Learning Experiences

As much as I think I’ve learned over the years, there’s always an opportunity for the world  to show me how far I have to go. That happened the other day.

One thing I’ve learned, don’t hit “Publish” angry. The addendum to that is DO hit “edit” when not angry. I wrote a page for 360|iDev on our feelings on Conference Diversity. At the time I wrote it, was angry about things I saw other events doing. I made that page about that, which was wrong. Then two years later, it was still about those things, which now made no sense and had no context.

My Conference Diversity Page did the exact opposite, which makes me sick to my stomach. The worst part about words on the internet is the person behind them is stripped away, and the words have to stand on their own, and often mine are their own worst enemy.

360|iDev strives every year to be as open and welcoming as possible. To encourage a diverse attendance and speaker line up. Last year I invited Brianna Wu (@spacekatgal) to be the keynote speaker because I respected her and her company (an all female game dev shop) and thought she’d be a welcome voice at the conference. She crushed it by the way.

This year I’m hoping to have not just a Women In Tech Breakfast (we’ve hosted one at every event we do for the last two or so years), but a Women In Tech Lounge. It’s a work in progress based on this. I hope it works out, I think it’d be a valuable addition to 360|iDev.

This year’s 360|iDev attendance is about 7% women. That makes me sad. I want to do better. That’s up from 4% two years ago which is a plus for sure! But a long way still to go.

Since 2012 I’ve spent my money, my time, and the resources of my company to further the cause of Women In Tech. It means a lot to me, I’m married to a Woman In Tech, I have many friends with daughters that I want to not be afraid of becoming a programmer or engineer.

We’ve supported “The Click” hosting a breakfast for female attendees to talk about issues surrounding WIT. Last year we hosted a panel discussion with members of NCWIT. We donated money and conference passes to App Camp 4 Girls, and I personally spent a good part of a week this year wearing an orange vest for AltConf to be a visible presence of our inclusion policies and a clearly visible first line of defense when our policies were being violated. I’d do it all again.

Those things mean a lot to me, and have made me (I think) a better person. Hearing from people I deeply respect about what it’s like being a woman in technology makes it clear there’s so much more to do.

 

Free isn’t Free

There’s a popular saying, “When something is free, you’re the product.” That’s always true, maybe you being the product is as innocuous as hearing a short speech to welcome you to a meetup, maybe it’s getting some logo emblazoned swag, maybe it’s being signed up for a mailing list, or having your facebook details used as demographic data. Whatever the case may be, if you’re not paying for something, you’re the product, and that’s not always bad, but something to remember.

Another type of “Free isn’t Free” is when you don’t support something, but expect the by product to be available, i know that reads weird, here’s an example.

I’m doing an event, for a relatively small dev community. It used to be huge, and my biggest event, but has since become a bit more niche, by no means small like hundreds of people, it’s still in the thousands or so I’d guess worldwide. I decided to do a smaller scale version of my regular event. On one of the lists i’m promoting it on i got this question, “Will the session recordings be available afterward”

Which raised an interesting point, sure they will, if the event happens. Somebody has to support the things that are free. If no one buys a ticket to an event, the recordings won’t exist to be free.

It’s easy to lose sight of this kind of thing, and just assume “Someone is paying” and to sit and wait for the benefits to show up. Free isn’t free. There’s always a reason you can’t support something, and that’s fine, but I think if more people kept this in mind, we’d all be better off.

 

This has been in “draft” status long enough that the event took place, the session recordings are free, and released. I hope the asker of the above question enjoys.

Some common fails in events

So I went to an event over the weekend, and frankly it was a 100% absolute shit show. No lie, it was packed to the gills with fail.

And there wasn’t any reason for it, other than poor planning. Like I said, events are easy.

In no particular order, here’s a few pointers to make sure your event rocks.

  1. Have an ID checking line? don’t have vendors checking IDs, have them looking for marks and/or wrist bands. It slows everything down needlessly and pisses off everyone. Why did i wait 30+ minutes in this line if i could have waited 30+ minutes AND ended up with a beer!
  2. Prepare vendors, make them aware of expected attendance, even if it’s a wild assed guess. Overage is never fun, but it’s better than shortage. Donate it, give it away free the last 30 minutes, whatever you want to do, but running out of your product in the first 40 minutes of a 6 hour event…. big fail, and 100% avoidable. I will never give my money to that vendor now.
  3. Free events are hard to gauge expected attendance. Add in weather, location, etc. It’s tough. Guess high. An event in a public park? An event with an active user base? Guess high. Have an RSVP list, use it as a gauge and bump by several factors (depending on when you cut it off, or whatever makes it “stop”).
  4. Is the event largely to move something of yours? Have enough of them!!! My main reason for going to this event (Other than being supportive of a cool sounding event, and the people who organized it) was to get a certain product that was advertised as “Come here and get it at the pre-sale price” and by the time I found the booth (Still in the first hour the event was open) the product was gone, sold out, but I could put my name on a list in case they get more, or i could not give my money or support to you ever again.
  5. Having food trucks? Have more. Food trucks are tough. Pick trucks that can move food fast, and have as many as possible. Prepare them for attendance, then remind them every time you communicate with them so that they don’t forget or ignore you. This event had four (That I recall), and each (remember this is the first hour of a six hour event) had a line almost 100 people long… in 40 minutes.. wonder how long the food lasted?

