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Archive: November 2006

That’s Pretty Old

“Daddy, what old is Bear?”

“Do you mean how old is Bear?”

How old is Bear, yes.”

“I don’t know, sweetie.  How old do you think he is?”

“Sixty two.”

“Sixty two?”

“One.”

“Oh, he’s sixty one, not sixty two?”

No.  Bear is sixty two one.”

“Sixty two one.”

“Right.”

Honestly, the most impressive thing is that she knows any numbers above fiveteen.

Two Books Together

Last Thursday, I came down from the office to discover a stack of five boxes on the front porch.  Three were for Kat, who is one of those annoying people who plans way ahead for Christmas, and two others were my author copies of CSS Web Site Design (formerly “CSS Hands-On Training”).  This is a title I did for lynda.com, and published by Peachpit, and it’s most tersely described as “Eric Meyer on CSS, but for beginners”.  It’s also the hard-copy version of the video training title “CSS Site Design“, and includes all the videos and exercise files from the video title on a CD-ROM bundled with the book.

After I’d hauled all that into the front hallway, I grabbed my car keys and headed out the back door to run my errand.  At which point I nearly fell over two more boxes, these containing my author copies of the third edition of CSS: The Definitive Guide from O’Reilly.  This is of course an update of the second edition, which contains some updates based on the latest version of CSS 2.1, expanded selector coverage, updated compatibility notes taking IE7′s improvements into account, and corrected errata from the previous edition.  It’s not a major update compared to the second edition, admittedly, but if you don’t already own the second edition, it’s well worth acquiring (if I do say so myself).

It’s a bit funny that both sets of books arrived on my doorstep the exact same day, considering that the two projects started out well separated, and gradually synched up.  At first I was going to write one and then the other, but various complications set in and they started to interweave.  I finished their final reviews with a whole lot of overlap—that was a fun couple of weeks—and now, the waves have fully amplified.

What really cracked me up was that the next day, I got packages from both Peachpit and O’Reilly, each containing a single copy of the respective books, and each containing a note along the lines of “Here’s your advance copy; the rest should arrive in a few weeks!”.

AEA To Grow in 2007

Let’s cut right to the chase: An Event Apart is growing to become a two-day conference.  We’ll have at least four two-day shows in 2007; see the announcement for more details.

The first show, in Boston, is already confirmed.  We’ve signed the contracts and everything.  Registration isn’t open yet, and won’t be until early January, so you have plenty of time to get the budget approval and be ready to sign up as soon as seats go on sale.  Like I said, early January.  A more specific date will most likely emerge near the end of December.

You’re going to want to get geared up for this, because the speaker list is flat-out amazing:

Honestly, I can hardly wait to hear everyone on the list.  Well, except me.  I hear me all the time.  But everyone else?  Total gold!

Note that this is the speaker list for Boston; the other cities will have different lineups.  Obviously not 100% different, but I expect each one will be fairly different.  Still awesome, of course.

So what are we going to cover?  Best practices.  That’s really what it’s all about, whether we’re dissecting code or talking about usability or whatever.  Jeffrey and I are going to push every last speaker to pack their talks with insights regarding the current state of the art in their respective fields.  We’re going to push ourselves twice as hard to do the same.  What we want is to have everyone walk out saying, “Now I know where things are and where they’re going”.

The size of the event will increase along with the days, from our usual 100 seats to 400 or so.  AEA is now, as I said, a full-on conference.  It’s a big step, but it’s the right one.  The most common feedback from this year’s attendees was that one day just wasn’t enough, and looking back, we have to agree.  That’s especially true given that the feedback from our only two-day event of 2006 indicated that people really liked the length and the amount of information they got out of it.  So it’s time to step up.

Even from this side of the Atlantic, I hear the cries of our European brethren.  When will we visit your worthy shores?  It’s a fair question.  It could happen in 2007, or it might not be until 2008.  How’s that for precise?  I’m sorry, but I can’t do any better than that right now.  Our original plan had been to run a year’s worth of events to shake out the bugs and then look to other lands.  Instead, we discovered that the events were too small, temporally speaking, and needed to be dramatically revamped.

So now we need to run a few of the larger events to get the bugs worked out before going afield.  The good news is that a lot of the bugs are already smoothed out.  We just need to get a handle on the larger format, which has a whole new set of requirements.

So we’ll be at the Boston Marriott Copley Place at the end of March.  I hope you’ll be there too!  (And if you are going to be there and are a member at Upcoming, add yourself to the listing.  Otherwise, feel free to leave a comment here.  Thanks!)

Caption Hunt 2

It’s been very nearly two years since the last time, and that’s way too long.  So: it’s time for another caption hunt!

A picture of Nancy Pelosi and George W. Bush, bearing facial expressions I'm not sure can be described.

Leave your caption(s) in the comments.  Who knows?  There might even be a prize or two involved.

(Update: comments are now enabled.  Oopsie.)

Austin’s Powers

When it isn’t buried under a flood tide of web geeks, band groupies, and filmgoers, Austin is a nice little town.

Or maybe it’s just a nice little downtown; thanks to a visit with Angela and Dan, I found that the greater Austin area is a good deal larger and more urban than I’d realized, not to mention growing at a rapid clip.  At any rate, being there for An Event Apart Austin was markedly different than the SXSW experience (in which I’ll once again be partaking, come March) just by dint of not being nearly so noisy.

While we didn’t contribute too much noise to the area, I fervently hope that we added a whole lot of signal.  I know that from my spot on the charmingly petite stage at the Alamo Drafthouse Downtown, the people in the audience really seemed to be enjoying themselves, and I at least felt like I was communicating well.  I think the other speakers did too, so hopefully they got the same feeling.

Part of that, without question, was due to just how friendly and welcoming the audience was.  We had a few glitches here and there, but so far as I could tell, nobody let it get them down.  As we said to ourselves a few times, “When you choose quirky venues, you get quirk”.  I still really enjoy putting on events in not-the-usual-suspects places like the Alamo, and I’ll miss that aspect of AEA when it grows larger, but it’s definitely the case that you take your chances at a smaller venue.  I think we did well at the Alamo, and several attendees mentioned how cool it was to attend an event there.  I’m glad we picked it.

It’s still a gamble, though, and after a year of AEAs, I understand better than ever why so many conferences and other events are held in hotel ballrooms.  It may be bland and a little soulless, but as a presenter, you know they’ve done it all a thousand times before.  You know they can handle any routine problem, and in fact have.  It’s comforting.  You give up charm and funkiness, but in return you get stability.

I think there’s an analogy to dating in there somewhere, but I’m not going to pursue it.

After we were all done with the speechifying, the fine folks at Knowbility threw an after-party on the upstairs terrace of The Belmont, and a good time was had by all, what with the open bar and all.  I even got to meet and talk with Jim Thatcher, the man responsible for PCSAID, one of the first screen readers.

If you’re wondering what it all looked like, or if you were there and want to relive the moments, there’s (as ever) a Flickr pool for your perusal.  I threw in a few pictures of my own, including one for those of you who’ve ever wondered about the view from the stage.  The Austin Flickr pool even has, somewhere in its depths, a picture of me being a naughty boy.  Find it if you can!

All in all, the folks in Austin made it a great end to the 2006 AEA season, so thanks, y’all!  I always like to finish on a high note.  We’re going to take a little break in the AEA schedule while the event gets retooled and expanded.  We haven’t officially announced the next show, but I’ll let you in on a little secret, just between us: it looks to be in Boston at the end of March 2007, it’ll be two days long, and I already want to see and hear our lineup of speakers.  More when we have official word, which hopefully should come within the next week or so.

Webmaster Jam Session

Forty-eight hours after landing in Cleveland, I took off again.  I’d come back from AEA Seattle, and was leaving for the Webmaster Jam Session in Dallas, Texas.

I was interested to discover how much Dallas reminded me of my home town.  Both cities have urban downtowns of moderate stature and minimal residence.  Everyone lives in the suburbs, it seems, and at night the city center goes quiet.  People in other cities might read that as a slam, but it honestly doesn’t bother me.  A teeming, noisy nightlife is not the only (or even the primary) indicator of a healthy city.

As for the conference, it was a great time.  The gang at CoffeeCup Software understand something critical: that webmastering is not just about code and layout.  There were sessions on branding, for example.  I got a lot out of the excellent presentation given by John Moore, which drew on his long experience in the marketing department at Starbucks.  I believe that what I learned there will be of use in guiding the evolution and growth of An Event Apart.  There were also talks on finding the right hosting provider, ways to promote your site, and more.  And then there was the keynote, from that Eric wotsizname, you know, the CSS dude.  It seemed to go just fine, given that he was trying to pack ten years into an hour.

The other thing I noticed was that, for a first-time conference, the whole thing was run very professionally.  I know how hard that is to do, and I was quite impressed.  Kudos all around!

