YDN UK at dConstruct

dConstruct, for those of you that are unfamiliar with the name, is a one day web development conference held in Brighton at the Brighton Dome. This year the flavor of the talks was "Designing the social web", a very apt topic of conversation on the web right now.

The day kicked off to a dismal start, in the true spirit of British summer, we were graced with cold, heavy rain and grey skies, a good reason to get inside and register. Inside the fantastic venue, we were warmly greeted by various members from the Clearleft team (who just so happened to have organised the event). The stalls area was inviting with the presence of the Yahoo! Developer Network, BBC Backstage, Clearleft, O'Reilly, Silverback and Wired Sussex. Groups formed around many of the big names in the web development arena including Andy Budd, Jeremy Keith, our own Christian Heilman, Ryan Carson, Peter-Paul Koch (PPK), Tantek Çelik, to name but a few. The shear attendance of these reputable industry figures confirmed that it was going to be a worthy conference.

The kick off talk from Steven Johnson on "The Urban Web" really set the tone of the conference through his captivating presentation on how the social web virtually eradicated Cholera in the mid 19th century. We found that an early information architecture diagram highlighted a link between drinking water outlets and Cholera deaths. This linked with a prolific character in a Cholera plagued region of London who was aware of this powerful link, managed to spread the word, raising awareness of the issue and consequently largely wiping out Cholera in London. This was our introduction to the significance of the social web albeit in a primitive form.

Prior to lunch, it was time for fun, fun at the expense of us, human beings. Joshua Porter and his mouthful of a talk "Leveraging Cognitive Bias in Social Design", was a refreshing insight into how humans by their very nature are supposedly irrational, and in fact we base decisions on biases. An experiment captured on film clearly illustrated how we will imitate actions/ gestures when a group acts in union.

Tantek Çelik wanted to talk to us about "Social Network Portability" which was a fantastic insight into the power of Microformats and their power on the social web. Matt Biddulph & Matt Jones shared their thoughts on "Designing for the Coral Reef", an informative look at building transparent websites, referring to their model of Dopplr, and how they have tried to allow multiple entry and exit points to their services, breaking the traditional web based application pattern.

Jeremy Keith finished the conference off with a learned and awe-inspiring talk on "The System of the World". To describe Jeremy's talk would be a feat in itself; a composition of exquisite words, quotes and imagery baffled and amazed the audience. Things don't happen by co-incidence we were told. People, animals, protons and atoms all converge, connect, separate one another to create an intrinsic array of 'communities'. The analogies covered were a great insight to the understanding of the formation of popular websites, and what would constitute a failing yet perfectly executed website.

The Yahoo! Developer Network and BBC Backstage sponsored the dConstruct after party, held at Above Audio, where a huge number of conference guests descended to feast on food provided by BBC Backstage and refuel with drinks provided by Yahoo! Developer Network. It seemed the theme for the evening was sport a smile, and network. Above Audio is a cosy venue that encouraged introduction to strangers or approaching people recognised through the web domain. Come 11pm, it was clear the conference and after party had been a complete success, despite the poor weather, as hitches had not surfaced, no complaints had been received and consensus in global discussion (and twitter) had been overwhelmingly positive. Bring on the next dConstruct.

James Broad
Developer, Yahoo! London