I love the thoughtfulness that Sally put into her personal write-up of dConstruct.
Saturday, September 17th, 2022
Thursday, September 15th, 2022
Wow, what a day. A really diverse selection of talks that went all over the map. From building vast world-changing health systems, to scaling and archiving global online communities, to the beauty and joy of calligraphy. And lasers. I enjoyed the lot, which is rare for me at an event like this.
A rather lovely write-up of the final dConstruct!
Above all it was nice to see the diversity of approaches and reasons for doing ‘design’ / art / whatever. Some of us are solving the hard problems, some of us are thinking philosophically or creating new tools, and some of us are just having fun – and all approaches are valid and useful.
Tuesday, September 13th, 2022
That was dConstruct 2022
dConstruct 2022 happened last Friday, September 9th.
And what an event it was! All eight talks were superb. To have eight speakers and not a single dud is pretty great. To have eight speakers and each one be absolutely brilliant is more than I could’ve hoped for.
Hidde has written a summary of the talks. I loved each and every one. I got to sit there in the front row of the beautiful Duke of York’s cinema and watch these supersmart people blow my mind.
With six of the eight speakers having spoken at previous dConstructs, there was a lot of nostalgia in the air on Friday.
It was the last dConstruct.
A lot of people seemed surprised by this even though I kept saying it was a one-off event. Really, the last dConstruct happened in 2015. This year’s event was a one-time-only anniversary event.
Obviously because the day was so great, people expressed sadness and disappointment that there wouldn’t be another. But like I said, if a band like The Velvet Underground reforms to do one last gig, that’s pretty cool; but if a band like The Velvet Underground reforms to go on endless tours, that’s kind of sad. It’s time to move on. Have one last blow-out and go out in style.
And who knows? Maybe there’ll be some other kind of dConstructy gathering in a different format. Perhaps an evening salon event is more suited to this kind of interdisciplinary mish-mash. But as a one-day conference, dConstruct is now officially over.
To be honest, there was never any doubt that dConstruct 2022 would be an excellent day of talks. I knew that each of the speakers would deliver the goods. I played it somewhat safe with the line-up. Because this was a kind of “best of” event, I could draw upon speakers from previous years who were guaranteed to be mesmerising.
In a weird way, that also highlights the biggest problem with this year’s dConstruct. Even though every individual talk was terrific, when you pull back and look at the line-up in aggregate, you can’t help but notice its lack of diversity.
That’s on me.
I could show you the list of people I tried to get. I could talk you through the spots that fell through. But all I’d be doing is giving you excuses. I could show that my intentions were good, but intentions don’t matter as much as actions. The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and what we ate last Friday was wonderful but also sadly representative of dConstruct’s homogenous history. For that reason alone, it’s time to draw a line under dConstruct.
It was a bittersweet send-off. On the one hand, I got to enjoy a day of brilliant talks. On the other hand, I’m pretty disappointed in myself that the line-up wasn’t more diverse. I can make all the claims I want about valuing diversity, but they’re hollow without meaningful results.
So that’s enough looking to the past. I’m bidding farewell to dConstruct and setting my sights on the future, a future that features more and different voices.
If you came along to dConstruct 2022, thank you! If you enjoyed attending dConstruct just half as much as I enjoyed hosting it …well, then I enjoyed it twice as much as you.
Monday, September 12th, 2022
Marc very kindly took loads of pictures at dConstruct on Friday—lovely!
Sunday, September 11th, 2022
A great write-up from Hidde on dConstruct 2022 and how the speakers tackled the theme of design transformation:
They talked about turning a series of penstrokes into art, lasers into fireworks, human experiences into novels and patient data collection into a minimal effort task.
A lot of our work in web design and technology has a power to transform and that is wonderful, especially when we manage to be intentional about the how and why.
Thursday, September 8th, 2022
One day to dConstruct
Just one more sleep until dConstruct—squee!
Not that I anticipate getting much sleep. My sleepnessness will partly be like that of a child on the night before Christmas. But my sleepnessness will also inevitably be that of an adult neurotically worrying about trifling details.
In reality, everything is all set. Thanks to the stellar Clearleft events team, I don’t need to lose any sleep. But my stupid brain can’t help but run a conveyer belt of potential problems through my mind: what about dongles? Power? Timings? What if there’s an impromptu rail strike? A deluge? Other emergencies you can’t even imagine?
I try to ignore those pestering pointless questions and instead think about the fantastic talks we’re going to get. I’m genuinely excited about each and every speaker. I’m pretty sure that once the day begins, I’ll forget all my worries and bliss out to the mind-expanding presentations.
