So, having been back from Australia for most of a month and having posted about other stuff in the meantime, what would make more sense than writing up some thoughts on the trip? I mean, other than giving an ocelot a bath in a tub full of kippers?
Okay, don’t go there.
For this post, I’ll concentrate on Web Essentials 05 itself. With all due respect and apologies to the other conference organizers in my life, the WE05 attendees were flat-out amazing. I have not encountered a group of conference attendees as enthusiastic and focused in many years. I have hopes that the folks who come to An Event Apart will rival them, but honestly, the bar’s been set pretty high. I might be tempted to say that the lack of wifi access in the conference hall helped them stay focused, but the focus remained during breaks, when wifi was (mostly) available. They were there to learn from the speakers and from each other, and the collective determination to get as much as possible out of the whole experience bordered on fanatic. It was thoroughly awesome.
Just in case you hadn’t heard (ha!), the main-hall presentations were recorded and made available as podcasts. You can go to the WE05 podcasts page and grab whichever ones strike your fancy. Some of the talks have slides you can download, although mine don’t, since most of what I did was intensely visual and hands-on in nature, and I skipped around in my slides quite a bit.
Even if you’re uninterested in 45-minute talks with no visual component, you should totally grab the remixes: WE05 Upbeat Remix and WE05 Deep Remix. They’re about two to three minutes each, with some fun / meaningful audio snippets taken straight out of the talks (different snippets for each remix) and laid over some techno music by Mr. John Allsopp. Cripes, is there anything he can’t do?
Now all we need is for someone to create a music video for the remixes. Who’s up for it? There are a bunch of photos from the conference that could be used, both those tagged WE05 by attendees and the official Web Essentials photo stream And if you need filler material for that grungy-shaky-blurry-throbbing text overlay effect all the kids love, don’t forget about the large number of tagged posts.
Anyway, I was pleased with my presentations, even if they weren’t as deep and meaningful as, well, just about every other international speaker’s. When Doug Bowman managed to invoke the fight against poverty, the future of change, and Malcolm X in the same talk, I really started to feel like a pretty minor spear carrier. (“Yeah, Doug just blew everyone’s mind with the infinite horizon of riches and wonder that our profession can enable. Check out my super-cool use of
At least I didn’t have my Q&A period interrupted by an evacuation alarm.
For me, one of the most personally affecting aspects of the whole conference was talking with Lisa Herrod, who is fluent in Auslan and familiar with ASL. The fact that we both knew at least basic ASL signs came in handy when we ended up at a King’s Cross club with a bunch of other attendees. The music was, of course, so loud that one could hardly hear oneself speak, let alone anyone else. At one point, Lisa looked over at me from a distance of four or five meters and signed “like” with a questioning look, perhaps picking up on my detachment. I indicated mixed feelings, and she signed “OK?” I indicated I was. Reassured, she turned back to what she’d been doing. Very handy, that. Although our ears were effectively useless, we could very clearly converse.
Earlier on, Lisa and I had compared notes on differences between Auslan and ASL, which are substantial, and she told me about the origins of each (Auslan grew out of British signing, whereas ASL owes a large debt to old French signing systems) as well as the fascinating story of Martha’s Vineyard, where everyone in its early history knew a localized sign language due to the original settlers being mostly deaf. It was in talking with Lisa that I came to realize I’ve developed a passion for signing and its history. It’s a gift that Carolyn has given me, simply by entering and changing my life. It isn’t her only gift to me, nor the last. I’m just glad to have seen it for what it is, and thankful to Lisa for helping me see it.
Similarly, I’m thankful to John and Maxine for getting me to WE05 in the first place, and to the WE05 staff and attendees for making it a truly great experience. I hope I’ll get to come back and do some more spear-carrying in the future.