Tim Berners-Lee at NESTA on the Future of the Web

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NESTA keep setting them up and we keep falling for them.

This evening Tim Berners-Lee, y’know, clever chappy – invented this web thing that I’m using to write to you, got the Order of Merit no less, was speaking on the Future of the Web and in particular his Web Science Research Initiative – trying to get us to understand the web as it is and where it’s going in order to help make it better.

Lovely, humble, articulate man. I’d love to write more about what he had to say but we didn’t hear nearly enough of him – the soundbites you can find on twitter weren’t edited very much. In an evening overflowing with irony, I was particularly struck that a man who allowed millions to gain a public voice by creating a system with a minimal number of rules and prescribed behaviours was almost silenced by a format that called for:

  • a clear separation between the panel and the audience;
  • people speaking in strictly managed order;
  • the contribution of audience members constrained to asking questions;
  • questions collected in threes, then divided between the panel members by the chair;
  • arbitrary precedence given to people on twitter over people actually in the room.

I have questions, but more than three.
“What mysterious hold does Charlie Leadbeater have over Jonathan Kestenbaum?”,
“Did you think that we’d get bored by only having Tim to listen to?”
“Or perhaps that he doesn’t have the stamina to carry a whole hour’s session by himself?”
“Are you familiar with the phrase ‘gilding a lily’?”
“Were the people in the reserved seats on the front row because they *really* don’t know anything about this stuff and need to be able to hear every word?”
“How can we take you seriously on innovation when you continue to repeat the same tired event format?”
“If I don’t like these things so much, then why do I keep going?”

[UPDATE: thank you NESTA for splitting the video up so that people can just play the Berners-Lee segment – anyone who wants to judge for themselves whether I was just getting my knickers in a twist about nothing should take a look at the panel session

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9 thoughts on “Tim Berners-Lee at NESTA on the Future of the Web”

  1. This makes me rather glad I didn’t make it in the end… I’d been expecting to hear TimBL expand on the ideas he’d not been given space for at Innovation Edge and had no idea it was going to be a panel discussion.

    I sympathise somewhat with NESTA being caught between people like us who are deeply entrenched in the social web and want to be exposed to a variety of perspectives, and those who are still looking for some sanctioned authority figure who will tell them what they need to know about what’s going on. But it does seem as if they play a little too much to the latter crowd and introduce irony into their event names as a result…

  2. Didn’t realise you were there too or would have looked out for you :(
    Surprised we didn’t see you as the main room as it was pretty tiny, but from your photo looks like you were the other side.

    Never been to NESTA before. I had expected a huge lecture-theatre setup given the obvious demand for places and obviously expected to hear just Tim and not a panel.

    Still, glad I went. Loved the gunk in the plughole analogy. Lots of goosebumpy hairs-standing-on-end moments! We live in exciting times.

    Not sure I’ll bother to go to any other events there though, especially if they will be webcasted.

  3. For what it’s worth, there was no audio on the first thirty minutes or so of the webcast (sounded like something not plugged in right). So being there in person had its benefits.

    However, as others have observed, the way to get questions asked was via Twitter.

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