December 7, 2005

Philly AEA, Come and Gone

Well, the An Event Apart train has run through Philadelphia, home of the glorious cheesesteak and land of brotherly love, and now passed on to find the next town. Because it was the first in this series of events, it was not without its fantastic hiccups; the Franklin Institute’s spotty Wi-Fi, the polar-like room temperature, and the frustrating uptime/downtime of the AEA website (where a few conference materials were hosted). Despite these, the day went off with surprisingly few hitches, and a good time seemed to be had by all. Those of us involved had a blast! It’s great to see a community with this level of skill and dedication interested on honing and improving their craft.

My favorites talks from the day: Eric’s IE 7 panic guide, and his dissection of Alex Robinson’s One True Layout was nothing short of enlightening. Zeldman’s talk about logical writing for the web, even when you can’t afford to hire a writer, really hit home and his look at WCAG 2.0 Guidelines.

I think my presentation called “Solving (Re)Design Problems” (which largely dealt with the process of the A List Apart redesign) went really well. I was a little bit nervous, but I felt like I was able to loosen up after a few minutes of getting into the thick of it. I had a great time compiling my presentation too, which was packed with loads of behind-the-scenes visuals from the logo and layout development. I did hit one somewhat problematic wall while presenting because I decided to make my slides using Apple’s Keynote (which comes bundled in iWork with the wonderful I-don’t-need-to-use-Microsoft-Word-anymore program Pages). Since I have an iBook I was unable to use a dual monitor setup, my laptop and the projector, and was only able to use mirror-mode, which would not allow me to keep the presentation notes on my screen while speaking. I decided to present on Eric’s Powerbook which does support the dual monitor setup. The problem arose on some of my slides where I had more notes than the viewable note region would allow. When I would click for the scrollbar, the presentation would advance a slide, effectively locking me out of some slide notes. Luckily, I had rehearsed enough that I knew most of what I wanted to say already, but I did miss a few points I wanted to make in some areas. I couldn’t find anywhere to turn off this functionality in Keynote, so I just kept going. Regardless, in went well enough, and I will just chalk it up to more presenting experience for next time.

It was great to get to talk to so many people from Philly I have never met before, and others that had trekked in from out of town (or country) for the day. Attendees were treated to free New Riders books, grub, and many walked away with free MediaTemple hosting too, among other things (ya know, like the stuff they may have learned :D). It was a really diverse bunch of people including many designer, developers, writers, information architects, and marketing specialists. I really feel like there was a little something for everyone; and if you weren’t as excited by one topic, chances are a half hour later you might be once again listening intently.

Photos are still pouring into the Flickr group for those interested in a peek at the event, and a few great people like The Philly Standards Organization and Pixelworthy who were live-blogging the whole day. Thanks to everyone who braved the cold to come to our fair city. It was great getting to meet you all and share some good times!

Commentary (25):

1. Patrick Haney says… dec 7, 2005 | 2:40 pm

I wish I could’ve made it to Philly for the event, but I just moved to Boston a few weeks ago and wasn’t quite sure if I’d be settled enough to make the trip.

At least I’m in a real city now and there’s a chance AEA might make it to my neck of the woods (or somewhere close, like NYC).

2. Jason Karolczak-Konen says… dec 7, 2005 | 2:40 pm

AEA was great! It was a pleasure listening to you speak and having a chance to meet you in person.

3. Ian says… dec 7, 2005 | 2:47 pm

Meeting Jeffery and Eric was totally cool. You’d expect these “gurus” to be in an ivory tower but I was impressed to find that they are just normal, everyday geeks.
I’m in no way the most proficient person with CSS so I was able to learn a lot. Networking was also totally rad. Too bad I didn’t end up with free hosting. I thought I would since we all had a one-in-five shot…
You did great too.

4. june says… dec 7, 2005 | 3:00 pm

you said:

“Well, the An Event Apart train has run through Philadelphia… and now passed on to find the next town.”

Well, if your still looking for the “next town” …I’m sure the new media community of asheville would be ecstatic to have AEA in their own backyard.

A couple organizations/schools to contact would be:

Asheville is small but a great place to visit! Especially if the *fall* when all the leaves change colors.

5. Bob Monsour says… dec 7, 2005 | 3:13 pm

Jason, you did a fine job of your presentation and I found it particularly insightful to see how the design aspect of the ALA site came together. That, coupled with Eric’s description of the implementation issues and the back and forth between the two of you, made for an interesting time at the event.

And Jeffrey, as expected put a perspective on the whole thing as well as providing a lot of useful guidance on both accessibility and copy usage.

For all who can, I’d suggest AEA as a worthwhile event. For me, it was relatively close, a mere 45 miles (from Princeton, NJ).

6. Daniel Flax says… dec 7, 2005 | 3:32 pm

All of the presenters did an excellent job. I particularly enjoyed hearing the “real-world” stories of how things get done. Jason’s presentation was very interesting and immediately useful for me.

Eric’s presentation on how he implemented Jason’s newest design for ALA was very helpful and I look forward to using similar techniques.

Not to be lost, Jeffrey did a great job too!

7. Dean says… dec 7, 2005 | 4:49 pm

It was a fantastic event. Your presentation was great and I enjoyed Eric’s followup on how he implemented your design - the give and take and the level of detail was amazing.

