IDEA09 Debts of Gratitude

I’m woefully behind on this, but it’s no less important that the people who propped-up the IDEA Conference experience get recognized.

Certainly, as chair of the 2009 IDEA Conference, there’s a bit of a light shone directly on me, but the reality is that there’s no way on earth that any conference could–or should, at least–be pulled off by a single person.

Without much more preamble, these fine folks let me lead and chose to follow–often challenging and questioning steps along the way, but always supporting the event and the community it is intended for.

I’m humbled to have been so fortunate to get to work with each of them.  Please take note of these fine individuals–and even if you didn’t get to attend IDEA, send them some love for the effort they chose to invest.

Jonathan Knoll
Affectionately known as Yoni throughout this little UX community of ours, he pulled all kinds of magic helping to integrate this pathetic little membership system knows as “Memberclicks” (and that’s in its politest form) into the IDEA website. But that’s not all–he also built the whole site from code line 0, with a ridiculous amount of speed, finesse and dedication.

As a community, we’re beyond lucky to have such a dedicated resource.  You don’t have to take my word for it–ask the IxDA, ASIS and just about anyone else with an idea or a need for assistance.  Thanks, Yoni. Thanks for all the help with IDEA, and thanks for being a friend.

Brad Simpson
Speaking of friends, from work to book-writing projects (Brad did my portion of the design prep for “A Project Guide to UX Design” and may be engaged again…) to the IDEA Conference, Brad has been there. When I first started working Brad a few years ago, I don’t think we liked each other very much.  Somewhere around 6 months in to the mix, we figured something out and there’s probably not a visual designer I’ve enjoyed working with more who has also had a great impact on my own work. He’s not “just a designer”; he’s thinker and wants to know the strategy and the story and then turns it all into something breathtaking.

Michael Leis
The man has a great ‘fro and a great ability to keep the ball rolling. Michael led the charge with sponsorships and marketing, and essentially became our primary copywriter.  We had more than double the amount of sponsorships from a dollars perspective and quite a few more than double from a numbers perspective based upon the previous year’s IDEA conference.  This was a huge success and we couldn’t have come close to touching it without Michael’s guidance, leadership and occasional “caw” noises.

Abby Covert
Abby’s a success story of the IAI’s Mentoring Program.  We began the program perhaps a year ago and when I had the opportunity to hire someone, I pinged her and was lucky enough to do so at just the right time in her life. Beyond that, she was a fantastic asset to our IDEA team, helping to keep things coordinated, picking up tasks along the way that needed an owner, and frankly, just helping to save me from a pile of daunting tasks.  And if you think this is all just me being kind to her, ask around. And look and see who’s the Producer for the IA Summit in 2010.  Abby’s great–and you’re going to see a lot more of her.

Will Evans
In 2008, Will took a couple of pot shots at the IDEA Conference.  In 2009, I called him on it. He manned-up and became part of the solution.  Will was great for helping us IA the IDEA website and in helping me gut-check my feelings on some of my speaker selections. Sure, he can’t manage a passport, but he was a huge asset to IDEA and a welcome addition to the Information Architecture Institute’s board of directors.

Mario Bourque
Our man on the ground in Toronto, Mario helped us find our hotel, checked out the MaRS space for us, and kept things moving on so many different levels. The man is the king of the set-up and tear-down, managing all things on the ground and had a perfect address for us to ship everything to. Sure, that seems odd, but let me tell you what a pain it would have been without that, and without his willingness to be the packhorse and keep all things together for us locally.  Glad to have Mario as a friend and as a key part of IDEA.

Denise Phillipsen
Denise jumped in and helped us in creating some great interview questions for our speakers and manned our table at the conference like a champ.  From time to time, we even saw her acting as nanny!

Dennis Schleicher
Thanks to Dennis and UX Sears, we had a last minute sponsor that has a great interest in supporting the UX Community! Not only should you want to work with Dennis and have him put you through thinking exercises, but you also want to have Dennis on your side to do recon and support.  Dennis was, and is, awesome, and it was great to have him as a part of the conference–and to see him on stage with Matthew Milan during “Innovation Parkour”.

