Day 2 of the Breaking Development conference is officially over (okay, I’m technically into day 3). My brain is mush; I can’t form a cohesive thought due to excitement; and I’ve been kicking myself to decompress my head by jotting down more notes. Yet, my note-taking process throughout the conference fails to drown out the newfound realization of how AMAZING it is to be in a room full of motivated, passionate people. All of whom like what I like! It’s almost like a twisted joke; I meet all these amazing, wonderful folks and they leave 48 hours later. Womp womp.
But it’s okay! I am more thankful to have been given the chance to be pick so many brains, ask so many questions, and witness so many moments of contagious excitement due to the shared passion for this stuff. It truly is that cliche moment when you think “this is where I belong” while feeling completely comfortable in a room full of strangers. Plus, these strangers were cool enough to leave their devices for a mind-numbing, separation-anxiety-forming 35 minutes to snap pics like this:
The presentation lineup, though a tad overwhelming in a good way, had such a nice flow despite the rather wide variety of topics. I know the common theme was responsive design and making mobile web suck less, but I really enjoyed the dev moments brought forth by Dave Olsen and Daniel Ryan. Even getting a short glimpse of the world behind Etsy (Lacy Rhoades) was exciting for me. I know that’s mainly due to my own stance in the web production spectrum, but the placement of the presenters mimicked the usual back and forth process between front and back-end development/design.
Code aside, some presentations transcended the whole realm of web dev all together e.g. Aaron Gustafson’s “Designing with Empathy.” His presentation rightfully leaned towards the web experience, but I couldn’t help but appreciate the Golden Rule references and spiritual/Buddhist mindsets as reminders to just be a decent person to one another. Yes, we are worried about pleasing our clients, but can’t we just treat everyone with that same respect? Always? We may build a significantly better product just by giving two shits about the person for whom it is intended. CRAZY thought, I know, but it just might work. Okay okay, I’ll admit to laughing my ass off at the classic, client stereotypes wonderfully depicted by Phil Hawksworth and Matt Griffin, but it’s only necessary at a conference like this. We have to be able to vent for sanity, right? Plus, it’s the harsh but necessary reminders that perhaps we’re not doing a good enough job of communicating with our clients. We get caught up in the functionality when only we understand what’s going on in that department. I know I definitely benefitted from hearing some of the suggestions and tactics for client interactions. Gotta get outside the cave sometime.
In between those were the more hands-on presentations by Brad Frost and Stephen Hay. Brad enlightened us with his latest testing/production tools while Stephen bravely demo’d (gotta give the guy credit) the wonders of CSS Flexbox with proper warnings of its pending browser support. From there, it was back to the creation process with Ben Callahan pushing the prototyping tools and hints alongside Jason Grigsby’s “mobile first” perspective. We eventually hit that point where “hey, that website MAY need a purpose,” which is exactly when Steph Hay hit the stage. Her presentation stood out a lot for me as I think the content creation process if one of my weaker points within my own processes. Yet, if done correctly, content can (and should) be the scaffolding for the entire project. I look forward to absorbing more in her workshop tomorrow (today; ugh I should sleep) and hopefully I’ll be a good girl and write it down, too. Likewise for James Williamson’s “Working with Icon Fonts.” I felt as though I was running into a completely new wall that wasn’t even on my radar. Here I am thinking of my png trials and discoveries while making stack-dog.com and yet I never even considered the SVG renderings discussed in his presentation. Once again, my workshop choice is made due to my complete ignorance regarding the topic haha so I’ll be seeing him tomorrow, too.
The last two, Luke Wroblewski and Josh Clark, were presentations that made you sit back in awe. Luke had a rather epic tendency to keep pushing the possibility. We’d see a concept we know and love, but he’d push it to the next step right in front of us. Constantly asking the “why” to each function and design. I think this is the kind of presentation I need to print out by desk because I’m such a creature of habit. So rarely do I sit back and question my crazy user antics when a short, 30 second video of myself using wonky websites would make me facepalm. We need to keep questioning why we create things the way we do and if they’re truly targeting the end goal or needs. From there, Josh Clark shoved our brains beyond any point of return with his glimpse into the future. He highlighted the concept of using sensors and having random objects push data to us without any interaction. I never thought I’d learn about the fact that cows can now text farmers when they are in heat. Or that I can monitor a heart valve by transmitting the signals through my finger. Crazy, crazy shit that is here right now! All of it is a huge reminder that we have a lot of amazing technologies, but we are losing the imagination to play with them in whatever manner possible. Just start tinkering and testing; push the limits of what we think is possible by simply trying. By the end of his talk, I was ready to run outta the room and just DO something. He’d likely produce a great propaganda film; I’m glad he uses his powers for good.
So yes. The presentations rocked. I know this for fact because my small dinner group continued to talk about it all for hours afterwards. Definitely a wildfire tendency going on in our heads. I joked with the speakers by saying that I’ve officially peaked at this conference and that perhaps no other conference will burn my brain quite like this. I hope that’s not the case, as I’ll definitely look forward to attending more. Either way, I’m thrilled to have been a part of it all and can now take this souvenir of rejuvenation, new ideas, and a beefed up friend list home with me. Till next year!