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Past Events

Refresh has been running since 2007, details of some of our past meetups appear below.

If you'd like to talk at a future meetup please get in touch via our mailing list.

10th November 2014

SEO - Strategy and Techniques

Local SEO guru, Rob Chant, walked us through an exploration covering everything you need to know about search optimisation - what it is, why you should be doing it, and why Google wants you to. Here's a brief summary of his key points:

  • SEO is not an exact science, but if you can think like Google thinks then you can do SEO. Google wants to rank good quality sites, i.e. what an actual human would recommend if you asked them. But - it's still a machine, and therefore does a lot of approximations.
  • Google does three things:
    1. Discover content ("crawl") - sites are pretty much crawled immediately these days (since the Caffeine update).
    2. Gets rid of 90% of crap and spam, and decides what to keep of the rest ("indexation"), therefore you want to get as much of your side indexed as possible. Google Webmaster Tools will tell you that your whole site is indexed but it actually isn't.
    3. Ranking, which is what 95% of Google's software is actually concerned with. Back when PageRank came along it was innovative and made Google a success; it's still there, but now it is alongside other factors that affect your ranking. SEO used to be all about link building, but since 2007-8 it has changed. Social media came along and changed user behaviour and Google figured out how to properly understand content and judge the quality of the author. (Google are now close to having search results free of spam.)
  • The three pillars of SEO are links, social media and content.
  • Content: More frequent updates is better (on your own site/blog), at least one a week, good quality and deep content (500-700 words). It has to offer something substantive.
  • Social Media: Google ties you as an author to your social profile - number of links, retweets, etc. "Anything that seem like it would be scalable is probably a bad idea."
  • Link building: Google's policy guidelines pretty much say don't do it. It's basically online PR, building relationships with relevant people in your business so they will talk about you.
  • So how does it all fit together? All these things are things that you would be doing anyway. It's an ongoing process (aside from a few technical things) and can even take place offline.
  • Google traffic is sustaintable and keeps growing. When you get someone through search they are already expressing interest in what you are offering. Plus you don't pay for every single visit like you are with Adwords, etc.
  • Set yourself targets - traffic increases, rank. Set aside a decent amount of time per month to work on SEO. If you start it and don't continue with it, it's just a waste of time.
  • If you only do one thing, start a blog. It's almost impossible to drive traffic through Google without fresh content.
  • Keywords: Something someone has typed into Google (which could be a phrase). Google used to tell you what the keywords were that brought you the traffic, but not any more (unless you are an Adwords customer).
  • The main mistake people make is to get exited about one specific keyword. Do your research. Look at a range of keywords (5-10) in your niche. Look at where you are ranking already. If you're already highly ranked, don't worry about those keywords. And if you're currently nowhere, don't bother.
  • If you're a page or two down it can be worth spending some time on a keyword. Consider plurals and swapping the order of words, as it can affect ranking.
  • Look at how competitive the keyword is; who is number one? Are they your natural competitors? Look at what the results page looks like - now you get maps, images, videos, shopping. Even if you were number one your link could be completely lost. (Although you can now think about how can I get in the images/videos/etc.)
  • Finally, how much traffic will you get? Best way to check traffic is to run an Adwords campaign with a low budget. You'll often find there are only 5-10 keywords in your niche that actually drive decent traffic.
  • Long Tail: Google says 20% of searches every month are completely new to them. A huge number of long tail search queries will drive more traffic than your targeted keywords. Another instance where a blog can be really useful. (When keywords get long enough, Google falls back on just a plain text match rather than intelligently figuring out what it thinks the user meant.)
  • Technical: Semantic markup doesn't matter at all. Use meta keywords and description tags. Use 301 redirects if you need to redirect. Rich snippets can be useful.

~If you prefer a more visual summary, check out Francis Rowland's excellent sketchnotes summary of Rob's SEO talk on Flickr.

3rd September 2014

How To Make The World Better In Three Easy Steps

To close the summer holidays with a bang, Refresh Cambridge presented a triple-header of speakers doing Nice Things on and off the interwebs:

The connects ambitious art with ingenious technology to shed light on low carbon innovation - their co-founder and MD joined us to talk about how they collaborate with local artists and designers;

are a Cambridge-based cloud services provider to the public sector and not-for-profits - their CTO discussed their scalable, open-source and budget-friendly solutions;

And finally, we had a talk on the volunteer-led kids coding initiative, , including how you can get involved.

Drinks for the evening were kindly sponsored by Studio24 and Arcus Global.

18th June 2014

CreativeJS - Getting Artistic With Code

Seb Lee-Delisle is a digital artist and speaker who uses computers to engage with people and inspire them. He creates exciting digital art experiments such as PixelPyros and Lunar Trails.

Venturing into the unknown is scary, but fun things happen when you try new things. Seb discussed how it's rewarding to get out of your comfort zone and blur the boundaries between artist and coder. He talked about his recent experiments with lasers for his digital fireworks display, PixelPyros, and of course, delivered some dangerous live demos.

The evening, at the amazing Centre for Computing History, was extremely well attended - you can watch Seb's talk on YouTube:

Drinks for the evening were kindly sponsored by Studio24 and Arcus Global.

2nd April 2014

The Business of Web Design

Joel Hughes came to talk to Refresh about his experiences freelancing and running a micro web agency. It was a fascinating talk covering lots of interesting topics such as how to get the right clients, how to grow a business and quite a few entertaining mistakes to learn from! There was a lot of good advice and good discussion around business issues in the web design industry.

The night was really well attended and lots of people hung around afterwards to chat. We even had the event covered by Ed Goodman writing for Cambridge Evening News I also wrote a blog post on the night after Joel interviewed me for his upcoming podcast.

Joel is promoting his new conference The Business of Web Design which is on in July in Cardiff. If you freelance, run a web agency, or are thinking about it then check it out!

Drinks for the evening were kindly sponsored by

5th February 2014

Responsive Workflow with Grunt & Collaging app in canvas

We had a great meetup withg Jag Rehal talking about responsive workflow with Grunt and Jake Gordon talking about developing a collaging app with HTML5 for

Jag's talk on Grunt was fascinating and he covered lots of tips on how to use Grunt to help with responsive deisgn. Matthew Pennell has an excellent write-up on his blog, and you can view Jag's talk slides on GitHub.

Jake talked about how his team currently manually build photo collages for the yearbooks people order on He's always wanted to use canvas in HTML5 to let people design their own collages but it's taken a few years for browsers to catch up. He took us through how he recently developed a canvas app to design collages, which looked really impressive. The canvas API makes a lot of this really easy, though Jake pointed out the mathmatics for some of the transformations he applies to the photos took some time to master!

Our next meetup is planned to be Wed 2nd April, see you there!

Free drinks at the start of the evening were kindly sponsored by Studio 24!

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