My Thoughts from Kalamazoo X

This weekend, I had the honor to speak at the Kalamazoo X Conference, in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I had modest expectations for this event, as there had been some massive shake-ups in the format and execution of the conference in the weeks leading up to it.

What I discovered, however, was that the organizers of this conference, and Michael Eaton in particular, were merely refactoring this event to near perfection. Instead of a hum-drum 2 or 3 track event with 60 minute sessions, they changed it to something VERY different. Something I’ve never seen before. It was a one-track conference. 16 sessions. Each speaker had 25 minutes to present.

I’m always intrigued when you take something that everyone is used to, and apply new rules to it. By changing the paradigm of the “session” from 60 or 75 minutes to 25, it forced us, as speakers, to rethink how and what we present. As a result:

IT WAS AMAZING.

Here’s a recap of some of my favorite sessions (in the order they were presented):

Social Networking For Geeks


This session was presented by Sarah Dutkiewicz, and really covered the what and why of social networks. She talked about Plaxo and LinkedIn, and the purpose those serve as contact information repositories. She then moved to talk about Facebook, Friendfeed, and the all-too-often-mentioned-this-day Twitter. It’s not about telling people about the breakfast you had today…it’s about learning and interacting with other like-minded individuals. Once you can leap that hurdle, you’ll see the value in services like Twitter.

Branding 101

Clovis Bordeaux was one of the presenters I had never seen before. Due to technical difficulties, he wasn’t able to use his slides, but he has an excellent stage presence that more than made up for the lack of slides. He talked about branding, both from a business perspective, as well as the personal side. It really tied well into some of the things that my presentation on self-promotion would cover later in the day. I look forward to seeing future presentations from Clovis.

Classic Design Patterns In Everyday Code

One of the two sessions to actually show code in the presentation, Mike Wood talked about Design Patterns, and how important, time-saving, and relevant they are in today’s applications. Mike has a great presentation style, and I enjoy hearing him speak. This was no exception.

3 Tips For Improving Your Dev Process


Jim Holmes‘ talk on improving your dev process was excellent. The recurring theme of the day was the communication is important, and this session drove that point home. Since 2 of his 3 points had been covered in some respects before his talk, Jim focused a good portion of his presentation on Estimation, and the inexact science that it is. His resonating quote: “It’s estimation, not EXACTimation.”

Change


Leon Gersing‘s talk, given during a rolling thunderstorm, had perhaps the greatest impact on the audience at Kalamazoo X. First starting in code, he talked about accomodating change in our lives. Change in our workplace, or perhaps even the place we work. Ultimately, he reminded us that we should be open and prepared for change. Resistance is futile. He ended with this excellent quote: “It is not necessary to change. Survival is not mandatory.” –W. Edward Demming

Community – Get Involved!


The perfect ending to the day, Mike Wood has an opportunity to talk with the audience about the importance of finding your community. Whether that is a user group, a Twitter crowd, or just some participation in some online forums, you have much to gain from the people around you. Embrace that opportunity, and get involved! It was the perfect message for the day.

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