loved to have watched your talk live. You definitely got my vote.

RME said...

Seeing the scripted version of the slides gave an interesting dimension to the talk. :P Great story and great job in delivering it! :-)

Adelaide Dupont said...

What a great Java evangelist your Dad obviously was!

Now I find Java more trouble than not, but I wouldn't mind learning Flash, and I could stand to learn much more HTML than the things that make pages look pretty.

Six computers and only a 13' TV. And all those old-school applications. The only difference was that you had colour Print Shop, which I never did, and that I learnt Kid Pix and Carmen San Diego on an Apple Mac.