Smashing Magazine asked on Twitter: “ What are the most remarkable conference experiences you ever had? And what made them so special?”

I can’t answer that in 140 characters, so I’ll do it here. These are my top three favorite conference experiences:

Generate Conference. I went to the NYC version and thoroughly enjoyed it. Listening to Dave Rupert talk about Japanese biker gangs, and not hate on Bootstrap was awesome. JoonYong’s talk, “Everything You Need to Know about Design You Didn’t Learn in School” was life-affirming — just ask, oh, everyone I know. I have probably evangelized about this talk more than any other talk I have ever seen. Laura Hogan gave a great talk on designing for performance, but talking with her afterward to get some specific advice on real-world situations was even more rewarding.

I didn’t enjoy the dick jokes from some fellow attendees, nor the “it’s okay, we tell these kinds of jokes here” response to my visibly disapproving reaction and vocal rebuke. I didn’t go to the after-party because of that- simply not interested in putting up with that kind of foolishness.

An Event Apart. These conferences feel professionally refined, no doubt the result of a thoughtful, creative process and oodles of conference experience! I see cross-over in the speakers (they are, after all, both for designers) but that was great for me, because I missed Val Head speak at Generate but got to see her at An Event Apart. Her energy is contagious, appropriate, I suppose, since she talks about animation! I don’t really think I could pick a favorite talk from their lineup. I have attended Chicago conference and it was really fun- last year, Shoptalk Show (Chris Coyier & Dave Rupert) did a live recording and it was a nice compliment to the conference energy.

All Things Open. This is hands-down my favorite conference experience so far. This *might* be because I’m more of a developer than a designer, but I still maintain that the full of win was distinctly due to three things:

  1. The organizers! Todd Lewis got up straight away and talked about the code of conduct. He left zero room for interpretation, and matter-of-factly said that anyone who didn’t agree with the code of conduct was invited to leave immediately. It was fantastic.
  2. Scott Hanselman spoke (Javascript, the Cloud and Virtualization), and managed to include references to Minecraft and compare Microsoft to the Death Star. After following him online for a long time, getting to see him talk in person was pretty awesome and he’s hilarious. I identify with him (we both parent boys, our lives seem to involve Legos and Minecraft, and we both love open source but work for enterprise corporations) and he’s definitely inspiring to me.
  3. There were a lot of engineers there. They were not so much discussing the way things “should” be, but instead talking practically about things I could go back to work and use the next day. Design conferences never fail to inspire me, and I wouldn’t be the developer I am without them. However, I sometimes struggle with “but wait, how can I go back to work and use this great idea?” I recognize that maybe this means I’m more on the engineer end of the scale than the designer end of the scale; I can accept that.

So that’s it! ❤ conferences & definitely wish I had more time for them…already planning my time for next year!

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