Basile Simon (blog) Data, hackery, stories

Sud Web 2016

I wrote this blog from a high-speed train heading north, to Paris, leaving behind me the sunny and warm, welcoming character of Bordeaux. The 2016 edition of SudWeb was over, and I couldn’t help but to miss it a little already.

Thomas told me about the conference months ago. Some guys I used to know from Flickr were regulars, and so I had heard the name before. Doing more public speaking was one of my Trello card-sized resolutions for 2016 - and Thomas said I should pitch something to their call for proposals.

Even with a proper intro from the curator himself to what the conference was about, I couldn’t have believed this possible before I saw it.

A mostly French crowd of nearly 200 gathered in a movie theater in the morning of day one for a dense day of talks (some 20-minute long, others around the five minute mark).

As the speakers jumped on stage one after the other, it all started to make sense. Pauline, an actress in charge of MCing, built her narrative and ordered the talks to get the message across.

And boy did we get the message.

As Pauline’s character grew up from her fifth birthday to being an accomplished professional looking for the meaning of her life, the talks addressed these issues with an incredible diversity.

We heard about the challenges of being a parent, and about playing LEGO and the creative process. We were moved by a young student who came to lay down her questions and doubts about starting her professional life. A lawyer came to explain why we should know our rights if we want to be good workers.

We heard about somebody who took up coding a year ago and couldn’t be happier; and what it changes for a startup to do serious sprint reviews with clients while wearing funny costumes - with an overview of the massive collaboration over the Panama Papers in between.

We talked about fanzines on the web and self-hosted blogs. And we pondered on zero-waste fashion as a solution to the industry wasting so much. Oh, and the official goodie was a zero-waste DIY leather cable organiser, designed and laser cut by the speaker (Mylène, thank you).

I went there to talk about how being a volunteer for the fantastic Airwars project changes how I see my work and how I feel about what I do.

It all fitted together, while we didn’t know it at first. Thomas, the curator, made an incredible job at getting his message and his questions across, through showing us how we could think about them.

It would be hard after this to think of SudWeb as a tech conference. It just so hapens that a bunch of people who attend SudWeb are either developers or designers, and that references to the tech world are quite present.

Day two was in fact driven and led by the community itself. The “Élaboratoires” were classic un-conference territory, but the audience did respond amazingly well - which led to us having too many interesting workshops and discussions to go to.

Do I want to go to a lettering workshop, or do I want to get an intro to the Web Audio API so I can play the Knightrider theme song on my keyboard instead? Do I want to continue the discussions about side projects with this group, or would I rather learn how to parse and understand a French payslip? A digital nomadism 101 workshop, or a collective exploration of “why we love our jobs, but…?”

Obviously, this is a friendly environment, and the organisers scheduled plenty of breaks and occasions to socialise and mingle. The discussions were quite the opposite to the ones you have in big conferences. You know, discussions that start with a stranger rocking up to stay they looooooved your talk, only to pitch their thing not even two minutes later.

On the contrary. SudWeb is a welcoming community of friends - with most of whom I discovered we were only one or two degrees of separation apart.

You should go to SudWeb. Now it is better if you’re a French speaker, since there was no translation this year, though. But they have pains au chocolat, good wine, and extraordinary people.

Thank you!