Here are some photos I took
After a pretty uneventful 3.5 hour drive to Cleveland, I arrived at the hotel around 6pm. As I was getting my stuff out of the car, I met up with John Stockton. John and I have followed each other on twitter for a few months, so it was great to finally meet him in person (common theme at tech events these days).
Walking into the hotel we immediately ran into Dan Hounshell, Joe Wirtley, Justin Kohnen, Leon Gersing, Alan Stevens and Joe O’Brien. After a quick check-in, we dropped stuff off in our rooms and headed to the hotel bar where we spent some time folding the PocketMod schedules for the event. Some of us started a mini assembly line to make things a bit easier. By the time we left the hotel bar to get some food, we must have had 20 (me, Dan, Justin, Leon, John, Mike Slade, Joe O’Brien, Joe Wirtley, Maggie Longshore, Joe Fiorini, Alan, Corey Haines, Michael Letterle, James Bender, Amanda Laucher, Dave Redding, Dan Hibbits and I’m sure a few more that I didn’t catch in my pictures) people folding the schedules. Sarah bailed on us due to some swag-related issues – LAME!
BTW, I’m not sure what’s up lately, but between Grand Rapids and Cleveland, I have had exactly ONE decently mixed Jack and Coke. :-\ The hotel bartender did a horrible job, and at $7 per drink, I wasn’t about to waste money on a second. Instead of eating at the hotel, we all decided it’d be cheaper to go somewhere else, so dinner on Friday night was at a Red Robin. The service kinda sucked and the food was good enough, but I can honestly say the conversation rocked. At some point, Chris Woodruff called to let me know he was at the hotel, but by that time, we were all heading back.
I learned my lesson last week at the West Michigan Day of .NET (so did Dan), so instead of taking off for a night of partying and karaoke with everyone else, we hung out in the hotel room, watched the Cleveland/Boston game and talked (BTW, what the hell was up with Boston taking it to game 7?). At one point, we did join Jennifer Griffin and Maggie Longshore at the hotel bar for a few minutes. I can say for sure that I was back in the room and asleep by 12:30.
I was up, showered and out the door by 7am to see if I could help Sarah and crew setup for the event. I ran into John and Mike Slade and got a quick tour of where the event would be held. It wasn’t too long before Sarah and her husband arrived with all the swag, so John, Mike and I helped bring in box after box of swag. After unloading the swag, I headed back up to my room to see how Justin, Dan and Leon were doing. Since we were all speaking at the event, we made a beeline to the speakers room – Nate Kohari was already there, so we introduced ourselves and then settled in for the day. I’m pretty sure that sometime during that first session Jason Follas showed up along with Brian Prince, Brian Gorbett, Rich Broida and a few other speakers.
I wanted to make it to objo’s “Why Ruby?” session, but got caught up with the goings-on in the speakers room and didn’t make it. During the second session, I wandered between rooms and snapped some pictures. The simple fact of the matter is I couldn’t decide which one to go to…3 friends speaking at the same time made it tough to decide even though I’ve already seen 2 of the sessions at previous events (Dan’s SEO talk and Alan’s TDD/MVC talk). For the third session, almost all of us packed into Nate Kohari’s talk on dependency injection. Almost all of us have been following Nate on twitter, but this was our first time seeing him speak and it was on a topic we were all interested in! He did a fantastic job during his talk and definitely has me interested in taking a look at his DI framework (Ninject).
Unfortunately lunch wasn’t provided for the attendees — turns out the hotel catering was just too expensive for the organizers to deal with. :-\ That was a bummer and I’m sure it pissed off a few of the attendees. The organizers were nice enough to provide lunch for the speakers though. I couldn’t help but feel a bit guilty, but at the same time, I sat at a table with Alan, Chris and Jason Follas.
My “Lessons Learned” session was immediately after lunch. I was worried about being in the “big” room, but I ended up having a packed house. I think I counted 35. This is the second time I’ve done this particular presentation and to be perfectly honest, I think I’m gonna pull it from the rotation and re-work it. I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from people about the session and I love to hear people tell me how much they enjoyed it, but I’m not happy with it yet. I feel like I ramble on too much. I also need to re-work the abstract a bit. Of course, I’m probably the biggest critic of my work whether it’s code, writing or speaking, so we’ll see how it goes. I did end up blasting through the slide deck in about 40 minutes, so the final 20 minutes was spent taking questions from the audience. After my session, I went back to the speakers room to decompress a bit.
The Final Sessions
I skipped the 5th session, but a bunch of us ended up in Sarah’s “IronPython” talk at the end of the day. In fact, a few of us sat in the front row and tried to heckle her. I snagged a few “photoshoppable” pictures during the 30 minutes she talked. Overall, it was a good talk, but since I’m not a big Monty Python fan, I didn’t get some of the jokes.
The event organizers treated all the speakers to dinner at P.F. Changs! Mmmmmm…..good stuff. We had some great conversations at my table – I was sitting next to Nate Kohari, Alan Stevens and Brian Prince. Once again: good food and great conversation!
I ended up heading home around 8:30. To be totally honest, I was really emotional when I left. I’ve been hanging out with the same group of people (for the most part) every weekend for the past couple of months and it was sad to say goodbye again. These are the people I *want* to hang out with. Almost all of them (in fact…I’m pretty sure it is all of them) are on twitter, so we’re always in contact, but still…it was hard to say goodbye.
I’m not sure I can say it much better than Alan….
“Beyond all the productivity, entertainment and publicity benefits of twitter lies this fact: I love the people in my Twitter Tribe. If you’re uncomfortable with the “L Word”, then please accept that I feel emotionally connected to them, even if I’ve never met them. When I do meet people after following them on Twitter, I have an urge to hug them like a reunited friend.”
Overall, the event was pretty cool. As a speaker, I did feel a bit disconnected from the attendees, mainly because there was no common area to hang out in. The rooms were all down a single, narrow hallway in the hotel and everytime a group started to talk, some hotel staffer would come rolling down the hall with a cart and break things up. Also, it didn’t help that there was some kind of freakish doll-related meeting across from one of the rooms. I don’t know that I’d have it at that hotel again, but I’m pretty sure the organizers feel the same way.
Beyond the venue-related complaints, I’m glad I made the trip and I’ll definitely go next year if they do it again!
Huge thanks go out to Sarah, MikeL, MikeS, Corey, Sam, JoeF and John for putting on such a great event! Thanks to the sponsors (Microsoft, Bennett Adelson, 4TechWork, Hyland Software, Lazorpoint, Exential, Beacon Hill Staffing Group, TEKSystems, Sogeti, Robert Half Technology, PreEmptive Solutions, RedGate, JetBrains, Wrox/Wiley, and InformIT.com/Pearson Education) for helping make this event a reality!