As the dust has settled on my first dConstruct, it’s time for reflection (although the combination of that and BarCamp have left me tired, hungover and with a brain pulsating with ideas). It was my first conference in years and I’m hooked.
I admit, I had preconceptions; maybe I didn’t realise how many. I think it’s all too easy as a developer to get your head down and do what you do but it’s worth coming up for air. The first thing that struck me was that I’m a fairly recent user of Twitter (@hereinthehive) and yet through this I found a few people to hook up with for a pint, which is a pretty decent start. It also solved problem #1; I don’t know anyone.
There were all kinds of people there, not just developers. The talks communicated ideas, not examples of code (Tantek’s needed it though). The pre-pre-party burgers at GBK gave acquaintances a chance to hook up and new faces (like my own) a chance to test the waters and make ourselves known. What are the chances of standing in the cue next to a guy you talk with on Twitter? Kind of a strange feeling knowing that by exchanging Twitter handles. It’s times like these I revert back to thoughts about identity on the social web…more another time, I think ;)
I’ll skim specific reviews because other people were far more comprehensive though I might be tempted when there’s more time. Essentially we had a varied representation of what the socialisation of the web represents, from UI and copy concerns to mark-up, location and real-world implications as well as social psychology and the link between games and the web.
I think not knowing much about Aleks Krotoski made her talk all the more enthralling. I liked the different, more enthusiastic presentation style and the angle she has on social psychology, games and virtual worlds, so hers was an unexpected highlight. I read bokardo.com and ‘Designing for the social web‘ so I knew Josh Porter would be worth a listen and it’s good that he expanded upon the themes I was used to and still had more to say, which most importantly was relevant. Steven Johnson I think caught everyone off guard at first by starting in a historical context through using outbreaks of cholera and how they were subsequently stopped through hyper-local social network, which led to the product he’s working on called Outside.In; which I’ll reserve judgement on until I get to try it out for myself. Certainly the premise is pretty amazing.
Daniel Burka was someone I had heard of for a while through his involvement in Digg and Pownce so it was cool to get a sense of what his involvement was and through using examples from those bring a UX/UI view on social development. Tantek banged the microformats drum, which was great; I’ve used these before in minor ways but I think it takes someone with such innate understanding of the bigger picture of their purpose to really crystallise it and maybe encourage you to look a little deeper.
Matt & Matt were great, their double at worked a treat with the audience and served to not only engulf you with their enthusiasm but the design and technological strands of Dopplr‘s development. The sofa on stage and great slides which were funny, informative and engaging worked well and you got a sense of watching some mates gush about something they’ve done their really proud of ;) More than that, they showed how start-ups can embrace a fragmented web full of data and make a cohesive, enjoyable service.
Last up Jeremy Keith gave an odd one. When there’s someone you’ve read (through books and blogs) and have a sense of where they’re at, it’s great to have that challenged. Beginning with a more wide-scale, science-fiction laced scene and drawing together themes, which serve to illustrate what is meant by ‘social’ within the ‘social web’, it was certainly a journey. I also felt like this was a more personal and crafted idea of what a talk/presentation/session could be, which was a grea ingredient, although I’m sure the audience will be divided in whether they took much away from it.
The pre and post conference parties were great, mostly because of the ability to have a few (free) beers and to mix and have access to the speakers and organisers from clear:left. So maybe my preconception that because these guys (and others) were well known and well read within the industry that there would be some kind of rock-star style ego or likewise some awed silence around them was proven to be completely false. I hoped it would be! Having conversations with Richard Rutter about wireframing/prototyping and developing social systems with reputation systems or Tantek (briefly) about microformat thoughts, or even just thanking Jeremy Keith for giving you food for thought by the bar is one side to the value of events like this. The life and culture surrounding dConstruct (certainly on this, my first) has shown me what I’ve been missing out on. It’s not just hearing people talk about subjects related to your job; it’s embracing the wider community and taking part.
Sign me up for next year.