THE Conference

This past week I traveled up to Seattle for An Event Apart. It was my third year doing this and I really look forward to the speakers and information that I know will be top notch. But this year was also different in many ways for me. For the first time I was going not as a contractor, but a full time employee and they paid for my registration (woo hoo!) and a coworker was there with me. G came with me for the first time, he took some time off work and wandered around Seattle while my head was being filled up with information. And through a friend I finally met in person just the week before, I got to meet a lot more people. I also had a great time at the opening night party. I have finally come out of my shell and am going up to people I’ve read online and just striking up a conversation. It paid off and I met some really wonderful people. I came away from this year’s event feeling so grateful to be a part of this community of folks, they are all so generous and willing to help out and talk.

Now, on to a bit of review. To do this, I’m going to just list off some of the speakers and the main thing I took away from them. There was so much information and I have a moleskin half full with notes, but really, each one left me with a thought that I keep coming back to as I think back on the talks and as I think about how to incorporate them into my coding life.

Sarah Parementer: Sarah talked a lot about the use of psychology in design. This week I have been thinking over and over again about how when we design and make sites, we should be thinking about how impressions can be made quickly on people and most importantly how those impressions can be influenced by the choices we make: color, layout, etc. I also enjoyed the peak into Dark Patterns, a frankly repulsive concept.

Jason Santa Maria: Two things from Jason’s talk are the things I actually keep hearing him say. “People set stuff and forget it, but not in a good way.” Think as you set that type! The second is that type is really more like a texture as people look at it. Therefore there is a lot of emotion tied up in how we interpret it and see it. So everyone will interpret the type differently, we just do our best to get it right.

Scott Berkun: I have to say that I think this was my favorite talk of the two days. Scott really challenged me about how we deal with failure and how we come back from it. Failure is not bad and we actually do it day after day as we change designs/code to suit the project. But this quote stuck with me as it really applies to my work situation, “Being a great designer is not just doing great design for yourself, but also having great people around you who allow you to design.” I feel fortunate that I do have people around me and in my team that allow all of us to suceed and make great things (or at least better/good things).

Jeremy Keith: Jeremy was all about taking us through Design Principles and how we are answering the how of what we are doing. The two things that really stood out to me, “the web is agreement” and the goal is universal access. He is so passionate about the access and the goal needs to be for everyone to get the information by whatever means they choose. So how are the Design Principles we use helping us to get to that goal?

Aarron Walter: Aarron spoke about giving ourselves permission to have ideas and act on them, but the thing that I am actually working on right now and trying to implement at my work is a very practical one. I have started working towards a design pattern library with all the things we are doing and using on a regular basis, including the front end code for getting there. His example of what they do at MailChimp was great to see and it got me and my coworker really excited to try and do the same.

Tom Coates: Tom’s talk was a great wrap up to the two days, it launched us into the thinking about how what Jeffrey started with, an overview of the history that we are currently building on, can be taken even further. The idea of taking the web and connecting it to more, to everyday objects, so that data breaks out of the web and is actually networked across everything. Intriguing, high level, but oh so fascinating to think about. His examples, of parking being variable in San Franscisco, of the scale that puts his weight in an app so he can track it, and more were really interesting to think about and cool that some are happening right now. This is where we could be headed and I find it really exciting.

That is a super brief overview and I know I didn’t mention everyone who spoke. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy all the talks, I really did, but I also think things hit you different places and the above is what hit me square between the eyes and made me sit up and take notice. I enjoyed the animations of Andy Clark and I loved Eric’s talk on ways to use CSS transforms, rotates, etc and Jeffrey’s history was a great way to start; but I keep coming back to what I wrote about above, as I sit on the bus, as I pause at work to think about something or as I am taking a walk.

I am so glad I got to go this year again and experience the event again. I am so glad that I got to meet and talk with many of the speakers and other geeks that were there. I am so thankful that this community exists.