Converge SE Web Developer Conference Showcased at IT-ology (Day Two)

By July 2, 2011 World of IT

Converge SE Day Two.. Multitudes of Keynotes

And on the second day… geeks made sense out of chaos…

As a marketing dude that lives in the technology world, I’ve always been a little leery of embracing the “full power of the Force” (with regards to my inner geek). I can program a website, search engine optimize it, promote and bring buzz to it, but I’m not a code monkey, so sometimes I wonder if I’m actually going to get something out of a conference like Converge SE.

What I found this year, as I did the year before, that the speakers Gene and his team bring to Converge SE, are excellent at bridging techno-speak gaps and questions I might have since I didn’t come from the developer side of the house.

And… not only were all of these speakers good – but they were funny too (PG-13 rated sometimes… but that helped them be memorable too)!

So here is the list, with very brief descriptions, but contact info so you can start conversations with them to help you learn even more:

The Uber – Geek List (aka Converge SE’s Conference Day Keynotes

“It’s A Matter of Trust” – Carl Smith – Chief Keeper Upper at nGen Works (

Carl started the morning with people like me rolling in the aisles, breaking down key steps to understanding, building, and keeping trust with your users. What was most insightful was when he opened up the good and the bad of what nGen Works’ customers had to say – learn from the bad to have more good!

“Designing with Web Type” – Trent Walton – Founder and 1/3 of Paravel (

Trent, one of The Three Amigos from Paravel (Day 1), showed more of how new web technologies allow web designers to duplicate the capabilities of print designers – but great web design comes from making your site more responsive for you users whether they’re on a computer, hand held device, or whatever comes next…

“Go Forth and Make Awesomeness” – Leslie Jensen-Inman – Assistant Professor at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga ( – @jenseninman)

Leslie demonstrated how she and her students were able to “Do Good” and “Make Awesomeness” with an online campaign that is helping to increase the literacy and retention rates for impoverished middle school students in her community – and how we could do something like that too.

“Death of the Demo, Rise of the Branded Tutorial” – Joshua Rosenbaum – Director of MailChimp’s VideoLab (

Who doesn’t love monkeys… Josh showed the unique problems and solutions that his team’s video tutorials, and dissecting their engagement metrics, have helped MailChimp find and retain raving fans. I could pretty much spend an entire day watching his mini-movies… as long as I had popcorn and peanut M&Ms (to make “magic popcorn”).

“Phone – the Forgotten Channel” – John Coates – Runs communications at FreshBooks (

And when I say raving fans, John reminded us that sometimes you need to take the conversation “off-line” with your customers: add a phone number to your website, and have a human answer the phone – this works outside of Canada too (John is Canadian… thus the joke… no riots please). Sounds antiquated, but we must remember to build upon successes, not chuck them for the new, new thing.

“HTML5 For All” – Chris Heilmann – Principle Evangelist at Mozilla (

Looking at Chris makes me think of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” – if you don’t know it, get on your Mozilla Firefox browser and Google it. Red long curly hair with a “Nordic” accent… Anyway… I found myself copying down so many cool links of the examples he gave for how HTML5 is helping to make everyone’s life on the web a little easier – email me if you want some of them.

“CSS Pseudo Elements for Fun and Profit!” – Chris Coyier – Wufoo’s Lead Hucklebucker (

OK… Chris is a big guy – looks like a wrestler  – but what you find out is that like many gentle giants, he loves the tiny things in life (or at least in web development code). He talked about two things – :before & :after – two things that can make web design infinitely easier and more intelligent.

“Creating a Community” – Nick Pettit & Jim Hoskins – Web developers and video hosts for Carsonified’s ThinkVitamin site and their own Doctype site  (

Mutt and Jeff have not been more aptly portrayed on the internet by anyone else than Nick and Jim. All they did was tell us the story of how they met in college… started a couple of websites… built an incredible of community of followers… were then asked to help build another community for a very large enterprise, based on their past successes… then expose your community to other communities to make them stronger… and then told us how and why we should too.

“Responsive Web Design” – Ethan Marcotte – Independent web designer / developer (

Ethan’s 100+ year old grandmother would not be proud of him for revealing her age, but she who be proud of his talk on how web designers must make the efforts to make our designs more responsive to our users / customers. He and his team are redesigning The Boston Globe’s new, more responsive website, and showed us some insights on how they did it (and how to put that in what we do).

“An Inside Job: Turning Customers into Fans” – Adam Hansen – Rackspace’s Small Business Advocate ( – @adamatrackspace)

In 1997 I was the business manager for a local dial-up internet service provider (ISP). I remember picking up a copy of “The Geek’s Guide to Business” that year, and soon understood why many IT and website ventures might go awry – we forget that at the center of it, these are still businesses that need customers and money to survive – no matter what the “coolness factor” is of your product / service. Two years later, we watched the Dot Com Bubble burst, and wonder “how did that happen?”

Adam, as many of these speakers did, helped remind us web designers and developers (and marketing dudes / dudettes) about how Rackspace, a company that sells a commodity, settles for nothing less than providing “fanatical support” to their customers. All customers want involvement, accountability and speed – so give it to them.

“Behind the Business of TwitPic and Heello” – Noah Everett – Creator of Twitpic – (

Noah is definitely learning the ropes as an entrepreneur with a little trial by fire. You might code a website for 72 hours straight with the requisite number of RedBulls for that time period… launch it… have to buy new servers every couple of days to keep up with demand… deal with lawyers, lawsuits, and false truths… but as long as you have passion behind your work, you’ll probably do just fine. He will.

And I hope I get this quote right (if not Noah, let me know) that his mother taught him: “You have a fingerprint that no one else has, to leave an imprint like one else can.” So do it.

Thanks for Indulging Me…

To sum up the weekend, I want to go back to WuFoo’s Hale ( his parting keynote remarks. He brings together what Converge SE, IT-ology, and I want to see more of in the world of IT:

“Because when it comes down to it, I don’t just make websites. We don’t just program web applications. And you don’t just market products. We craft them. We take great pride in the knowledge and practice of our work and being here is a testament and reminder that what we do is part fine art, part science fiction and part capitalism at its finest.

Thank you and best of luck honing your craft!”


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