Another Denver Startup Week in the bag!

img_0078Welp, that’s that, Denver Startup Week 2016 has come and gone. I’m still tremendously proud to work on this event. It’s a ton of fun (and some stress, and head shaking).

This year we set another huge milestone having over 13,500 people sign up for the week. That’s amazing.

I had the honor of being the headline events chair, and as always we packed a lot into a week, and this year the week was only 4 days for me.  We decided to move the closing bash to Thursday night, which based on attendance was a great idea! It was epic! Far busier than previous years when it was on a Friday.

The Job fair this year saw almost 2,000 people show up to hang out with and talk to 70+ Denver companies all of whom were hiring! We had a ton of awesome sessions on diversity and inclusivity in tech, which is still so greatly needed! We hosted an awesome event with HBO/Dish to bring Silicon Valley to Denver

Overall the entire week was awesome, over 300 events all over the core of Downtown Denver. Tons of great stuff happened at Basecamp by Chase, where I spent the week, working. It’s nice to not completely have to stop work on my stuff during DSW.

If you didn’t participate this year you should sign up now, so you’ll know about next year, and then you should make sure to book out some time. Whether you work for yourself, or someone else it’s a great investment to get out and enjoy what Denver Startup Week has to offer.

I’m so proud of what Denver is becoming. There’s growing pains for sure, and I hope we address them, but watching the city I’ve chosen as home grow and become a world class city is amazing!

See you next year!

Session Recording, constant improvement

Recording conference sessions is one of those things that everyone seems to have their own way of doing it.

51iitebr49l-_sl1000_When we started, we had Flipcams on tripods in the middle of the room. Better than nothing, but only just. Under the best circumstances they captured grainy video and average audio. Under the worst they captured the person sitting next to the camera.

It wasn’t great, it wasn’t even good, but it was what we had on a budget, and for those who didn’t come to the conference is was better than not having anything.

 

snow_leopard_quicktime_x_iconThen we moved up to quicktime. It’s on 99.8% of our presenters laptops (Macs FTW) and does a great job of recording a screen. The Mac built in mic does a pretty darn good job of picking up the speaker too. The speaker is amplified and right in front (usually) of the machine. It was actually a pretty good solution, mostly.

We found that about 80% of the time quicktime screen captures worked really well. Then we encountered the random “record a green screen” issue, then the “my mic broke and I don’t use it so never got it fixed” speaker. Then we came across the “Quicktime is a beast and bogs my machine down too much” speakers. Quickly quicktime became a non winning option.

Enter our new rig.

One of the reasons we started with a super janky, then a less janky option, was budget. Conferences aren’t huge money makers for indie event organizers, so it wasn’t until recently I had the resources to upgrade our recording rig. Even then it was still a big investment.

img_0054This new set up (a MacBook Air, a Zoom H1, and a Elgato Game Capture HD) runs about $1500 for each room to be recorded (That’s with buying a refurb, 3 year old MacBook Air). We have four rooms to record at 360|iDev, so that’s not a small investment. Thanks to my friend Curtis Herbert for the tip on this set up. We were talking about ways to do it and he mentioned how he does it for his CocoaLove conference.

This year at 360|iDev was the first true test run of this set up at scale. It went mostly awesome. We had a few issues; settings on the hardware that were borked, a default on the mic that wasn’t compatible with the Elgato, etc. All in all we ended up with about as many sessions recorded as we did the previous year, so not too bad for an entirely new process.

As an organizer you gotta pick and choose where your limited budget goes. Professional session recording (last time I did it), runs a few grand per room per day, just not in the cards for a low margin indie event. As it is this recording setup is the largest single capital investment 360|Conferences has ever done in a single year.

I’m really excited for next year and for [360|iDev min] in October. I think our session recordings from now on will be quite good and of a quality I can be proud of. If you haven’t watched this year’s recordings, go check ’em out. To be clear, this years recordings are NOT of a quality I’m proud of, I was tempted to not release any, but figured for those that missed the conference and wanted to see what they missed the weird audio issues wouldn’t be a deal breaker. Plus the videos are free, so there’s that.

Thoughts on the iPhone 7, so far

tl; dr; 

It’s nice, a great update to a great device, with a few things I’m not a fan of. Want more details go to the verge.

That said, yeah it’s a good phone so far. Mine came on iPhonemas day, and of course I rushed home from Denver Startup Week, grabbed the phone started the recovery process then went back to basecamp (amazing Wifi), to finish, because yeah, who can wait a few hours?!

Unboxing

Unboxing an iPhone is pretty much boring now, there’s plenty of youtube videos so I’m not adding to it, plus all the think pieces have been written already. The things that stuck out to me are these.