The day before a conference feels kind of like the build-up to a battle. All the strategic decisions have been made, everything is in place, and now there’s nothing to do but wait.
I’ve communicated (or maybe over-communicated) all the relevant details to the speakers. And one week ago I sent one final email to the attendees with details of the schedule and some suggestions for lunch.
I also included this request:
Could you do me a favour? Would you mind getting a hold of a Covid test sometime in the next week and taking a test a day or two before dConstruct? (And if you test positive, please don’t come to the event.)
If you can’t get hold of a test (I know it can be tricky), then could you please bring a mask to wear when inside the venue?
I think asking everyone to take a test is a reasonable request, and nobody has objected to it. I worry that it’s yet another form of hygiene theatre (like providing anti-bacterial handwash for an airborne virus). After all, the antigen tests are most effective when you’ve already got symptoms. Taking a test when you don’t have symptoms might well give a negative result, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t have Covid. Still, it’s a little intervention that might catch an infection that otherwise would’ve spread further.
I’m assuming that everyone coming to dConstruct is vaccinated. Maybe that’s naive on my part, but I figure if you’re intelligent enough to get a dConstruct ticket, you’re intelligent enough to protect yourself and others. So we won’t be requesting proof of vaccination. I hope my naivety aligns with reality.
See, this is all one more thing for my brain to gnaw on when I should be thinking about what a fantastic day of talks I’ve got ahead of me. Roll on tomorrow!
Tuesday, August 30th, 2022
I have got one update to the line-up to report. Sadly, Léonie Watson isn’t going to be able to make it after all. That’s a shame.
But that means there’s room to squeeze in one more brilliant speaker from the vaults of the dConstruct archive.
Back then he was entertaining us with hardware hacking and programming for fun. That was before he discovered lasers. Now he’s gone laser mad.
Don’t worry though. He’s fully qualified to operate lasers so he’s not going to take anyone’s eye out at dConstruct. Probably.
Wednesday, August 17th, 2022
The schedule for dConstruct 2022
The last ever dConstruct will happen just over three weeks from now, on Friday, September 9th.
That’s right—if you don’t have your ticket for this event, you won’t get another chance. The conference with its eye on the future will become a thing of the past.
dConstruct is going to go out with a bang, a veritable fireworks display of mind bombs. A calligrapher, a writer, a musician, and a nueroscientist will be on the line-up alongside designers and technologists.
Here’s the schedule for the day:
So the first talk starts at 10am and the last talk finishes at 4:30pm—all very civilised. Then we can all go to the pub.
There isn’t an official after-party but we can collectively nominate a nearby watering hole—the Unbarred taproom perhaps, or maybe The Hare And Hounds or The Joker—they’re all within cat-swinging distance of The Duke Of York’s.
Lunch isn’t provided but there are some excellent options nearby (and you’ll have a good hour and a half for the lunch break so there’s no rush).
The aforementioned Joker has superb hot wings from Lost Boys Chicken (I recommed the Rufio sauce if you like ‘em spicy, otherwise Thuddbutt is a good all ‘rounder).
And the famous Bardsley’s fish’n’chips is just ‘round the corner too.
So there’ll be plenty of food for the soul to match the food for your brain that’ll be doled up at dConstruct 2022.
Monday, August 8th, 2022
Matt shares some details on what he’ll be speaking about at dConstruct:
I’m going to talk generally around tools for togetherness which is my new framing for my long-running territory of general curiosity: how can we be together online, what we can do there, what it does to us, what are the design considerations, etc.
Get your ticket if you haven’t already!
I’m one of eight speakers – there’s a robotic artist, a neuroscientist, and a calligrapher. It should be an excellent day.
Tuesday, July 26th, 2022
The line-up for dConstruct 2022 …revealed!
Alright, I’ve kept you in suspense for long enough. It’s time to reveal the magnificent line-up for dConstruct 2022.
I’ll now put names to the teasing list of descriptions I previously provided…
A technologist, product designer, and writer who defies categorisation. They’ve headed up a design studio, co-founded a start-up, and now consult on super-clever machine learning stuff. Their blog is brilliant.
An award-winning author from South Africa whose work has recently been adapted for television. Some of their work is kind of sci-fi, some of it is kind of horror, some of it is kind of magical realism, and all of it is great.
An artist and designer who has created logos and illustrations for NASA, Apple, and Intel as well as custom typefaces for British Airways and Waitrose. A lover of letterforms, they are now one of the world’s highest-profile calligraphers posting their mesmerising work on Instagram.
This is Seb Lester.
