Benjamin’s retrospective on three years of volunteering at web conferences, some of them run by Clearleft.
Thursday, October 6th, 2016
Wednesday, September 16th, 2015
Just like Nick, John Willshire has put his slides together with the audio from his gobsmackingly good dConstruct presentation on metadesign.
Tuesday, September 15th, 2015
Nick Foster has put the audio of his fantastic dConstruct talk together with his slides.
It’s a terrific, thought-provoking presentation, superbly delivered …and it even has some relevance to progressive enhancement! (you’ll know what I mean if you watch/listen to the whole thing)
Monday, September 14th, 2015
John expands on just one part of his superbly dense and entertaining dConstruct talk.
Thursday, September 10th, 2015
Brighton in September
I know I say this every year, but this month—and this week in particular—is a truly wonderful time to be in Brighton. I am, of course, talking about The Brighton Digital Festival.
It’s already underway. Reasons To Be Creative just wrapped up. I managed to make it over to a few talks—Stacey Mulcahey, Jon, Evan Roth. The activities for the Codebar Code and Chips scavenger hunt are also underway. Tuesday evening’s event was a lot of fun; at the end of the night, everyone wanted to keep on coding.
I popped along to the opening of Georgina’s Familiars exhibition. It’s really good. There’s an accompanying event on Saturday evening called Unfamiliar Matter which looks like it’ll be great. That’s the same night as the Miniclick party though.
I guess clashing events are unavoidable. Like tonight. As well as the Guardians Of The Galaxy screening hosted by Chris (that I’ll be going to), there’s an Async special dedicated to building a 3D Lunar Lander.
But of course the big event is dConstruct tomorrow. I’m really excited about it. Partly that’s because I’m not the one organising it—it’s all down to Andy and Kate—but also because the theme and the line-up is right up my alley.
Andy has asked me to compere the event. I feel a little weird about that seeing as it’s his baby, but I’m also honoured. And, you know, after talking to most of the speakers for the podcast—which I enjoyed immensely—I feel like I can give an informed introduction for each talk.
I’m looking forward to this near future event.
See you there.
Tuesday, September 1st, 2015
dConstruct 2015 podcast: Nick Foster
dConstruct 2015 is just ten days away. Time to draw the pre-conference podcast to a close and prepare for the main event. And yes, all the talks will be recorded and released in podcast form—just as with the previous ten dConstructs.
The honour of the final teaser falls to Nick Foster. We had a lovely chat about product design, design fiction, Google, Nokia, Silicon Valley and Derbyshire.
I hope you’ve enjoyed listening to these eight episodes. I had certainly had a blast recording them. They’ve really whetted my appetite for dConstruct 2015—I think it’s going to be a magnificent day.
With the days until the main event about to tick over into single digits, this is your last chance to grab a ticket if you haven’t already got one. And remember, as a loyal podcast listener, you can use the discount code ‘ansible’ to get 10% off.
See you in the future …next Friday!
Tuesday, August 25th, 2015
dConstruct 2015 podcast: Brian David Johnson
The newest dConstruct podcast episode features the indefatigable and effervescent Brian David Johnson. Together we pick apart the futures we are collectively making, probe the algorithmic structures of science fiction narratives, and pay homage to Asimovian robotic legal codes.
Brian’s enthusiasm is infectious. I have a strong hunch that his dConstruct talk will be both thought-provoking and inspiring.
dConstruct 2015 is getting close now. Our future approaches. Interviewing the speakers ahead of time has only increased my excitement and anticipation. I think this is going to be a truly unmissable event. So, uh, don’t miss it.
Grab your ticket today and use the code ‘ansible’ to take advantage of the 10% discount for podcast listeners.
Building the dConstruct 2015 site
I remember when I first saw Paddy’s illustration for this year’s dConstruct site, I thought “Well, that’s a design direction, but there’s no way that Graham will be able to implement all of it.” There was a tight deadline for getting the site out, and let’s face it, there was so much going on in the design that we’d just have to prioritise.
