ConvergeSE 2010 (Columbia, SC)

Spink by Rene
"Spink" by Rene
Photo Credit: ConvergeSE

At the end of June we were out in Columbia, South Carolina, for one of my favorite conferences: ConvergeSE. This was the second year that this conference has been held, and it has migrated from a focus on South Carolina (ConvergeSC last year) to the entire southeast region (ConvergeSE this year) of the United States.

Termed as "a conference for web professionals who wish to defy classification," ConvergeSE had a great lineup of speakers and topics covering everything from user experiences to copyright law to a day-long workshop on Rails. The conference spanned a two day period, covering two workshop tracks on the first day, followed by a second day of 30 minute presentations.

Before the conference started there was a unique animal hybrid art contest, where people could send in their hybrid pictures for a chance to win. This lead to some nightmare-inspiring permutations, such as the chihuahua-tarantula ("Spink") shown here. For a look at more hybrid art, see the full converged animal art stream.

Day 1 - Workshops

ConvergeSE Workshops
Photo Credit: unmatchedstyle

Jason Dew and Jed Schneider of Catamorphic Labs ran an impressive all-day workshop, taking participants through a web development kickstart with Rails. If I hadn't had a workshop of my own that day, I would have loved to sit through this workshop and get ramped up on Rails.

These two speakers were able to take everyone through the process of setting up Rails and, by the end of the day, have a functional application running. Speaker who can take novices and intermediate Rails developers with different skill levels and have the patience to bring them all up to the same level deserve all of the praise you can give them. There are no session videos for this workshop, folks, so if you're really looking for material like this at a conference you'll need to attend next year and request that these guys come back — I know I will be doing so.

Following up on my YQL and Yahoo! technology stack overview from last year, I gave a workshop on how to build applications with YQL, taking participants through the innards of the tool and then running through a few code examples to show real use cases of how to use YQL in your development projects.

The ConvergeSE website has a complete list of the workshops.

Day 2 - Presentations

I really didn't think that the presentations this year could outdo last year, but the organizers did it once again. They brought in an impressive assortment of speakers to give a wide range of talks to meet the needs of the mixed technical and non-technical audience.

Neil Patel of CrazyEgg.com gave a very insightful presentation on the concept of tracking people and not just numbers. From this talk, I can understand from his experiences how a shift in how you view statistics on the Web can drive a business with a loyal customer base, increasing the overall return on investment (ROI) over the long term. The extra effort is always worth it, as he showed.

During the presentation day, I gave a talk on some of my favorite features coming out of HTML5 and a few of the security and privacy concerns that everyone should be aware of. Here are the slides from my talk.

If you want to take a look at photos from the conference, ConvergeSE has set up a Flickr photo group. Videos from the conference are currently being edited and will be posted as soon as they are available.

I would recommend that anyone who has the opportunity to attend this conference next year find the time to do so. This is definitely one of the gems of the southeast and one of my top picks. It's rare to find a community of people who are so willing to help and work with each other, across company and technical barriers.

You can find more information on ConvergeSE through the following places:

I wanted to extend a special thank you to the folks at unmatchedstyle and all of the organizers of the event for making this one of the best conferences year over year.