Introducing Ubelly

News, Sponsors

06 November, 2011

Posted by Alex Stanhope

We peer into Microsoft's fleshy bits, and reveal the shining Ubelly beneath.

All About Ubelly

If you’re in any way involved in the digital design and development fields, then the chances are you got into it all to begin with because you had a deep, unbridled love for the web as a medium, and wanted to contribute to the continuing advancement of this increasingly mature set of technologies. As designers and developers, we can consider ourselves extremely lucky, as the path we have chosen is about so much more than “the day job”.

Ubelly stands tall as an example of that passion. It is a testament to the desire we all feel when it comes to furthering the evolution of all things digital. Let’s face it, the pace is only picking up as the years roll on since Sir Tim Berners-Lee first unveiled the CERN WorldWideWeb browser (later renamed to Nexus) to his coworkers underneath a certain Swiss mountain.

Ubelly stands tall as an example of that passion. It is a testament to that desire we all feel when it comes to furthering the evolution of all things digital …

Did you just say Ubelly? Please tell us moar!

Essentially, Ubelly is a blog. It can be found at – but that’s just where the story begins. It sprang to life as Microsoft’s “unofficial official” blog for “developers who love the web”, and as such has the remit to cover a broad range of subjects and events of interest to people like us; the topics being discussed touch on everything from typography to mobile development, and just about anything else in between. The passionate team behind Ubelly are on a righteous mission to collate the most relevant information possible scoured from all corners of Port 80 of those Interwebz we keep hearing about, and consequently make life a lot easier for everyone else by posting it up in one glorious place.

On visiting, it is immediately apparent that this is nothing other than a massive labour of love, and for that we wholeheartedly salute the talented team behind it.

That said, we’re not talking about an anonymous collective of bloggers, tapping away frenetically in the dead of night. Far, far from it; the Ubelly crew are active across all the usual social spaces online, but interestingly, also highly visible where “IRL” is concerned. You’ll see them at a huge gamut of events; meetups and conferences are all fair game, and take it from us, they’re a super friendly bunch who love nothing more than to stop and chat about everything that’s going on in our world.

It’s also worth mentioning that the content on the site is aimed at both existing practitioners and students alike – if you’re currently in education, it might be a good idea to catch up with one of Ubelly’s developer evangelists, Ben Nunney, who writes for the Microsoft UK Student Blog and proudly sports the highly improbable Gamertag of SumoWombat on XBox Live.

Moreover, the team is heavily committed to putting on events of its own, and more on this follows!

The hills are alive with the sound of Critters

Ubelly are also the prime movers behind “The Critters”. Before we go any further, it should be noted that this has absolutely nothing to do with a certain set of New Jersey popsters that crooned their way through the 1960’s, or indeed a gaggle of less than friendly (and very fuzzy) extraterrestrials engaged in a destructive romp across the American midwest in a true slice of 80’s cult movie horror. Now that we’ve got that bit sorted, allow us to elaborate.

The Critters in question are actually an annual awards ceremony whose purpose is to celebrate the numerous achievements in the industry over the past year. The lucky nominees vie for the top position over a wide range of categories, including the self-explanatory “Blog of the year” and “App of the year”, through to more esoteric offerings such as “Web we would mate with” and “Win of the year” (obviously, the latter is counterbalanced with a “Fail of the year” prize going to some less-than-wonderful site, app or service).

Whoah! Did we just get nominated?

In May 2011, we were simply blown away when we learned that we had been handpicked for an “Event of the year” nomination (alongside Simon Collison’s “New Adventures” conference and the mighty SXSWi). It should go without saying that this happy bolt from the blue was something that made us immeasurably proud given it was based on the perceived successes of our launch event that January. All in all, not too shabby for a “first time out” such as ours to be in the running among such august company.

And so it came to pass that Team Heart & Sole set off from our Chichester eyrie to make the journey up to London under the blazing sun of a classic English summer day (May 25th to be precise). Ahead of us lay an evening rubbing shoulders with the great and good of the worldwide digital community. We firmly crossed everything we could lay our hands on in the hope of that proverbial result we longed for.

Syd meets Keanu

Will this kind of thing make Keanu more sad, or ...less sad?

Before making our way to the venue for the night’s entertainment – the stunning Hospital Club on Covent Garden’s Endell Street – we caught up for a quick snifter and a bite to eat with Heart & Sole stalwart Syd Lawrence. It was great to catch up with this luminary of the Winchester web scene, and once suitably packed to the gills with some pretty decent Italian cooking, we signed in and got stuck into proceedings.

Before long, we were hanging out with our old mucker John O’Nolan (who happened to be on the judging panel for the awards); it’s always a massive pleasure to down a few perfectly-chilled beers with the man in question.

Later on, we even got the chance to be snapped, in true paparazzo style, with the likes of Keanu, who we have on good authority was quite sad at the time (though it looks like all the excitement got a bit too much for me if the photographic evidence is to be believed).

My Lords, Ladies and gentlemen, the winner is …

As the event progressed, the awards started to be announced (we were delighted to see Heart & Sole 2 speaker Naomi Atkinson snaffle the “Next Big Thing”, though of course, our commiserations go to Rob Hawkes who was, rather unsurprisingly, also up for this one), and inevitably, it was the turn of our own category. There was a suitably sharp intake of breath in our corner of the room. In the end, the plaudits went to Simon Collison and New Adventures in Web Design – our congratulations to him are sincere, and we were truly content just being invited to take part, despite the lack of a gong.

A cracking session was rounded off in magnificent style by getting an opportunity to share a few words with HTML 5 superstar Bruce Lawson (his skills as a developer and speaker go far, far beyond mere “Ninja” levels), and not long thereafter, in an accord made over a few G&Ts, it appeared that he was happy to share his considerable knowledge at the next Heart & Sole. Happy days indeed.

Eventually we headed off into the balmy London night, having had a thoroughly awesome time; we wish Ubelly every success with future outings for The Critters, and hope that this inaugural ceremony will be the first of many to come.

Things can only get better …

Think of the above heading as the written equivalent of a checkpoint in your favourite digital entertainment title, but do be aware that the reference has no connection with a super club anthem subsequently appropriated by the British Labour Party in the wake of their 1997 General Election win.

We have been chuffed to bits to be sponsored by the lovely Ubelly for the next big Heart & Sole event (“The Awesome Strikes Back” don’tcha know!) in their capacity as “Official Media Partner” and we simply can’t wait to have them onboard.

Things get better still yet as Martin “the beebs” Beeby will be speaking on CSS3, HTML 5 and where it all fits in with Microsoft’s road map for the continued improvements to Internet Explorer. It should be a fascinating talk, so make sure you don’t miss it!

In summary, here’s to the sterling service to the community provided by Ubelly. Let’s make the web a better place, and let’s all do it together. It’s going to be one hell of a ride, and we for one wouldn’t have it any other way :)