Idle Words > Talks

Talks by Maciej Cegłowski

I got things to say.

Upcoming Talks:

Deep-Fried Data

Library of Congress, Washington, DC, September 2016. [video] (21 mins)

Digital collections as an opportunity to make connections with people, rather than get lost in a computational rabbit hole. Machine learning as a deep-fat fryer: fun to play with, amazing if you've never tried it before, ultimately not very satisfying or good for you. The dangers of legitimizing mass surveillance by partnering with its worst perpetrators. A plea for an Internet that's more like a big city and less like a shopping mall.

Remarks on the Moral Economy of Tech

SASE Conference Panel, Berkeley, June 2016.

A ten-minute talk on surveillance capitalism, programmer's disease and the tendency of our industry to escape into fantasy after promising to change the world.

The Website Obesity Crisis

Web Directions, Sydney, November 2015. [video] (53 mins)

The puzzling phenomenon of articles about web bloat, which keep getting bigger. Misguided efforts to create a faster web format. William Howard Taft and his importance in web design. The pernicious effect of the iPad on web design. The ad bubble, and why it's going to blow. The high cost of cloudy thinking, and how it nearly let me buy [REDACTED].

Haunted By Data

Strata+Hadoop World, New York City, October 2015. [video] (20 mins)

Re-imagining data as radioactive waste we don't know how to safely store. Nixon in your data center. Eroom's Law as an example of how data-driven thinking can make things worse for an entire industry. A plea to stop gratuitously collecting data and start treating it as the trade-off it is.

What Happens Next Will Amaze You

FREMTIDENS INTERNET, Copenhagen, Denmark, September 2015.

A talk about the corporate side of our culture of total surveillance. The odd story of how advertisers destoyed our online privacy and then found themselves swindled by robots. Six fixes that I think could restore Internet privacy. Capitalists who act like central planners, and an industry that insists on changing the world without even being able to change San Francisco.

Web Design: The First 100 Years

HOW Interactive, Washington DC (September) and San Francisco, November 2014.

A parable about progress and accelerating growth from the aviation industry. The problem of irreality and fantastical thinking in tech culture. Three competing visions for the web. Why you should be happy your computer is not getting faster. How to cure our exponential hangover.

Notes on Decentralization (coming someday)

Decentralize Camp, Düsseldorf, Germany, May 2014.

Notes from an informal talk on centralization.

The Internet With A Human Face

Beyond Tellerrand, Düsseldorf, Germany, May 2014 ‧ [video] (45 mins)

The problem of memory online, how there seems to be both too much and not enough of it. Why it doesn't matter whether mass surveillance is done by government or the private sector. Personal data as the Internet equivalent to radioactive waste. A critique of "investor storytime" (promises about future advertising) as the economic foundation of the web. Some ideas for regulating all this stuff. Many cute animal pictures.

Our Comrade The Electron

Webstock, Wellington, NZ, February 2014 ‧ [video] (30 mins)

A biographical talk about Lev Sergeyevich Termen and his inventions. The designer's paradox: how can you design something—which implies conscious control and intent—when it is genuinely new? The limits of our ability to predict anything, especially the future. This talk includes a long digression about Internet centralization and the dangers of the upcoming "Internet of Things". Funny Lenin stories! A vision of New Zealand hegemony.

Barely Succeed—It's Easier! (coming someday)

Web Directions South, Sydney, Australia, October 2014. [video] (40 mins)

Startup culture and its pathologies. The cost of starting a web service has dropped precipitously, so why do we still ask rich dudes for money? The puzzling lack of innovation around business models compared to the surfeit of innovation in everything else. Venture capital as central planning in disguise. The difficulties of changing your own culture.

Thoreau 2.0

XOXO, Portland, Oregon, October 2013. [video] (20 mins)

Strip-mining Walden for a bunch of Tim Ferriss-style life hacks. A call for independent sites to resist mass surveillance, since the large sites sure aren't going to. Exhortation to fail slowly, if at all.

Fan Is A Tool-Using Animal

dConstruct, Brighton, England, August 2013. [audio] (20 mins)

My love letter to fandom, a loose agglomeration of communities that roams the Internet, Battlestar Galactica-style, constantly on the run from collapsing websites and evil Cylons that want to co-opt their culture. Fans are active on the frontiers of Internet privacy, creativity, inclusiveness, and have a long and interesting history. They are also exceedingly nice people.

Remember The Web? (coming someday)

Web Archiving, San Francisco, CA, 2013

A discussion of the practical and technical challenges of archiving the modern web, as well as the economics of running a small for-profit archiving business.

Get a talk of your own!

Delivered with moving gestures, pregnant pauses, bullet-free slides and a tweetable finish, a talk by me is the perfect addition to your next conference, symposium, seminar, retreat, congress, rally, clandestine cell meeting, offsite, or birthday party.

Whether you need a ringing keynote to close out a stadium event or simply want to spice up that romantic dinner for two, you will be amazed by my punctuality.

Talks are made to order and are available in retrospective, jeremiad, visionary, philippic, diatribe, stemwinder, tour d'horizon, meltdown, or classic drunken rant. Some material may not be suitable for accredited investors or small children. Allow 4-6 weeks for delivery.

Contact me at

Please don't reprint these talks without permission, which is not hard to get!