On ValioCon 2011
Lets face it, we all spend a majority of our time on the web. Wether it be interacting with each other on twitter, checking out each others work on dribbble, or chatting back and forth on Skype. While that is essential to building relationships with everyone in the industry, its not enough.
Last year Drew Wilson, of Valio, announced a brand new conference, aptly named ValioCon. His aim wasn't to create a big name speaker list and cram a bunch of people in a small room and fill them full of information that they may or may not be interested in. Nor did he schedule multiple talks at the same time slots and force you to pick between them. Instead he selectively picked speakers from multiple aspects of the web, and scheduled things so every attendee was able to attend eavery talk.
Everything was setup beautifully and ran very smoothly. The majority of people arrived on Friday and Drew had his brother, Jesse, running a shuttle back and forth all day to pick us up and bring us to the Carlsbad Inn (awesome place by the way). Because of the small number of attendees, everyone felt comfortable and just started talking with each other and introducing themselves. I spent a few minutes trying to match faces with twitter avatars, but whats the point when you can just walk up to people and introduce yourselves.
Everyone was very down-to-earth and just as excited as you to meet everyone. I had to keep telling myself that we're all just people and twitter followers don't really matter. The speakers were excited to just sit and chat with people and get to know everyone. I was blessed with the chance to talk to people I admire and also given the opportunity to let them know what I can bring to the table. Who knows, maybe that will lead to something awesome (by the way, I do front-end dev).
So back to the conference. Friday's bonfire didn't end up going exactly as Drew planned, our space ended up being a lot smaller. But some people said the stripper pole on the bus made up for it. It was cool to have random people walk up to you and introduce themselves and then just talk to them for a few minutes until someone else did the same thing.
Once getting back to the inn, we got a group together and headed down to Pizza Port for more hang out time (totally not 444m away). Sitting in a circle with beer, pizza, and creative nerds was awesome. Sharing stories, talking about whatever came to mind, and convincing Ismael Burciaga to spend way too much money on a plane ticket were just a few of the things that occurred that first night.
Day 2 started out with trying to find out where food was. After following our noses (read: twitter) we encountered Kyle Steed's beautifully designed banner and a room with swag bags and food. More mingling between nerds, then an introduction by Drew formally started off the conference.
Drew said that the slides and videos will be online at some point, so whenever those are avaliable the links will also be here.
Brad Smith knocked it out of the park with his extremely honest talk on The Business of Starting Up. He spoke very openly about what went on with Virb, social network turned website builder, and stressed that quitting doesn't automatically equal failure.
Next up, the incredibly talented Anton Zynkin of SoftFacade on The Anatomy of an Icon. Do I really need to say anything here? We all know they're absolutely amazing at what they do and we'll never come close (that means you Jeff). But in all seriousness. Anton spoke greatly about their process in creating their masterpeices, different types of icons, and what elements are essential for a successful icon. Awesome job Anton, you guys are incredible.
Giveaway came, and speaker followed, the 3rd dude.
Ethan Dunham of FontSquirell and FontSpring spoke about fonts, hinting, and
how to sneak Gotham on the web basically a status update on what webfonts are up to on the web. He showed off some pretty fancy stuff thats possible with the CSS font stack. Check out his slides when they are avaliable to see what I'm talking about.
Lunch from In-n-Out was great, a first for me. These group meals not only saved us all from having to pay for it ourselves (thanks Drew) but more importantly gave us yet another opportinuty to hang out together and meet even more people.
Jina Bolton's talk on CSS Workflow with SASS was incredible. I was surprised at the small number of peole who use it. Even if you don't like change, or just like writing pure, clean CSS. atleast check it out. LESS is also another alternative to SASS, I honestly don't know which is better, thought I think I prefer LESS. I'm sure people much smarter than I have written articles comparing the benefits and downsides of each and came to an informed conclusion so check those out or just visit the SASS and LESS websites and read their intro's.
