Wrapping Chicago

An Event Apart Chicago has wrapped. It felt like the best one yet. Everything clicked.

There were as many designers as coders in attendance, as many Chicagoans as out-of-towners, as many agency people and freelancers as in-house folks, and nearly as many women as men. They engaged at “good morning” and stayed involved all day, asking shrewdly penetrating questions and sharing their own insights and experiences. Energy flowed not only between the floor and the seats but also from one seat to another. It felt like community.

This was the third time out for Eric, Jason, and me. Our talks were sharper and shorter — looser and more relaxed, yet also more focused than before. The rhythm was better. The balance between technical and aesthetic subjects, how much time was alloted to each, the way one theme flowed into another — the music of the day — felt tighter and truer than at events past.

Thanks to our sponsors at Adobe, AIGA, New Riders, and Media Temple, we were able to give away thousands of dollars worth of software, books, and services. (We’ll be doing the same at An Event Apart NYC next month.)

Guest speaker Jim Coudal‘s leisurely stories were like little grenades of inspiration. He tossed them out casually; moments later, they detonated.

The day formally ended with lively critiques of sites submitted by attendees. We tried this once before, at An Event Apart Philadelphia, with mixed results. This time it felt like it really worked. The day informally ended at Timothy O’Toole’s pub, with a mixer sponsored by Jewelboxing.

Time, and the blog posts of those who attended, will tell if the event was as good for you as it was for us. Sincere thanks to all who attended. Thanks also to Dawson, John Gruber, Amy Redell, Michael Nolan, and Orrin Fink.

And a reminder: the Early Bird Rate for An Event Apart NYC ends June 9th. That’s a week from today! On June 10th, the price will increase by $100. So if you’re thinking of attending An Event Apart NYC — two days of design and code — please register soon.

In Chicago

Here we are in Chicago, city magnificent, blessed by architects, lake and river, where in less than twelve hours we’ll present the third Event Apart. I pray all who tread Chicago’s streets look up each day and feel how lucky they are to inhabit this Rome, this Paris of the American heartland.

Through a glass, lightly

The men had called a strike. A 25-foot-tall rat, representing Management, had been inflated in front of the offending place of business.

Our little blonde daughter, just 20 months old, rolled up in her stroller and observed the giant rat.

“Mouse!” she cried, clapping her tiny hands. “Mouse! Mouse! Mouse!”

A block down the road, the strikers could still hear her laughing and clapping.

“Mouse! Mouse! Mouse!”

An Event Apart Chicago

Announcing An Event Apart Chicago. Join Eric Meyer, Jason Santa Maria, Jim Coudal and Zeldman in the windy city for a mind-blowing day of insights into design, development, and how to stay happy running a creative business. Register now to reserve your seat and save $50 off the admission price.

Friday, June 2nd, 2006
9:00 – 5:00
The Gleacher Center
450 North Cityfront Plaza Drive
Chicago, IL 60611-4316
(Map)

The Speakers

An Event Apart offers the opportunity to meet and learn from creative and technical stars who influence the direction of our industry:

  • Jim Coudal runs Coudal Partners, a design firm in Chicago. They work for companies and they build companies, like Jewelboxing, The Show, and The Deck. Before making websites, films, and real-world products, Jim Coudal was an ad creative director. His insights into conceiving and selling great ideas are not to be missed.
  • Jason Santa Maria has been recognized for designing stylistic and imaginative (yet also usable and effective) web interfaces. He recently won acclaim for the A List Apart redesign, whose secrets he’ll share with attendees.
  • Eric Meyer has conducted complex standards-based makeovers and led intensive multi-day training sessions for such clients as Apple Computer, America On-Line, Yahoo!, Macromedia, Wells Fargo Bank, Cornell University, and others. No one has a deeper or more practical grasp of CSS; no one can teach it like Eric.
  • Founder of A List Apart and Happy Cog, former leader of The Web Standards Project, and author of Designing With Web Standards, Jeffrey Zeldman helped bring standards to browsers and the design community. He serves clients from Ad Age and Amnesty International USA to Lexico (Dictionary.com) and the United Nations Womens Development Fund.

