They (human people) say the key to comedy is timing. Well timing is also a key factor with regards to blogging, certainly when covering particular subjects. So a write-up of Tapestry Conference 2014, which took place almost a week ago, is already tiptoeing sheepishly outside the 'news cycle'. It feels especially redundant when others have already done a great job (Francis and Emily) of thoroughly covering the talks/main themes and double-especially redundant when the quality of my note-taking during the event must be declared unfit for purpose.

 

Rather than go through the talks with a forensic kit and capture ever key takeaway, I'm just going to whack a few comments out into the open using the gift that is the bullet pointed list. I want to try to express the event's value on the data visualisation conference calendar and why you should definitely try to get to the next event in 2015.

  • Receiving the golden ticket invitation was a real privilege, particularly because as the attendees list built up you knew that the off-field value would just be as important as the on-field action. I was thrilled to bits to meet so many folks in person for the first time, most of whom I knew digitally but many others for the absolute first time. Whereas networking sessions at conferences can be painful and contrived, At Tapestry these breaks were an essential and treasured part of the fabric (no pun) of the event. They are as important as the talks, possibly more so.
  • Whilst the event is conceived and sponsored by Tableau, you are not suffocated by endless promoting. Just the opposite in fact. Apart from the recognisable faces running the show, there wasn't one mention of Tableau, no stand, no flier, no handout, not even a logo that I could spot. I think this is to their immense credit. Subtle, silent sponsoring feels a good deal classier and effective to me.
  • Putting Alberto on first was a great call. His natural passion and energy was ideal for a 8:45am slot, acting as the event's pacemaker and serving up a broad set up of ideas and opinions that echoed throughout the day. He also appeared to the distant onlooker like a floating head which is never not going to be funny.
  • All the talks were great. That's all I need to say. Everyone successfully brought their perspective on the day's core matter of communicating data. There were plenty of counterpoints raised, though: no single proposed universal truth running as a theme. This is just representative of the field as it is today. What can easily be missed in amongst the fault lines of disagreements aired is that everyone is probably right in their particular view, when applied to a certain context. It always depends.
  • I also believe we saw plenty of evidence of what I believe is a reasonable but simplistic summary of the different perspectives in the field: scientists tell us what we should do, creatives what we could do and together they move the field forward.
  • Book recommendations were flying around left, right and centre, before we even reached Fernanda and Martin's talk which (intentionally) introduced us to a number of titles of varying and occasionally questionable merit :)
  • No other event that I've attended has had such illustrious paparazzi
  • One final matter that drew focus from one faraway (troll) observer was the issue of what storytelling with data means and is. The very same observer has since published a rather fine attempt at making sense of this and I suspect the discussions will now progress on the Centre Court...
  • If you can get to Tapestry Conference 2015 you will have a brilliant, fun, educational and inspiring time.