[#drumbeat] reflections

I’ve had a week to reflect on my Drumbeat experience now and am feeling more able to report on it in a more balanced manner.

I did have a great time and found the event inspiring in places and never less than interesting but it wasn’t without its problems as well. I really struggled with the structure (or lack thereof) of the event – the fact that many of the conversations were ongoing from notional session to session meant it was difficult to just drop in for an hour sometimes – it felt like coming half way though a movie. I know this suited alot of people fine but from a personal point of view I found it hard work at times.

The language issue has been raised elsewhere and I did find it a little odd – the issues with Spanish and Catalan are pretty well known in the UK and I guess I expected to see more acknowledgment of that (even though lets be clear I would have been useless as I have no language skills whatsoever!) On a similar note I’m afraid I was also uncomfortable with some of the overt Americanisms I guess. If I ever hear the word ‘awesome’ again I might scream and all the loud, positive cheering from the crowd just had me backing out of the room rather than getting fired up (pretty sure I wasn’t alone here!).

There was also quite a theme developing around the idea of ‘burning down the current system’ and the idea that code can solve everything. I tend to think both of these things are naive and unhelpful – I think the fact there seemed to be less educators there than I think was hoped (certainly there seemed to be less OpenEd badges than I expected) meant that the opinions were a little skewed. I think it is clear that things do need to change but I tend to lean in the direction of practical responses to the problems not just casting blame.

All that said I saw, heard and participated in conversations and sessions that really were amazing.

I’m pretty sure I saw the future of video on the web with the work the Open Video Lab put together over the two days – and combined with the Universal Subtitling project I think there will be some amazing things in this area springing out of Drumbeat. The talk Aza Raskin gave on rapid prototyping in the lab has already shown up on BoingBoing and really was amazing and well timed for me at least. The recent reading I have been doing around ‘product management‘ has alot of say about the idea of using prototypes and this talk has convinced me I need to update my long unused HTML, CSS and Javascript knowledge so I am able to do this myself rather than relying on my many, many cleverer friends. It strikes me that a good way to do this in keeping with my Drumbeat experience is to look for an appropriate course from the P2PU/Drumbeat School of Webcraft and get my hands dirty again.

I found the discussions around creating P2PU courses to help understanding copyright and Creative Commons interesting – I think it is something that should be a requirement for anyone working in UK HE libraries and certainly those working on JISC projects – would save an awful lot of time and effort if everyone could reach a common understanding. Also the fact people got together to hack together a proper plug-in for attribution of CC work was interesting to see – in the past I have used the Flickr CC Firefox plugin Alan Levine built but this seemed like it had a wider remit and could be invaluable.

The brilliant talk Anna Debenham gave about the poor state of web education in schools and colleges in the UK has rightly been hailed by many people as a highlight of the event. She gave a well researched, personal account of the issues and warmed to her topic as the talk went on. I didn’t hear anything I disagreed with – I think it is noticeable that of my many, many web developer and designer friends I can only think of two or three off the top of my head who studied the topic formally – the rest are essentially self (or peer) taught. This is an area where formal education really does need to change its tune – things more far too quickly in this field for traditional structures to cope.

I wrote a little about the John Beasley Murray talk about his Wikipedia in the Classroom work which I very much enjoyed and I did drop into various other talks on Wikipedia initiatives and also got some clues on how better to a) interact with the Wikipedia community from a content point of view and b) how to get MediaWiki markup to bend to my will a little more!

You can catchup with a whole host of posts related to Drumbeat on delicious.com where Mark Surman is curating a list but if you only read one post about Drumbeat (and or OpenEd) I recommend you read this one by Scott Leslie. I think Matt Thompson said it best;

Anyway I’m glad I attended – I met more amazing people than I can count and if there is another event next year I’ll do my best to attend again. Next time I’ll be a little more prepared I think though and maybe a little less preoccupied with reporting the event rather than participating – I’m sure I didn’t get the balance right this time.

So thanks to the Drumbeat team – and congratulations. See you next year hopefully.


  1. I am so happy to see other people had a similar session experience. I also had trouble joining sessions. I didn’t have any exploration time until the second day and by that point people were so far in to their projects there was no space for me to insert myself.

    Also, I will not go and remove any hanging “awesomes” I have written. I didn’t realize how much I/everyone was doing it, but when it is pointed out, you are very much correct. I guess it is our way to try and keep everyone in a positive mindset. However, if you want to run off screaming, clearly it is failing.

  2. Jade – to be fair I am grumpy even for a Brit and at the older end of the event age range so my aversion to all the ‘awesome’ and crowd hyping is probably as much my issue as anything..

    I do think the difficulty in joining sessions later is something that needs to be solved but it is a tough issue.

    I’ll second your vote for Amsterdam next year 🙂

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