2013 dConstruct review

Today was killer.

As I hit send on the weekly newsletter at 1:30am I was regretting the time I spent and amount of beer I consumed at the Moo Summer Party. Actually it wasn’t so much regretting as pondering if it was the wisest way to spend my Thursday evening.

As my head hit the pillow it seemed to bounce back up with the sound of my alarm waking me at 06:15. Today I’ve taken the day off so why on Earth is this thing vibrating and screeching an annoying tune?!?!

Well, today I’ve taken leave from work to head down from London to Brighton to attend the dConstruct Conference.

dConstruct is a bizarre conference. This year it featured some amazing speakers, but not talking about the things that they are more commonly well known for but instead about something completely different. The talks aren’t focused around specific technology or approaches to current web trends, but instead they’re a step back from the technical application of things and more around the general theory of approaching the web.

Three years ago I attended the same conference for the first time. We planned a weekend retreat in Brighton because I had never been before and Laura came down to meet me after work on Friday at the pub to hear about what I’d learned. When she asked me what it was like I think my words were “Yeah it was alright, but it was pretty shit” as I wandered off to get us some drinks.

Okay, so you might be wondering why I’ve returned to a conference I thought was rubbish, but there’s more.

On my return to the table with a few refreshing pints Laura asked if I learned anything at all from the day. I started that answer with “Yeah, I kinda liked…” and then finished that thought about an hour later. Laura had finished her Cider while I’d only got through 1/2 of mine because I didn’t really shut up the whole time and it turned out that I did actually enjoy the conference and learned a tonne.

In my opinion that’s the beauty of dConstruct. It’s a slow burner. You leave the conference with an invigorated sense of wonder and excitement to do more in the industry, your job, your project. I think that is one of the most valuable and the most difficult things to deliver in a conference.


I’m going to break up my highlights into two sections. The first are the talks themselves, while the second is the social aspect of conferences.

The Talks

While it had more to do with my state of cloudy hangover mind than the talks themselves, I enjoyed the talks more as the day went on.

Some of the highlights included

  • Ambers story of the first cyborgs and approaching Calm Techology
  • LukeW’s review of the sheer number of inputs we need to deal with today (and his smooth handling of a crashing keynote)
  • Nicole Sullivans talk around Trolls and not something CSS related (and nailed the shit out of the talk regardless)
  • Simone’s unintentional near reference to Talkie Toaster (“you’re friendly breakfast companion… anyone want any toast?”)
  • Sarah’s amazing musical performance (that somehow outshone her brilliant talk… I also loved the 1984 shot of the crazy space walk and learning about the Castrati) – see the video below.
  • Keren’s interesting insight into internet security
  • Hearing from Maciej Ceglowski (the guy that created PinBoard). He’s amazing. I can’t say much more. AMAZING.
  • Dan Willams. I’m going to say it. Talk. Of. The. Day. The entire talk was really really good and even better when I found out later that it was the first time he ever delivered it.

The Social

So on top of those amazing talks is the after party and in between chats.

The best thing of all was that I got to meet Aaron Gustafson and Brad Frost in person. How jealous are you right now?

Both of them have done a tonne of amazing stuff on the web, most recently around responsive design but they’ve also contributed above and beyond (and before) that too. Both of them are also super genuine guys who are very down to Earth, and while they already do so much for the web they have helped me out with requests whenever I ask them.

I was also fortunate enough to meet Kelly (Aarons wife), Anna Debenham and Nicole Sullivan — all brilliant folk who are as smart as they are awesome and that just made the day even better.

The conference in the same as it was the last time. Not a single piece of code was discussed, yet you’re left at the end of the day inspired to do better and strive for more in our industry.

That’s a pretty good take away from any conference.