The X Conference is coming

Registration for the 6th annual Kalamazoo X Conference opened today! 

Are you a knowledge worker?  Can you rip out IoC frameworks in your sleep?  Do you know every Excel shortcut there is?  Can you dazzle in T-SQL?  There are a plethora of technical conferences for you to hone your skills with.

The X Conference is different.  The X Conference is for all of the other skills you need to become a GREAT knowledge worker.

Join me on Saturday, April 26 at the Fetzer Center on the central campus of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  Mike Eaton and his exception crew have put what promises to be another mind-bending day together.  There is also chance to win one of three free tickets to this year’s conference by playing the Session Matchmaker Ticket Giveaway.  Check out the site for full details.


Kalamazoo X Conference 2012 – Recap and a change

The fourth annual Kalamazoo X Conference did not disappoint.  We had 10 amazing speakers this year, and to paraphrase one of the tweets during the conference – any of these talks would be the top-rated session at any other conference.  I couldn’t agree more.

In keeping with tradition, I’ve compiled some of the more memorable lines from the conference.  This is by no means an exhaustive list of the funny, witty, or just downright mind-blowing moments.  One thing to note is that a couple of the organizers (Mike Eaton and Michael Markel) made the list this year:

  • "Really high bar for speakers today, and at least half of us stayed at the Holiday Inn Express last night." – Jeff Blankenburg
  • "1994 – not a whole lot of internet then.  When I had to research, I used the print version of Wikipedia." – Jeff Blankenburg
  • "I don’t read technical books…  I wrote two technical books that I don’t read." – Jeff Blankenburg
  • "Anytime you have a project with a class called GlobalBusinessLogic, just run." – Joe O’Brien
  • (On diversity hires) "I don’t take those jobs anymore.  It’s really hard to be the voice of all women-kind." – Laura Bergells
  • "There’s no way I’m ever going to pick the safe Leon talk."  Mike Eaton
  • "The world’s greatest developer requires a laptop, the internet, and Starbucks.  The greatest brain surgeon in the world can’t go into a Starbucks with a scalpel and start cutting." – Tim Wingfield
  • "Who here has read the ‘Pragmatic Programmer’?" – Tim Wingfield
    "I did!" – Jeff Blankenburg
  • "I wished I billed for showers." – Justin Searls
  • "You went through 160 slides?  I went through 7!" – Tim Wingfield to Justin Searls
  • "What is design?" – Jen Meyers
    "Rounded corners." – Michael Markel
  • "Yes there is a lot of Apple stuff here.  I’m a design – shut up." – Jen Meyers
  • "So what do we have?  We have a whole lotta sh**, and you’re right in the middle of it." – Elizabeth Naramore
  • "Step 1: Shut Up" – Elizabeth Naramore’s listening refresher
  • "Who’s never heard of CodeMash?" – Mike Eaton
    (no hands)
    "Why don’t you go, then?" – Mike
    "’Cause it’s sold out.  Way to rub it in!" – one of the attendees
  • "These are molecules of serotonin and dopamine, and technically the only two things you enjoy." – Alan Stevens

There’s the recap, and now for the change.  I have some loose ends to tie up from this year’s conference, but otherwise I’m stepping down as an official organizer this year.  The official “I’m done” date is still fuzzy, but my plan is to make the 2012 conference the last one I serve as Secretary for.

The X Conference is still very near and dear to my heart, having been with it when it was just a conversation with Josh Holmes after the May 2008 session of the Microsoft Developers of Southwest Michigan (MDSM) user’s group.  I’ve seen the X Conference grow and mature, and I’m very proud to have been a part of it.  Part of the reason I’m leaving is to make room for other people.  As I discovered with MDSM, doing it year after year makes it very tempting to do the same thing year after year.  Stepping aside allows some fresh eyes to look at how we’re doing things, and what we’re doing, and fight against stagnation.

The rest of it is to make room for a new venture I’m working on.  It wouldn’t even be fair to say it’s “half-baked” at this point – more like I have some of the dry ingredients pulled together, but I’m still measuring and mixing, and the oven is pre-heating.  I feel very fortunate to have gotten in on the ground floor of the X Conference in this respect as well – I had very limited prior experience working with a non-profit, let alone setting one up from scratch.  That is definitely experience that will serve me well in the future.

So, thank you to all of my fellow coordinators – Mike Eaton, Michael Markel, Matt Davis, and Marty Adams – you guys are awesome to work with, and it still amazes me that we pulled together the last two conferences purely by email.  And thank you to all of the speakers and all of the attendees – you are really the ones who make the X Conference as great as it is.  See you in April 2013!

Kalamazoo X Conference 2012

The 4th annual Kalamazoo X Conference will be held –

Wait – "4th annual"?  "4th"?!?

*shakes head*

We’ve done this three times already, and they still want more?!?  Well, all right…

Join us for a 4th day of non-technical awesomeness on Saturday, April 21, at KVCC’s downtown-Kalamazoo campus.  We’re still finalizing the speakers and sessions for this year’s conference, but we already have a couple of X-Alums lined-up: Leon Gersing and Jeff Blankenburg.

For full details and updates, visit us at, or follow us on Twitter: @kalamazoox.

Now, go "forth" and spread the word (see what I did there?).

