17.40, Monday 4 Feb 2008

Best conference ever! I have been to some excellent conferences: ETech 2002, Design Engaged 2004, eurofoo 2004, reboot 2005, 2006 and 2007... maybe one or two more. Here's another for the list: I've just returned from Vancouver, where I was giving the closing keynote at Web Directions North 2008.

All of those conferences were good in different ways. ETech blew my mind; I met so many new friends at Design Engaged; reboot specialises in variety and friendliness; eurofoo, well, many reasons, but the eurodance foam party is a factor. And of course it's personal preference. Sometimes your brain is ready to be melted, or by coincidence you're stepping into a new community.

What WDN08 did, for me, was hit the sweet-spot:

  • Talks: I went to every talk I could (I had to skip one to do my run-through) and they were all top notch. I'm more excited about the Web now than I have been for a long time: it's going through a period of transformation, both in terms of platform and the kinds of people using it. And it's clear now that the Web is on the trail of certain issues - adaptive, service and experience design - and is probably better placed to offer approaches than most other media and design. It's great to see the Web come into its own.
  • Organisation: the conference organisation was tight. Seriously, it makes such a difference--well done to the team and helpers. Aside from general organisation, I personally felt welcomed and generously looked after. I think I can only call it care and consideration, and it's much appreciated--it made the trip a pleasure.
  • Sponsors: it feels odd to mention the sponsors, but having them participate instead of just slapping logos on things was a good difference. No vendor pitches, but general attention and being there. Microsoft deserve a special mention for their hosting of the two day party at Whistler. What made their sponsorship work was that Microsoft people were present and chatting. I'd like to see the culture of the Web assimilate MS instead of letting the historic divide calcify into two types on online experience: this kind of activity helps.
  • Whistler: ah, the Whistler trip. Unique. It's great that the mental workout of the first couple of days is balanced with a physical one in the next two. I'd not skied before. Man, what an opportunity. If this trip has hooked me - it might well have done - this might turn out to be the most expensive conference I've been to. And group bonding is certainly facilitated by the alcohol and exhilaration. Lots of socialising in the bar and on the buses.

I want to thank the organising team: Maxine Sherrin, Dave Shea, Derek Featherstone and John Allsopp. Thanks for being so welcoming, and it was so good to meet and hang out with all of you.

But mainly it's been the people--it's the crowd at a conference that makes the difference between good and great. (This particular crowd is mostly new to me too.) I can't count the number of people who showed me intriguing connections on topics I brought up in my talk, or the number of incredibly illuminating and hilarious conversations I had. What a joy. And then the easy conversations with folks I knew and folks I'd just met... I hope I've left Vancouver having made a few new friends. Thank you all of you who read this (I lost track of the group on the last night and didn't get to say goodbye to bunch of people), and please let's stay in touch.

An all round brilliant week.

Slides and transcript of Movement will be up in the next couple of days.

Follow-up posts: