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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!)

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.)

Running Toward Austin

I swear I haven’t forgotten the W3C thing.  Life has just gotten very (and largely unexpectedly) overwhelming of late, and I’ve been falling further and further behind on everything.  To make matters worse, the ideas I want to put forth regarding the W3C are really too long for a single post, no matter how much time I have available.  In fact, I think it’ll take three posts.  I hope to write those soon.  Then again, I’ve been hoping that about a lot of things recently, as my tax attorney and at least two editors can attest.

Before I let it slip any further away, though, I do want to belatedly mention that An Event Apart Austin is open for registration.  Also, this is a great opportunity to mention actual timely news: we’ve just this evening announced that our special guest speaker in Austin will be none other than Molly Holzschlag, who will be giving a talk on designing from the content out.

Don’t miss it, ya’ll!

When It Rains…

I’ve been largely offline for the last couple of days due to an inexplicable failure of my DSL modem.  I was certain that it was another case of the DSLAM dying on me—it’s happened a few times in the past—and when the Covad techs claimed it had to be a modem failure, I was deeply skeptical.  Score one for the topical experts: they were right, and I was not.

While I waited for the replacement modem that I was sure wouldn’t change anything, I was using dialup.  Man, I never want to do that again.  Talk about sipping the Internet through a cocktail straw.  To make it even worse, I was tethered.  To a phone jack.  There was no wifi infusing the house, letting me work anywhere.  It was like having lost a perceptual sense.  It was wrong and confining and I didn’t like it.  No more of that, thanks.  If the Republicans are so hot to amend the Constitution, how about they be useful for a change and add “the Right to Unfetter’d Bandwidth”?

So.  Nothing much happened CSS-wise while I was gone, did it?  No controversies or anything?  Good.

While I may have been getting my bits by carrier pigeon, the AEA team was able to assemble and post a full schedule for An Event Apart Seattle, which includes a session by Kelly Goto on “Designing for Lifestyle”:

As design migrates from the web to mobile devices, our approach must also shift. Learn how companies are using ethnographic-based research to design smarter interfaces.

I’ve seen Kelly speak in the past, and she’s always funny, smart, and relevant.  I’m really looking forward to hearing what she has to say about ethnography and design.

I’ll be offering updated versions of my highest-rated talks in New York, “Hard-Core CSS” and “One True Layout”, and Jeffrey will be talking about selling standards to difficult clients (especially when the client is a boss) and the importance of writing to good design.  All this and Stan too!  If you’re fixin’ to come see us, the early bird deadline is still a ways off, but don’t wait too long.

@media Impressions

I’m back home from @media 2006, and as much as I’m happy to be reunited with my family, I’m very glad I made the trip to London.  All the people I met (and I met far too many to have any hope of naming them all) were great, very enthusiastic and passionate about what they do.  Forget the “reserved Englishman” (or woman) stereotype: if I were to create a single composite image to represent my experience, it would be a warm, wide grin.

From all the commentary, it would seem that people very much enjoyed my keynote, “A Decade of Style”, and several people commented on its similarity to last year’s keynote by Jeffrey Zeldman.  I knew he’d talked about the Web Standards Project, but I didn’t fully appreciate the danger of topical overlap.  Fortunately, this doesn’t seem to have hurt its reception, and I’m glad people found my little trip down amnesia lane to be of interest.  Personal narratives can be highly compelling, but they can also be unimpressive or (even worse) boring.

Of course, there was plenty of love for other talks, but you can understand why I might have been most concerned about how my talk was received, it being the one for which I was responsible and all.  I don’t get nervous about speaking in front of audiences, but I do fear boring or annoying them.  If there’s one thing I strive not to be, it’s a waste of others’ time.

As usual, there’s a quickly expanding body of photos over at Flickr.  I just have two things I’d like to suggest that @media photo taggers please do (or don’t):

  1. While I appreciate the photogenicity of London, pictures of Big Ben or Heathrow airport don’t really deserve the tag “atmedia”.  The venues, sure; the attendees, absolutely.  But a picture that shows all of the seats on your flight to UK were full isn’t really about the conference.  And do we really need to see what you ate for dinner each night?  I say thee nay.  (But then I totally don’t understand the impulse to habitually take pictures of one’s dinner, so maybe I’m a tad off base there.)

  2. If a person is depicted in your photo and you know their name, you should put that in your photo’s tags.  Whether you use the proper format (“Joe Person”) or the compressed version (“joeperson”) is irrelevant, since Flickr treats them as being equivalent.  But it’s nice to be able to find all the photos of, say, Jon Hicks by a convenient name-tag.

    I’ve also seen people tagged with both their name and URL, so a photo of Jon Hicks might be tagged both “jonhicks” and “hicksdesign“.  That’s a decent bit of design redundancy and probably worth doing, but at the very least, tag the names.  I’m going to go clean up my omissions on that score this evening, so as to flesh out the semantic gooness of my own photo stream.

Just my two bits of tagging advice; take ’em for whatever you think they’re worth.  In the meantime, if you’ve ever wanted to see me wearing a suit, or with my fangs partially extended in anticipation of a fresh meal, well then—I guess it’s just your lucky day, innit?

December 2015