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:
- 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.
- 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.