Updated on August 18, 2016
DOKU:TECH in Prizren, Kosovo Report
It’s really great to see that one of the 25 biggest film festivals in the world happens near you. While Albanians (or Kosovars) might pride themselves whenever Albania/Kosovo is mentioned in global news, DokuFest is the film festival which deserves to be talked about. Each year the festival fills the cinemas and improvised screening venues around the historic city center of Prizren with a selection of more than 200 hand picked films from around the world.
The festival is known for its lively atmosphere, the amazing enthusiasm that grasps the city and its people and also for more than 150 volunteers working for the festival. Documentary photo exhibitions, debates, master classes and lively music events are also part of the 9 days festival. 2016 was the 15th edition of DokuFest.
While the film festival attracts more than 20.000 people to the small city of Prizren, it also features DOKU:TECH, a tech conference held in the old city of Prizren, which aims to talk about tech which affects social issues. From the website:
DOKU:TECH is an inspirational and interactive annual event which brings together individuals and tech talent to meet with top-tier international future makers, executives and thinkers. In 2014 and 2015, DOKU:TECH convened over 3,000 attendees and more than 50 renowned speakers for the two-day event.
We will gather to share knowledge and experiences, discuss issues related to our internet freedom, digital security and surveillance, open knowledge.
I attended the first edition of DOKU:TECH in 2014, which was a 4 day event back then. Admittedly, a bit too long, but I really enjoyed the unconference style of the event as you could mingle in with people outside the official boundaries of the event (also the attendance was pretty nice, however I’m not sure where the 3000 attendees number came from). This year, I attended DOKU:TECH as part of Mozilla, to talk with speakers and spread some Mozilla swag and stickers. Seeing that Prizren is only 3 hours away by bus, I booked 2 nights at a nice hostel I found on AirBnB and went for it.
The first surprise didn’t wait long: The talks on the first day of DOKU:TECH were cancelled due to unexpected heavy rain. You must know, chances that it’s raining in Kosovo in the middle of August are slim, yet it happened (ironically enough, only at the weekend of DOKU:TECH, the days after were hot and sunny). Anyway, mother nature was not in our favor. As a result, all talks from day 1 were postponed to day 2.
I also had the pleasure to meet Aral Balkan, who wrote the Ethical Design manifesto. He kicked off the conference with an amazing keynote which went under your skin. More talks by fellow speakers followed as well. However, due to the talks being squished into a tighter schedule, the flow seemed a bit rushed.
While the conference prides itself on being interactive, there was unfortunately no time reserved for a Q&A after the speaker’s talk. I understand that the tighter schedule might limit this, but I think 1 or 2 questions could be doable. On addition to that, unfortunately I had no chance to mingle in with speakers during the conference (apart the workshops), as there was no chance to do that (apart an impromptu meetup before the conference). For me, the joy of attending a conference is mostly to meet and exchange ideas with people, so I hoped to see more of that. While attending talks is really inspiring, its communication channel works only from one side, and I believe that no matter how good of a speaker you are, you will always learn something new from your attendees. Maybe good weather is a contributing factor to fix this? Probably.
Generally, I really enjoyed my trip to DokuFest and I will definitely come back again next year. I have met some great people at DOKU:TECH and I can count 1 or 2 of their talks as one of the best I have seen. I hope to see more side tracks and community participation next year (accompanied with good weather of course) so it offers more chances to mingle in for people like me who want to spread some Mozilla stickers. Maybe next year we will have a speaker from Mozilla? Looking forward.