Webmaster Jam 2008

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October 3rd and 4th, 2008 at the Loudermilk Center in Atlanta, GA Webmaster Jam Session 2008 took place and it was an enjoyable event.  Food and refreshments were provided; the coffee was tasty. I had a Platinum pass,  allowing me to hear any presentation.

1.  The first class I attended was Making Accessibility Sexy (Chris Heilmann, Dan Rubin).  It was an educational presentation with slides and explanation.  The presentation helped to express the importance of making websites accessible to anyone and everyone.  This is vital for reasons I had not considered prior.  The speakers were frank and revealing.

2.  Next I was able to catch the end of Search Engine Marketing and Optimization (Darrin Ward).  He spoke about some good things that I think most everyone can benefit from regarding SEO.

3.  Next was a lunch break with hard and soft shell tacos, buffet style.  There were also drinks and a salad bar.  While we lunched, we listened to Amazon Style Data Managment – Will Crowdsourcing Improve Data Quality? (Mike Culver)

4. Then I heard Web Design and Development: Behind the Scenes (Keith Robinson, Jeff Croft).  Keith introduced himself, mentioned his large slew of clients and spoke about how he wasn’t going to just plug his site but the entire time he spoke about his site.  He did not speak about web design and development as a whole (which I wish would have taken place) but rather spoke about how his site went through a change in general – a transformation. This topic in itself was helpful, it was merely not what the title was about.

We were presented with ‘posters’ which are used on his site.   I still do not get the point of his site because there appears to be no SEO involved, which he admitted in his presentation.  Keith said most people come to the site through the blog.  That is great cuz I am sure not feeling it from the home page.

At one point Jeff took over and he was so nervous I felt badly for him.   Someone in our group noticed how Keith kept cutting Jeff off.  It just made for an uncomfortable atmosphere.

It was interesting how the speakers symbolically slammed web 2.0, which is quite outdated and most sites need a brush-up, mine included.  It was just funny because of their harsh attitude about it ; I think it was lost of most of the group they were speaking to.

Keith’s presentation of a site transformation (which is what it should have been called) was was more artsy-fartsy; maybe if that was my thing I would have gotten it, who knows. Overall, this was a very long and unhelpful presentation for what the title was making it out to be. It did not appeal to the masses, let’s just say that.

—-

At this point our group cut out for the day.  We were a bit blown away by the last presentation we had heard, and not in a good way, so we took off.  There was nothing left for the day according to the group, although I  personally would have wanted to stay.

———————

Day Two – October 4th

1.  First thing, after some coffee, I listened to Website Smackdown.  There were several experts involved (Ethan Marcotte, Nick Finck, James Craig, Keith Robinson, Rob Weychert, Jeff Croft, Nathan Smith, Jason Ford, Aarron Walter, John Moore, Eddie Vasquez, Dan Rubin, Jina Bolton, Todd Dominey) in this live, on-the-spot critique of sites thrown out from the attendees.  People from the audience would submit their domain and then the experts would say what they thought.  It was quite informative to see what the group as a whole thought.

2.  At this point I heard Social Media on the New Internet (Jason Ford).  I heard some about social media in general but not what I thought.  This was more on the upper level, such as what coders would use.  There was an app Jason mentioned that looked really cool.  It could take some time but it would be good on a large scale.  This presentation seemed to be more for people representing large companies and I really did not learn anything.  Nothing against Jason or the presentation; I thought he did a nice job and seemed, to this point, to be the more down-to-earth and decent of the speakers (along with Christian Heilmann).

3.  Which brings me to lunch as we listened to an informative discussion from Christian Heilmann.  At one point he was very frank when a man asked a question.  Chris said to the guy, “Hey, if you are going to ask a question, at least listen to the response”.  I thought it was good that someone be accountable for their actions and ‘smarten up’ as my friend from Maine would put it.  Heh.

4.  After lunch we heard The Seven Commandments of User Experience (Nick Finck).  Um, I would say I am neutral on this one (shoulder shrug).  Nick seemed to be a nice guy and a good presenter.  He got laughs from the hallway, where I sat on the floor as a Platinum attendee.  My friend, who actually has arthritis, and would never complain, sat next to me on the floor – ack.

Part of the reason this presentation was hampered for me was that while we were in the hallway, on the floor, we were next to the designated “Jam Room” at the Loudermilk.   Several speakers from Webmaster Jam were going into Jam Room and the music was loud and very hard to hear over.  I guess they were cutting loose during the other presentations but it made it very difficult for (paying) attendees to hear speakers’ talks.

I saw Nick’s slide show later, online.  The slide presentations could not be seen from outside the main rooms; they were teleprompted which was perfectly understandable given the situation.  There just was not suitable seating outside each room, or in general I should say, as the event was overbooked.

Also during Nick’s talk, I saw a college student come in (no pass around her neck) as she sat down on the floor and listened.  I paid a good chunk to hear this and she strolled in for $0.00 – hm.

5. At this point I attended Inside CSS Frameworks (Rob Jones). This was the best presentation for sound, light, seating, etc.  I had been arriving earlier to each class in order to get better seating and I had waited in line to get a seat for this talk.  I learned from basic person-to-person conversation before the speaker began.  Many times we can learn a lot from real people and interactions, even in a classroom environment.  The class had a point of conversational interest when a slide showed a point that James Craig and Chris Heilmann had a discrepancy with.  It was interesting the way Rob dealt with it; pretty good I thought.

6.  This time our group split up and we all attended different sessions to acquire more information.  It was difficult to choose at this point because I saw several potential ways to go.  We actually thought about it for a while.   I attended Creating Sexy Stylesheets (Jina Bolton).  I absolutely got almost nothing out of this class.  Jina is very creative and there was nothing personal about it, the whole thing was just way over my head.  Jina spoke about CSS3 and how it is future and it was very gorgeous and streamlined.  It was just difficult for me and I had to go to the bathroom so I got up and left.  If I could, I would have asked Jina where she got her education; I think she might be brilliant and I am not kidding.

7.  This is when I walked into Findability: Design Comp to Code (Aarron Walter).  I had met Aarron just before this presentation began and I instantly began to enjoy his talk.  Another person from my group had taken notes and said this was a good talk.  I got in at the very end but I did win a book from Aarron called “Building Findable Websites – Web Standards, SEO, and Beyond” which I was excited about,.  This talk was a highlight of Webmaster Jam.

Conclusion

Pros:

  • I learned several helpful things
  • Everyone was nice, attentive, easy to speak to
  • I won an awesome book
  • Open questions and participation invited
  • I did not have to travel far to attend
  • Very interesting people attended and I was able to meet many
  • Now I can see new people on twitter
  • Everyone was very real and gave their prepared presentation (if something came up, it was confronted)

———————

Cons:

  • Several times I sat on the floor in the hallway, with others from my group (overbooked event).
  • Higher priced Platinum passes did not seem to provide any perks.
  • Promised limitless wi-fi was impossible for me to acquire. (I didn’t bring my laptop the 2nd day)
  • All presentations on the screen were in 800×600 resolution, a little hard to see (no biggie really).
  • Some presentations did not have sound when they should have (again, no big deal for me).

I am glad I was able to attend Webmaster Jam 2008 – My first jam session.

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~ by coffeebreath on October 7, 2008.

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