A Canadian digital designer who has previously worked in the agency world, at Silicon Valley startups, and even venture capital. But now they’re doing truly meaningful work, designing for busy healthcare workers in low-income countries.
A multi-instrumentalist musician, producer and robotic artist who composes for film, theatre and the concert stage. They play a mean theremin.
An Australian designer and entrepreneur. They work in the cultural heritage sector and they’re an expert on digital archives. Their latest challenge is working out how to make an online photography archive last for 100 years.
A tireless defender of web standards and co-author of the Inclusive Design Principles. They’re a member of the W3C Advisory Board and of the BIMA Inclusive Design Council. Expect some thoughtful takes on the intersection of accessibility and emerging technologies.
This is Léonie Watson.
A professor of neuroscience who is also a bestselling author. They conduct experiments on people’s brains and then talk about it afterwards. Their talks have been known to be mind-altering.
This is Anil Seth.
That’s quite a line-up, isn’t it?
Deducing the full line-up just from those descriptions wasn’t easy, but Hidde de Vries managed it. So Hidde gets a free ticket to dConstruct 2022 …or, at least, he would if it weren’t for the fact that he already has a ticket (because Hidde is smart; be like Hidde). So a friend of Hidde’s is getting a free ticket instead (because Hidde is generous; be like Hidde).
Tuesday, July 19th, 2022
The line-up for dConstruct 2022
The line-up for dConstruct 2022 is complete!
If you haven’t yet got your ticket, it’s not too late.
Now here’s the thing…
When I announced the event back in May, I said:
I’m currently putting the line-up together. I’m not revealing anything just yet, but trust me, you will want to be there.
I still haven’t revealed anything, and I’m kind of tempted to keep it that way. Imagine showing up at an event and not knowing who’s going to be speaking. Is this is the best idea or the worst idea?
I suspect I’m going to have to announce the line-up at some point, but today is not that day. I’m going to string it out a bit longer.
But I am going to describe the line-up. And I’m going to throw in a challenge. The first person to figure out the complete line-up gets a free ticket. Send a tweet to the @dConstruct Twitter account with your deductions.
Ready? Here’s who’s speaking at dConstruct 2022 on Friday, September 9th in The Duke Of Yorks in Brighton…
- A technologist, product designer, and writer who defies categorisation. They’ve headed up a design studio, co-founded a start-up, and now consult on super-clever machine learning stuff. Their blog is brilliant.
- An award-winning author from South Africa whose work has recently been adapted for television. Some of their work is kind of sci-fi, some of it is kind of horror, some of it is kind of magical realism, and all of it is great.
- An artist and designer who has created logos and illustrations for NASA, Apple, and Intel as well as custom typefaces for British Airways and Waitrose. A lover of letterforms, they are now one of the world’s highest-profile calligraphers posting their mesmerising work on Instagram.
- A Canadian digital designer who has previously worked in the agency world, at Silicon Valley startups, and even venture capital. But now they’re doing truly meaningful work, designing for busy healthcare workers in low-income countries.
- A multi-instrumentalist musician, producer and robotic artist who composes for film, theatre and the concert stage. They play a mean theremin.
- An Australian designer and entrepreneur. They work in the cultural heritage sector and they’re an expert on digital archives. Their latest challenge is working out how to make an online photography archive last for 100 years.
- A tireless defender of web standards and co-author of the Inclusive Design Principles. They’re a member of the W3C Advisory Board and of the BIMA Inclusive Design Council. Expect some thoughtful takes on the intersection of accessibility and emerging technologies.
- A professor of neuroscience who is also a bestselling author. They conduct experiments on people’s brains and then talk about it afterwards. Their talks have been known to be mind-altering.
Sounds pretty freaking great, right?
Some further clues…
Many of these people have spoken at dConstruct in the past. After all, this year’s one-off event is going to be a kind of “best of.” So you might want to have a nose around the dConstruct archive.
Also, I’ve mentioned some nationalities like Australian, Canadian, and South African, but my self-imposed carbon footprint policy for this event forbids me from flying anyone in. So that’s a clue too.
The game is afoot! Tweet your deductions to the @dConstruct Twitter account or, even better, write a blog post and tweet the link, mentioning @dConstruct. The first correct answer gets a free ticket.
For everyone else, you can still get a ticket.
Tuesday, June 28th, 2022
I love these notes on my recent talk!
I’m still testing positive although I’m almost certainly near the end of my infection. But I don’t want to take any chances. Much as I hate to miss out on UX London, I would hate passing this on even more. So my isolation continues.
Chris jumped in at the last minute to do the hosting duties—thanks, Chris!
