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Chris G. Williams Beware: I mix tech and personal interests here.
Just got back from HDC - Omaha last night and it was a blast. (The drive home was a little crazy... apparently my GPS has developed a crack habit, but that's a whole other story.)

Wednesday -
Jason Bock and I arrived in Omaha around 11:30am and after a quick lunch at the hotel with Amanda Laucher, the three of us piled into the jeep and were off to meet Joe Olsen and the GeeksWithBlogs crew at the PhenomBlue office for a Microsoft Surface demo. We hung out there for a bit and chatted up some of the team and got a tour of the place. Joe's offices are amazingly cool and home to a great bunch of obviously creative folks. The Surface demo was neat and it was my first chance to get a look at a finished product. (I had seen early prototypes.) I was especially interested in the WPF / XNA possibilities along with the multi-touch capabilities.
After the demo, we wandered around Omaha for a bit, eventually getting back to the hotel at which point Jason decided he needed a nap (having been up since 4am) so Amanda and I decided to wander downtown, eventually finding an interesting bar to check out. After that we wandered back to the Convention Center and roamed around there, checking out some of the other events. "The Big O Show" was wrapping up, so we walked into the Exhibit Hall and checked that out for a bit, snagging some free samples and talking to some of the exhibitors... There was a pretty cool super stretch limo that was totally pimped out, so we HAD to check that out, of course.
Finished with The Big O Show, we still had time to kill before the pre-party so we wandered around upstairs and did some urban exploring... making our way into the back of the arena and watching them set up for the Mary J Blige concert later that evening, before someone spotted us and we had to leave. We figured that we'd have better luck checking things out later and maybe even getting backstage once the lights were out and the concert started.
After leaving the arena, we scouted the Hilton looking for a way to get on the roof (never found one) and ended up wandering through one of the kitchens, mostly by accident. The Hilton is pretty cool, because there's lots of interesting stuff to see... like sculptures and stuff. We roamed around there for a while and eventually hung out at the GWB suite for a bit before deciding to head back to the convention center to see what was going on over there.
Once we got back to the convention center, we discovered that Godfather's Pizza was having their big 30th anniversary company meeting, so we wandered around and mingled with those folks for a bit. They had a live band that was setting up, and of course they were right next door to our party so if things got boring, we had options. We also saw "the godfather" guy, that people were going to be getting their pictures taken with, so we figured... why not, and went over to talk to the camera guy and got a couple of test-shots taken.
Our party STILL hadn't started, although Rock Band was set up, so we hung out for a little longer and played some rock band and started raiding the bar for olives and whatever else we could find before wandering out again (curse this ADD) and seeing what else was in the convention center.
We ended up wandering back over to the arena to see if Mary J Blige was onstage yet, but she wasn't. We did catch a little of the opening act (Robin Thicke, I think) and noticed that there weren't very many folks in their yet. We were pretty much over it by then so we decided to head back to the HDC pre-party. On the way back to the party, we noticed the Godfather's party was jamming pretty good so we snagged a couple of the "godfather hats" that everyone was wearing and cruised in for a bit. Turns out they had a pretty decent free bar, so we grabbed a couple drinks before heading over to the HDC event.
By now, things were picking up a bit at the pre-party and there were people around we actually knew so we decided to hang out, play some more rock band and talk to people we hadn't seen in a while. Jason showed up a little while later, poker chips in hand... so a few of us sat down and played poker, but it was pretty crazy in there and this one drunk guy (sitting right next to me) was being a real pain in the ass, so I went all in on a hand I knew I couldn't win just so I would have an excuse to walk away from the table.
Eventually the party started thinning out, and by that point I was completely beat, having gotten up at 4am (and having a few drinks at the party) so it was time to head back to the hotel and get some sleep before the conference officially started on Thursday morning.

