Conference Reflections | April 8, 2007
In the last month I’ve attended four conferences, and spoken at three of them. I’ve already talked about SXSWi 2007 in some detail, so though I’d give the other events a quick write-up.
First up was the IA Summit in Las Vegas. Despite going to a lot of standards based conferences, my interest has firmly been with IA and UX for the last couple of years. This is why at events like SouthBy, I’m more likely to be seen in a session by Peter Morholz than I am by Eric Meyer (sorry Eric). I’ve been looking for a good IA/UX event for a while, but they either seem to be ridiculously expensive, or painfully academic. This is why I was extremely pleased to see the schedule for the IA summit this year was very industry focused and shied away from the more theoretical discussions.
It was very interesting going to the IA summit for a number of reasons. Firstly I was attending a conference as a delegate rather than a speaker for the first time in ages. Secondly, apart from a couple of people, I knew practically nobody at the event. This allowed me to experience the conference as a relative newbie, something I really enjoyed.
The first thing that impressed me was the sense of community at the event. Some of the attendees had been going to the conference for years, and had built up a good network of friends. For others this was their first time. The organisers went out of their way to create an atmosphere designed to help people mingle; from a volunteer help booth, through to a social trading card game.
Most conferences I attend are fairly general, so it was nice to be able to immerse myself in a single subject for two whole days. There were some fantastic presentations and I came away feeling very inspired. Much more so than I did from SouthBy this year. One of the best presentations came from the architect Joshua Prince-Ramus, who gave an insight into his working practices and demonstrated the similarities between our profession. If you’re an Information Architect or User Experience Designer, or if you just have an interest in creating better online experiences, I’d highly recommend attending next year.
Unfortunately I had to miss the last day of the IA summit as I was speaking at Web Design World in San Francisco. In all honestly I had little or no expectations for this conference. I had never been to one before and knew nobody in my circle of friends who had. My understanding was that it was aimed at a more entry level audience, so didn’t expect the sessions to be of much interest to me. I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised.
Other good sessions included an interesting talk on SEO and landing page conversions, a good case study on Ajax usability from Steve Mulder (who incidentally wrote the Web Monkey article that got me into CSS in the first place) and a characteristically flamboyant presentation from usability maestro, Jared Spool. The main thing this conference lacked was a sense of community, but then again, it wasn’t really targeted at a community audience. All in all, a very interesting couple of days, and a good way for somebody to dip their toes in the conference merry-go-round.
I was back home for a few days, then flew up to Edinburgh for the inaugural Highland Fling conference. With so many things happening in the South of England, I was excited to see the first big conference north of the border. Not least because Edinburgh is a fantastic city and a great place to hang out for a few days. In fact, it’s one of the few cities in the UK outside Brighton and Manchester I could imagine myself living. So I’d like to extend a big “thank you” to Alan White for organising the event and looking after us while we were there.
I think the audiences lack of conference experience was evident, as all of the speakers I talked to found them to be a tough crowd. Many of the speakers jokes raised barely a titter and even pictures of fluffy kittens failed to get a reaction. Still, everybody I spoke to said they enjoyed the event and put their silence down to extreme concentration.
My session on the future of CSS seemed to go down well, and I hope it rattled a few cages. I’ll write up my thoughts when I have a spare moment, but you’ll get the drift of my argument from the slides. Hopefully I’ll get the opportunity to do the talk again as I think it raises some interesting questions.
The day after the conference saw the second Refresh Edinburgh take place. This was the first Refresh I’ve been to, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Like a big skillswap or a mini BarCamp, around 50 local designers and developers gathered together to discuss a variety of topics. It was great hearing local developers talk about their projects, and I hope some of these people will make it onto the bill of the next Highland Fling. The Refresh crowd were a lot more vocal, and the sense of community was evident. It’s great seeing the start of a burgeoning community and I hope everybody involved manages to keep the momentum going. If they haven’t done it already, I’d highly recommend setting up a local mailing list to make sure the conversation continues.
I’ve enjoyed attending these conferences for various different reasons. Some for the social side, others for the topics, but al have left me feeling very positive about the industry we work in and excited about what lies ahead.
Posted at April 8, 2007 9:10 PM