Austin Govella
Austin was behind the scenes humor and coordination, also helping with our speaker interview questions.  He seemed to pop up like a paintball assassin–spraying us with wisdom and humor and then disappearing back into the mist.  Probably working on some Pimpformation Architect stuff…

Greg Corrin
Greg worked with me to create interview question for our speakers, and these ended up getting published on Boxes & Arrows.  He did some great research and helped us to put some intelligent questions in front of the speakers.

Todd Zaki Warfel
Todd was instrumental in helping us locate some key speakers and helped in keeping me sane around some of my ideas for speakers. He was a great asset behind the scenes.  A guy like Todd knows conferences (he’s doing a lot of great work for Interaction 10) and has created enough workshops to be a great adviser.

Cindy Chastain
Cindy and I played tag for weeks, if not months, trying to work out some great storytelling speakers. Unfortunately, timing never seemed quite right or there were too many hurdles in the way that prevented us from ever landing one of her connections–but her willingness to help and the value of her connections were invaluable to me.

Melissa Weaver
Oh, Melissa. So often overlooked behind the scenes of the IAI and IDEA Conferences. Nearly anyone who has ever touched anything IAI-related knows of Melissa, but they don’t know how much she manages behind the scenes, and I doubt we’d be able to pull much off successfully without her.

Noreen Whysel
Noreen, like Melissa, is always doing something behind the scenes to keep things moving along smoothly. From timely updates to the IA Institute website to gentle reminders of things that need to get done (and that most likely would have been overlooked). The IA Institute and IDEA are lucky to have Noreen & Melissa!

The Information Architecture Institute Board of Directors
Everyone on the board was continually supportive and seemed to be pretty impressed with the event as I was giving status reports–none of this is or was easy, folks, and they were always positive, even in light of the downturn economy.  Andrew Hinton stepped-up and worked the IAI table at the conference and everyone was always willing to lend a hand. Great group of people to be associated with, for certain. Christian Crumlish & Livia Labate stepped-up and helped to make sure the payments were in place for the swag and the space and a/v that we needed, and they did so very timely.

The USB Party Crowd
At the very last minute, Livia Labate came through with the USB drives that we needed from Comcast Interactive as a sponsor, which helped us keep the conference affordably green.  Unfortunately, that didn’t give us tons of time to get everything together, so on Sunday evening before the conference, there were whole bunch of people smashed into my hotel room creating an assembly line production that mass-copied files on to 250 USB drives, capped them and placed them back into their handy little boxes.

In about an hour.

Amazing what you can do when you get that many IAs/UXers in a room at the same time and everyone just wants to help achieve a goal (and part of that goal, I might add, was to “get back to drinking”, but any motivation was good motivation!). Hopefully I won’t forget anyone, and those people, in no particular order were:

Gabby Hon
Joan Vermette
Andrew Hinton
Jen Bohmbach
Mick Carvin
Jenn Carvin
Christina Wodtke
Livia Labate
Erin Malone
Gene Smith
Chris Palle
Abby Covert
Michael Leis

I’d be remiss if I didn’t make mention of Jorge Arango who politely provided encouragement during some down times of the conference–Jorge was the chair for 2008’s very successful conference in Chicago, and much of what I learned for 2009 came from working with him.

Of course, I’m certain I missed someone–I’m not trying to overlook the speakers nor the sponsors in this post; this post is about the people who put in so much effort and personal time to help our community, the IDEA Conference and the Information Architecture Institute.

And I’m truly grateful.

*I’m really hoping I didn’t miss anyone, and I’m truly sorry if I did. Please email, IM or send me a DM if I inadvertently left you, or someone else, off the list.

2 Responses to “IDEA09 Debts of Gratitude”

  1. A big THANK YOU goes to several people who arranged the Philly Re-dux on Oct.9 for those of us who could not be at the conference. #noIDEA
    How did they distill an entire conference down to a few hours of presentations?


  2. It was such an amazing event. Now that you thanked everyone Russ, just be quiet and listen: THANK YOU. It would not have come together without your dedication and leadership. Pat yourself on the back.

    The USB Party Crowd: you all rocked. I was impressed. It made hauling 250 USBs across the border worthwhile.

    I second Chris’s comment! Thanks so much everyone for coming! Hopefuly IDEA Redux was a delicious amouse bouche for the next IA Institute’s IDEA conference.


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