I had RSVP’ed online which entitled me to my first beer bring free. I spent about 20 minutes in line to get my ID checked, after asking those around me what the line was for, and sending my wife up to the front to investigate. Then another 15 to get my Beer ticket. I couldn’t buy more beer tickets from this booth, it was just to get my beer ticket, so my wife was going to have to wait in the beer ticket line which looked at least as long as the ID check line. We walked to the beer tents, those lines were each about 70+ maybe 100 people and was also checking IDs. I opted to not have my free beer, then we walked the row of booths on one side, first one that looked like tasty food, “Sorry guys, we’re sold out”, Oh ok, weird this thing just opened. Get to the food trucks, hundreds of people in lines. We’ll eat later. Head to find the thing I want to buy, almost can’t find it (there was a tent with hair dressers and shit in it, and when we shoulder our way to the booth, “Oh sorry, all sold out”

Next year it won’t be on my calendar, I certainly won’t recommend it to others. Totally avoidable.

Events are easy

until they’re not.

They’re easy when it’s someone elses money you’re working with, or when there’s no real money on the line to begin with. Or when your name and reputation aren’t attached to it.

They’re very much not easy when it’s your money and/or reputation on the line.

Last Friday afternoon i made one of the hardest business decisions I’ve ever had to make, whether to cancel an event.

I cancelled the event. 360|intersect 2014, that was to take place in Seattle next week, isn’t happening. Ticket sales were way too low. I had kept hoping the flood gates would open in the last two weeks, as often is the case with events, but finally had to admit defeat, no one was coming. Well not no one, but not enough, by a long shot.

I’ve never had to cancel an event before, I’ve been in spots where i probably should have, but didn’t. This was the first time i made the call. I spent the weekend calling the speakers and talking to them about it, thankfully each one has been awesome and supportive of the decision.

Today I’ve been emailing sponsors, the venue, the hotel, refunding attendees, etc. Working out the details of unwinding an event.

I’m losing money, but I’m losing less than had i gone through with it, in terms of money but also my reputation and the reputation of the event.

 

Events are easy, except when they’re not.

Why 360|intersect means so much to me.

tl;dr;
Buy a ticket to 360|intersect, thank me afterward. Hate it, I’ll give you your ticket fee back.

But really, read this.

I created 360|intersect last year, after 3 years of it sitting in my brain, waiting to hatch. The seed was planted by Doug McCune, in 2010 at 360|Flex DC. One of our worst performing 360|Flex events.
Doug gave a talk about “taking the Tangent” (The link is to a recording of the talk, watch it now and come back, or save for later, but watch it).

That talk really stuck with me, like i said, it was the seed.

Since that talk, I’ve made sure every event after it no matter the audience, had at least one or two talks that stoked the fires of inspiration and creativity.

Last year, in talking to Ben Reubenstein and Brent Simmons at very different times they both suggested something like 360|intersect. I mentioned Doug’s talk, and similar ones, and both agreed it sounded like something that should exist.

So I did it. I hand picked people from all the spaces of tech i knew (Flex, Mobile, web, business, and more) and invited them to Seattle to share their stories. You can see the recordings here.

It wasn’t a large event. It wasn’t supposed to be, i wanted it small, exlusive, cozy. I didn’t want a TED or TEDx sized monster. I wanted something approachable, where speakers left the stage, and took a seat in the audience, where everyone could fit on a single duck.

From what I can tell, everyone loved it.

From the moment we wrapped up 360|intersect 2013, i was thinking about 2014. Who to invite? Who to ask for recomendations?

I think this years line up is every bit as awesome as last. In fact maybe more so, because there’s a few people in the line up that are recommendations from people i admire. The speaker line up has grown beyond my meager circle of friends. WIN.

360|intersect, isn’t a technical conference, it’s an inspirational one. Hell it’s not even a conference, it’s an ‘event’. Everyone there wants to learn and grow, whether speaking or sitting in the audience.

