2011-10-28

#OccupyDWS - My Afternoon Outside the Dublin Web Summit

So I was free in Dublin today, and decided to go on down to the Dublin Web Summit - having watched some talks last night and interested in getting more of the personal experience today. I got there, but was told that all the tickets had sold out weeks before, and that none were available. So I strolled outside, waited at the bus stop for a stretch, and then realised that I could hack myself my own little Web Summit, with all the experience of the attendees. So was the Occupy Dublin Web Summit movement born. (#OccupyDWS)

The #OccupyDWS Rallying Sign (v1.5)

At first a little timid, and absorbed by the mighty #dws tweet-feed, I sat to one side of the RDS Anglesea Road entrance, and tweeted an initial declaration that I was outside the #dws and would fancy someone to chat with about whatever was going on inside. After a few minutes in which my huge crowd of potential Occupiers failed to appear, I decided that I needed to identify myself a little better - and so I created a sign out of an envelope I happened to be carrying in my bag.

After a good few people passed by, I realised that the sign wasn’t obvious enough, so I relocated to directly in front of the pedestrian entrance. That’s how most people saw me - tweeting away or watching the talks “live”, sitting cross-legged in the sun. I was having a great time; many people would glance down and ignore me, but the grand majority coming out of the event had a smile or a laugh for my solitary “protest”. Most of them would stop and chat about the Web Summit, the people they’d met, the interesting start-ups or the best talk. Most people seemed to agree that the night before had been better than this morning; more famous speakers, or maybe just more attendees.

I explained that I wasn’t able to get in because I didn’t have a ticket, which led more than one person to offer me some money. A little shocked by this, I changed my sign from “No ticket :( ” to “No tickets for Sale :( ”. I got offered more than one wrist-band as people departed, but I explained that I was having so much fun, that I’d given up on going inside and that I didn’t actually want to sneak in that I declined. One man ignored all that, and gave me his wrist-band anyway. Thanks, but I didn’t use it.

Free Access! All I’d have to do is abandon my principles.

Like every protester, I started off just sitting outside the Web Summit with a pretty simple point, but I found that as I explained it to more and more people, that I was becoming more and more involved in the issue. I found myself saying things like:

“No room? They don’t even know how many people are in the building!”
“Sounds like the kind of thing we use computers to sort out!”
and
“People keep leaving, there’s gotta be room for me!”
but later got a little more fervent -
“The internet is all about instant access!”

Whoops - was my ironic “protest” actually starting to take itself seriously? Turns out, that as I talked to people about it, my thoughts turned to how to solve the problem of limited space in a venue, but having a number of people in the venue well below that limit and people outside that you have to turn away. After my phone battery failed, I refined these ideas on the bus home – but more of that in another post.

As I sat there, a steady stream of people went by, and I was rarely without someone to talk to about the days events. I was briefly interviewed by Silicon Republic, and had my photo taken a few times. One person commiserated that I didn't have my laptop with me, so that I could be doing some web dev. I explained that all I have is a behemoth of a Dell, and that I don't carry it around much. I got handed quite a few business cards, and one person in particular seemed to believe that my surname was another kind of elaborate joke when I mimed the two words (the protest though, was deadly serious).

I got a pretty good impression of the Dublin Web Summit - many people seemed excited, and about all manner of different things. The Journalism / News talk had evoked a lot of strong emotion, the Payments talk was equally interesting. Most people seemed pretty amused that I was sitting outside the event, but was still able to talk to them about something that had just happened. One guy was just happy he’d gotten to see Moot. I’m pretty disappointed that I missed that – maybe if I bring a Guy Fawkes mask, he’ll visit me next year. :P

I’ve actually got nothing to do with Anon, but it might get his attention.

One of the RDS security guards decided that he wanted me to move on, but once I agreed to leave if the organisers had a problem with me being there, that worked out all right. It really helped that when he came along, I was deep into a technical discussion with someone with a badge, who leapt to my defence with:

“The organisers won’t care - This is exactly the right spirit for this kind of thing.”
He was right - most of the attendees I talked to got a bit of a kick from seeing me there. If you’re reading this, I didn’t catch your name, but thanks.

So the guard wandered off to find an organiser irate enough to justify removing me (from the public footpath, but I digress). Actually, he went to ask the very person that I’d tried to buy a ticket from, and had gotten along pretty well with! That exchange had gone something like:

Me: “I don’t have a ticket, I haven’t booked or anything, I’d just like to give you some cash and go inside”
Him: “I’d love to take your money, but we’re just not allowed”

He came out, I explained that it wasn’t a serious protest (which he had already understood by reading my sign), and he told the security guy to leave me alone. The guard then spent the next hour watching me from afar, and (probably) telling anyone who would listen about me - judging from the pointing and the looks in my direction. I gave him a thumbs-up whenever I noticed. He probably got #OccupyDWS way more PR than I could have managed otherwise. :)

Once the lunch crowd died down, my battery had drained so I couldn’t watch any more talks and I was starting to feel a little cold, so I headed home. I had a great time at the Dublin Web Summit, and might even book in advance for next year!

Here’s my parting tweet:

“Battery low means I can’t watch video streams, so #OccupyDWS is shutting down. Met loads of friendly, smart people. #dws was fun!”

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