Gaining Knowledge vs. Inspiration : WD06 postscript

At the most recent port80 meet, Myles talked about the lack of cutting edge presentations at WD06 and that while AJAX, APIs and microformats presentations where good, he was already using them on a regular basis and was hoping for something new and exciting.

Which got thinking about what I got from WD06 and was it better to gain knowledge or be inspired about a subject. Easy, inspiration is far more important to me, if I am inspired I usually will go quickly and acquire extra knowledge from where ever I can, even if it means a lot of experimenting on my behalf. Knowledge is good, but being inspired to learn more about a subject is better.

The presentations that inspired me most at WD06, were not on topics I knew and care about, Derek’s workshop on accessibility improved my knowledge, but did not inspire me, unlike his presentation last year. Or even subjects I had limited knowledge and I knew I needed to learn more about, Jeremy’s workshop gave me the confidence to handle DOM scripting and AJAX. The results of Thomas and Donna’s IA presentations, was that I surprised myself with my level of understanding of IA and the knowledge I already had combined with what I learnt gave me the confidence to go to OZIA without the fear of being overwhelmed.

The inspiration came from unlikely sources, topics that I usually only pay lip service to. Kelly’s iterative app presentation really hit home, with a major project I have to manage coming up, everything just made sense, I will be applying what I learnt and chasing up all the links that Kelly gave during her presentation. Andy’s presentation on inspired design just got me thinking, and that is a dangerous thing, expect a serious blog realignment soon and some sort of electronic scrapbook.

As for Myles, Derek’s presentations on accessibility did get him thinking and has sparked his interest in accessibility.

You find inspiration in the most surprising places.

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6 Responses to “Gaining Knowledge vs. Inspiration : WD06 postscript”

  1. Cameron Adams Says:

    At a narrowly focused conference like Web Directions, where are you going to go for something which you know nothing about?

    Nowadays, speakers are unlikely to debut something at a conference which they haven’t already blogged or talked about previously. It’s what they were brought in to do — talk about a specific idea/technology/technique.

    If you’re tapped into that network, it’s not really the presentations you go to a conference for. It’s more about the networking, the community.

    At SXSW the presentations I found the most intriguing were the ones from people I’d never heard of, areas I never worked in. But you can afford to do that at SXSW because speakers speak for free, and the scale is massive. WD has to have some drawcards who are known for what they speak about and will speak predictably about it.

    I think Mark Pesce really worked because most people at the conference would have never heard of him, though he may be big in his particular area. He’s not really a web developer, a web designer, or even a web technologist. But what he says makes those sort of people think.

  2. Myles Eftoss Says:

    Don’t get me wrong, the opportunity to meet up with the big names in industry was the best thing about the conference, as Cameron mentiones in his blog post today, the buzz is about meeting like minded peole who you can talk tech with and who actually understand, or may even have a better understanding of what you are talking about.

    I guess because this was my first conference, I didn’t know what to expect. But I think I’ve gotten the bug now :)

  3. Tuna Says:

    Yes WD06 was inspirational, I’m still buzzing with ideas I have leveraged from various sources at the conference. Was I inspired by the core speakers, yes and no, more often than not they confirmed I was moving in the right direction professionally. Too often I found myself in a session thinking “I do it that way too, just now I have a label for it”. It was the secondary tier of speakers (that I didn’t know of) that gave me the inspirational ideas. This was especially true in OzIA.

    Did I learn anything new, not really, some, nothing major or earthshattering. Like Cameron said its all for the networking, the community etc. The like minds, one week of geeky tech talk, too much information, too much beer and way too many names and faces.

    Now after having been to a few web conferences over the years all organised by different groups. I can safely say WD did have the rigth buzz about it.

    But is WD too focused and too narrow in its scope. Its mainly focused on CSS / standards and accessibily usability. Is this a good thing. Can the momentium be maintained for 2007. Is there a need to inject a good deal of new topics into the mix. Should there be a more interface design sessions or a few coder sessions (besides Javascript)?

  4. Michael McCorry Says:

    I had the same sort of vibe, although my inner monologue after WD06 was kinda like: “Man that was cool. Did I learn much though? No not really, but man, that was COOL. The Ajax bit was entertaining, not really informative though, but meeting Jeremy was COOL. COOOOOL! AGAIN! MORE! Wheeeee!”.

    Then I sobered up.

    Easily, the best bit was talking with other people who knew what they were talking about. Doesn’t happen a lot out where I live. Also, its the inspiration and motivation to get off my bum and finish that side project I’ve been putting off. I can only imagine the coolness that goes on at (and comes out of) SXSW.

  5. nick Says:

    Cameron, you are right it is more about the people than the presentations, I learnt and was inspired as much if not more by the people I met and the discussions I had with them, than the presentations. That is why I will definitely be back for WD07 and are seriously considering SXSWi.

    I did not talk about the people in my post by choice, I wanted to talk about what presentations inspired me and why. It is easier to talk about the presentations (limited number and I knew which ones I attended) than the people, I met so many, learnt from some, was inspired by others and not necessarily remember all their names, plus it would be an extremely long post.

  6. Ben Buchanan Says:

    At both WE05 and WD06 I found the most inspiring presentations were non-technical, or at least less technical.

    I don’t think things necessarily have to be ‘bleeding edge’ or whatever. In this age of rapid prototyping and insanely fast pace, sometimes we forget to go back and do the new stuff *really well*.

    But ultimately it really is about the people – gathering the tribe :)

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