Fables of the dConstruction

What a weekend! d.Construct 2006 is over. It’s hard to believe after all the weeks and months spent preparing for a single day.

The night before the conference was spent wining and dining the speakers at one of my favourite restaurants. It’s a tough job but someone’s got to do it. I still had time to pop in for a quick drink at Heist. It seemed like everyone was having a good time, which was gratifying to see.

On the morning of the conference itself, I went along to the Corn Exchange early with Jessica; she kindly volunteered to help out on the day. We both pitched in with bag-filling duties. By the end, I was convinced of the merits of having a schwag-free conference next time.

Still, it seemed like people enjoyed their goody bags. The Yahoo! Answers water was probably the most practical thing in there.

The talks themselves went well, with very few technical hiccups. Nonetheless, I found it hard to completely relax and enjoy the presentations because I was so concerned about everyone else enjoying themselves.

It’s interesting reading blog posts about the different presentations. The reactions are quite varied. One person’s high point is another person’s low point. Mind you, I think just about everyone was in agreement that Jeffrey Veen was, as always, wonderful.

A few people felt that Jeff Barr’s talk was a bit corporate for a grass-roots event like d.Construct. I can see their point. It’s his job to travel the world giving what are basically product demos. The redeeming factor is that he has some great products to demo.

Something else that detracted from the grass-rootsiness was the paucity of Q and A. Apart from my talk and Simon and Paul’s, none of the other speakers had time to take questions, which is a shame. Without the audience interaction through asking questions, presentations can feel quite one-sided and lecture-like. That’s just my opinion, of course, but it seems to be one shared by everyone I talked to.

All the speakers said that they would have loved to have taken questions. Well, here’s a hot tip: learn how to measure time. 45 minutes is a nice compact timeframe to fit in a good presentation and still have time to take questions (half an hour can feel rushed and an hour often drags). Not allowing time for questions feels like a bit of a wasted opportunity. Going over the allotted time is downright discourteous.

I’m probably being over-critical. Nothing ever goes quite like clockwork and for the most part, the d.Construct schedule went very smoothly. This was probably helped by Richard’s affable and admirable role as compère.

The WiFi was a bit flaky in the morning but that was all fixed by the afternoon. As Suw pointed out, there was a distinct lack of power outlets in the main auditorium. There were quite a few out back though.

The after-party at The Terraces was great fun. Needless to say, the free booze ran out pretty quickly. I never even got the chance to play crazy golf. But I still had a great time. It’s always great to catch up with old friends and meet new people in a geek-saturated crowd. There’s something quite tribal about a gang of Web geeks gathered in a bar.

I ended up back at Blanch House, drinking cocktails ‘till three in the morning and unwinding with some fellow delegates.

Saturday was spent lounging, relaxing, and generally taking it easy. I got up far too late to attend the OpenStreetMap workshop, which is a pity. I ended up wandering the seafront and going to the Lego shop with an ever-changing amorphous crowd of friends in tow.

By evening time, this friend-cloud coalesced into a big barbecue on the beach. When the grilling was done and the drinks were flowing, by the light of the setting sun and the rising moon, we formed a circle and played Werewolf.

Nothing can top Werewolf on the beach so we didn’t even try. Some people came back to my place for more liquid refreshment and a spot of Quake before drifting off to their separate corners of the physical world.

I was sad to see everyone go, but it was great to have them all gathered here in Brighton for the weekend.

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