The Space

The Gleacher Center is 50,000 square feet of high-tech conference space, smack in the heart of Chicago’s business district, blocks from the Loop and steps from Magnificent Mile shopping, restaurants, and hotels. An Event Apart will unfold in one of its spacious, uncrowded lecture halls, where every seat has plenty of room and every view is a good one.

Gourmet lunch and other catering throughout the day will include vegetarian options. Spectacular river and lake views in the separate dining lounge will make you forget how good the food is.

The Sponsors

Lunch is courtesy of Media Temple (“set your sites on us”), web host to the stars. We thank them for their continued support. AIGA Press and New Riders (“Voices That Matter”) will also be on hand to make sure attendees have reading materials to stay mentally stimulated after the event.

And speaking of mental stimulation, new sponsor Jewelboxing will throw a post-event Happy Hour And A Half at a Chicago pub. Schmooze, hobnob, network, or beg for a job while enjoying free cocktails. Further details will come soon.

A good time will be had!

The Deal

Our Philadelphia and Atlanta events sold out fast and we were unable to accommodate many who wished to attend. Chicago, given its size and the depth of its design and user experience communities, will sell out even faster. Seating is limited and availability is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Register during our Early Bird special to save your seat and shave $50 off the price of admission. The full day, including tasty catered lunch and goodies, costs $549. But if you register by May 1st, you can attend for $499. See you in Chicago!

SXSW III: Things That Were Said

  1. Jason Fried, the president of 37signals, had just finished speaking to an admirer.

    “It’s always guys,” he said wistfully of his fan base. “Never women.”

    Fried’s colleague, Jim Coudal, said, “Women come up to me all the time. They say, ‘oh my God, do you know Jason Fried? My brother LOVES him!’”

  2. Baby A__ , designer Jason Santa Maria and I were leaving everyone’s favorite egg-and-bean breakfast joint. We paused while Baby A__ and I negotiated the fine points of stroller and sippie cup maintenance.

    A guy with just a touch of yesterday’s ashtray about him, one arm draped over a parking meter, eyed Jason Santa Maria suspiciously.

    “You a Jew?” he asked.

    Somehow it didn’t sound friendly.

    Jason, who is of Italian American descent, answered truthfully in the negative.

    “Have a good day,” I said to the guy, pushing the stroller briskly out of his universe.

  3. A bunch of us had been dawdling in a sunbaked courtyard and now I was alone and late for the green room. Still wearing jet-black sunglasses against the Austin glare outside, I rode the long escalator through the airconditioned cool. Up, up, up.

    I was riding up. Others were riding down. My face was turned vaguely in the direction of the people coming down, but I wasn’t looking at them, and wouldn’t have recognized anyone through my dark glasses even if I had been paying attention to them.

    Suddenly, one of the people coming down was in my face, leaning across the up-down barrier to confront me.

    “Ya know me!” she shouted angrily. “I’m Mary! [Not her real name.]

    It took all of a cartoon moment. By the time I realized what had happened, Mary [not her real name] was twenty feet below me and about to turn onto a lower escalator.

    I could see by her gestures that she was furiously complaining to a companion about my perceived rudeness in not embracing her with flowers and song, or at least with a hello, as our bodies passed in the vast anonymous convention center space. That I might not have seen her hadn’t occurred to her.

    Off guard and off balance, I tried to rectify a social mistake I hadn’t made by calling down to her rapidly disappearing body.

    “Hi, Mary!” [not her real name] I trilled down the escalator, girlishly waving a hand in her direction. My voice was chirpy and strange to me, my gesture artificial and nanocenturies too late.

    So now there are two dolls in hell.

    There’s the Mary doll [not her real name] that breathes dragon fire and roars, “Ya know me! I’m Mary!

    And there’s the Jeffrey doll, waving girlishly down the vastness of an endless escalator shaft.

A film apart

Couldn’t make it to An Event Apart Philadelphia? Curious about what you missed? Our new, two-minute video reveals all. Well, anyway, it reveals what can be shown in two minutes. Shot on location at The Franklin Institute by filmmaker Ian Corey, it’s packed with thrills, chills, and design geekery.

See Zeldman explain why, the more words you have, the less you communicate. See Eric Meyer unveil the code behind last year’s best web layout. (Okay, so I’m prejudiced.) See Jason Santa Maria squeeze genuine typographic goodness out of two utterly common fonts. See lucky attendees win nifty prizes. See the music, hear the light.

