Here’s some stuff I learned:
You don’t have to be a brilliant presenter to present brilliantly. Julius Popp the artist who’d invented Bit.Fall was obviously hating presenting (if you’ve not seen Bit.Fall check it here), he was visibly nervous and struggling a little bit with English not being his first language. But you know what, it didn’t matter a single bit. The fact that he was struggling a little made people listen harder and more intently to what he was trying to say.
But why? In most presentations it’s not a struggle to listen, more of a struggle to stay awake.
A few things: you could feel his passion for what he was talking about, he made a story out of his journey, but most importantly he was being himself.
There’s something about art – I’m not going to get bogged down in defining ‘what is art’, but there was definitely a thread through the talks that smelled like art to me. I can’t describe why people making art is really compelling, it just is. I’m not even sure that it’s important whether it’s art or not. If the creator think that they’re making art as opposed to doing a job it comes across as far more passionate and potentially rewarding.
Maybe if I start to think about everything I do as being ‘art’ (in some kind of very limited form) it’ll have a profound effect on how I go about things. Or maybe I’ll just become a pretentious moron. But that’s the thing, the people who were ‘doing art’ weren’t pretentious, I was jealous of their dedication and their love of what they’re doing.
I care because I hack (or do I hack because I care?) – one theme that came up repeatedly although not always explicitly was hacking. There were people hacking old machines, hacking buildings, hacking Nintendos, hacking cells. Everywhere people were taking things and re-appropriating them in new, unintended, ways. I can’t put my finger on why this culture of hacking is so important.
From the outside you could suppose that it’s about having some kind of mastery over things (but it certainly doesn’t seem to be in a macho ‘I’m the daddy’ kind of way). But in all honesty it just seems to be that in a lot of cases it’s the most efficient and best way to just get things done. Which was a major thread through everything. All of the presenters were people who seemed to have a ‘just do it’ kind of attitude.
The usefulness of irrelevance – I left the day with a buzzy head. That could have been from drinking too much coffee and having been awake since 5am, but I suspect it was more to do with having lots of new information fired into my brain very quickly.
I’m guessing that lots of people would struggle to justify a trip to a conference with a line-up like this to their boss. It sort of looks like an irrelevance or a distraction. But it gave me an enthusiasm boost and taught me lots of things from very direct stuff about techniques and approaches to much softer things like what makes people compelling.
And from a very direct point of view I’ve already written a pitch that contains a big idea that I never would have had if I hadn’t been to We Love Technology. Depending on how it goes that could be my ROI proven ;-)
If there’s one thing that I took away it’s that loving stuff is cool. Love is a much overused word in our industry (as is cool), but when you see people who really love what they do it stands out a mile.