The webDU 2006 conference is over for a couple of days now and just got back home yesterday afternoon. Had an absolutely wonderful time in Sydney, can really recommend it to anyone!
If you haven't been before, webDU (formerly MXDU) is a conference unlike any other. For starters there's the venue, the impressive Star City Casino is a huge complex with all sorts of entertainment, restaurants etc. not to mention great conference rooms.
You won't go hungry either; before sessions start they've got a light breakfast available, there's coffee/tea and biscuits between sessions and a buffet style lunch that can compete with any restaurant. The view from Star City is priceless as well, right across from Pyrmont Bay Wharf and views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge on the other side.
There is one keynote a day with some key speakers from ex-Macromedia and Adobe. Each day starts with a hilarious animation by Nectarine (this years was too funny for words, hope they'll put it up soon).
[update] They're already up: http://webdu.nectarine.com.au/
The other speakers are great too, very nice to meet up with some people from down-under that you otherwise don't see in person too often. Finally had a chance to meet up with Matt Voerman and Jesse Stratford as well as the lovely Sas Jacobs who co-authored "Object-Oriented ActionScript for Flash 8" and hadn't had a chance to see the published book yet.
Of course always cool to hang out with Guy Watson and the other guys, who else would call you out of bed at 4 am to go out for drinks? Gotta love it ;)
They've got developer networking down to an art as well, before the webDU banquet, people are divided into groups and given a task. This year we had to rewrite a fairy tale and illustrate it with photographs. Now those are some photo's I would rather not see surfacing :p As hilarious as it is, great way to get to know a few people who you might otherwise not have stopped to talk to.
Unlike many other conferences they've got a good emphasis on ColdFusion as well, it isn't really my thing but certainly is enlightening to hear some more about the direction they're moving it in.
My own session went pretty well I think, had a lot of examples too show -- maybe even a little too many as it didn't give me much of chance to get indepth into JSFL syntax. If you're interested, I'll try to post some articles on FlashExtensibility.com soon as well as my source files. Just give me another couple of days to get that prepared.
Geoff and the rest of the team did an outstanding job on this event, a real pleasure being asked to speak at this one. If schedule and budget permits, I'll definitely be round next year!
Now as a reminder for myself and anyone who might be seeing Sydney for the first time, here are some things you should really do:
Monorail When you arrive a quick roundtrip on the monorail is a great way to see the area. There are two stops close to Star City, one by the Harbourside shopping centre and one across Pyrmont Bridge at Darling Park, Cockle Bay.
Ferry to Circular Quay You can to a ferry to Circular Quay from Pyrmont Bay Wharf every twenty minutes or so. It just takes 15 minutes or so and you get some great views of the Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House. At Circular Quay you can get out and have a stroll around The Rocks.
Sydney Opera House About a five minute walk from Circular Quay you've got the Sydney Opera House. I went early morning which was a great time as there were only a handful of tourists walking around. Does tend to get a bit busy in the early afternoon.
Harbour cruise Taking a harbour cruise is a nice way to see a little more of the harbour. I took a 24 hour pass and among other places went to see Watsons Bay (not that much too do but just a short walk to some spectacular cliffs and views of the ocean).
Sydney Explorer bus There's an official Sydney Explorer bus that stops at some 20 locations throughout Sydney for you to explore, the ticket is valid for 24 hours and you can hop on and off at any time. There's also another service that is slightly cheaper and has open top buses, great for photographs. Took that last option, great way to get around Sydney and see some things.
Sydney Aquarium Just across Pyrmont Bridge to the left is Sydney Aquarium. Not the cheapest of attractions but they do have some spectacular animals on display. There are also some glass tunnels that you can look through to get a great closeup view of seals, sharks and other impressive underwater wildlife.
Outback Centre They've got a free didgeridoo show three times a day at the Outback Centre near Tumbalong Park and the Chinese Garden, well worth a visit. Had some great info on Aboriginal culture and a mix of traditional with modern music.
IMAX They've got a great IMAX theatre at Cockle Bay, couldn't resist going to see a film. Not sure why but liked this one more than the IMAX in London near Waterloo station.
Bondi beach Originally didn't think I'd make it to Bondi, but with some hours to spare before heading out to the airport I took a bus there and it was well worth it! The drive down to Bondi beach is breathtaking, the beach wasn't as crowded as I expected for a Sunday.
Things I didn't get to do but have are on my list for next time round:
- Sydney Tower - Taronga zoo - Ferry to Manly - Harbour Jet (looked like fun) - Harbour Bridge climb (not sure if I'd do it myself, its a bit pricey but heard some good things said about it)