On Thursday night I headed down to Brighton after work for the d.Construct web conference. I’ve been looking forward to it for ages, so I can’t say I wasn’t buzzing a bit. Met up with Dave when I arrived, and also Adam Bardsley who I’d met at the WSG event back in July. We headed down to Heist for the pre-event social type get together and I got to say hello to a few faces I already knew, and also meet some people who I’ve known around and about online, but had yet to meet face-to-face. The nice thing about having been to BarCampLondon the weekend before meant there were plenty of faces I recognised.
Stayed out a bit too late on Thursday, so was a little sleepy first thing on Friday but the amazing weather soon picked me up. Summer hasn’t left Brighton yet, apparently. We (myself, Dave and someone he works with) located a little cafe for breakfast, then made our way over to the Corn Exchange. After receiving lanyards (which also doubled as programs for the day) and goodie bags we went in for tea and coffee and to say hi to the people we knew there and meet even more people. And then the day began for real.
All of the sessions and speakers were interesting and insightful. Each spoke from experience which is more important than anything. The downside to the sessions was possibly the length of time the speakers spoke for – they didn’t leave much room for Q&A sessions, and that is often the most useful part of a presentation.
Even though Flex isn’t my area, I really enjoyed Aral Balkan’s session (and meeting him again) since he is just a little ball of energy and so enthusiastic. I’d not seen much about Flex, but was suitably impressed. Jeff Bar’s presentation about Amazon’s APIs was neat too – the Human Turk, especially.
A highlight of the day for me was definitely the Microformats Picnic. It was a rather short-notice idea Jeremy came up with in the previous week, and only a handful of people had marked themselves down as attending – but the good weather must have prompted more to join, since there were a lot of people listening, including random Brighton passers-by, to Jeremy explaining what Microformats were, how to use them and answering queries! It was slightly surreal with the indian twinkly music in the background though, coming from further down into the park.
Since I wore my Microformats shirt to the event (along with a few others), I got to discuss Microformats with plenty of people who were interested in using them, so it was fun for me. A few people have since emailed me to find out more, or get some advice.
The after-party was fun, although we missed the tab, but not to worry. Everyone was in a good mood, and there was plenty of chat related to the topics we’d seen during the day and generally throwing ideas about – mostly in mine and my friend’s cases, how to incorporate Microformats into various mash-ups!
Decided to stick around on Saturday since the weather was continuing to be lovely. Got in contact with Natalie and met up with the crowd from the night before. Dave and I watched Natalie and Simon have a go at the bungee-trampoline things and then had lunch at “Oh So Social” followed by a wander along the sea-front to watch the “eXtreme” skateboarding, have a dig through some second-hand books, and a trip to the Lego store to drool over the new Mindstorm robots (£180!!).
I ended the day with the group having a BBQ down on Brighton beach, followed by a game of werewolf (I wasn’t a wolf at last, but they still lynched me!). Made it home by 11pm, shattered but very pleased.
The backnetwork really comes into its own now that the event has happened. I’m a bit rubbish at remembering names, so the fact that a majority of people have included their photograph on their profile (and most have managed to include a useful, proper, photo) has made it easy for me to mark those people I’ve met and grab any contact information I need.
I collected the odd business card for mobile numbers, but generally there was no need for them. Good because business cards get lost, and it’s more environmentally friendly (yes, computers aren’t, but we’re running them business cards or not).
Also, I can grab my new friend’s links as as XFNified blog listing, and subscribe to them all in one go.
The other nifty thing is everyone’s profile page collects photos and blog posts that include them. You can see mine here: My backnetwork profile!
I hope they continue to use it for future conferences because it’s a really great resource.
If you have a flick around on the backnetwork, you’ll find all the links to other people blogging about this and photographs, so I don’t need to make you a list! Go forth and explore.