Last Friday's dConstruct in Brighton was my first ever conference, so I wasn't exactly sure what to expect, other than for it to be great — tickets sold out in something like 7 hours when they went on sale a couple of months ago, and Twitter was full of people bemoaning the fact they were missing it.
It was indeed great. Jeremy Keith got up and gave a brief intro, and then we were underway with Don Norman, whose talk was probably my favourite even though I was still half asleep at the time. He spoke about the change we're going through in how business models work and what users expect from digital products. It was certainly an eye-opener, and set the tone well for the rest of the day.
Bryan and Stephanie Reiger were also excellent, speaking about letting go of the control we instinctively want to impose on our products, being adaptable and flexible to the way users decide they want to use products. Bryan showed a slide of a beautiful, tranquil Zen garden as his example, saying that eventually someone will "put a fucking gnome in it" and that you just have to accept that.
Another highlight for me was Frank Chimero who encouraged the audience to take a different approach to the stuff we like, save, favourite and star on the web so they don't just end up forgotten on a big, orderless pile. That one struck a chord with me. I bookmark stuff all the time, thinking it will be useful later, and then forget about it. Frank says I should go through my unsorted bookmarks, arrange them, filter them, and then I might derive some use from what's there. He's right.
I must admit I'm not sure I exactly followed what Craig Mod was getting at in his story-based talk about the future of books. Even so, he was very entertaining to listen to and seemed to spark some debate (more on that shortly) which must be a good sign.
I'd taken a laptop with me, but once the talks started I decided to turn everything off and just sit back and soak up the event. It was only after reading Jeremy's follow-up post today that I found out there were a few people being quite nasty about some of the talks on Twitter as they were taking place. Those people might be regretting their rash tweets now — it wasn't until the long drive home later that a lot of what I saw and heard really fell into place in my head.
If you went to dConstruct hoping for practical advice on how to improve your web site or app, you'll have gone away disappointed. It just isn't the sort of event where someone will stand up and say "over the next hour and a half I'm going to show you how to do XYZ". There are plenty of events like that and I'm sure I'll enjoy them when I go, but dConstruct is more about getting you thinking and giving you inspiration. On those terms, it succeeds.