After he could’t make last year’s conference, we still wanted Matt Gemmell involved somehow. At our request, he wrote this wonderful foreword, which was included in every attendee’s welcome pack. With delight, we’re posting it here just before putting this year’s tickets on sale.
I think the first thing that struck me was the attention to detail.
Most conferences these days will have a tagline, and lay claim to an ethos. It’s an easy thing to do. It’s quite a different matter to actually construct an experience that’s cohesive and achieves an overall purpose. To make something that feels designed, rather than just assembled.
As a two-time keynote speaker alumnus, I’ve seen how the conference has evolved - and this year, it evolves considerably - but it always remains focused on the message. Úll is an event with an opinion.
It’s an interesting word, “event”. Something you mark in a diary, and remember afterwards. We all remember where we were when the event took place. It has a certain quality of notability. By contrast, “conference” is dry, and not particularly striking. Not so for this conference; or rather, event.
What you’re going to notice is that Úll isn’t the usual loose backdrop for a lecture schedule - not at all. Instead, it’s more like a show. This year’s conference is an exhibition, the natural progeny of previous years' cabaret.
The key point, for me, is that it’s a deliberate thing. A curated experience, where the meals, music, badges, after-party and signage are every bit as obsessed-over as the speaker line-up and venue. Nothing is left to chance. By the time you arrive, it’s plain that your faith has been well-placed.
This is an event where the roster is made up of people who already understand the message that Úll wants to convey: that human attention is a precious, special thing that’s not to be squandered. It’s unsurprising, then, that the stage plays host to the best of the best - and they’re there because they want to talk to you.
What you’ll arrive to (and enjoy) is an unboxing experience worthy of Apple, in the form of an exhibition. What you’ll go away with is even more important. The greatest benefit of sharing a space with like-minded people isn’t what you hear, or even what you say, but rather how you feel afterwards. Any conference can be a learning experience, and a chance to socialise - this one included. But with due care and diligence, it can also be a recharge, and an inspiration.
Úll places you in an environment that’s conducive to creativity, and minimises the intrusion of anything else. Then it offers you a lovingly-chosen tasting menu of thoughts, experience, knowledge and anecdotes with a purpose beyond any of those things: to refresh your memory.
Not about what’s happening in the tech industry, or the minutiae of a particular API - though you may well hear about those things too.
Úll’s goal is to remind you why we care about what we do. Why we care to the point of pain, then to absurdity, then onwards to elusive perfection. Because if you’re going to build it at all, then it ought to be the very best thing you can possibly make.
You understand this instinctively. It’s why you feel delight and despair (in unequal measure) as you look at the world around you. It’s why you’re compelled to add to that world.
You’re going to be surrounded by people who share your conviction. You’re all striving for the same thing - and you’re going to remember why.
Your event awaits.
Edinburgh, Scotland - 14th April 2014