I don’t know how people manage to get a review online within a day or so of a conference. I usually wait until life, or at least my level of adrenaline is back to normal before putting together a review. This time, I am determined to at least get my thoughts into writing before I go into hibernation and play in-box catchup. I’m on the flight back to Baltimore. Beside me are Fred Ryals and Robert Morris of the Annapolis Adobe User Group. By pure happenstance, and thanks to Fred saving us seats, row 8 is usurped completely by Adobe MAX attendees. It was Fred’s 7th MAX and the first for both Robert and me. After discussing some of our experiences and sharing my first look through the wonderful photos I managed to collect, I’m inspired to write and reflect.
[Disclaimer: One week+ and a head cold later, and I’m finally getting around to editing this.]
think about what you got out of it, not about what you didn’t get
My bags are about to explode with goodies, yet yesterday I caught myself whining to someone about missing out on a random piece of swag. We went back and forth about this apparent tragedy when I finally realized how silly it was and punctuated the conversation with, “… said the chick with two smartphones and a voucher for a tablet.” That was by far not all the cool swag I scored.
The point, though, is that here I was with a coveted Droid 2 I had no idea was coming to me, and yet I was probably on about a mug or something. As big a swagfreak I am, I consider swag to be a cool byproduct of conferences. People and experiences are the point, and the above paragraph is basically one big metaphor that can and should be applied to all aspects of MAX. Don’t obscure the many great things you got out of it by concentrating on the one or two you didn’t.
I saw a Life is Good store at the airport in which there was a t-shirt with a drawing of a coffee mug that said “Half full.” If I hadn’t already broken the bank, I’d have bought that shirt. Simple, yet poignant. As I waited for my flight, reflecting back over the week, I thought to myself, “Life is indeed good.” MAX is so huge that even a first-timer like me knows you can’t try to plan too much. It is hard enough to accomplish all one wants to do even at a smaller regional conference. However, I confess to a couple knee-jerk disappointments when it came to great meetings of the mind I had envisioned that never occurred ..as such. Alas, there simply isn’t time. MAX has 4000+ attendees, each with their own goals and responsibilities, and few knowing what unplanned surprises lay in wait.. such as spending an entire evening at a Blackberry party. But here again, when I reflect back over the conference, I realize I spent a lot of time with these and other people I care about doing way cooler things together than whatever I had in mind to begin with. And I accomplished a lot more than I ever imagined.
I had the privilege helping Bob Silverberg and Mark Mandel with their Getting Started with ColdFusion 9 Object Relational Mapping lab, as well as Andy Allan and Matt Gifford with two Search Made Easy: Full-Text Document Search with ColdFusion sessions. This was the first time I volunteered as a Teaching Assistant, and I can’t express how terrific it was to have this experience with such a stellar combo of friends and highly regarded individuals.
I can say without a doubt that by both prepping to be and performing as a Teaching Assistant, I learned much more about the session topics than I would have by attending alone. This was also a wonderful way to get an idea of what it’s like to give a session when you’re not quite ready to give one.
the coldfusion unconference
A definite highlight of the conference for me was helping Ray Camden, Charlie Griefer, and Ezra Parker with the highly successful ColdFusion Unconference. I wasn’t scheduled to do this, but it just seemed like the natural thing to do. I saw an opportunity to help good friends with a very worthwhile effort and snagged it. They let me help man the desk where I handed out raffle tickets and provided info. They even gave me the distinctive honor of being their “handler” as we strolled the floor providing photo ops to those who wanted to be immortalized with Ray “cfjedimaster” Camden and Charlie “the stormtrooper” Griefer. (Yes, I’m a huge geek and got quite the thrill out of this.)
I took some photos along the way and helped break things down at the end. I’m proud that they let me help, as it was an entirely rockin’ event. I enjoyed watching the consistent overflow of people. Indeed, a wonderful cap to a variety of events I’ve witnessed this year that prove ColdFusion is thriving!
Because I signed on to be Lisa Heselton’s co-manager for the Northern Virginia Adobe User Group this year, I was able to attend my first Adobe MAX as an Adobe Community Leader. There is definitely something to be said for the perks that come with taking on such a role. Although my teaching assistant responsibilities took up most of Sunday, I was able to slide over to the Adobe Community Leader Summit during session breaks. This was just one of several events setup for Adobe Community Leaders. I met many great people and engaged in fascinating discussion. At one point, I managed to catch Lisa emceeing the UGM Breakout session. She certainly knows her stuff. I regret that I couldn’t stay and didn’t have a decent camera with me.
As community leaders, our badges were held by green lanyards that provided for special privileges, not the least of which was priority seating at a couple cool keynotes and shows. C’mon, I got to see William Shatner, up close, whilst surrounded by good friends and colleagues. Very cool! Shatner was great. I confess, I am also a big Martha Stewart fan. Say what you will about Martha, she is always on top of her game.
other spontaneous fun
I had the pleasure of meeting several CodeBass contributors. In addition to being a Teaching Assistant for Matt Gifford, I caught Joseph Labrecque’s Emergent Collective One – All The Little Pieces presentation at the FITC Unconference, met Jason Levine during his stint at the Adobe booth, and ran into Duane Nickull at the MAX Bash. I saw Jun Heider and others I’d met a month earlier at 360|Flex DC. I met Mike Brunt for the second time at the ColdFusion Unconference, and I got to meet his Co-Opera partner in crime, Alexandra Bwye.
What else? I could go on forever. I gifted some CodeBass t-shirts and got a few t-shirts in return. My favorite t-shirt has to be the one-of-a-kind CFHour t-shirt given to me by Dave Ferguson. Not only is it very cool as a standalone, it happens to perfectly match my new Blackberry fleece jacket.
Thanks to Stacy Mulcahy, I gave a short talk on CodeBass to the FITC Unconference. Although it lasted only about 3 minutes, this was a particularly cool experience. Speaking in front of a crowd with a mic is something I’ve been working up to with #CodeBassRadio, TAing, and all this other stuff. It’s traditionally something I recoil from, yet I had a great time that day. Meeting Stacy was very cool, as was watching her in action and being up there with her. She’s probably the only reason I felt at all comfortable.
There are so many other people and things I want to mention.. photos I want to post. Dinners at the Farm, drinks at the Yardhouse, Tim Cunningham’s beer tasting that was regretfully stepped on a bit by the Blackberry party but fun nonetheless. (He brews phenomenal stout. I still have a bottle in the fridge to savor over Thanksgiving. I also brought back some of Rob Brooks-Bilson’s Orangecello Di Roberto!) I’ve decided just to cut this post short, or I will never get it online. A combination of my camera’s inability to retain the date and iPhoto not working with me has messed up my photo stream. There are many more photos in my MAX Facebook album, though, so check that out!
And the unexpected enjoyment continued right through the flight home. I never expected to consume aisle 8 alongside good Baltimore UGers with whom I could swap stories and have a show & tell. If not for the major common events, you’d think we were all at different conferences. Something for everyone at MAX!