Thoughts on EECI

The first week of June held the ExpressionEngine CodeIgniter conference in San Francisco, California. I was honored to have been invited by Robert Eerhart to attend and speak at this fantastic event. Following is a quick summary of my thoughts on how it went, at least from my modest point of view.

I’m currently writing the intro to this in the Atlanta, Georgia airport on my way home. It’s busy here, but I was able to secure a nice corner and an outlet for power. I’ve got a couple of hours to kill for a connection flight. Ironically, the next flight that I get on probably won’t take longer than an hour (or so) to get me home.

Monday, May 31st

I left for San Francisco with a connection through Detroit, Michigan on Monday. I should’ve realized that karma wasn’t pleased with me at that point when storms delayed and re-routed my flight by a solid hour. The screaming children behind me were a reminder of every tear-soaked second that ticked by. This could’ve been easily diluted by listening to some music, but somebody packed my headphones in my checked luggage, rather than in my carry-on. Sigh (yes, that would’ve been me).

Upon arriving in SF, I found a shuttle that would take me to my hotel. The driver was nice, but his english was very broken, and I could swear that every hill saw us go airborne. This dude was serious about getting me where I needed to go. I was his only passenger, so I’m sure he just wanted to impress me with his familiarity with the Dukes of Hazard (west-coast style). Even if he did’t talk to me very much. Oh, and he also drove right through some of the scariest neighborhoods I never knew that SF had (you mean it’s not filled with hipsters and post dot-com boomers?). Felt just like good old Chicago. There was even a nice man running around in the street yelling “AHMMA GONNA BEAT SOMEBODY!”. Sweet. Way to fly the freak flag, buddy.

I arrived at the hotel in the afternoon, unpacked, and took a long, hot shower. There’s no need to elaborate on this. I was quite happy to have arrived. Once cleaned up, I made my way to the lobby and found my first familiar face of the day: Lea Alcantara! Lea and I go back a few years to our SXSW days, where she was still in the early stages of becoming the rockstar that she is now. If you don’t know Lea, then go check out her work (after reading this, of course).

That evening involved the speakers dinner and drinks at a local bar. Many introductions were made (I’ll compile a list at the bottom of as many as I can remember), and some new friendships were born. Also, I had a few drinks and let myself relax, happy to just be in town. Needless to say, I was slightly inebriated by the time I got back to my room.

Tuesday, June 1st

Tuesday morning arrived sooner than I expected. My inner-clock kept trying to tell me that the time was off by the slight difference in time zones that I was still adjusting to. That, and the previous night’s drinking wasn’t helping me out much. I wasn’t feeling all that great, but I worked my way through it, grabbed a light breakfast and coffee, and walked my sorry ass over to the Fort Mason Center, where the panels were being held.

The walk itself was slightly difficult, but quite beautiful. I could clearly see Alcatraz, and fell in love with how the fog hugged the bay bridge in the near distance. By the time I arrived, I felt much improved and was glad that I forced myself to the task.

Tuesday’s schedule started off with various introductions and keynotes, a brilliant bit of inspiration from Simon Collison, a bit of entrepreneurship by Adii Rockstar, and the announcement of MojoMotor from Ellislab.

Following up after lunch was Jamie Pittock, who covered custom-rolled EE setups with global variables, setup tuning, naming conventions, and all kinds of magical thoughts that held too many “aha” moments to even explain if you weren’t there.

Lea Alcantra then took over the stage and did a brilliant talk on how (and why) to justify design decisions. Really great stuff to think about for everyone who works with clients.

After that, Leevi Graham blew my mind with how he structures a CMS in a format that makes so much sense, I wonder why I was doing it any other way before. Totally brilliant.

The last session on Tuesday that I watched was Ryan Ireland, who covered upgrading tips for EE 2. Very helpful information, I hadn’t realized that it was still so quirky. I’m glad that I haven’t upgraded my site yet (and may still hold out).

That evening was the EECI official part-ee (har har). This included more drinking (no surprise there), and rounds of Twister to win an iPad. No kidding. Twister. I didn’t win anything, but I did have a lot of fun.

The last thing that I did was go back to my room and tweak my own slides. I was looking forward to talking and had been preparing for weeks to cover my thoughts on using conditionals.

Wednesday, June 3rd

Wednesday began with finding the room where Leslie Flinger was giving her talk on Design for Humans. There was a small group of us that had become a little confused in the building layout, wandering around until we found the correct room.

Although we arrived a few minutes late, Leslie was kind enough to give us a quick summary of what we missed. She rocks, by the way.

My second workshop of the day was Michael Boyink’s “And… Done! Oh, Wait…” session in the main room. He covered some very interesting points on how to cover yourself on both the closing of finished projects, but on how to protect yourself when new projects begin.

Improving Curb Appeal with Conditionals

As soon as Michael was done talking, Robert Eerhart pulled me to the side to let me know that there was an issue with the projector for my session. All that they could set up for me was a television. Which turns out, couldn’t be used because of a lack of peripherals to connect to the screen. “Okay”, I thought. I can adapt to that.

During this time, I discover that the room I’ve been given was actually the break room that people had been using for casual relaxing. I was concerned about this, because of the amount of traffic and noise coming in and out of the room.

Once we cleared out the room, I began to seek out my audience. There were quite a few people that had mentioned to me that they were looking forward to my talk, and I was surprised to see so few people show up. I suppose this was due to three other great speakers doing their workshops at the same time (I was up against Matt Weinberg, Greg Wood, and Mark Hout - all with their own excellent topics). In the end, four people stayed to talk with me about using conditionals on web pages.

I’m (mostly) a positive-energy person, so I decided that no matter what circumstances I was left with, I was going to make the best of it. So I did. I went through my slides with those four people, we talked a bit, and then wrapped it up. My discussion was intended for a larger audience, so I wasn’t surprised that it ended slightly earlier than I had planned.

I know there were people looking forward to seeing my topic on the DVD. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a camera in the room during my talk, so nothing was recorded. We’ll just have to find another way to get my presentation out to the world. In fact, I’ve been considering altering my slides just enough to turn it into a trimmed-up (discussion-free) screencast. That is, of course, if more than four people are interested in seeing it.

I walked back to the hotel with a variety of mixed emotions. I was thrilled that I got the opportunity to talk. I was happy with how well I did. I was proud of the support that I received. Yet I was extremely disappointed in the circumstances of the experience and nearly eliminated the exposure of my topic.

Dinner that night was filling. BBQ at the Pub. Good talk with good people, and a few glasses of quality beer. Perfect way to end the trip, in my opinion. I refrained from going out after for drinks, because I still needed to pack my luggage and get some rest for the following day.

Thursday, June 4th

This is the day to travel home and reflect on my week. There’s not a lot to say here. I napped a bit on the plane, considered my future, and kept in communication with my family whenever I could. When I arrived at my layover in Atlanta, I found a seat near an outlet, and began writing my thoughts on EECI.

Shout-outs

I’d like to thank all of the nice people that I met for being a part of such a great community (far too many for me to remember).

Listed in no particular order, obviously.

...and so, so many others!