Jeffrey’s talk on “finding the story” was great too.

I thought the room was warm. You were just a little bit nervous dude!

8. Jason Santa Maria says… dec 7, 2005 | 4:51 pm

Yeah yeah, I was actually just sitting under the air vent. I think I could see my breath!

9. Greg Hoy says… dec 7, 2005 | 6:26 pm

I lost a finger due to frostbite. Lucky for you Stan it was my heckling middle one. Great job, by the way.

10. Michael Hessling says… dec 7, 2005 | 10:02 pm

Your presentation was excellent, Jason. Just remember to look at the audience — with practice, you’ll find that you won’t need notes at all.

Your design for ALA is stunning, and I especially loved the detail you provided in your presentation. Kudos.

11. Simon Jessey says… dec 8, 2005 | 9:29 am

Jason, I thought your presentation about the design of the A List Apart website was one of the highlights of the show. The site has become something of a standard-bearer for 1024-pixel designs, and I firmly believe it is a perfect example of a site that is designed with its users in mind.

Despite the technical problems you had with your notes, your presentation went exceedingly well. I have no doubt that you’ll end up doing a lot more of this public speaking malarkey.

I am hoping to hook up with you at one of the Philadelphia Standards Organization meetings in the near future. I’m not a designer, to be honest, so I would welcome the benefit of your wisdom from time to time.

12. Steve says… dec 8, 2005 | 11:06 am

It’s too tempting to say just for the fun of it that the event was horrible, all the presenters stunk, etc. Just to be the odd-ball.
But that couldn’t be the furthest from the truth… you all did amazing jobs, the event was really great and it was an honor to be a part of the first ever ever in the world AEA. It was an equal pleasure to meet you, Jeffrey, Eric, the guys from MT and Pixelworthy. There was a true sense of buzz in the room, a buzz of excitement for all things great and design-ish. There was also a profound sense of humility from all the presenters… I think many of us put them on pedestals, but there’s no need based on the level of humility that you all have.
Truely a great event, very informative and inspiring.
A suggestion for next time though… maybe open up the critique portion to all, there were a lot of side remarks about the designs on display and more open dialog might’ve been nice.

13. Jason Santa Maria says… dec 8, 2005 | 4:02 pm

Thanks to all of you who came, and for all of your kind and constructive words. We will definitely be compiling feedback to keep making AEA get better each time.

14. Shannon M. Grothaus says… dec 8, 2005 | 5:18 pm

Did AEA record the presentations? I’m a newcomer to CSS and it sounds like your presentation, specifically, would benefit me a lot.

I’m a designer who is new to the CSS scene — understanding how ALA’s site was re-designed would be extremely applicable to my work.

If it was available for download, it would be worth it to me to pay (wouldn’t seem fair to the attendees that paid, otherwise, right?).

15. Jason Santa Maria says… dec 8, 2005 | 5:22 pm

Yes, we did record it, but not necessarily for distribution or web availability. The recording was more an experiment, and for us to see how we can improve things than for others to watch. Sorry!

16. Dogsthat says… dec 9, 2005 | 8:37 am

> Since I have an iBook I was unable to use a dual monitor setup

You might have some joy with Screen Spanning Doctor — I haven’t had the need to use it personally, but I’ll put the link in for info anyways.

Cool blog btw ;)

17. Keith says… dec 9, 2005 | 11:07 am

Looks like a great event. Loved looking at the Flickr stream—which is absoulutley scruffy…

Anyhow, I think we’d love an AEA Seattle. Just a thought.

18. Nick Toye says… dec 9, 2005 | 11:51 am

Its all great this AEA across the States, but how about making a flying visit over the pond to the UK, i’m sure you would all be very welcome and the climate is wonderful!

19. Cory says… dec 9, 2005 | 2:34 pm

> Anyhow, I think we’d love an AEA Seattle. Just a thought.

Or better yet, Portland :D

20. Andy Budd says… dec 9, 2005 | 3:37 pm

Sounds like a fantastic event. Really wish I could have been there.

21. Jason Santa Maria says… dec 9, 2005 | 4:14 pm

Dogsthat: Thanks! After the event I heard some good things about Screen Spanning Doctor, I will definitely be trying that out for SXSW.

Nick: Well, this was just the first AEA. AEA in the UK would be sweet indeed.

22. Nick Toye says… dec 10, 2005 | 4:08 am

It certainly would.

23. Lauri Jutila says… dec 10, 2005 | 2:49 pm

Have you thought about making your slides for “Solving (Re)Design Problems”? available for download? I’m sure a lot of people would really appreciate that, including myself.


24. Sean Jordan says… dec 10, 2005 | 3:15 pm

The Screen Spanning script works well and I’ve implemented it on a few people’s computers at work. It doesn’t write over firmware or anything permanent, so you don’t have to worry about it. It’s just a function that Apple disables to make a distinct difference between consumer and pro lines.

25. Shannon M. Grothaus says… dec 28, 2005 | 7:21 am

Regarding comment 18, by Nick Toye; It could be called AEA (An Event Abroad). :D

… if it happens, it won’t be for a while (says the email response I received to my enquiry for an AEA in London).