TBL and events, dear boy, events

It all came and went in a bit of a blur in the end.

Sir Tim Berners Lee came to Nesta yesterday to talk about the Future of the Web, joined by Charlie Leadbeater (Author) and Andy Duncan (Channel 4). The webcast is available here. I think he’s the most important person we’ve had at Nesta in the 18 months. Nobody else has done more for innovation or collaboration in my view. And yet he was so down to earth yet clearly very passionate about his subject even though he must talk about it publically nearly every day.

It also formed the launch of a project which we are supporting called the Web Science Research Initiative. It quite rightly seeks to study the web as a complex system in it’s own right. It’s at a vague but exciting stage right now and feel excited about the prospect of being part of it.

I didn’t particularly enjoy the event in the end, mainly as I was somewhat preoccupied with observing other peoples thoughts via the twitter backchannel. For me, incorporating twitter was a partially successful experiment and one we can build on, but I’d rather be listening in future. I was however rather delighted to be able to ask a question on behalf of a chap in Iceland.

Others have criticised the panel and discussion format, however I think it’s always a very tricky balance between the big themes and big name speakers (which draw people in) and the more detailed discussion and intimacy that we also want. In restricting Tim’s talk, we aimed to give more time for discussion but in hindsight I think some people, myself included, would prefer to have just basked in the presence of a great innovator and heard more from him without interruption. However it was, as with everything else, an experiment, from which we will learn continue to play around with.

Tim said something about not underestimating the potential of humanity connected, and it is that very un-british, ambitious and optimistic note upon which I’d prefer to focus on.


  1. I was one of the lucky ones actually in the room with TBL. Not sure the event needed such lengthy introductions from Kestenbaum. And the channel 4 guys contribution I could have easily done without, but Charlie and Tim and the power of original thought_ FANTASTIC. I am a designer/researcher who’s spent 15 years in product innovation and have had to deal more often than I’d like, with people who display a very narrow frame of reference. It is always an inspiration to hear thinkers like Charlie bring subjects such as 17th century social and political history,quite sensibly and coherently, into a conversation about the future of the web. Long live Renaissance men (and women) and thank you NESTA for providing me with the opportunity to continually learn from such insightful people.

  2. I wasn’t there, but still want to comment so have watched the recording. I found Roland’s post very provocative and honest, and in particular notice the emphasis on community and tweets. At most of the events I’ve been to over the last few years I’ve noticed that larger numbers of participants are moving towards recording the event and recording their real-time reaction to the event, at first through simple recording and watching the event through our own digital camera, now to tweets while there. And I wonder if we are becoming observers ad social commentators rather than being fully present and active participants. I don’t know, but I think it does alter the type of event forum and also the community we create if we don’t react but record. I love that Tim Berners-Lee focuses on the “social” part of technology and the reminder to be optimistic about our power through connection is inspiring. Congratulations NESTA on risktaking and on curating such interesting speakers.

  3. I was there. I am continuously impressed by Tim’s enthusiasm toward the future. I told him as much as I briefly shook his hand: that I haven’t encountered anyone in their 20s or 30s or 40s who speaks about the future of the web with such enthusiasm and vision.
    Shame on our (and the younger) generations! Tim reminds us that WE the people are the future. We tend to expect things ‘of the web’, and question ‘where the web is going’. Tim throws these questions, quite rightly so, right back at us: what ARE we going to do?
    WE need to make semantic web happen. His research is valuable and will set the direction and quite probably form the framework for it, but we the people, the users of the web, will make it happen.
    So let’s.

  4. Thanks all for your comments so far. I’m just trying to tell it how I see it. I increasingly think Nesta should be proud to actively seek to bring together diverse groups of people and panellists for events like this. Closed networks create echo as Ron Burt says. And it’s this diversity of perspectives that drives innovation after all isn’t it? But I’d like to hear a different perspective too 🙂

  5. I was there too and thought it was a great discussion (although I agree that it would’ve been good to hear TBL speak for longer). Andy Duncan made a interesting point about big companies online getting a lot of value from the web but not putting anything back, although it wasn’t clear what he wanted to be done about it.

  6. I was there too. I also hugely enjoyed hearing Tim speak and felt extremely inspired by his no-nonsense approach. I’m interested in Roland’s struggles with Twitter because I too have felt this pressure to try to offer multiple formats as much as possible and it can be completely exhausting. The fact is, there’s a limit to parallel processing, both human and machine, and sometimes it’s very pleasant just to sit back, relax, and listen without any obligation to stream data back out as fast as it streams in. Would NESTA considering funding the development of a Slow Tweeting tool? !!

  7. Tim Berners-Lee, challenges for humanity, and the ‘new Levellers’NESTA recently programmed a talk by Web pioneer Sir Tim Berners-Lee entitled The Future of the Web [Upcoming], with responses from Charlie Leadbeater and Channel 4 Chief Executive Andy Duncan. A number of points came out of Berners-Lee’s (short) introd…

  8. Tim Berners-Lee, challenges for humanity, and the ‘new Levellers’NESTA recently programmed a talk by Web pioneer Sir Tim Berners-Lee entitled The Future of the Web [Upcoming], with responses from Charlie Leadbeater and Channel 4 Chief Executive Andy Duncan. A number of points came out of Berners-Lee’s (short) introd…

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