Tags: headconference


Sunday, October 26th, 2008


The <head> conference—a title designed to screw up a thousand CMSs—has just wrapped up. It spanned three days and as many continents. It was a preposterously ambitious undertaking and, incredibly, it worked!

While there were some meatspace hubs, the majority of the action took place in cyberspace. That means the carbon footprint of the attendees is considerably less than that amassed by travelling to a “regular” conference. It also means that the logistics involved were an order of magnitude greater. That Aral was able to organise it all is a testament to his dedication, enthusiasm and sheer bloody-mindedness.

Ironically for a virtual conference, the London hub of <head> was one of the best IRL geek gatherings I’ve been to. It was held in the salubrious surroundings of The Magic Circle. While there was no prestidigitation, Aral did manage to conjure up a great day.

I kicked the day off with a short talk called The Long Web. It covered some similar ground as my keynote from Accessibility 2.0—one passage was lifted verbatim—but the emphasis this time was very much on digital preservation and long-term thinking. The audio and video should be available before too long.

After my talk, I had a very pleasant chat with Aral on the sofa on the stage. That was the template for the rest of the day: fifteen minute presentations followed by five minute follow-up questions. I took on the role of interviewer for some of the presenters, which was a real pleasure (I’ve made no secret of my enjoyment of this role).

Not every slot followed the presentation+chat format. Steph and Ann had a slideless chat on the sofa, Smily Raymaker sang a song, and Tim O’Reilly finished off the day with a great informal chat with Aral. In between, there was a whole range of talks covering a wide spread of topics: web security, Flash, digital identity, and tracking energy consumption. Though the mood of the day was always light-hearted and fun, there was an emergent consensus in the content of the talks of big-picture, long-term thinking. There was an echo of Jonathan Harris’s rallying cry for the web community to put away childish things and attempt to tackle the challenges facing our species.

It was a thought-provoking and enjoyable day out in London. And, from what I caught of the rest of the event, the whole conference had a very high standard indeed. Quite an achievement.

Aral, my hat is off to you, my friend; I offer my heartfelt congratulations on a job well done.