Back from a week-long jaunt to the heartland: to Chicago, for Adobe MAX, and thence to Champaign-Urbana, for a lecture to Mike Woodley's class and the kick-off event for the UIUC chapter of Yahoo!'s University Hack Day.
The first thing I did in Chicago was to visit Millennium Park, home to the most engaging piece of public art I've seen since Sagrada Familia. It's a 50-foot mirrored object roughly the shape of a jelly bean, mounted on a stone pavillion in the middle of downtown Chicago. People were there in droves; I don't think I've ever seen that many smiles on random strangers' faces in a long while. If you ever have the chance, do check out the Bean. (One thing: I cannot recommend the walk from McCormick Center to Millennium Park; although you do eventually pass by the fountain in the credits from "Married, With Children," the walk is long, and takes you through some genuinely nasty areas on the way out from the convention center. I cabbed it back.)
MAX was an eye-opener; I don't think I've ever seen better large-scale presentations. The keynotes and general sessions were nothing short of spectacular; imagine an OSX desktop, but in triplicate, with super-high resolution, maybe 200 feet wide. Add whomping sound, interesting content, and 4000 fans of the product, and you've got a really nice event.
At MAX I did a ten-minute talk about AIR Search, and worked the booth in the Community Pavillion. We showed up with 288 of the same t-shirt we had for the Rich Web Experience in September; these are a very nice variation on an internal Hack Day shirt, featuring the Kung Fu Dude on the front and the (okay, rather presumptuous) inscription "My Kung Fu Is The Best" on the back. Nobody else had a decent t-shirt in the Community Pavillion; when one of our developers accidentally opened a box in a crowd we found out very quickly that a) the shirts were popular and b) we were out of extra-large, just like that.
So: short on shirts, we huddled briefly and came up with a plan. From then on, anybody who wanted a shirt would need to show us their kung fu. We set up a couple of laptops and invited anyone brave enough to step up and show us their site. This worked on two levels: first, we connected on a personal level with dozens of nice folks who had no idea YDN was out there. And second, we didn't have to struggle to establish a background of relatedness: everybody who stepped up had something interesting to show. We ran YSlow to break the ice, found a couple of interesting things about each site--several of which were already running stuff like YUI--and sent everybody away with the Coveted Kung Fu Shirt.
And, yeah, somebody actually did show up and demonstrate some real live kung fu; video should be available shortly. :)
On Wednesday I hopped the train to Champaign, did my thing for Mike Woodley's class, and met up with a close friend for excellent native cuisine. Thursday I found the local Yahoo! office. Apparently we've bitten off a tiny piece of Motorola; it's a very smart crew of (what I assume to be) mobile-app developers, in sweet new quarters with sparkly new laptops and the same 24" monitors it took me three years to requisition back home. Nice folks, all.
Friday was the Hack Day kick-off; we had a full house, thanks to local hacktivists Greg and Rahul, and the ACM chapter at UIUC. Friday was also the night before the Big Game with Wisconsin, so when we went out for drinks after the kick-off event, we found ourselves swimming upstream through a sea of dark blue and bright orange--dark blue polo shirts, worn by dead-serious Alumni Dads, and blazing orange t-shirts, worn by just about everybody else. They do take their football seriously out there.
UIUC's Hack Day seems like it went okay; at last count there were about five times the number of entries as last year, which bodes well.
Next up: Defrag, in Denver.