Conference, Tech, UI Design, Web

Sud Web: a human-centric conference

Written by Clément Billiot, manager of technical teams at Backelite Montpellier and Sébastien Isorez, DevOps engineer at Backelite Montpellier

Please note: all videos linked within the article are in French and Vimeo does not offer automatic subtitles, so be prepared.
Credits : Sud Web 2018

What sets Sud Web apart from others in the landscape of conferences on digital topics isn’t the vegetarian menu, nor the compostable cups and cutlery, but rather the sharing of experiences that unfolds during its two-days in the South of France.

No new hip technical library, no framework that revolutionizes the adoption of a design pattern, but personal tales of ordinary people that may have been through extraordinary paths in their professional and personal lives.

From a financial broker ditching a lofty financial situation to become an educator on financial subjects, to the Python developer now brewing beer, or the comparison between knitting and algorithms, Sud Web features human journeys that are both alternative and digital.

One can feel the camaraderie, the humanity, even a hint of punk culture which in some respects remind us of Backelite!

Our first discovery at the beginning of the conference is the theater-forum, a 1h30-long theater collaborative experiment around the theme of conflicts within companies in the digital sector. The goal is to start a debate within the audience and make its members participate by reenacting the scenes played by the comedians in order to achieve a better portrayal and propose new solutions. The spectator becomes the « spect-actor ».

The sketches were of course designed to be debatable and prone to various approaches. For instance, the CEO of a struggling small company who was about to let his employees go, ends up winning a large contract but still forces an employee to cancel her vacation in order for her to attend a training… The goal of this exercise is to experiment other solutions instead of coming up with the usual one.

Pascal Moriceau and Alexis Metaireau then shared their criss-crossing paths, the former a restaurant owner becoming a web developer, the latter a Python developer becoming a brewer! It is proof that the web leads to anything and everything leads to the web! 

Heu?reka is no exception to the rule. An ex-broker now YouTuber, Gilles presented his quest for meaning that lead him to start making finance subjects more accessible through the means of increasingly successful YouTube videos.

Claire Zuliani, a self-defined cyberpunk, also entered the world of web development after starting her career in a cyberpunk digital arts collective. She does not define her current job as web developer because it is too restrictive, and she defines her skills as being fluid-stack [NB: instead of the now very common full-stack denomination]. Instead of trying to summarize her talk, I encourage you to listen to it here

The key takeaways for me where the subject of the composability of web projects, which should not only be user-centric but also encourage proper cooperation between its stakeholders during development. This echoes the quote « It’s not the destination, it’s the journey » by emphasizing that elements from the making process are also highly valuable for the community.

Stéphane Alliès is a journalist at French online publication Mediapart. He gave us an overview of the creation of Mediapart and how they took on the challenge of transforming the job of journalist to the digital world by creating a new kind of value. He also detailed how they adjusted the role of investigative journalism to embrace the web instead of fighting it.

Gaël Duval started the Eelo project, a mobile open-source Operating System that aims at being a potent alternative to the Google and Apple duopoly. It is of course a huge undertaking but a meaningful one for this Linux and free software pioneer. Listen to his story:


Conclusion :

We also attended talk focusing on accessibility, a recap on the creation of a new YouTube channel on homoparentality, the uncanny similarities between knitting and programming (fun fact: did you know knitting was used to encrypt messages during wars?), the importance of having a mentor, the birth of a developer community in Rodez (department of Aveyron) and the testimony of Clémentine that reminds us that we are our own best tool, to accept that we do not know everything, and that this acceptance already goes a long way!

In a nutshell, Sud Web is a forum entirely devoted to the human aspects of our lives and echoes the quest for meaning that many of us are in search of in our daily jobs.

When will you adopt human-centric reasoning?

NB: we could not attend the second day of the forum. The second day was a self-organized open-day applying Dilbert’s two-feet law. From what came to our ears, it was very interesting and rewarding.