A response to Donald Clark’s #altc2010 keynote

I’ve put this here just in case Donald doesn’t approve my comment over at his blog.

Donald, I was there in the audience at #altc2010 and, to be fair, was one of the ones giving you some stick. I was bitterly disappointed with both the content and condescending manner of the keynote. Having followed your work over the last few years I thought this was a real shame.

To respond to the points you make in your post:

1. You don’t create a ‘sense of urgency’ by criticising something and not pointing to any solutions. You were asked twice in the Q&A to do so yet merely said that it was ‘obvious’ there were a range of options. Well ‘obviously’ not!

2. Evidence to most people, including me, involves more than sticking up a few book covers and a graph. I felt, along with many people in the backchannel, that you were presenting opinion as fact. I’ll cite two examples: your criticism of the Socratic method and Maslow.

3. You don’t have to ‘cut out’ to tweet whilst listening to a keynote. I, along with everyone else there, was perfectly capable of forming an opinion in 140 characters whilst listening to you. It’s not rocket science.

4. People were annoyed by your swearing because it seemed a desperate attempt at some kind of credibility. As one tweeter put it: ‘serious dad tries to impress hipster audience’

5. You criticised *all* Physics lecturers based on your own, narrow, experiences. You did likewise with schoolteachers because you’re a school governor. Having worked in schools up until this year, I found your undifferentiated criticism and lack of nuance unjustifiable.

As you well know, the opening keynote sets the tone for the conference. I’m not sure it was the best tone to set.

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