Report: dConstruct 2011

Software developer Brian Suda reports from Friday's dConstruct conference in Brighton

This year dConstruct was all about storytelling and games

This year dConstruct was all about storytelling and games

This was the seventh year running for the dConstruct conference in Brighton, England, presented by Clearleft. It’s a series of workshops leading up to a curated one-day, one-track conference of internationally renowned speakers at an affordable price. This year's conference didn’t disappoint – with speakers such as Donald Norman, Frank Chimero, Kelly Goto and Craig Mod it was hard not to be inspired.

The theme focused largely on storytelling and games. If you were looking for low-down, nitty gritty stuff, you weren't in the right place, as there wasn't much to be found. Instead, the speakers focused on the bigger picture and asked the hard questions.

Hot topics

Kevin Slavin's talk, entitled 'Reality is Plenty', was a direct kick-back to the over-hyped world of augmented reality. What makes a game isn't fancy graphics, it's all about game play. The quintessential example is the Tamagotchi, which moved over 76 million units despite being a tiny grey pixel screen, while larger game companies tried feverishly to push out games with more polygons and higher frame rates. With experience and examples from his company areacode, Kevin convinced us that there is an incredible amount of beauty and wonder in our lives even without adding more layers.

Frank Chimero's focus was different. He worries about how we live and archive our digital lives. It isn't just enough to collect links, pictures, favourites and other digital artifacts – we need to curate them. We need to take a second pass, as he suggests, so we can cluster and improve our knowledge of what's ear-marked. Most people never review their old bookmarks and re-tag or re-organise them. Without doing this, we just have a pile of stuff that isn't very useful.

Frank didn't have the solution, but he did have a few suggestions. One being, from Richard Saul Wurman, the concept of LATCH (Location, Alphabetical, Time, Category, Hierarchy). Rather than experience our data from blogs, RSS and Twitter, there are other ways it could be organised and presented. He discussed how all our collected content has been compressed so we are unable to really compare the oldest links with the newest. In a CMS they all have equal weight and look the same. Much the same way the stars in the night's sky vary in size, they each appear an equal dot to the naked eye. The key comes when we can organise the stars, or in our case digital artifacts, into constellations of some meaningful representation.

New faces

Along with well-established presenters, we were treated to several new faces. Dan Hon, Matthew Sheret and Kars Alfrink all gave us great presentations to discuss and ponder.

Matt wishes to bring the digital world into our pockets as physical artifacts. Much like an heirloom pocket watch made the world smaller generations ago, where is the Twitter pocket device for our generation? These physical artifacts both act as reminders and as something to cherish and pass on. We all love our fancy iPhones, but we love what it brings us, not the hardware case. That's evident by the queue when each new generation is announced. Yet classic cars, watches, cameras and dress shoes are cared for, maintained and passed

All of the dConstruct talks were recorded. For all of those who couldn't make it, podcasts will be made available. The previous years' podcasts are online already, so if you can't wait, you
can at least get caught-up.


The dConstruct conference is one of those events that should be part of your annual conference diet. Sometimes you need the practical sessions, other times you need vision. Walking away from this year's dConstruct has my mind racing with new techniques to try, topics I need to research and a few new books to order. Some of this is due to great speakers, but mostly it's down to the density of brilliant attendees and the many opportunities to meet up over libations and chat.

While the dConstruct conference is held annually, this year it was part of the Brighton Digital Festival, a month-long gathering of all things digital. There was certainly something in the air down in Brighton, because the day following dConstruct, at the same venue,
there was a Mini Maker Faire. The turn out was much higher than expected! From inventors to crafters and DIYers, it was jam-packed with the young and old. You could tell people were enjoying themselves.

Keep an eye our for dConstruct 2012 and other great events. Early September in Brighton is not to be missed!