Thursday -
This was Day 1 of HDC and since my session wasn't until after lunch, I had an opportunity to wander around and check out the various vendor booths and also hit some other sessions. My buddies Jeff, John and Jerod were at the GWB booth, doing some podcasting and they had Joe's (Phenom Blue) Surface machine there for the IAMDIGITAL project (and for other demos, including an XNA one.)
After breakfast and the keynote (Joe Stagner, who I had seen in Minneapolis) there were a lot of interesting talks to choose from, so I caught part of Jason Bock's talk on Reflection and part of Mike Benkovich's demo talk, eventually catching up with my buddy Rod Paddock who had come in from Austin to speak at HDC. Amanda, Jason, PhatBoyG (I wish I could remember his real name) and I went out for some local food (mmm bar burgers) at lunch and then got back in time for me to prep for my talk before going on that afternoon.
My talk went really well, it was probably the highest attendance I've had yet (a little daunting at first, though I warmed up pretty quickly) and I got some really good questions although most of them were near the end or after the talk. (I guess they didn't want to interrupt?) Kent Tegels and Amanda hung out for my session, which was cool... it's always nice to have a friendly face in there. I even managed to gain a few more Twitter followers from people in my talk.
Once I was done with my talk, I wandered around the conference some more and then Rod & I caught Jeff Brand's Silverlight talk and then it was time to head back to the hotel for a semi-private get together with Microsoft and some of the community influencers. While there I ran into a few familiar faces that I hadn't seen in a while, mostly folks from previous conferences and got to meet with some more Microsoft folks in the DE program. Of course, I also got to hang out with the GWB gang again.
After that party, it was time for the HDC Attendee party so a bunch of us walked over there and had a great time. The turnout wasn't quite as high as expected, since this was the biggest HDC yet, we were expecting a larger crowd at the party but that just meant more food (and drinks) for those of us who did. The party was a lot of fun and I got to meet some new people I wouldn't have met otherwise, just by sitting down at a random table and chatting folks up.
Eventually the party started to die down and some of us ended up in the bar downstairs for a while, there was some live music (one guy with a guitar) and we hung out there for a bit before eventually calling it a night and making our way back to the hotel to get some sleep for day 2.

Friday -
I woke up absurdly early on Friday, around 4am... no idea why, but it gave me plenty of time to get ready for the day. I went ahead and packed everything up and checked out of the hotel, packed up the car and still had time to get over to the conference center for some breakfast and to catch the Infragistics (Jason Beres) keynote. Amanda was already there, since the conference center had free wifi (unlike the Hilton... booo) so all of us were sitting around the table with out laptops open doing some work and catching up on emails before the 2nd keynote. I got a chance to talk a little F# with her, while chatting with Rod and a few others.
I hadn't seen Jason Bere's keynote before since he wasn't at Minneapolis, and it was really good. After that wrapped up it was time for Amanda's F# talk and then the plan was to hit the road. (That was the plan anyway)
Amanda's talk kicked ass. It was the first time I had seen her present, since every time we're at the same conference we end up speaking in the same time slot. I'm definitely glad I caught it. She does a great job of making a potentially very dry topic actually entertaining. Having already started learning F# on my own I learned quite a bit during the talk and got some pretty cool ideas on things I want to research further like Domain Specific Languages.
BTW: One of the cool things about Amanda is her ability to really hone in on someone who is asking her a question and give them a thorough answer. So many people in our industry seem to be constantly scanning the horizon to see what else is going on while talking to someone (I do it too, and I blame my ADD) but I've never seen Amanda do that. When she's talking to you, it's like you're only person in the room. It's something I definitely need to work on.
After Amanda's talk was over, we hung out for a bit and discussed upcoming events (SoCalCodeCamp, PDC, Iowa Code Camp, Chippewah Valley Code Camp) and our pending co-presentation at Codemash (still waiting to hear if we got selected.) By that time it was lunch, so we grabbed some lunch at the conference and hung out with the Microsoft gang for a bit.
I had been promising the GWB guys I would do a podcast (see how that plan to hit the road right after Amanda's talk was quickly going down the drain??) so I did about 15 minutes with them and the called Jason to see where he was, and of course he was sitting in someone's talk so I waited until that was done... said goodbye again to all the people I had already said goodbye too earlier (hey.. what? you're still here?) and played with the surface some more.
Eventually Javier Lozano's talk let out and we got out of there and got back to the Jeep so we could hit the road. The battery in the Garmin was pretty much dead so I used the GPS in my phone to get us out of there and back on track. Apparently my phone had secretly developed a crack habit when I wasn't looking since the GPS decided to take us off the interstate and onto a series of backroads, dirt roads and closed roads... 6 hours, and lots of detours later, we finally made it back to Minneapolis.
It was a great conference and always awesome to see everyone. I can hardly wait for PDC next week.
Posted on Saturday, October 18, 2008 7:43 PM General Interest | Back to top

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