Random thoughts on The Future of Web Apps event

Random thoughts on The Future of Web Apps event

Summary: There's plenty of word-for-word notetaking already posted about Carson Workshop's The Future of Web Apps event which was held over the past couple of days in San Francisco so journalistic reportage seems like a pretty big waste of both of our time. Instead, here are some random observations, thoughts, and impressions in no particular order.

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TOPICS: Google
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There's plenty of word-for-word notetaking already posted about Carson Workshop's The Future of Web Apps event which was held over the past couple of days in San Francisco so journalistic reportage seems like a pretty big waste of both of our time. Instead, here are some random observations, thoughts, and impressions in no particular order. If you do want to read actual coverage and opinion about what was said at the event, try the tag futureofwebapps-sf06 which at least a few people got right.

In the spirit of awards shows (which I generally despise watching but am OK reading about after the fact), here are my winners and losers:

Winners 

  • Best Presentation: Carl Sjogreen – How We Built Google Calendar (great verbatim notes here). The best presentation of the event IMO. Carl did a fine job of driving home the value of iterative development and design balanced against the unfortunate (and all to widely celebrated and endorsed) notion of shipping fast and often regardless of whether your product is actually ready. No big takeaways (I've been doing this software building-and-shipping thing for quite a long time now) but great reinforcement and validation of some essential concepts.
  • Best presenter: Jeff Veen - hands down. The guy just knows how to present - he's confident, charming, witty, and knows his material cold. His preso was pretty good - nothing earth-shaking - but the way he delivered it was poetry.
  • Nicest unexpected pleasure: The brief but thoroughly enjoyable chat I had with John Battelle during lunch the first day. He's even smarter and a lot more charming that I thought. We had an intriguing (and all-too-brief) conversation about his Federated Media project and the emerging implications presented by the multimedia lives many of us are living as we produced blogs, podcasts, web content, printed artifacts, and video.
  • Great Venue: The Palace of Fine Arts theater is in a gorgeous Greek temple-style building that it shares with the Exploratorium. The theater was very comfortable and the acoustics and visuals were just right. See the contrarian award below regarding the provisioning of net access for the other side of the coin.
  • Best Encounters: Dinner with my friend Hobie Swan of Mindjet at Hunan Homes, a fabulous little dinery in Chinatown followed by excellent coffee at the Copolla's Zoetrope Cafe. Hanging with my long-time virtual and now "real" friend Jon Strande - author of the Business Evolutionist blog and all-around nice guy. Hanging with my boss at Foldera, Richard Lusk, the first day.
  • Best shwag: No contest really since there wasn't a whole lot but the robotic pen Google handed out is a lot of fun and I was, fortunately, able to snag a second one so I don't have to fight with my son over who gets to keep it.
  • Another Best Place to Stay: There can't be just one - San Francisco simply has too many great hotels. But if you want to stay by Fisherman's Wharf, I heartily recommend the Kimpton chain's Argonaut Hotel. Superior in every way as every one of their hotels I've had the pleasure of staying at prove to be. I first learned about this chain of boutique hotels when I visited Ben and Jackie, the Creating Customer Evangelists gurus in Chicago.

Losers

  • The WiFi: it was so bad that the second day, we were playing the refresh game: hit refresh in your WiFi utility to watch the hot spots appear and disappear. Just awful. I know they were trying hard but it just sucked. Thank goodness for my EVDO-equipped Treo 700p.
  • The "cafe": Seriously. If you're going to strand people far away from the culinary delights this city has to offer, at least make sure there's good coffee and something more appetizing than a ham or turkey sandwich. Nice folks, spectacularly ordinary food.
  • Worst presentation: nah... not going to go there. Everyone tried hard and was very earnest. My overall advice? To the twenty-something first-time-out-of-the-gate studs who feel it is completely OK to dismiss over 40 years of best practices and methods for developing software: come back and tell me how silly you feel spouting that nonsense in a few years kids. Trust me, there's a reason why this stuff exists and is adhered to by so many people. You're not that smart - you had a good idea and you got lucky. That's not a repeatable recipe for success.

Update: Added a link to the Argonaut Hotel.

Update 2: Minor formatting and typo corrections.

Topic: Google

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4 comments
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  • Funny, your best was certainly not my best

    I agree mostly with your perceptions, but I honestly thought the Google Calendar talk was (compared to the rest) dry and not very applicable unless you work in a place like Google (and how many of those are there?) Tantek's Microformat talk was probably my favorite and the following were all very impressive: Kevin Rose's of Digg, Tom Coate's of Yahoo's, Matt Mullenweg of WordPress, and Ted Rheingold of Dogster. That's not to knock the rest because they were all at least really good, but I those five were great.
    MikeSchinkel
    • It's all perspective and context

      Mike - I'm not sure what you went to the event ot find out. The problem I had with almost all of the people you list is that they said the same thing I've heard them say before - on stage, in podcasts, and in blog interviews. Another recitation of how WordPress or Digg came to be isn't why I traveled hundreds of miles and took valuable time away from my projects. The little bit they actually shared about what they thought the future held was not terribly enlightening.

      Ted was amusing and animated but what was the takewaway from his entire presentation? Let people express their passions? I got that a long time ago.

      I agree Tom's preso was very good. Probably my second favorite from a content and learning perspective.

      Arrington also had a few pearls in his talk - mostly in the Q&A with the audience. He should not be allowed to drink water from a bottle in public however - at least not when he's wearing a microphone. It sounded like the Poseidon Adventure.

      FWIW, here's what I liked about the Google preso even though I, and most everyone in the audience, doesn't work at a company anything like Google. It reinforced the importance of relentless focus on that one thing you intend to do better than any of the competition. It spoke to the criticality of small-group testing and refinement before launch. It provided excellent examples of how, even with these principles, it's easy to go astray and forget who you are building for.

      I thought this was the most applicable of the presentations because of all of them, it provided the greatest amount of information about process and practice - the how and why of SW development - that I could bring back to my team.
      morchant
    • It's all perspective and context

      Mike - I'm not sure what you went to the event ot find out. The problem I had with almost all of the people you list is that they said the same thing I've heard them say before - on stage, in podcasts, and in blog interviews. Another recitation of how WordPress or Digg came to be isn't why I traveled hundreds of miles and took valuable time away from my projects. The little bit they actually shared about what they thought the future held was not terribly enlightening.

      Ted was amusing and animated but what was the takewaway from his entire presentation? Let people express their passions? I got that a long time ago.

      I agree Tom's preso was very good. Probably my second favorite from a content and learning perspective.

      Arrington also had a few pearls in his talk - mostly in the Q&A with the audience. He should not be allowed to drink water from a bottle in public however - at least not when he's wearing a microphone. It sounded like the Poseidon Adventure.

      FWIW, here's what I liked about the Google preso even though I, and most everyone in the audience, doesn't work at a company anything like Google. It reinforced the importance of relentless focus on that one thing you intend to do better than any of the competition. It spoke to the criticality of small-group testing and refinement before launch. It provided excellent examples of how, even with these principles, it's easy to go astray and forget who you are building for.

      I thought this was the most applicable of the presentations because of all of them, it provided the greatest amount of information about process and practice - the how and why of SW development - that I could bring back to my team.
      morchant
  • Great summary

    Marc,

    Great summary - and it was great that we finally got to hang out! Truly a pleasure! I agree about Carls preso, lots of good information.

    Mike - what was your favorite?

    jon
    jstrande