  • The EarPods don’t come in a plastic case now, I use that case all the time. I practiced re-wrapping mine so they fit just right. The case was a great way to transport EarPods. Now they come in a one time use cardboard thing, you’re on your own to carry them without tangling… WEAK. Come on Apple, really? Oh and no, the new ones don’t fit in the case, at least that I’ve found, and I’ve tried
  • The Lightning to headphone adapter is definitely one of those “buy a few to have everywhere” things if you’re like me and have lots of headphones all over the place (office, home, backpack, etc) It’s small, and I suspect we’ll see lots of “lost my fucking adapter” tweets in the coming weeks, but hey, only $9 so go give Apple more money :)

Beyond that, the packaging was very similar to every other iPhone in the last few years. I was impressed that now the outer clear wrap was like the stuff inside, a pull tab undoes the whole thing, no more cling wrap to cut through.

Device

I’m not super sold on the home button yet, but suspect it’ll grow on me. The fact it’s capacitive didn’t really occur to me, and I think now most of my gloves are “compatible” so short of touching it through my t-shirt it should work (and that’s not something I do).

Being waterproof is likely (based on all my previous iPhone ownership) something I’ll never test (knocking on wood now), but I’m sure it’s a nice feature.

My biggest complaint, is the camera. Well that’s actually two issues

  1. It moved from 6 to 7, so all my cases are useless. Not a major issue and I’ve had them since my 6 so they’ve served me well, but still a bummer.
  2. same as always, Apple opted to leave a camera bump. Drives me up the wall. I hate things that wobble, etc. so a case is a must. I just don’t don’t get (and never have) why we can’t have no bump and a few hours more battery, seems like a win for all, since I’ve still never met someone who says “You know I love that camera bump, and just don’t care how long my battery lasts” Oh well, like I said, not a biggie, but just one of those ongoing niggles.

Black Black. I didn’t go piano, jet, iPhone 3G black. I went matte black.. original black, I dunno, whatever Apple is calling it. I’ve always like the darker colors, space gray, etc. So was eager to get matte black, and since the glossy one seems to be popular, I’m sure that made waking up like normal to order my phone easy to get iPhonemas day delivery.

So that’s really it. I’ve not noticed much of a huge win on power or battery life but it’s only been a few days. It’s a nice upgrade from the 6(s), and all that. I’ve never been a bluetooth headphone person (or rather was, it sucked terribly and never tried again) so not sure what my thoughts are on the whole headphone jack other than the terrible DRM implications.

Gratitude

IMG_2478Saying “Thank you” is important. If nothing else it’s polite, but for events, it’s important to realize, you’re the least important piece of the pie.

No one is buying a ticket to hang out with you. They’re coming to see the speakers, possibly to meet sponsors (especially if they’re looking for work). If you factor in at all, it’s a distant third.

For every event I organize I hand write thank you cards. Every speaker gets one (barring hiccups in the process, etc) when they check into the hotel or when they arrive at the conference.

For 360|iDev that’s almost 60 cards. For 360|AnDev is was just under 30.

I think too many event organizers forget that it’s not about them, they form a cult of personality around them as if their presence is the key. Sure great organizers do great events, but the ‘great’  part is the event, not the organizer.

 

I’ve thought about using something to automate my thank you cards, but realized that’s not what I’m about. Sure some have words crossed out, because my hand moved faster than my brain, sure I sometimes write them upside down, or misspell a word, but that’s what authenticity looks like.

Conference Signage V3

IMG_2523So I wrote a while back about Conference signage, and what my “version 1” looked like, and where I wanted to see version 2 come in.

Turns out V2 came sooner than expected. The awesome team at Essemble, who built the conference app, were able to quickly work up. rough version 1 of a conference signage AppleTV app.

It wasn’t fancy to start, I have a few things I’d like to change for next year, but overall it was awesome. Of course training people to look at this vs. the crappy little monitors hotels install outside conference rooms might be a bigger challenge than I expected.

IMG_2542Each room had a large monitor out front, and an AppleTV. The app had a list of rooms, you selected the room the TV was in front of and that was it. The app polled the server that drives the conference app, so any changes I made to the schedule in the app, were reflected almost immediately on the screens. Certainly faster than I could update the website.

 

As a first cut of this, done in … I think 2-3 weeks at most, I’m thrilled. The information I wanted to present was presented. I didn’t have to print out session signs for every session in every room, and have volunteers running around to change them. I was able to quickly move sessions based on capacity, and everything I needed to reflect those changes, did so quickly.

IMG_2540There were a few hang ups, the way the app pulled data left the previous evenings listing until 15 minutes before the next mornings event, vs. starting wth the first thing that day. Not a big deal, and easily addressed.

I loved that general sessions were able to be called out as basically “Not in this room” so anyone walking in, not only knew it was a general session, but where it was, and that it wasn’t in the room they were standing at.

I’d love to have them run in portrait, mostly because hotels don’t have small screens, and nearly 50″ is a lot to have sitting there in landscape. Not a deal breaker.