I underestimated Graham’s sheer bloody-mindedness.
I love that. Even with the focus on the gorgeous illustration and futuristic atmosphere of the design, Graham took the time to think about the absolute basics: marking up the content in a logical structured way. Everything after that—the imagery, the fonts, the skewed style—all of it was built on a solid foundation.
There’s plenty of CSS trickery going on:
opacity. But for the icing on the cake, Graham reached for
canvas and programmed space elevator traffic with randomly seeded velocity and size.
Oh, and of course it’s all responsive.
So, putting that all together…
The dConstruct 2015 site is gorgeous, semantic, responsive, and performant. Conventional wisdom dictates that you have to choose, but this little site—built on a really tight schedule—shows otherwise.
Thursday, August 20th, 2015
dConstruct 2015 podcast: Carla Diana
The dConstruct podcast episodes are coming thick and fast. The latest episode is a thoroughly enjoyable natter I had with the brilliant Carla Diana.
We talk about robots, smart objects, prototyping, 3D printing, and the world of teaching design.
And don’t forget to use the discount code ‘ansible’ when you’re buying your dConstruct ticket …because you are coming to dConstruct, right?
Monday, August 17th, 2015
dConstruct 2015 podcast: John Willshire
The latest dConstruct 2015 podcast episode is ready for your aural pleasure. This one’s a bit different. John Willshire came down to Brighton so that we could have our podcast chat face-to-face instead of over Skype.
It was fascinating to see the preparation that John is putting into his talk. He had labelled cards strewn across the table, each one containing a strand that he wants to try to weave into his talk. They also made for great conversation starters. That’s how we ended up talking about Interstellar and Man Of Steel, and the differing parenting styles contained therein. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to rid myself of the mental image of a giant holographic head of Michael Caine dispensing words of wisdom to in the Fortress Of Solitude. “Rage, rage against the dying of the light, Kal-el!”
The sound quality of this episode is more “atmospheric”, given the recording conditions (you can hear Clearlefties and seagulls in the background) but a splendid time was had by both John and myself. I hope that you enjoy listening to it.
I have a feeling that after listening to this, you’re definitely going to want to see John’s dConstruct talk, so grab yourself a ticket, using the discount code ‘ansible’ to get 10% off.
Thursday, August 13th, 2015
dConstruct 2015 podcast: Chriss Noessel
I enjoyed myself immensely geeking out with Chris about the technology presented in sci-fi films like Logan’s Run, Iron Man, X-Men, Metropolis, Under The Skin, and of course, Star Wars. I shared my crazy theory about Star Wars with Chris and he was very gracious in humouring me.
Oh, at the end of the episode, we reveal the special event that’s happening the evening before dConstruct:
The night before the conference, Chris Noessel, one of our fab speakers, will be hosting a very special screening of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’.
Don’t miss it. And don’t miss dConstruct. Remember, as a podcast listener, you get 10% off the ticket price with the discount code “ansible.”
Monday, August 10th, 2015
dConstruct 2015 podcast: Ingrid Burrington
The dConstruct podcast episodes are coming thick and fast. Hot on the heels of the inaugural episode with Matt Novak and the sophomore episode with Josh Clark comes the third in the series: the one with Ingrid Burrington.
This was a fun meeting of minds. We geeked out about the physical infrastructure of the internet and time-travel narratives, from The Terminator to The Peripheral. During the episode, I sounded the spoiler warning in case you haven’t read that book, but we didn’t actually end up giving anything away.
I really enjoyed this chat with Ingrid. I hope you’ll enjoy listening to it.
Oh, and now you can subscribe to the dConstruct 2015 podcast directly from iTunes.
And remember, as a podcast listener, you get 10% off the ticket price for dConstruct using the discount code “ansible.”
Friday, August 7th, 2015
You can now subscribe to my dConstruct 2015 podcast directly in iTunes so you can have my natterings with the lovely speakers delivered straight to your ocular orifices.
