September 02, 2014

Laptops and Looms II: The Return to Cromford

Tent pitched, with a view over the surrounding countryside

Three years on from my favourite conference experience ever and Russell, Greg and Matt arranged a sequel.

It followed the same format as last time, with talks in the morning, activities after lunch, and communal eating/socialising in the evening. All loosely but deftly organised, meaning there was much time to catch up with pretty much everyone and lots of space for thinking and talking in smaller groups. This time our activities included a visit to Crich Tramway Village and the Heights of Abraham

I camped again, although this time stayed at The Miners' Standard campsite, which was cheap and cheerful with a nice locals' pub (with some decent food) at the campsite entrance.

I have mixed feelings about the event. Not because it wasn't a wonderful few days catching up with old friends and making new ones, it was. And not because the discussions and talks weren't interesting and illuminating, they were.

But I've got a tiny nagging feeling of dissatisfaction at it all. I think it's a sense of an opportunity missed.

I had a touch of that after the first Laptops & Looms, as I'd have liked us to dig deeper into Dan Hill's questions on engaging with the dark matter of policy and how technology fits into the wider world.

And given the work many of the attendees have since done at GDS and what we've achieved so far with DoES Liverpool I wondered if we could push things on a level.

That was always going to be a big ask, and I went into the conference fully aware that my expectations were going to be too high for anything to match the first one, never mind exceed.

With that in mind, the fact that I've only mixed feelings now shows how good an event it was. I'm worried that this blog post will come over all negative, when what I'm trying to do is (a) explain my frustration at myself, and (b) invoke some #longconf asynchronous blogging, etc. discussion around some of the themes (that I wanted to discuss at L&L).

In the run-up to the event I did some thinking about what I was interested in discussing. I didn't have a good narrative or thread to tie them all together, although they overlap in different ways, and so I settled on a more general "four things on my mind" title (although that's rather a grand name for it).

On the train on the way over I mind-mapped my thoughts around the topics, expanding on the rough outline I'd done previously. I didn't, still don't, have any firm conclusions to draw, so my intent was to present some themes that I hoped we'd expand upon in some of the ad-hoc conversations over the duration of the event. As a result, I figured that it would be better to present them as a more informal talk rather than something with slides and slick presentation. This is a paper-prototype of my thoughts, hopefully encouraging engagement from others, rather than Things I Have Pondered handed down on tablets of stone Powerpoint slides.

My frustration comes from my imposter syndrome kicking in when we got there on the first day, which meant that I didn't explain that I was ready to go, sans-slides, and made it sound like I needed some more time to pull things together.

As a result of that and general circumstances, I ended up presenting on the final day. Which wasn't an ideal slot for a talk conceived to give us room for further discussion.

When, as is often the case during Laptops and Looms (and something Mosse Sjaastad rightly noted as part of what makes it such a good event), it grew into more of a group discussion I let it run. Not that I had much choice after the first few minutes - my facilitation/interruption skills aren't that finely honed.

So we dug a bit into my first theme - the Californian Ideology. As Matt points out, we ended up re-treading old ground a little, although my intent was to move beyond that onto solutions, better language, and new ground.

With hindsight, if we were only going to cover one of my four topics, then "Digital by default for everything else" would have been a much better choice, but I hadn't expected us not to get to it until it was too late. Sorry about that.

Anyway, my talk's loss is - hopefully - everyone else's gain. I'm aiming to make time to cover each of my four topics - the Californian Ideology (and a search for a European alternative?); digital by default for everything else; cities; and scaling - in separate blog posts.

I disagree with Matt (in the linked post above) that Medium is the place to thrash that out, because I think we can iterate through it more quickly over a pint. But maybe blog posts (Medium feels like the place we'd whinge about the toxic startup culture, whereas blog posts are for teasing out solutions ;-) will help set some background an let us do some initial thinking on the topic. Then maybe we can pick a place/time for a mini-laptop and looms session (is that tablets and looms?)

My writings around Laptops and Looms II

I'll update this post as and when I get my thoughts collected and written down, and will link to the four blog posts of the apocalypse then too...

Reports from others

Posted by Adrian at September 2, 2014 02:38 PM | TrackBack

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