Last week we stormed the Seattle Interactive Conference. Donte & Zach were speaking, but we had a large group representing all of our disciplines in attendance taking in the overall experience, networking, and watching some of our community peers’ presentations. We wanted to take a moment to capture our collective thoughts on the experience. We all agree that we’re happy we attended and that we’re looking forward to next year’s edition.
- Location. We'd be hard-pressed to complain about the location of any event that’s walking distance from our offices. Being so close to the Convention Center meant we never felt trapped at the conference if there was a lull in presentations of interest.
- That was one good looking conference. Way to step it up, Seattle.
- It was great to hear about how other companies are tackling the problems of creating a better workflow for themselves. We’re constantly thinking about this and hearing other companies' experience was inspiring.
- Humor makes anything easier to sit through. Thank goodness for the speakers that knew this.
- The 3D printer demo at the Delloitte Digital booth was badass.
- The audience was consistently engaged, leading to Q&As that sometimes overshadowed their preceding talk.
- The after-conference events were great opportunities to meet people in a casual setting.
The Less Than Good
- Not really a negative but more a question for the organizers - why do you need a theme? This year’s theme was transparency but we aren’t sure that was really necessary.
- More outlets & charging areas please. While you’re at it, more lounges for people to congregate. There were often conversations we would want to continue but there wasn’t a great space to do so, especially on the upper floors.
- Some talks varied quite a bit from their titles & descriptions, leaving the audience feeling like there was a bit of a bait and switch. Additionally, some talks seems like not-at-all veiled sales pitches for a company or product.
- Having a retro gaming lounge was an inspired idea that we loved. We're only placing this in the less than good section because we didn't get a chance to play anything. Doh!
- There was definitely a wide variance in quality. We’re not sure how the organizers can easily facilitate better content, but there were definitely a few talks that just shouldn’t have been giving this forum.
- Shameless self-congratulation. Of course our highlights include own pair of presentations. We’re proud of the job that both Zach and Donte did with their talks, “Agile/Lean is An Attitude, Not Just a Methdology” and “How to Suck Less” (video available), respectively. Both of them managed to share lessons from Substantial’s experience without becoming completely hyperbolic in praise or losing the humility that our commitment to “continuous improvement” would imply. We’re thankful to all who attended and gave us feedback afterward. Both Zach and Donte will post summaries of their presentations shortly.
- The Shopping Inside a Mashup panel had a pretty interesting breadth of people varying perspectives who made for an interesting discussion because they were willing to openly disagree with each other. A nice contrast from the usual conference praise-fests.
- Hush's session on the last day, "Transparency Through Design: Complex Information, Clear Experiences" (video available), described exciting interactive ways to display complex data, with work that was impressive and very environmental. We also appreciated their approach to responding to client briefs. Namely, they approach problems—not technology requests (ie. we need an ipad app).
- Amy Balliet's session, Harnessing the Power of Visual Communication, was awesome for both design and for content strategy (and had a good video to watch).
- Tim Keck is a great story teller and entertaining speaker. It was so much fun to hear his talk, Onion Turns 25: Founder Who “Hasn’t Done Shit There in 24 Years” Takes Credit and the crazy stories about the birth of The Onion and get a better understanding for how it came to be the biggest joke on AP-style writing the world has ever known. Tim was a standout at this year’s SIC and we hope to hear him tell more crazy stories in the future - we're sure he has a ton of 'em!
- Another conference highlight was Hillel Cooperman from Jackson Fish Market's "Be Yourself" (video available). A witty, engaging, humorous and inspiring presentation encouraged the audience to not seek to replicate successful businesses but to instead embrace our own ideas. Try and make them succeed. Be willing to let them fail. But don’t just try and duplicate somebody else’s success - there is no recipe to follow.
- One of our favorite talks of the whole week came from Ken Rufo, a Communications Professor from University of Washington, on "Trust Protocols, Trust Economies." He began by lying to the entire room, telling a tale about a fictitious study from the Journal of Behavioral Statistics...which does not exist. But we all ate it up until he let us in on the fact that he was lying his ass off. In the end, Ken’s message was to advertisers and branding agencies to make sure that brands are building trust with users and with their data and not merely trying to get more eyeballs, convince us with bogus stats, or abuse the data they’re now able to collect. He made reference to the “Uncanny Valley” and the advertising equivalent, the “Creepy Valley” where, when advertisers go too far with our data to target our needs and wants that it get’s a bit creepy and trust is violated. We would go see this guy speak again...maybe we’ll see if we can sit in on his lectures!
- One of the most pleasant sessions was Larry Asher from Worker Bees talking about his failure writing a “book.” He and Clark Kokich created an amazing “Bapp” - a Book App - that practically nobody bought. His story was one of humility and learning from mistakes and he did it with wit and humor and grace. We left feeling like we’d been giving a great lesson from a someone we’d love to have dinner with where we could discuss all manner of things.
Overall we found Seattle Interactive 2013 to be a much-improved conference from last year. Congrats to the organizers for their hard work. We saw the notes being taken after each presentation and we’re certain we’ll see a similar improvement next year. We look forward to attending and hopefully speaking again then!