Like Seattle, I only was able to contribute a few pictures to the general pool, both because I was often too busy to haul out the camera and because my PowerShot S45 was approaching collapse.  Still, I got a nice picture of the twilit Dallas skyline, so even in near-death, the old battlewagon came through.

AEA Seattle

With AEA Austin looming just ahead, it’s probably well past time for me to say something about AEA Seattle.  Hey, what’s a couple of months between friends?

I’ve only been to Seattle once before, not counting a plane-to-car connection on my way to Vancouver, and that was four years ago for Web Design World.  I didn’t get a lot of time to see the city back then, so I was glad to get in a day early for AEA and hang out with Jeffrey.  As it turns out, we spent most of that Sunday exploring the Pike Street Market.  You might think that wouldn’t be a particularly lengthy or interesting activity, but for Jeffrey and me, there were many and varied delights to be found in the nooks and crannies of the sprawling complex.

Also, we were there just at the height of the Fifth Annual Buskers’ Festival, so there was quite a variety of entertainment to be had.  All in all, I had a great time drinking in some of the local flavor of Seattle, even if I passed on drinking coffee at the original Starbucks.  We put some photos up on Flickr, though not so many of mine as of Jeffrey’s.  There is also the usual event Flickr pool, if you’re in to that sort of thing.

The event itself was great.  The venue, the Bell Harbor International Conference Center, was flat-out fantastic.  I had no idea there was a venue possessing an entire auditorium filled with Aeron chairs and stable wifi, but there it was, and we were in it.  Lights, sound, projection—everything was top-notch and seamless.  For anyone who wants to do an event for 200 – 300 people, I’d definitely look at Bell Harbor.  They have some smaller rooms as well, and while they might not be quite as sweet as the main auditorium, the professional service would be no different.

Our feedback indicates that people liked what they heard, except me during the critiques.  Apparently, I came off as something of a jerk.  I’d been aiming for humorously blunt, which in retrospect was a mis-step—not because it came off wrong, but because it’s a poor fit for my public demeanor, which is why it came off wrong.  Live and learn.

So belated thanks to everyone who came down to the waterfront to see us do our thing, including one person from deep in my past… but that story will have to wait for another time.

Hands Across the Sea

Cripes.  In preparing to mention some upcoming appearances, I realized I’d never gotten around to mentioning a couple of events in the recent past; specifically, AEA Seattle and the Webmaster Jam Session.  I’ll get to those in the next couple of posts, and then fire off a couple of reviews.

What I called you all here for, though, was to pass along news of an upcoming two-continent microtour.  Yes!  You can almost feel the white-hot spirit energy of this global adventure, can’t you?  I know I can, and unless I’m very much mistaken, I see it in your eyes too.

It’s a special thing we’ve just shared.  Don’t tell anyone else.

The festivities will start with my return to London (UK, not Ohio) for a two-day Carson Workshop on December 7th and 8th.  You can learn more at the Carson Workshops site, of course.  I hear tell that a goodly chunk of the limited seating has already been claimed.  In the course of the two days, I’ll be leading an expedition into the very heart of CSS.  From the darkest, thorniest jungles to the spectacular hidden vistas glimpsed only by a few lucky souls we will travel, and those who emerge alive will truly be a band of brothers and sisters.

Since I’ll already be in London on the date, might there be a stop by the BBC Backstage Bash?  Could be.  Could very well be.

From the sun-kissed shores of wild England, I’ll wing my way to verdant Boston for Web Design World.  It will be there that I will spend half a day—said day being December 11th—presenting a condensed version of some parts of the content covered in London, an overland flight giving us an idea of where the previous week’s group blazed a mighty trail.  Yes, I’d like to present it all, but since I have not (yet) fully asserted dominance over the flow of time, I have no way to fit two days into half a day.  It would be like trying to fit a Danish prince inside a nutshell.  No matter how you or he may espouse theories of some fabled infinite space to be ruled within that diminuitive husk, homey just won’t fit.

My work in Boston having been completed, I will make my way homeward at last, nearly a full week and many thounsands of miles after leaving it, tired but triumphant, ready to face the New Year and all the changes it will bring.

So now you know.  And as well we know, knowing is half the battle.

(For those who might be in the know, a bonus prize to anyone who can identify the web site and author I was homage-ing in this post.  Not parodying!  No no!  I’m not sure such a thing would be possible in any event.)

November 2006
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