Up next, David Kaneda. David is a creative director at Sencha, who showd off some crazy things that they are doing over there in regards to mobile web apps. While sure, any native app with be smoother than a web app, there are defientley many cases where a web app would make much more sense. Sencha also shows the power that HTML/CSS/JS has to mimic default iOS behavior. Crazy stuff, check them out.
Im sure you all have seen SoftFacade's work (on the front page of dribbble). The first thought that I have when I see an icon they designed is "How did they do that?!". Dimitry Tsozik showed us just that when he designed a complete icon from scratch on stage. He showed us that there are so many features in Photoshop that we just don't know exist. My favorite quote from his workshop is "If you use a tool you should know it by heart.". It's so true, if we actually spend the time to learn our tools an everything they can do, they will be able to help us make our work that much better. That not only applies to design, but also development. Know your text editor, figure out all the shortcuts and spend the time finding bundles that could save you time doing repetative things over and over again.
After getting our minds blown by Dimitry it was time for drink night. Coke for me, but apparently there were some good drinks avaliable. I can't stress how important the networking was for me. Talking with people, building contacts, learning more about them. Its the best thing you can do to get your name out there. Everyone hung around basically talking about wherever the conversation led. There was a photobooth setup (wich I totally missed out on, still slapping myself for that one). Overall it was a good time and everyone had a lot of fun.
Fast forward a few hours, we picked up some more drinks, crammed ourselves in a telephone booth (yea they still exist apparently), and then headed back to byfar the coolest hotel room I've ever been in. I still don't know what Erin Nolan did to get a room with a fireplace and a couch. But regardless, she was nice enough to invite us all back to her room to continue the party. Needless to say, more quality time with awsome people.
Sunday, the last day of ValioCon 2011, arrived way too quickly. Again, we started with breakfast and a giveaway. The first talk of the day was "From Web to iOS" by Mike Rundle. It was interesting to get an idea of how drastic the difference is in how well iOS apps do in the app store in comparison to the android marketplace. Also to see that a bunch of apps take the idea of a successful app a year ago, update the graphics and add a story and become successful overnight. Mike has succeeded in piquing my interest in learing Objective-C.
Dave Hill is an incredbile photographer and graphic designer/compositer. His composites are extremely realistic. The insight he shared into his process was priceless and way more than I expected. Theres not much more to say about it than that, check out his work and see for yourself.
Now we come to Rogie King. How has this incredible
underwear model designer never spoken at a conference before? His take on designing for the client and putting the clients happiness above all else is something you don't see talked about in our industry, ever. He says to be friend with your clients and build relationships with them. Now either he had too much to drink Saturday night, or he's onto something. I'm fairly certain it's the latter. He said a few crazy things, one being to make the client happy at all costs. Even if it meant losing money on a project. I don't know if its karma or what, but with the experiences he shared with us always worked out beautifully in the end. That just goes to show that being completely honest and umpront with people is valued very much.
Next up, Chris Lea on New Web Technologies. Grant you most of the things Chris said went over my head, there's still a ton that is extremely interesting and I plan on looking more into, specifically Node.js. I've heard so much about that recently that it's almost like its haunting me.
Mike Rundle, up to bat again. This time bring XCode as his bat of choice. In a matter of an hour I think Mike convinced us all that native iOS development is no where near as complicated as most people think it is. If XCode wasn't 4.3gb I would have downloaded it and spent my flight back to Detroit learing objective-c rather than writing this (epic?) rundown of ValioCon.
While those are all the speakers from ValioCon 2011, thats definitely not all that was said. The networking was incredible, the size was perfect. Everyone got a chance to talk to everyone and no one felt "too popular" to just walk up and talk to. I've started the beginning of so many relationships that I hope will only grow in the coming months.
One underlying theme I felt during ValioCon was to just get out and make great stuff. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Don't be afraid to scrap an entire project if its not working out. Make great stuff, enjoy doing it, and make incredible friends along the way. Once again, thanks Drew for this amazing conference, I'm so glad to have this be my first conference and I'm sure we'll see each other next year.
I can't thank you all enough for the wonderful time I had, please keep in touch, thats the only way that this incredible community will be able to stay as close as it has been, lets make it even better.
See you on twitter.
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