My outbound flight, from John F. Kennedy International Airport to Austin, TX, was practically a Gen-X school bus, loaded with twenty-five to thirty-five year old media professionals wearing hipster glasses and expensive jeans. The woman seated next to me swore we had been seated in order of the model of iPod we carried.
My “Traditional Design & New Technology” co-panelists and I spent Friday night bouncing around town, getting to know each other better, eating café food and feeling generally nervous about our session for the next morning. I tried to get at least six hours of sleep that night, but the beds provided in the my very overrated hotel were sorely lacking in back support, and I tossed and turned in an insomnia haze. I never stopped feeling tired from that moment on through the rest of the conference.
On Saturday, as the conference got underway in earnest, people started coming up to me and introducing themselves like crazy — often with exceedingly generous compliments about my new job, my past work or my Web site. It was really flattering; my mom would’ve cried if she were there.
The feedback to our panel discussion that I received in person ranged from positive to qualified or non-committal, with one guy telling me that “It really wasn’t as bad as everyone made it seem.” Ha! Personally, I thought it went really well. You can judge for yourself, kind of, on the podcast. Beware: no one properly wired us, so the sound quality might be very bad.
I ran into lots of people I hadn’t seen since last year’s show, which, thanks to the time-compressing effects of growing older and older, seemed like it went by in a blink. It gave me this strange feeling that last year’s conference and this year’s conference were just one long, continuous event, interrupted only by a single, interim day in which a whole year’s worth of large-buttoned, Ajax-y, social networking-y Web sites had flown by like road signs on a motorway. Weird.
My favorite panel by a longshot was James Surowiecki’s “The Wisdom of Crowds,” which, like the author’s book of the same name, was a very compelling look at using collective knowledge to reach more accurate conclusions than any person can on her own. I got the feeling that the session was under-marketed by the organizers, because it should have been a standing room-only kind of event given how good it was.
I got an incredibly unexpected compliment in a session I was too oblivious to attend: “Design Eye for the List Guy,” which took on the fairly ballsy act of unveiling an unsolicited redesign of Craig’s List — and with founder Craig Newmark in the audience even. They did an awesome job. Anyway, Ryan Sims was nice enough to give me a shout-out on slide 76 of this presentation deck for being an influence on his redesign.
In a town flooded with talent from all over the world, the rock star I was most impressed with was Jim Coudal. Over the many drinks and many hours I shared with him, John Gruber, Michael Lopp and Jason Fried, I was most impressed by Jim’s easy, unforced graciousness, general good humor, and worldly knowledge about many, many things not having to do with the Information Super-Interweb. A good role model for a designer, and a great role model for a person.
I spent more time just sitting around on the floor in the conference center this year, just talking to people — I won’t even try and list all of them here, because I’ll just leave people out inadvertently. But this was really my favorite part of the whole conference, because it just allowed me to catch up with folks that I only ever get to talk to online.