Updated 24 January: SMIL video captioning by Andrew Kirkpatrick. Video playback requires QuickTime 7.

An Event Apart Philadelphia Postpartum

I returned from An Event Apart Philadelphia with a head full of ideas, inspiration, and snot. Walking the snowy Franklin Parkway at 5:30 am after not sleeping for two nights in a row can give you a heck of a head cold. (It wasn’t nervousness about the show that kept me from sleeping; it was my fourteen-month-old’s nighttime restlessness. Will I take the kid on another business trip? You bet.) Mostly I came home happy to have pulled off our first travelling road show and pleased that it seemed to please most who attended.

Attendees came from as far away as Tokyo and London. There were plenty of locals, too. Philadelphia has a tight and engaged design community — you could see it and feel it.

There were problems. We were promised WI-FI for 150 people and barely had bandwidth for half that many. Some seats were more comfortable than others.

But most of the surprises were pleasant. Every attendee got a free book from New Riders—titles by Dan Cederholm, Hillman Curtis, Steve Krug, Marty Neumeier, Jakob Nielsen, Eric Meyer, and yours truly. Twenty people got free web hosting for a year courtesy of Media Temple. AIGA gave away posters, Pixelworthy gave away drinks. The event would not have been half so good without the caring support of these fine sponsors.

Jon Aldinger, Daniel Mall, Peter Santa Maria, and Rob Weychert provided invaluable ground support on the day of the show and the day before. Filmmaker Ian Corey videotaped the whole day for secret purposes that may be revealed at a later date.

The Philadelphia Standards Organization, blogging live, published the day’s schedule, to which we mostly adhered. In future posts here or at aneventapart.com I may talk more about what we covered and why. For now, I’ll defer to my co-host Eric Meyer, our special guest Jason Santa Maria, and various lovely people who came to the show:

No rest for the wicked

I am now at Web Design World, Boston; tomorrow I’ll keynote on web standards and do a session on the radically under-covered subject of writing as interface design. See some of you here and the rest when I return.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0

W3C News Flash:

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) Working Group has released Working Drafts of the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 and HTML Techniques for WCAG 2.0 and a First Public Working Draft of Understanding WCAG 2.0. Following WCAG makes Web content more accessible to the vast majority of users, including people with disabilities and older users, using many different devices including a wide variety of assistive technology.

When finished, WCAG 2.0 will clarify what was vague in previous Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) guidelines. It will also come with developer-friendly techniques and glosses, making accessibility easier to understand, and accessible markup easier to build into the sites we create.

At the conference here in Gijón I have spent days with some of the leaders of this WAI and WCAG 2.0 activity. What they are doing has the potential to help all web users and all of us who serve them. — 1 am Gijón, Asturias, Spain

To Spain! To Spain!

To Spain! To Spain!
Tomorrow his family and your humble narrator fly away for seven days in beautiful Gijón, Asturias, Spain, where it will apparently rain all week and where your present host will address the W3C on the subject of standards-based design.
Wish you were there
The New York Public Library is hosting incredible live events. Last month, we watched John Hope Franklin and William Jefferson Clinton discuss race in America. Last night, in “The Battle Over Books,” Google’s David Drummond and an all-brain cast led by Lawrence Lessig and Allan Adler vigorously debated the Google Print Library Project (or as it was renamed yesterday, Google Book Search). My brain is still on fire. If you live in the New York City area or will visit soon, join the mailing list for your chance to attend one or more of these fascinating public programs.
Dead Can Play
Jon Noring of Sound Preserve writes:

The Department of Special Collections at the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) Davidson Library recently placed online, with free access, over 5,000 sound recordings as part of its Cylinder Preservation and Digitization Project. The recordings date from the 1890s to the 1920s and were transferred from Edison cylinders using state-of-the-art equipment. Besides MP3 and streaming audio, the raw transfers are also available for DIYers to try their own hand at audio restoration.

Rebooty Call
Each year May 1st Reboot invites designers around the world to rethink, re-skin, and rekindle their websites. The 2006 Reboot is now accepting sign-ups. As he did last year, creative director Paul A. Szypula is organizing the global digital event. Shake your Rebooty!