I’d love to have a bit more styling on the display, maybe using the header image for the event along the top, or as a full background, again not a deal breaker.

Down the road, a bit down the road, I’d like to own my own displays (probably smaller, 46″ was nice, but I felt it was a bit overkill) so I have more control on size, and placement, etc. but even using hotel kit, it worked out great.

I’d love to make conference signage more valuable and realistically more trustworthy for attendees. Hotels have small monitors that they use, but those changes aren’t in my control, they’re scraped from the schedule and any changes require emails to be sent, delay, etc. Updating the website is something I do as we go, but it’s also not as fast as simply changing the data the app uses, and not just updating the app, but the room signs at the some time.

RiNo Music Festival, not a great first run.

So this weekend, I went to the RiNo Music Festival. This was it’s first year in a space that I guess (from what I read) aims to become a music venue in the neighborhood (which is pretty sweet).

The line up was impressive, bands I knew from the radio.

[update] I realized I glossed over this to get to the bad, but the line up really was impressive. Every band had at least one song I knew from the radio so I could recognize them when they played. Having all bands a casual radio listener would know is (I assume) no small feat for a first time music festival. So while there’s plenty I think the organizers could have done better, the line up was a success for sure.

The location was not bad, hard packed dirt with room for food trucks, a stage at the far end of the pie shaped space.

That’s about where the “good” ends.

The show started at 4:30 and we got there about 5. Not too many people had arrived yet so it was easy to get beer from one of the two trucks, easy to visit one of the 5 or so food trucks.

Beer was cash only, yet they used square registers with iPads. One more step and they could take credit cards. One step, and they could have been totally awesome, and modern, yet they opted for cash only with shitty signs you couldn’t see until you got to the front of the ever lengthening line.

Oh and every food truck there, totally capable of taking credit cards. Fail one, RiNo Music Festival.

We grabbed beers and food and were able to grab a table with an umberella. As we sat and enjoyed our beers, more and more folks showed up. A good thing for sure, the festival was clearly not a failure.

That’s when things went off the rails.

As we sat there, the the line for beer (remember just two trucks, cash only) got longer and longer.

The line for the food trucks started to get longer. The line for the ATM got as long.

When our cups were empty it was “stand in a 100+ people line” or leave.

We left.

Leaving was a zig zag obstacle course of overlapping lines.

On leaving the security guy asked the guy in front of us if he was coming back in, “Fuck no, i can’t even get a beer in there”

Well said brother.

We walked to the Blue Moon Brewery, paid $2 less for a beer, and got a larger cup, and used our credit cards.

I feel ike the RiNo Music Festival was so close to executing an awesome event. They surely had an idea of how many people were coming, because it wasn’t free, tickets were required. They surely knew about square registers, so why not speed up the process selling beer? Why not add another beer truck?

I had friends who showed up and lasted 10 minutes.

Next year if it happens I’ll think twice about attending even though it was right in my backyard.

Keeping Conference Attendees Informed.

We moved to re-usable signage to save money. looks awesome!

We moved to re-usable signage to save money. looks awesome!

For years we invested in these really nice stand up banners for room signs. Each one listed the entire 4 day conference line up for that exact room.

Great in theory, not in practice.

Speaker backs out last minute, sharpie out their session, tape a folded piece of paper of that slot. Two speakers need to swap rooms, now you’re taping paper, WITH sharpie written information onto this nice standup vinyl banner. Now by the 4th day of the conference, the nice room signs look like shit.

Add to the overall shabbiness they now show, they aren’t the best at providing information. I’d watch people all day, each day, walk up to a sign, stand in front of it. I realized they were walking up, figuring out what time it was right now, then seeing if they wanted the current session, or maybe the next one.

I was presenting too much information.

Capture 2016-07-15 at 2.05.51 PMEnter room sign version one.

Several improvements:

  1. Not date specific, I can reuse these signs over years, WAY economical.
  2. Provide the exact amount of information someone needs, “What’s in this room now.” and “What’s in this room next”. Want more detail use the app to see the whole schedule
  3. WAY more green (see 1). no more annual vinyl banner cartridge replacement.
  4. Easy to manage. Volunteers swap out printed pages, and should something be moved, it’s easy to move the printed page. Canceled talk? Leave it blank, or quickly print up a “cancelled” sign. Easy Peasy.

Version One?

I run technology conferences. I want to leverage technology whenever I can. A lot of conference technology sucks, hotels usually under invest and over charge, hotel internet is well… we all know. While these poster boards are great and re-useable, my ideal Version Two is a monitor or TV, on it’s side. Either running an AppleTV or iPad. (Or something else)

I’d be able to (from my laptop or iPad) control what each monitor is showing, set up the schedule so the signs change without human intervention.

Definitely not a cheap solution, but very much a build once and reuse until the equipment dies solution, which i like. Also I like that it’s a technology solution, for a technology conference.

V 2 is a ways away probably, but it’s on the radar.