Thursday, August 6th, 2015
dConstruct 2015 podcast: Josh Clark
On Monday, I launched a new little experiment—a podcast series of interviews with the lovely people who will be speaking at this year’s dConstruct. I’m very much looking forward to the event (it presses all my future-geekery buttons) and talking to the speakers ahead of time is just getting me even more excited.
If you want to have this and future episodes delivered straight to your earholes, subscribe to the podcast feed.
And don’t forget: as a loyal podcast listener, you get 10% off the ticket price of dConstruct. Use the discount code “ansible”. You’re welcome.
Monday, August 3rd, 2015
Podcasting the future
I’m very proud of the three dConstructs I put together: 2012, 2013, and 2014, but I don’t have the fortitude to do it indefinitely so I’m stepping back from the organisational duties this year. So dConstruct 2015 is in Andy’s hands.
Of course he’s only gone and organised exactly the kind of conference that I’d feed my own grandmother to the ravenous bugblatter beast of Traal to attend. I mean, the theme is Designing The Future, for crying out loud!
To say I’m looking forward to hearing what all those great speakers have to say is something of an understatement. In fact, I couldn’t wait until September. I’ve started pestering them already.
On the off-chance that other people might be interesting in hearing me prod, cajole, and generally geek out about technology, sci-fi, and futurism, I’m taking the liberty of recording our conversations.
That’s right: there’s a podcast.
The episodes will be about half an hour so in length, sometimes longer, sometimes shorter. There’s no set format or agenda. It’s all very free-form, which is a polite way of saying that I’m completely winging it.
The first episode features the magnificent Matt Novak, curator of the Paleofuture blog. We talk about past visions of the future, the boom and bust cycles of utopias and dystopias, the Jetsons, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the Apollo programme.
If you like what you hear, you can subscribe to the podcast feed.
Needless to say, you should come to this year’s dConstruct on September 11th here in Brighton. As compensation for listening to my experiments in podcasting, I’m going to sweeten the deal. Use the discount code “ansible” to get 10% off the ticket price. Aw, yeah!
Monday, July 27th, 2015
Maciej has published the transcript of his magnificent (and hilarious) talk from dConstruct 2013.
Thursday, June 25th, 2015
100 words 095
I’m not organising dConstruct this year—Andy is—but it’s still an exciting day for everyone when the website launches; we’ve got something of a tradition of having some fun with it.
This year Andy commissioned Paddy Donnelly to come up with a design direction, partly because we were slammed with client work, but mostly because he’s really talented. Graham then took that design and executed it beautifully.
Gorgeous. Responsive. Performant. These qualities don’t need to be mutually exclusive.
There’s room for improvement and there’s plenty more to be done, but I’m still blown away by the dConstruct 2015 site.
Sunday, April 12th, 2015
Writers and artists have long been fascinated by the idea of an English eerie – ‘the skull beneath the skin of the countryside’. But for a new generation this has nothing to do with hokey supernaturalism – it’s a cultural and political response to contemporary crises and fears
I liked it a lot. One of the reasons I liked it was not just for the text of the writing, but the hypertext of the writing. Throughout the piece there are links off to other articles, books, and blogs. For me, this enriches the piece and it set me off down some rabbit holes of hyperlinks with fascinating follow-ups waiting at the other end.
Back in 2010, Scott Rosenberg wrote a series of three articles over the course of two months called In Defense of Hyperlinks:
They’re all well worth reading. The whole thing was kicked off with a well-rounded debunking of Nicholas Carr’s claim that hyperlinks harm text. Instead, Rosenberg finds that hyperlinks within a text embiggen the writing …providing they’re done well:
I see links as primarily additive and creative. Even if it took me a little longer to read the text-with-links, even if I had to work a bit harder to get through it, I’d come out the other side with more meat and more juice.
