I’ve been privileged enough to go to a number of development conferences last year (2018). I know that I’m privileged because almost every conference had a talk or many talks making clear my privilege in attending them.
I have a job where attending conferences makes sense as part of my work and I make enough money to be able to buy my own tickets and pay for my travel and accommodation. I’m often able to combine attending a conference with catching up with friends and family. I have the ability to choose which conferences I attend based on whether they allow me to achieve other things I value in my life.
I’m lucky and well-placed in life, and if I was unaware of that then fortunately every conference will have a speaker willing to point that out to me. Sometimes for as long as an hour.
An hour that I’m not unaware that I have paid a lot of money for, an hour that I have chosen to spend listening to this talk instead of doing something that I might enjoy instead.
Often these conferences talks have no particular point they want to make beside how privileged people in tech are and how little we understand people outside our tech bubble. They have no clear or sensible strategy as to how to change what they regard as disagreeable.
Often they feel very unclear about what exactly is wrong with the privilege enjoyed by their audience. Perhaps eliminating it a worthy goal in itself.
Its certainly not clear what audience the speakers would be happy to address about the topics that might be related to the notional agenda of subject of the conference they are speaking at.
The vagaries of conference programming committee means that there will often be another talk taking about how difficult it is to be a programmer: how prone to stress and burnout we are and how we need to prioritise self-care.
We are self-absorbed and toxic, while also being fragile and in need of nurture. No talk has addressed this contradiction.
Topics such as privilege and the self-absorption of tech are potentially worthy subjects but at the end of a year, having heard variations of these talks many, many times I want to stop.
I’m happy to nurture my privilege checking and think about the technology needs of the emerging world while taking steps to create an inclusive workforce.
The minimum I would like to have is that in every timetable slot there is a strong technology talk that will be relevant to my work and interests, preferably something informative and provided by a technology practitioner.
If this can happen then I’ll feel as if attending the conference was a good thing in itself rather than the peg on which to hang the chance to visit places and people.