Macworld|iWorld thoughts and reminiscences
There are several great articles reviewing last week’s Macworld|iWorld and I would urge you to read these two in particular:
Christopher Breen of Macworld.com’s “Macworld Expo is dead, long live Macworld | iWorld”
And Ted Landau, of The MacObsserver’s “Macworld | iWorld Reinvents Itself”
To those, I’d like to add this:
This year’s Macworld|iWorld was, and will be marvelous to me because it reminded me of QuickTime Live!
QuickTime Live! was managed by Paul Kent, the same person who’s been in charge of Macworld content for IDG for several years. QuickTime Live! was the drop-dead-best trade show experience I have ever had.
QuickTime Live! was a small event held, if I recall correctly, for three years before it was merged into and ultimately digested by WWWDC.
Sure, there were ‘vendor-driven’ how-to sessions (and some good ones too!) and there was an exposition hall with products and tools you could see, touch and discuss with their makers but the ‘expo’ was hardly the main thrust. The expo portion was sort of a ‘visual aid’ and a ‘chance to do some business’ but it was the sessions, the content and the social interaction that defined the show.
Sessions were great. Yes, some were WWDC-like in that they were ‘how-to’ sessions run by a tool-maker (including Apple). Sessions like those are important and happened and I think will continue to happen at Macworld|iWorld. But, and probably in part by dint of Apple’s QuickTime Team being smaller than Apple as a whole and, frankly, exceptionally kind and smart folk, there was a looseness, a comfort level in those sessions you rarely see at WWDC (except from Sal Soghoian who always manages an epic, enlightening and endearing WWDC presentation)
WWWDC, is an Apple Developer Relations event. The conference is toeing the corporate line and has a *necessary* agenda about not just what but how. Apple isn’t typically inclined to get into matters of content and entertainment goals. They are there to teach and evangelize ways of working that advance the platform in specific ways. They are there to sell and teach at the same time. Apple’s WWDC audience is overtly the developer community and covertly the press and Wall Street. That’s not to say WWDC doesn’t have ‘fun’ but it’s always a managed sort of fun.
QuickTime Live! was special to me because the general thrust of the sessions was much more self-critical, self-effacing and, in many cases, driven by the theme of ‘project post mortem’. “Here was a project I worked on and here’s what I learned that might spare you some heartache” was the undercurrent of most of the sessions (and all of mine). People were honest about their experimentation. Presenters were keen to teach *and* learn.
QuickTime Live! (at its best) happened at The Beverly Hilton in LA and combination of Paul’s brilliant management setting the above general tone of the sessions and a quirk of architecture led to what I have called the “lobby bar phenomenon”.
The ‘lobby bar’ was just a bar with an adjacent ‘conversation pit’ where attendees used to informally convene share projects, ask advice, boast of success or admit failure. It was located in a way that, like Moscone West’s floor lobbies, all traffic had to flow past it.
The interaction in the lobby bar was social and it encouraged people to engage as peers. Yes there were parties. Yes there were Krispy Kreme Donuts in in the mornings but what happened there was an almost continuous collaborative conference session with fluid topics driven by what was just presented in a formal session moments before and what the community shared enthusiasm and interest in as it happened to just pop up. The communities and conversations formed around shared areas of interest and experience and they happened across industry, national and cultural boundaries.
QuickTime Live! was a profoundly special experience for me because it fostered meaningful community, knowledge sharing and a deep sense of camaraderie in the attendees. People I met taught me things, introduced me to people I later hired to consult on projects I was working on and, I hope, learned from the sessions I presented.
The QuickTime Developer community didn’t just go to see the latest toys and tools. We didn’t just go to take or teach a class in a technology or tool. We went to move relationships from virtual spaces (list-servs and web sites) to real face to face interaction. We went to spend time with like-minded people we liked and respected. We went to teach, learn and collaborate and have fun working. I do mean working. While there were parties at QuickTime Live!, they were hardly the main point.
We went with questions and came home with ideas.
The Macworld|iWorld I enjoyed this year embodied that spirit. You could feel it in the sessions, at the tables in each floor’s lobby at Moscone West. You could feel it at the musical performances, the art exhitions and at the sessions.
I saw people seated around tables in the lobbies really talking to each other. Saw them not just resting their pounding trade-show-feet or post Cirq Du Mac hangovers but talking, sharing, introducing each other . I ran into old friends, was introduced to new ones, connected with the faces to match the Twitter handles. I saw small companies showing their products. I was able to make designers and developers of those products smile genuinely when I told them what I loved about their products or react to what they demonstrated with feedback and ideas. I was able to ‘do some business’ on the show floor. I was able to discover new things. I wasn’t getting yelled at by Power Computing. I wasn’t getting ‘spun’ by Apple.
My session, though more sparsely attended than I liked, had people with great questions.
I was there too briefly. I wanted more.
The way I see Macworld|iWorld evolving based on what I saw this year will move even more toward my QuickTime Live! ideal. I am really looking forward to next year!
Disclosure: I have been an attendee and usually speaker at Macworld Expo every year but one for close to twenty years. I was a speaker at all but the first QuickTime Live! and even did a ‘day keynote’. I’ve watched Macworld Expo show go from happening twice a year on the left and right coasts (and Japan and UK) to just once a year in San Francisco. I was there for the move from Boston to New York and back to Boston. I have been involved through at least two different management entities being in charge. I have had the good fortune to work pretty closely with Paul in the past and even served on his Macworld Expo Customer Advisory Board. I have ‘skin in this game’ and I care but I mean it… Macworld|iWorld was and will be something special.