TEDx type events are great, and the ideas spread are amazing, but they’re not approachable, and they’re not exclusive. I look back at 360|intersect, at the Millennial Media Jones soda contest, at the duck tour, at hearing people i know and admire for their technical expertise talking about running, race care driving, magic, hiking, and more, and i can’t help but smile.

I’ve watched and re-watched last years recordings, because when i need a kick in the pants to write, or be more involved in Denver and get outside my shell, they do the trick.

Go get a ticket, you’ll thank me, and if you hate it, well you had a nice few days in Seattle, and I’ll give you your ticket fee back.

I don’t want to see 360|intersect go away. I believe in it’s value to people. I believe it can have a positive impact on people’s lives. Marketing something like this is hard, really hard. I don’t have crazy TED money, or crazy TED name recognition. I have me, this blog and twitter.

Can’t make it, want to help me out? Share this. Share a link, it all helps. If i had a passion project within 360|Conferences, this is it.

Unknown

Would you like to mentor teams Competing in GoCode CO?

UnknownIf you didn’t know, i’m helping organize events for the GoCode CO campaign. It’s a pretty cool thing that the Secretary of State is organizing. It starts with hackathons taking place all over CO. Actually there’s a kick off event, but the fun starts with the hackathons.

I’m running the Fort Collins event (feel free to sign up!!) but there’s going to be events in Boulder, Durango, Grand Junction, and Colorado Springs as well.

The hackathons are the weekend of the 21st. Teams will compete around building apps around state data. Solving problems that exist now.

Here’s where you come in. We need mentors for a check in event that follows the hackathons. April 5th at the awesome Convercent office we’ll be bringing the winning teams from each city together to spend the day talking to mentors from all corners of startup’ness.

We’ve got a sign up form, here. We need about a dozen or so more mentors than we have at the moment. We want to make sure each team has the opportunity to talk to lawyers, business people, sales people, tech people, etc.

Unlike other hackathons, the winners don’t go home at the end of Sunday, done. With money and possible State contracts up for grabs, the teams that win the hackathons are just starting a journey that ends May 9th.

To make sure the teams are as supported as possible, this mentor checkin day is a big deal. If you have something you can share with aspiring new startups, please sign up, there’ll be snacks and coffee, I promise :)

If you’ve got any questions, just let me know.

I like this stylus! My Review of the TrueGlide Apex

I’ve been on a hunt for a stylus i like for a while now.

I tried the O-Stylus, but was afraid I’d break it, but it is beautiful and I’m excited to own one of the first.

I tried the Lunatik Pen, it’s great, but more a typical sausage stylus, squishy tip, kinda looks like a penis. BUT, it’s a great pen!

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I backed the Trueglide stylus on kickstarter and it arrived a few weeks ago. LOVE IT. It’s nice to hold, and easy to use. Best of all since it’s not Bluetooth (more on that later) it works with any app, no API needed.

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Click for larger

What i like is that the tip is actually the size of a pen tip, it’s not a big bulky finger sized tip that obscures the screen. The creators came up with a cool solution. The Trueglide generates a field that the capacitive screen reads as a finger, despite the size of the tip that’s actually touching the screen. Therefore I can see where I’m

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working. Pretty inventive, and it works damn well. I use Paper to doodle, and you can see it works quite well.

There’s a lot to like about this stylus. It’s lightweight, easy to use and not at all hard on the eyes. There’s even a nice little hump on the top pieces that’s there to keep the stylus from rolling away, great idea. While it is light, it’s durable. I’m much less worried about carrying it around in my bag. I might use the pouch it came with, but wouldn’t freak out if it was just in a pen slot in my bag.

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While note taking on the iPad is still not quite there (writing notes, not typing them) the Trueglide definitely has gotten close. The note to the left was written pretty slowly, I’d never be able to make notes in a lecture or meeting or anything. Maybe i need to start doing sketch notes, that’d probably work better.

I only two complaints with it and neither are huge or deal breakers at all.

1. I’d rather some type of push button to turn it on. To turn it on/off you twist the top, which is also how you change the battery. Kinda like a maglite. Not a big deal but can be annoying, one review i read, the user twisted the wrong way too tight (PEBKAC for sure, but still) and broke it.

2. I love the price point of this unit, but would probably have paid more to have BTLE, and an API. Kinda like how Paper (IIRC) can tell Pencil from finger, so you could erase with a finger, draw with the Pencil, etc. I think there’s some cool stuff that could be done with something like that. Again, not a deal breaker and it certainly hasn’t hampered my use of it.

If you’re looking for a stylus for your iPad, I’d definitely take a look at the Trueglide Apex, it’s pretty damn nice. No squishy tip, doesn’t block out the point of contact on the screen, I’m still on the original AAAA battery with moderate use most days.