Middle West

I’ve been meaning to write up some thoughts on last week’s “An Event Apart Chicago”:http://aneventapart.com/events/chicago07/. It was my first trip to the city in the middle west that sits on a big lake. Hot dogs were eaten. “Cheezborgers”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/adactio/1255681470/ were inhaled. Deep dish pizza was shoveled. I was inflated. Chicago is without a doubt a food city — but how the heck does anyone stay under 300 lbs. there?
The event itself _was excellent_. Of course it was excellent. Whenever you get a bunch of great speakers and cool attendees under one roof for a few days, that’s the way it’s going to go. But there are other reasons why this particular show was a success.
In my opinion: one track continues to rule. It rules because you don’t have to decide where to go and what to miss. But it also rules because the conversations in the hallways and pubs can be centered around the same sessions. There’s no “ah, I missed that one because I saw ______ instead”. There’s a complete shared experience between all attendees, and that’s a very good thing.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is SXSW, which will have approximately 23,867 panel sessions next year. Maybe we’ll be able to talk about one of them together. Maybe we’ll also bump into each other at that party on Sixth. Or more likely, we’ll leave feeling like we’ve missed the _real_ conference.
Another key to the single track at AEA: breaks. And a lot of them. An hour is a long time to sit, and a nice break after every session really helps. It also helps in that it gives more opportunity to chat with people. And you can chat about the session that just happened while it’s fresh. It seems obvious, but not every event is structured like this.
I’m bummed I missed “Liz Danzico”:http://bobulate.com/’s The Seven Lies of Information Architecture talk. But I was busy freaking out about my session that immediately followed, going over slides up to the last minute, as usual.
“Derek Featherstone”:http://www.boxofchocolates.ca/ wowed us with a “semantically rich crossword puzzle styled with CSS”:http://www.boxofchocolates.ca/projects/crossword/.
A highlight was Coudal‘s closing keynote, where he talked about the balance between work that pays the bills and the personal projects that are exciting, fun and if you’re lucky can also pay the bills. A lot of what he was saying hit close to home — the idea that maybe we all don’t have short attention spans. We get inspired and have those moments of sheer excitement when diving into something new. I liked that Jim said this was OK. See the hilarious “aforelinked film”:http://www.simplebits.com/notebook/2007/08/30/regrets.html that supplements this.
It was a quick trip, but luckily was able to squeeze in a river boat tour of downtown Chicago with friends old and new. The architecture is incredible, and sitting on a boat floating through the city is my kind of sightseeing. From the river, one can take in the hundreds of skyscrapers that pepper the riverside. Just amazing.
Photos were “taken by me”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/simplebitsdan/sets/72157601786721091/ and “by many others”:http://www.flickr.com/groups/aeachicago07/pool/.