Kalamazoo X conference

On the heels of the announcement by Michael Eaton, I thought I should post about how excited I am about the upcoming Kalamazoo X Conference

The Kalamazoo X conference, while being put on by the technical community, is a very different sort of conference. You’re not going to hear “technical” talks. All of talks pertain to technical folk but it’s a step back from the nuts and bolts that we usually deal with day in and day out and focusing on the topics that are really important.


Jeff Blankenburg will be giving Six Tips for Improving User Experience. Jeff is one of those amazing people that cross easily between the designer and developer world and can talk to either group with complete credibility. Again, he’s bringing great experience to the table as his roots in development are in the digital marketing arena.


Leon Gersing will lead a discussion about Change. Leon is a great software craftsman who has worked in all types of development shops from large consulting shops and independent software vendors to the small and nimble consulting shops working in technology ranging from his much loved Sharepoint to Ruby on Rails. His deep passion and experience combine to make him a dynamic and engaging speaker.

We have the great fortune to hear from Jim Holmes twice speaking on 3 Tips to Improve Your Development Process and Leadership 101. The first talk is a great talk that is important to anyone doing development regardless of their current process, tooling or any other variables.

Jim’s second talk on Leadership 101 couldn’t be given by a more perfect guy. Jim is a born leader in the truest sense of the word. Management, as a role on a team, can be given to someone regardless of their qualifications. Leadership is proven and earned over time. Jim’s led the CodeMash conference, which he downplays but he is the head cat herder. He doesn’t play a “management” role but rather leads through great thought leadership, influence and enablement of the people around him. But he knows when the buck has come to his desk and he has the ability to make those hard decisions that are required of a true leader.
I’ve heard Jim speak on similar topics in the past and I can attest that he’s bringing real world hard fought battle proven experience to the table. You can get some of his thoughts on the topic reading his blog post about Leadership 101.


Brian Prince will be reprising his Soft Skills talk. This is a great talk that speaks to the non-technical side of our jobs that we all need to work on. I’ve seen, and actually delivered once when Brian came down with the plague the night before the Grand Rapids Day of .NET, this talk before. It strikes to the heart of how you, as a technical person, need to work on and grow your soft skills. It’s not fuzzy feel good bits, it’s things that will actually help you in your career.

Josh Holmes on Mount Crested Butte - photo by James WardAnd I’ll be speaking on the Lost Art of Simplicity. I’ve decided to go to war with complexity. Simplicity is a lost art in the application development space.

The Wikipedia definition of Simplicity is “Simplicity is the property, condition, or quality of being simple or un-combined. It often denotes beauty, purity or clarity. Simple things are usually easier to explain and understand than complicated ones. Simplicity can mean freedom from hardship, effort or confusion.”

This is a beautiful statement that we often lose sight of when we are building our applications. Instead we are on a never ending quest to fill out a checklist of features or to build something clever forgetting about the actual needs of our users to get a specific task done. This session takes complexity to task and challenges you to bring simplicity to the center of your development with some straightforward ideas and guidance.

I’ve not even touched on the sessions by Tim Wingfield, Chris Woodruff, Michael Wood, Phil Japikse, Sarah Dutkiewicz, James Bender, Dave Giard, Andy van Solkema or Clovis Bordeaux! I know most of these speakers and have seen them speak on a variety of topics. I guarantee that they are great speakers and that you’ll learn something from each and every one of them…

Best of all, you don’t have to choose between the all of these great sessions. I was terrified that I’d be in a time slot opposite of Jim Holmes and A: miss his talk and B: have to compete with him for audience.

As per the announcement by Michael Eaton, the conference format has been radically altered to be a single track conference with 20-30 minute sessions rather than the typical 4 track conference with 70 minute sessions. This will let me catch all of the sessions and it gives a new energy to all of the sessions as the speakers have to stay very tight to their topic and come with high energy to hit the time limit. I’ll be working with Mike to make sure that we have the hook ready  to go for people that go over. That might include me…

As you can tell, the Kalamazoo X Conference will be a very different conference than you’re used to. Now, it does cost $20.00 for professionals and $10.00 for students. That’s a VERY reasonable price for the quality of the speakers, topics and format that the organizing committee has been able to assemble.

Hopefully I’ll see you in Kalamazoo on Sat. April 25th.

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