From the buzz I’m seeing on Twitter, it sounds like everything is going just great without me, which is great to see. Still, I’m experiencing plenty of FOMO—even more than the usual levels of FOMO I’d have when there’s a great conference happening that I’m not at.
To be honest, nearly all of my work on UX London was completed before the event. My number one task was putting the line-up together, and I have to say, I think I nailed it.
If I were there to host the event, it would mostly be for selfish reasons. I’d get a real kick out of introducing each one of the superb speakers. I’d probably get very tedious, repeatedly saying “Oh, you’re going to love this next one!” followed by “Wasn’t that great‽”
But UX London isn’t about me. It’s about the inspiring talks and practical workshops.
I wish I were there to experience it in person but I can still bask in the glow of a job well done, hearing how much people are enjoying the event.
Monday, June 27th, 2022
Some thoughts—and kind words—prompted by my recent talk, In And Out Of Style.
Friday, June 24th, 2022
Talking about style
I’ve published a transcription of the talk I gave at CSS Day:
The title is intended to have double meaning. The obvious reference is that CSS is about styling web pages. But the talk also covers some long-term trends looking at ideas that have appear, disappear, and reappear over time. Hence, style as in trends and fashion.
There are some hyperlinks in the transcript but I also published a list of links if you’re interested in diving deeper into some of the topics mentioned in the talk.
There are two videos of this talk. On Vimeo, there’s the version I pre-recorded for An Event Apart online. On YouTube, there’s the recording from CSS Day.
It’s kind of interesting to compare the two (well, interesting to me, anyway). The pre-recorded version feels like a documentary. The live version has more a different vibe and it obviously has more audience interaction. I think my style of delivery suits a live audience best.
Sunday, June 19th, 2022
I’m standing on a huge stage in a giant hangar-like room already filled with at least a thousand people. More are arriving. I’m due to start speaking in a few minutes. But there’s a problem with my laptop. It connects to the external screen, then disconnects, then connects, then disconnects. The technicians are on the stage with me, quickly swapping out adaptors and cables as they try to figure out a fix.
This is a pretty standard stress dream for me. Except this wasn’t a dream. This was happening for real at the giant We Are Developers World Congress in Berlin last week.
In the run-up to the event, the organisers had sent out emails about providing my slide deck ahead of time so it could go on a shared machine. I understand why this makes life easier for the people running the event, but it can be a red flag for speakers. It’s never quite the same as presenting from your own laptop with its familiar layout of the presentation display in Keynote.
Fortunately the organisers also said that I could present from my own laptop if I wanted to so that’s what I opted for.
One week before the talk in Berlin I was in Amsterdam for CSS Day. During a break between talks I was catching up with Michelle. We ended up swapping conference horror stories around technical issues (prompted by some of our fellow speakers having issues with Keynote on the brand new M1 laptops).
Michelle told me about a situation where she was supposed to be presenting from her own laptop, but because of last-minute technical issues, all the talks were being transferred to a single computer via USB sticks.
“But the fonts!” I said. “Yes”, Michelle responded. Even though she had put the fonts on the USB stick, things got muddled in the rush. If you open the Keynote file before installing the fonts, Keynote will perform font substitution and then it’s too late. This is exactly what happened with Michelle’s code examples, messing them up.
“You know”, I said, “I was thinking about having a back-up version of my talks that’s made entirely out of images—export every slide as an image, then make a new deck by importing all those images.”
“I’ve done that”, said Michelle. “But there isn’t a quick way to do it.”
I was still thinking about our conversation when I was on the Eurostar train back to England. I had plenty of time to kill with spotty internet connectivity. And that huge Berlin event was less than a week away.
I opened up the Keynote file of the Berlin presentation. I selected
Then I created a new blank deck ready for the painstaking work that Michelle had warned me about. I figured I’d have to drag in each image individually. The presentation had 89 slides.
But I thought it was worth trying a shortcut first. I selected all of the images in Finder. Then I dragged them over to the far left column in Keynote, the one that shows the thumbnails of all the slides.
Each image was now its own slide. I selected all 89 slides and applied my standard transition: a one second dissolve.
That was pretty much it. I now had a version of my talk that had no fonts whatsoever.
If you’re going to try this, it works best if don’t have too many transitions within slides. Like, let’s say you’ve got three words that you introduce—by clicking—one by one. You could have one slide with all three words, each one with its own build effect. But the other option is to have three slides: each one like the previous slide but with one more word added. If you use that second technique, then the exporting and importing will work smoothly.
Oh, and if you have lots and lots of notes, you’ll have to manually copy them over. My notes tend to be fairly minimal—a few prompts and the occasional time check (notes that say “5 minutes” or “10 minutes” so I can guage how my pacing is going).
