FOTB 2009 – The Experience

It’s hard to describe Flash on the Beach to someone that wasn’t there, but I’ll try.

This was the second time I’d been to FOTB, but the first as a speaker. The difference between the two is minimal. You might sit back and think, “WTF? It ought to be awesome as a speaker.” It is. But the last time I attended, I felt like a star just attending. And that’s the magic of FOTB. Everyone is important to John Davey and his crew. From the volunteers, to the speakers, to the attendees. We’re “family” and he treats everyone as such.

Let me break the experience down;

Sunday, I arrived at heathrow after flying the red eye. I was tired, but felt manageable. Made my way to terminal 5 to catch the bus and ran into Dave Schroeder of FlashBelt fame. Once on the bus, we saw Jared Ficklin already seated. We had a fantastic chat all the way to Brighton and I knew I was going really enjoy myself over the week. We rolled in around 11 or 12 and attempted to check in. No room in at the inn, yet. So it was store the bag time. Sunday essentially just turned into a hug-fest as speakers trickled in and people I see only very occasionally but feel an incredible kinship made their presence known. The speaker dinner was awesome and myHotel did a fantastic job.

Monday, the official start of the conference, was the first keynote I’ve ever attended. Possibly the funniest part (apart from the screenagers mariachi band) was Mark launching the Twitter Air app and Keith Peters’ Tweets taking up one entire column as he commented on the keynote. No vetting, FTW!

I then went back to my room to agonize over my Wednesday presentation. However, there was no way I would miss Dr. Woohoo because of my nerves. Drew Trujillo has one of the softest voices that can yet captivate with the information he’s providing. Believe me, that’s a difficult thing to accomplish. His enthusiasm for his subject matter left me so inspired. I am fortunate enough to count him as a friend and he has time and again made me wonder why I’m not smarter. I think he dumbs down our conversations to let me save face. ;P I digress. He unfortunately ran out of time, as often happens when you are passionate about what you have to say, but saved himself by just moving along to the slide he wanted to end on. Awesome job, Drew!

The end of day one was the inspired session and I sat up in the balcony with the inimitable Chris Pelsor and his sneaky bar to watch Joel Gethin Lewis. Perhaps the biggest takeaway I had from Joel’s session was “Be it. If you want to be a director, make a movie.” To me, stirring stuff.

It’s a little sad that I only managed to attend the keynote and two sessions on the first day, but with my own session stressing me out, I just couldn’t do it.

The official party was at Audio and although I went, like most speakers it was overwhelming and the word went out to head to the original crash pad and speaker hotel The Old Ship. This is where you chill, it’s quieter and you really have an opportunity to kick back and chat. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything.

Day two, I started with Grant Skinner. Grant’s optimization research really made me rethink some of my own foibles when it comes to code. Not to mention being called out and having him tell everyone first to avoid my session then telling them that it would be “the best of the conference” and they needed to go. Thanks so much, Grant. No pressure now, eh?

Once again, as my session loomed, I went back to my room and messed with my presentation. I must have looked odd pacing my room and gesturing as I talked out loud to myself. It’s terrible I was remiss in attending sessions, but again, nerves got the best of me.

The official party was at Oceana. It’s hard to describe the smell there, but someone said to me it was like “a locker room”. According to one person, a rep from Oceana admitted they cleaned the floors with dirty water. At any rate, unfortunately, a bust. So it was back to The Old Ship. Heh.

Day three, or as I started to call it, “Doomsday” had finally arrived. The first thing I noticed was my voice was in really rough shape. Not an auspicious beginning. I took my time getting moving. Joshua Davis offered to let me use his laptop as my own laptop was borrowed from my wife and I suspected was not up to the task. We rolled into the end of Stacey Mulchahy‘s talk and I am so glad I caught even a part of it. She was funny, engaging and, well… Stacey. Great presentation.

She wrapped up and I nearly started to hyper-ventilate. I posted about my session so I won’t go on about it here. Suffice it to say, I have been completely taken aback by the response.

With my session out of the way, the calm that suffused my body was evident. Following lunch, I headed in to watch Ralph Hauwert. Ralph is amazing. He’s so smart, it’s a little on the scary side. He was freaking out about his session as much as I was about mine and there was nothing indicative of that when he presented. Simply incredible.

The day was ended with Josh. There is not much I can say about Josh that hasn’t been said. He is a gifted individual and deserves all the kudos he gets. His work has inspired countless people and he will continue to do so for years to come.

There was no ‘end of conference’ party. This was okay with the speakers as we converged on the restaurant and bar of myHotel and just chilled. Drinking and chatting in such a relaxed way that can only be described as perfect.

As a surprise for John, Niqui Merret organized a photo shoot on the beach as John’s extended of past and present speakers and FOTB supporters.

There’s a lot left out since FOTB has a very personal side and no-one needs me blubbering about my friends.

Cheers, John, Joey, Jo and Hippie. You guys managed to do it again! To the speakers, damn, I couldn’t be more pleased to count you as friends. To the attendees, you make us all try harder, thank you!

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