In which I return from the forest to talk about my experiences at Web in the Woods, the conference with a campfire.

A Finn in the Forest, Part II

1511 words about industry — 21:15 · 24th Sep 2015

I have returned from the forest a changed man. A better man.

A man smelling of campfire and sweat.

A man in need of a shower.

But before I take a shower—don’t worry, I have actually already showered—let me tell you how it was.

Unlike A Finn in the Forest, Part I, this one’s not going be quite as long.

An axe lodged in a piece of wood.
Welcome to Web in the Woods 2015.

51° 20′ 0.5964″ N 0° 23′ 8.9520″ E

As the first to arrive at the off-grid Badgells Wood on Friday I had the luxury of picking whichever spot I wanted.

After getting the tent set up and resolving a hiccup with our rented generator—

First it was too big and heavy to get into the car so we had to get, “a man with a van,” to drive it up to the woods. Once we had gotten it up to the clearning where the talks were going to be held we started it only to realise it was much too loud. And nobody wanted to do their talks by standing and shouting. So we ended up borrowing the generator from the friendly camp staff who had a small handheld one which was better in every way.

—I decided to get the fire going so I could have an afternoon cup of coffee. It’s the only vice I have left and I’m not giving it up.

As attendees slowly arrived, throughout the day, a few were surprised by the rustic nature of our accommodation but at least no one fled back to civilization—one attendee did however sleep in their camper van, which he had stationed in the nearby parking lot.

And with no conference schedule to follow for Friday evening, everyone was able to find places to pitch their tents, settle in, get to know each other and try to find that little sweet spot between the only two trees that had cellular reception—Noticing I wasn’t getting any reception I left my smartphone in my rucksack for the weekend.

Soon enough, day became evening and the campfire was the only thing illuminating the dark forest surrounding us.

A kettle hung over the campfire.
Of course someone had brought a kettle for their morning tea.

Aside for being woken to a state of panic in the middle of the night by some loud fucking Jay birds I slept like shit anyway so it didn’t really matter.

I struggle with airbeds always being too soft despite filling them up as much as one can and ours is no exception to this. Though I suppose I should be happy it didn’t spring a leak.

At least, as one of the first ones to wake up, I got to light the fire again and was already brewing myself a cup of coffee before people had woken up.

After everyone had gotten to have breakfast it was time for the talks to begin.

The talks

Lucie De Lacy

To kick off the talks was Lucie De Lacy and her A Fantastical Fear of Everything (But Especially Writing…) which sought to dispel some of most common pitfalls writers tend to fall into when struggling to create content. Along with some helpful advise on how to combat these brain ghosts of ours Lucie set the tone for what looked to be some great talks.

Chorizo cooking over open fire.
If you thought Chorizo was good, you haven’t tried it over an open fire.

Carlos Eriksson

Next up was yours truly and in my talk Accessibility = Money I made a business case for accessibility and the cost of ignoring it.

But rather than writing about myself talking, which would be weird anyway, I thought I would let the eloquent words of Dan Edwards—closing speaker for Web in the Woods—speak for me.

Carlos delivered an excellent talk on how accessibility can equate to a larger increase in company turnover using a combination of witty humor [sic] and facts around how business owners are missing a trick when it comes to building with accessibility in mind. Dan Edwards

Why, Mr. Edwards, I do believe I’m blushing.

The slides to my talk are available online, though I’m not sure how well they work out of context. Additionally I’m already working on improving the slides for future talks, so in case you missed my talk at Web in the Woods you can always catch me at future conferences—to be announced.

The audience listening to my talk at Web in the Woods.
I’d like to think the audience was spellbound.

Paul Adam Davis

Paul Adam Davis had originally planned to talk about Working with the World but with recent changes in his career this had been changed to Professional Progression instead.

And in a world where we make so much effort to only ever show our best work—I partly blame Imposter Syndrome—I found it fascinating to listen to someone be so forthcoming about all the mistakes he had made, and the lessons he had learned.

Sally Jenkinson

Sally Jenkison’s talk: An Introduction to Open Data focused around the very convoluted—though through no fault of hers—meaning of open data as well as practical applications of it.

Applying open data and the principles guiding it was really were its importance began to shine and I could clearly see the many, many benefits that Open Data has.

You can read more about Sally’s experience of the weekend, in her own blog post.

Close-up of me sitting and holding on to my water bottle by its plastic loop.
My water bottle came in handy.

Dan Edwards

Finishing up the talks for event was Dan Edwards and his Finding Your Mojo where he talked about how he lost and found… well, his mojo.

His thoughts on how we, as designers and developers, often forget to recharge our batteries and would many times benefit from doing thing that aren’t web related struck a C Major as we all sat in the woods, away from our computer screen.

Dan also took a lot of photos during the weekend and all of the photos are courtesy of him, as he graciously let me use them in this entry.

But I’ve used but a fraction of all the ones he took so I encourage you to go and take a look at the rest of them.

A campfire at night.
Sitting on hay bales whilst listening to talks was a first.

After all these inspiring talks everyone was feeling quite hungry and luckily for us, Kris had arranged for a Fish and Chips van to come by to feed all of us.

Now I’m not a big fan of fish & chips but thankfully they had proper British sausages—which as you all know, I’m a big fan of.

As they say, “Beggars can’t be choosers.”

The audience at Web in the Woods listening to Lucie De Lacy
Night falls on the last evening.

All in all, Web in the Woods was a great conference, both from an attendees point-of-view and as a speaker. As a small, intimate conference everyone could huddle up by the fire in the evening, talk and share knowledge in an environment without hierarchy, enjoying ciders and beers from a nearby brewery.

The slides to my talk Accessibility = Money are available online and I’m already planning on improving it for a few future talks. If you have any questions or perhaps want me to talk at your event, don’t hesitate to contact me.

A big, “Thanks,” to Kris Jeary for organising Web in the Woods and a humble but none the smaller, “Thank you,” to each and every one of the attendees, who made a petrified first-time public speaker feel more welcomed and supported than he could ever have imagined.

You’re all wonderful.

You’ve just read A Finn in the Forest, Part II.

In which, 8 years ago, I wrote 1511 words about industry and I covered topics, such as: web in the woods , conferences , pictures , and accessibility .