As someone who grew up in Omaha, Nebraska (and talks about it to anyone I meet), I was excited to hear about the Big Omaha conference when it was announced at the end of last year. Omaha (as unfortunately not enough folks know) is a creative center in the Midwest in business, the arts, and music (among others). And that lack of knowledge about (and organization around) Omaha's creative output was the impetus behind this great event this past weekend.
To this point, Omaha is home to many businesses/events well known outside of the Midwest corridor, including:
- Berkshire Hathaway (investment firm of financial giant Warren Buffet),
- Saddle Creek Records (home of the act Bright Eyes),
- Omaha Steaks (local and online purveyors of great Nebraska-raised meats),
- NCAA College World Series (home of the college sports world's yearly tournament),
- Henry Doorly Zoo, (which has the world's largest indoor rainforest, nocturnal exhibit and indoor swamp, indoor desert and geodesic dome, among many other attractions), and (get ready for this one)
- Yahoo!, who recently opened a call center (and a data center soon, too).
Partially because of this local connection, our Developer Network signed on as a sponsor for the event, less because of a strong technical bent to the program but rather because of the type of energy, creativity, and audience the event would surely draw.
Big Omaha didn't disappoint. Held at the newly-opened KANEKO (a gallery, library, and studio space for artist Jun Kaneko), the program centered around a jam-packed day of speakers and panels surrounded by interactive art displays, kiosks, and VC discussions.
I was fortunate to join a fantastic group of speakers for the day, including Jason Fried (from 37 Signals), Gary Vaynerchuk (from Wine Library TV), and Jeffrey Kalmikoff (of Threadless). Many of the speakers talked a bit about how they created their business, nurtured their customers and community, and dealt with failure/adversity.
For my talk, I tried to bring a bit of my backstory behind why I'm passionate about designing for the developer space. Knowing the audience was largely non-technical, I wanted to frame our efforts here at Yahoo! in a manner accessible to those who were entrepreneurs (or, as Jason Fried said, "starters") who would go on to work with developers on their projects/products. To this point, I presented Designing for Developers, a 20-minute romp through my history as a designer/coder and my motivation as such.
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The response was fantastic. Between followup conversations at the event, tweets, and email, more than 50 of the 300 participants of the event (again, a largely non-technical group) came to express interest in leveraging YQL and Pipes in their projects after the talk.
While I'd like to credit the interest to my engaging life story, it helps that YQL, Pipes, YUI, BOSS, and the many YDN products we offer demonstrate their value clearly to developers when they see them in action. Nonetheless, it was great to introduce these to a new market
of entrepreneurs (and developers), as well as to be part of a fantastic event. Big Omaha did indeed highlight a great deal of creativity in the Omaha (and surrounding) area, and Yahoo! Developer Network was proud to be a part of this initial effort.
P.S. I'd be remiss to not include links to Jeffrey Kalmikoff's The Threadless Tees Guide to Transparency and Accessibility presentation, the Silicon Prairie News blog, and Jolie O'Dell's BIGOmaha: The Little Conference That Could conference wrap-up. Jeffrey's "performance" centered on how companies can honestly involve their customers into their business process, SPN is part of the spark behind Big Omaha (and continues the conference's mission), and Jolie accurately describes the vibe of the event.
Also, special shout out to Ben (at Torchwerks), Andrew and Geoff (both at Malone & Co.) who took time out between events to grab dinner together and rap about their efforts in the Omaha area. The trio are a very talented collective, and I appreciated the time (and, as is always a hallmark of any Omaha experience: the food).
Director, User Experience