No Borders

Where were you in 2013 and what were you doing back then? What have you done over those last ten years? How have the last ten years changed your life, your work, or what’s important to you? I don’t know about you, but I definitely don’t often pause to reflect about the past decade like that. Far too often, we are too busy and caught in the here and now.

Now, imagine you get asked by two conference organizers to not only reflect about the last ten years but to actually give a talk about what has changed for you over that time span. That’s exactly what Joschi Kuphal and Marc Thiele did when they came up with the idea to organize a very special event: a ten-year anniversary edition of border:none. Same venue, same speakers, same price (30 €). Plus a second day and more speakers with a focus on diversity and inclusion.

And so, people got the rare opportunity to either talk about or listen to a very special collection of retrospectives and stories. Already after the first few talks, an interesting theme emerged: almost nobody gave a technical talk. Many even expressed a feeling of disillusionment with the state of the Web and the tech industry in general. Instead, people talked about very personal observations, journeys, struggles, and passions.

Jay, for example, spoke about the monsters inside our heads that hold us back from inducing necessary change and how important it is to not stay silent in the face of lies and hate. Tobias shared a deeply personal story about how his family history lead him to always search for new communities while, deep down inside, never feeling quite at home. Bastian reflected on failure, the satisfaction that comes from building things, and the value of a sense of quality, trust, honesty, and happiness. And Rodney took us to where he found relief from not being able to think about nothing but work: up in the air, paragliding. 🤯

Our brains are wired to prioritize short-term problem solving (= survival) over long-term thinking. That’s why we often end up sliding from one seemingly urgent task into the next without considering the long term implications of our actions. And before we know it, ten years have passed. Border:none 2023 demonstrated impressively that what truly matters in the end isn’t how good you are at running in the hamster wheel. In hindsight, the things you will remember, the things you will be most proud of, are the things that brought you a sense of purpose, happiness, and belonging, as well as the moments when you took a risk or stood up for something. At the same time, the things you’ll regret probably won’t be the things you did as much as the things you didn’t do.

As Jeremy illustrated in his talk Of Time And the Web, it’s easy to overlook the profound positive changes that can happen over larger timescales. Things we take for granted today, like the eradication of a disease like smallpox, are actually things that we would have considered “too good to be true” just a few years earlier. In much the same way, every little step we take, every decision we make, can add up to make a profound difference. Change is possible. It is on us to take the first steps, although we might have to step out of our comfort zone and the outcome might be uncertain. We all only get to play once, so we better play without fear and create something beautiful.

Then, there really are no borders.


PS: What border:none also showed me is how wonderful and replenishing it is to meet so many people again whom I can consider my friends now. It was amazing to see and talk to all of you. Thank you for creating this invaluable opportunity, Joschi and Marc! ❤️


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