Back to that stage in Berlin. The clock is ticking. My laptop is misbehaving.
One of the other speakers who will be on later in the day was hoping to test his laptop too. It’s Håkon. His presentation includes in-browser demos that won’t work on a shared machine. But he doesn’t get a chance to test his laptop just yet—my little emergency has taken precedent.
“Luckily”, I tell him, “I’ve got a backup of my presentation that’s just images to avoid any font issues.” He points out the irony: we spent years battling against the practice of text-as-images on the web and now here we are using that technique once again.
My laptop continues to misbehave. It connects, it disconnects, connects, disconnects. We’re going to have to run the presentation from the house machine. I’m handed a USB stick. I put my images-only version of the talk on there. I’m handed a clicker (I can’t use my own clicker with the house machine). I’m quickly ushered backstage while the MC announces my talk, a few minutes behind schedule.
It works. It feels a little strange not being able to look at my own laptop, but the on-stage monitors have the presentation display including my notes. The unfamiliar clicker feels awkward but hopefully nobody notices. I deliver my talk and it seems to go over well.
I think I’ll be making image-only versions of all my talks from now on. Hopefully I won’t ever need them, but just knowing that the backup is there is reassuring.
Mind you, if you’re the kind of person who likes to fiddle with your slides right up until the moment of presenting, then this technique won’t be very useful for you. But for me, not being able to fiddle with my slides after a certain point is a feature, not a bug.
Saturday, June 18th, 2022
CSS Day 2022
I was in Amsterdam two weeks ago for CSS Day. It was glorious!
I mean, even without the conference it was just so nice to travel somewhere—by direct train, no less!—and spend some time in a beautiful European city enjoying the good weather.
And of course the conference was great too. I’ve been to CSS Day many times. I love it although technically it should be CSS days now—the conference runs for two days.
It’s an event that really treats CSS for what it is—a powerful language worthy of respect. Also, it has bitterballen.
This time I wasn’t just there as an attendee. I also had the pleasure of opening up the show. I gave a talk called In And Out Of Style, a look at the history—and alternative histories—of CSS.
I really, really enjoyed giving this talk. It was so nice to be speaking to a room—or in this case, a church—with real people. I’m done giving talks to my screen. It’s just not the same. Giving this talk made me realise how much I need that feedback from the crowd—the laughs, the nods, maybe even the occasional lightbulb appearing over someone’s head.
As usual, my talk was broad and philosophical in nature. Big-picture pretentious talks are kind of my thing. In this case, I knew that I could safely brush over the details of all the exciting new CSS stuff I mentioned because other talks would be diving deep. And boy, did they ever dive deep!
It’s a cliché to use the adjective “inspiring” to describe a conference, but given all that’s happening in the world of CSS right now, it was almost inevitable that CSS Day would be very inspiring indeed this year. Cascade layers, scoped styles, container queries, custom properties, colour spaces, animation and much much more.
If anything, it was almost too much. If I had one minor quibble with the event it would be that seven talks in a day felt like one talk too many to my poor brain (I think that Marc gets the format just right with Beyond Tellerrand—two days of six talks each). But what a great complaint to have—that there was a glut of great talks!
They’ve already announced the dates for next year’s CSS Day(s): June 8th and 9th, 2023. I strongly suspect that I’ll be there.
Thursday, May 26th, 2022
dConstruct 2022 is happening!
No, really, for real this time.
We had plans to do a one-off dConstruct anniversary event in 2020. It would’ve been five years since the event ran its ten year course from 2005 to 2015.
We all know what happened next. Not only was there no dConstruct in 2020, there were no live events at all. So we postponed the event. 2021 was slightly better than 2020 for live events, but still not safe enough for us.
Now, finally, the fifteenth anniversary edition of dConstruct is happening, um, on the seventeeth anniversary of dConstruct.
It’s all very confusing, I know. But this is the important bit:
dConstruct 2022 is happening on Friday, September 9th in the Duke of York’s picture house in Brighton.
Or, at least some tickets are available now. Quite a lot of eager folks bought tickets when the 2020 event was announced and those tickets are still good for this 2022 event …which is the 2020 event, but postponed by two years.
I’m currently putting the line-up together. I’m not revealing anything just yet, but trust me, you will want to be there.
If you haven’t been to a dConstruct event before, it’s kind of hard to describe. It’s not a practical hands-on conference where you learn design or development skills. It’s brain food. It’s about technology, culutre, design, society, the future …well, like I said, it’s kind of hard to describe. Have a poke around the dConstruct archive and listen to the audio from previous talks to get some idea of what might be in store.