Links, you see, do so much more than just whisk us from one Web page to another. They are not just textual tunnel-hops or narrative chutes-and-ladders. Links, properly used, don’t just pile one “And now this!” upon another. They tell us, “This relates to this, which relates to that.”
The difference between a piece of writing being part of the web and a piece of writing being merely on the web is something I talked about a few years back in a presentation called Paranormal Interactivity at ‘round about the 15 minute mark:
Imagine if you were to take away all the regular text and only left the hyperlinks on Wikipedia, you could still get the gist, right? Every single link there is like a wormhole to another part of this “choose your own adventure” game that we’re playing every day on the web. I love that. I love the way that Wikipedia uses links.
That ability of the humble hyperlink to join concepts together lies at the heart of Tim Berners Lee’s World Wide Web …and Ted Nelson’s Project Xanudu, and Douglas Engelbart’s Dynamic Knowledge Environments, and Vannevar Bush’s idea of the Memex. All of those previous visions of a hyperlinked world were—in many ways—superior to the web. But the web shipped. It shipped with brittle, one-way linking, but it shipped. And now today anyone can create a connection between two ideas by linking to resources that represent those ideas. All you need is an HTML document that contains some
A elements with
href attributes, and a URL to act as that document’s address.
Like the one you’re accessing now.
Inventing the next twenty years, strategic foresight, fictional futurism and English rural magic: Warren Ellis attempts to convince you that they are all pretty much the same thing, and why it was very important that some people used to stalk around village hedgerows at night wearing iron goggles.
There is definitely the same feeling of “the eeriness of the English countryside” in Warren’s talk. If you haven’t listened to it yet, set aside some time. It is enticing and disquieting in equal measure …like many of the works linked to from the piece on the Guardian.
There’s another link I’d like to make, and it happens to be to another dConstruct speaker.
From that Guardian piece:
Yet state surveillance is no longer testified to in the landscape by giant edifices. Instead it is mostly carried out in by software programs running on computers housed in ordinary-looking government buildings, its sources and effects – like all eerie phenomena – glimpsed but never confronted.
I love being able to do this. I love being able to add strands to this world-wide web of ours. Not only can I say “this idea reminds me of another idea”, but I can point to both ideas. It’s up to you whether you follow those links.
Wednesday, January 7th, 2015
Events in 2015
Quite a significant chunk of my time last year was spent organising dConstruct 2014. The final result was worth it, but it really took it out of me. It got kind of stressful there for a while: ticket sales weren’t going as well as previous years, so I had to dip my toes into the world of… (shudder) marketing.
That was my third year organising dConstruct, and I’m immensely proud of all three events. dConstruct 2012—also known as “the one with James Burke”—remains a highlight of my life. But—especially after the particularly draining 2014 event—I’m going to pass on organising it this year.
To be honest, I think that dConstruct 2014, the tenth one, could stand as a perfectly fine final event. It’s not like it needs to run forever, right?
Andy has been pondering this very question, but he’s up for giving dConstruct at least one more go in 2015:
As we prepare for our tenth anniversary, we’ve also been asking whether it should be our last—at least for a while. The jury is still out, and we probably won’t make any decisions till after the event.
Y’know, it could turn out that dConstruct in 2015 might reinvigorate my energy, but for now, I’m just too burned out to contemplate taking it on myself. Anyway, I know that the other Clearlefties are more than capable of putting together a fantastic event.
But dConstruct wasn’t the only event I organised last year. 2014’s Responsive Day Out was a wonderful event, and much less stressful to organise. That’s mostly because it’s a very different beast to dConstruct; much looser, smaller, and easy-going, with fewer expectations. That makes for a fun day out all ‘round.
I wasn’t even sure if there was going to be a second Responsive Day Out, but I’m really glad we did it. In fact, I think there’s room for one last go.
I’ve already started putting a line-up together (and I’m squeeing with excitement about it already!), and this will definitely be the last Responsive Day Out, but keep your calendar clear on Friday, June 19th for…