Kalamazoo X Conference 2011 – Light-Hearted Recap

I’m still on the mental buzz from yesterday’s Kalamazoo X Conference.  Here is a rough agenda for the last four months, from the perspective of an organizer:


1/1/2011, Midnight – 4/30/2011, 8:49 am: 

  • Issues
  • Headaches
  • Worries
  • Scrambling

4/30/2011, 8:50 am – 4/30/2011, 5:10 pm:

  • The Zen of Awesome
  • Adrenaline High

4/30/2011, 5:11 pm – 4/30/2011, 8:10 pm:

  • The after-event conversations
  • Adrenaline high redux

4/30/2011, 8:11 pm

  • Adrenaline high ends
  • Extreme weariness sets in


I’m sure I’m not the only conference organizer in history to follow this basic agenda.  I was simply amused by how clearly the boundaries were defined this year.

The speakers did an outstanding job, and like last year, there was a lot of humor throughout the day.  I tried to capture some of those gems:

  • "I want [to hire] someone with [a degree in] English Lit because if they could send out an email without a grammatical error, that would be so great.” – Joe O’Brien
  • “The graph shows minus 30 degrees.  It doesn’t say Fahrenheit or Celsius, but at 30 below it doesn’t matter.”  – David Giard
  • One time I wore a sport coat!” – Leon Gersing
  • “You can’t erase the internet.” – Jeff Blankenburg
  • “’Great teams’ don’t mean you can set them free and let them go and spend all your time on XBox.” – Jim Holmes
  • “Buy your teams foodstuffs.  Be careful about food allergies.  Don’t kill ‘em.  That would be bad.” – Jim Holmes
  • “If you could give an Oscar to a puppet, you should have!” – Leon Gersing, about Yoda.
  • “And I thought following lunch would suck!” – Dan Neumann, on following Leon’s session
  • “You do not want your conscious brain to make those life or death decisions, because you will die.” – Laura Bergells, on the value provided by the amygdala

Thank you to all of our speakers and to all of our attendees.  Without you, it would just be me and a few guys in a room all day with a ton of caffeine but no XBox.  Thank you for saving us from that fate.

Kalamazoo X Conference 2011

It’s hard to believe it’s been 3 years already.

3 years ago today I, along with a passionate group of my fellow organizers, were neck deep trying to make the first Kalamazoo X Conference fly.  We wanted to put on a different kind of conference, one that focused not on technology and tools, but on everything else that goes into making a great software developer, software architect, or technical manager: soft skills, personal branding, networking, dealing with change, and so on.

We weren’t sure if people would “get” it.  We were worried about the turnout – and then we got a nearly-packed room.  We were worried about the format, a single track conference where everyone sees and hears everyone – and it worked brilliantly on several levels.  We were worried about so many different things, and the conference was just plain awesome.

The passion continued at last year’s conference.  I personally walked away with several new ideas and perspectives on my craft, some of which I implemented at my company.  I know I wasn’t alone.

And now, we’re at year 3.

Join me on Saturday, April 30 for the 3rd Annual Kalamazoo X Conference, being held at the downtown campus of Kalamazoo Valley Community College, Kalamazoo, Michigan.  We’ve got a great lineup of people again this year, so get registered. For more information, check us out at

Kalamazoo X Conference 2010 – Light-Hearted Recap

This past weekend saw the second annual Kalamazoo X Conference, of which I am one of the organizers.  Like last year’s X Conference, I got something (and usually two or three things) out of every session, so I consider it a grand success.

Yes, I know, I’m the only measure of success here.  Ahem.

One of the great things about this conference is that all of the speakers were able to work in some humor into their presentations – some intentional and some not-so-intentional.  I couldn’t capture all of the gems, but here is a list of some of my favorites:

  • “Defugging – it’s debugging using F10 / F11” – Phil Japiske
  • “Coaching hockey is great.  My youngest, he’s 7 – working with his team is great because it prepares me for working with the developers.” – Tim Wingfield
  • On modeling with Legos: “Can you imagine a roomful of geeks and a table full of Legos?  You might not open a computer for 45 minutes.” – Tim Wingfield
  • On “Stone Soup” by Marcia Brown: “It’s supposed to be about sharing, but it’s really about teaching kids how to manipulate people.” – James Bender
  • On his daughter’s cell phone/texting bill: “Pretty soon we’ll be paying $100 a month for this kid who doesn’t write any code.” – Brian H. Prince
  • “You can tell I’m subtle and very softspoken.” – Alan Stevens
  • “You know ‘Neuromancer’ by Gibson?  You know how he drops you into this world, and you have no idea what’s going on?  Isn’t it great?!  DON’T EVER DO THAT WITH YOUR CODE!” – Alan Stevens
  • “With Twitter we get interesting information and ‘Hey, I just drank 12 beers!'” – Clovis Bordeaux

My conference favorite, though, was delivered by Brian H. Prince:

“…pass the futon back and forth … er, the baton. (laughter from audience)  Look, I don’t know what sports you have up here.”

Enjoy, and I hope to see you next year!

Kalamazoo X Conference 2010

Last year I had the extreme pleasure of being on the planning committee for the first ever Kalamazoo X Conference – a one-day event focused on architecture, people skills, design.  Our goal was to put on a conference that was different than the other great, technical events being held in our region, but something that complemented them.  The buzz before and after the conference was great, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.

On Saturday, April 10, the X Conference returns, this year being held at the Radisson in downtown Kalamazoo.  The basic format is the same as last year’s – a single track where everyone can soak up all of the energy and superb content.

Registration is now officially open, so check us out and sign up.  We hope to see you there.