In the latest installment of better–late–than–never articles, I'm finally posting about my first Microsoft MIX conference. And in my typical she–must've–gone–to–Catholic–school guilt, I feel terrible this post is coming almost two entire months after MIX10.
But life happens, and taking time to reflect isn't always the top priority. Yet it is always in the top 50 of my priorities, so writing this post was a must.
How It All Happened
Chris Bernard, User Experience Evangelist for Microsoft, contacted me in early February about participating in an event to "bridge" SXSW and MIX. The two conferences had been scheduled around the same time this year, and Chris wanted to create some buzz for MIX.
He decided on a Catch MIX If You Can idea, which was to basically gather a small group of people to leave SXSW early and fly to Vegas catch the last half of MIX. In addition to myself, Chris had recruited:
And Microsoft would foot the bill. Chris also offered to help me do some promotion for Microformats Made Simple at MIX10. All I'd have to do is do what I always do: talk about my experience.
That was the pitch. I weighed my options. Free trip to Vegas … Chance to meet more web professionals … Book promotion … I made up my mind in minutes.
SXSW Zombified Me
As it turns out, SXSW kicked my ass … in a good way, of course, but by the time my Catch MIX If You Can adventure began, I was in full zombie mode and SXSars was starting to sap me of my lifeforce.
Wait, I take that back … what I remember clearly was thinking that my current zombie state was making chances of a good impression with my fellow adventurers nearly impossible.
Other than that, though, much of that first day was a complete blur. I tried to sit in on a presentation, but my cough and exhaustion ruled out and I ended up spending that first day in bed.
And that "I'm here in body, but not in mind" state persisted for the entire time I was in Vegas. In fact, if you told me you saw me skydiving with The Flying Elvises, I couldn't argue against you … it might've happened.
But this doesn't mean MIX was a bust for me. The opposite in fact. I may have learned something more crucial at MIX than I've learned during my entire time working as a web professional.
Thanks to a special VIP (whatever that really means) party, where I got to meet many IE developers, I realized that these people were just like me.
They love what they do. They love the web. They respect standards. They respect the community that uses IE. They aren't the evil bastards I've decried for years as being the poster children for justifiable homicide.
All of a sudden, it was impossible for me to hate them. All of a sudden, the hot air I've been blowing for years against Microsoft for creating IE6 turned cool. All of a sudden, I could engage in a thoughtful, productive conversation with people I'd made false assumptions about for years.
Getting Shit Done
This takeaway is sorta cliché. In fact, I'd bet there is an Aesop fable about judging before you know. But this type of black/white thinking … this "pick a side" mentality pervades the web industry. True, it really just reflects our larger society, but that's no excuse. Especially for a relatively nascent industry.
Isn't it obvious from the larger society that picking sides doesn't work. Look at politics. Look at our school systems. Look at our social programs. Look at anything and I bet you can see ways something good is suffering because all the people involved have this need to "be right."
But being right only boosts egos. It doesn't get anything done. And getting shit done is really what is most important as far as I'm concerned. I'm sick of listening to the various "sides" … microformats vs. RDFa, CSS vs.
<table> for layout, Flash vs. HTML5, IE vs. Firefox, blah, blah, blah, blah blah …
Sure, it makes sense to compare technologies that exist in the same arena. But far too often it goes too far, getting personal at the expense of moving forward.
Thanks to MIX and those IE developers who made such a great impression on me, I'm done being on any side or trying to be right. I'm more interested in a productive discussion and GSD™.
So, if the "I've been being a douche" realization was the cake of my first MIX experience, the time with my fellow adventurers was the frosting.
Chris, just as frazzled as I was from SXSW, was an amazing host. And I'm not just saying that because he treated all of us to an amazing meal at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant.
I also really enjoyed getting to know Cali. To be honest, I'd never heard of her or GeekBrief.TV before, but once I got to know her, I understood immediately why her podcasts are so well known and respected. She believes in talking to people, not at them or down to them. And she believes in talking about things in a way that is relatable. This is exactly the kind of person I strive to be.
The rest of the crew was great, too. I just think between the lack of sleep we were all suffering from and the short timeframe, I didn't spend nearly enough time getting to know everyone. That was really the only drawback of MIX for me.
Will I ever attend back–to–back conference again? No. It was exhausting. And I'm not used to being "on" for such a long period of time. I definitely didn't get as much as I wanted to out of MIX and I definitely wasn't at my best.
That said, I don't regret the opportunity a single bit. Thanks, MIX.