Ink&Switch Unconference: Reflections
Published: 26 Oct 2023
The Ink&Switch Unconference happened on 25 October 2023 at the Penha Longa Golf Resort, East from Lisbon, Portugal. There were 60 participants with mostly computer science and human-computer interaction backgrounds, most of them in Portugal due to the SPLASH conference. I write this article to briefly summarize the experience.
My motivation to go there was to meet people and discover the bits and pieces of the state of the art of the field, which in the Ink&Switch context is making software for creative professionals better, with focus on local-first low-latency software. My own contribution at the moment being the development of a projection-based CAD/CAM system for CNC milling with current focus on the positional tracking system which I plan to release as an open-source module.
The Unconference is a primarily non-hierarchical participant-driven meeting format (take a look at the Wikipedia page), which is structured, but leaves enough room for random conversations and unexpected topics. There is a multitude of facilitation styles that can be used, and it seems that a version of the World Café format was used here. At first everybody is given a chance to suggest a topic. Then the topics are clustered and allocated to a time slot and a physical round table. The room had some 8 tables and there were 4 time slots for discussions, which means there were 32 interesting discussions to follow up with. Everyone could pick one and at any time just jump to another without the need to worry about offending someone.
Topics of Interest
Since I did not come with a specific goal and did not participate the preceding SPLASH conference, I was mostly moving from table to table, listening in and talking to different people. Here are some topics that captured my interest.
Version Control for Non-Developers
How can I tap into the good things version control offers without being a command line nerd? Are there any visual tools out there? How about version control of visual things? As for visual Git GUIs, Gource is one that was suggested and its promise is to provide a better overview of a history of a project. As for version control for visual things, a suggestion was to look into possibilities to describe visual things as code better to take advantage of the existing Git version control workflows.
E-Toys and Scratch
While I did not follow through the whole conversation, what captured my attention was the mention of the need to be able to describe phenomena in programming environments better. For instance, if one considers a game where a character is “tripping over” and then based on that, something else happens–how do you define “tripping over”? Many of the participants in this discussion were parents and thus they had a very direct connection to the topic. It seemed that having kids opens one up for re-thinking education and pondering about how humans learn in general.
The Future of Markdown
The future of Markdown was another topic that captured my interest. What I managed to get out of briefly joining the conversation was the question on how to embed interactivity? At the moment native Markdown supports hyperlinks and images, but no videos and no interactive content. Yes–one can add HTML and an
iframe element with whatever content is needed, but that seems more like a hack.
There was a vibrant discussion around identity management. A fascinating bunch of personalities with a well distributed opinion gradient from loose to strict in terms of how secrets should be stored and managed. Should trust be established on an application or device level?
Projection-based CAD and CAM for CNC
This was a topic that I suggested and it was clustered together with several others. The meeting was rather short and I wish I had an actual spatial demo with me. I think that I could have taken a stricter moderator role there as some of the discussions at some of the tables were highly sophisticated and consistent in terms of discussion style, someone taking notes etc.
We started out with discussing what our interests are and what are the things each is bringing to the table. There was a touch-based CAD solver prototype made by
Local-first collaborative CAD has become an increasingly interesting topic for me and for my projection-based CAD/CAM system. Before I learned Ink&Switch exists, I did not know much about local-first software, but now the more I learn, the more I like it. Terms such as CRDTs and Automerge were floating around and the fact made me curious to learn more about what they are, how they are built and how could I use them for collaborative CAD.
New Software and Topics
Here is a list of new software and related topics that caught my attention during the day and it would make sense to learn more about each.
- Paw (bidirectional music software, local prototype only)
- Manus SteamVR Tracker
Thanks about having inspiring conversations!
- Vincent De Feo
- Brooklyn Zelenka
- Fuad Saud
- Jonas Kruckenberg
- Kevin Lynagh
- Pol @ Fermat
- Alessandro Warth
Special thanks to:
- Avi Bryant
- Peter van Hardenberg and Todd Matthews for organizing