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Thoughts on my first Mesh conference

Last week I went to Mesh, a web conference in Toronto. This year was it’s fourth year, but my first.  While I have a few posts in mind about specific speakers and workshops, I thought I’d first do a bit of an overview/review type-post.

The conference spanned 3 days and consisted of two separate events. Monday was MeshU.  MeshU was geared towards developers, designers and management. Each stream was covered by a number of speakers/discussions/sessions throughout the day. Personally I stuck to the design and developer streams, but I heard some great things about all three.

Tuesday and Wednesday were the main event. The theme of Mesh is Connect, Share and Inspire. That’s essentially what happened for two straight days.  From hour one of the first day until the very last reception on Wednesday (Tuesday night party included) people were connecting, sharing and inspiring all over the place. The speakers and workshop hosts were from all aspects and levels of the Social Media world. It was a very busy few days.

Mesh vs. MeshU

The two events differed for me in one key way — everyone who spoke at Mesh discussed big ideas and things that have been done (the past), whereas MeshU presenters shared more tangible/hands-on tools and techniques that could be used to create a better online space (the future).   Though there were a lot of great ideas and informative best practice discussions at both, I didn’t really witness too many large discussions that delved much beyond the big idea on Tuesday or Wednesday… But it’s also possible I wasn’t invited to those discussions.  Some people I talked to had similar thoughts — not a lot of new ideas, but lots of great ones.

I think the limited sharing/revealing of ideas stemmed largely from everyone at the conference being either a) directly competitive with each other, b) a potential client hoping for pitches or c) generally just completely overstimulated — I fell pretty cleanly into the overstimulated category.

Mesh Favourites

Of the keynotes there were two I enjoyed the most. Those by David Miller (Mayor of Toronto) and Jessica Jackley (co-founder of Both of them discussed what they were doing in the space, what was and wasn’t working and how they are doing it. For me, the thing that made these keynotes so interesting was because neither of them are all that tech saavy. They didn’t start from the social media sphere. They started from their own goals and aspirations and discovered the potential of social media from outside the bubble. They each spoke purely from their experiences and how the Internet and it’s tools helped/is helping them meet their goals. They both also won over the entire audience.

Both of these keynotes as well as many of the other sessions and keynotes have been edited down into a podcast by Roz Allen and the awesome team at MaRS. They are all available here on iTunes for free. The entire event was also well documented in the photography of Rannie Turingan and everyone on Flickr.

MeshU Favourites

Personally, I found MeshU to be a little more helpful. Everyone who spoke discussed and shared techniques and ideas and also shared tools to to help us improve a users web experience. I came away from some of these workshops with a pile of tools and ideas that will keep me busy for months.  There were three workshops from MeshU that stuck in my mind the most.

Ryan Singer from 37 Signals, the team behind Basecamp, etc., discussed the development process and how design and development can coexist to create a more coherent project from the development side of things. He also touched on why design should take the lead on certain projects.

Leigh Honeywell from discussed Internet security in her session titled Break it while you make it.  This is something I’ve been meaning to look into for a while now and she provided a bunch of tools and services that will help a lot. Like all presentations about internet security, she covered how scary the web can be, but she also provided loads of tips and tools to help deal with the monster that is the internet.

I also really enjoyed Luke Andrews‘ (from DabbleDB) session on Responsiveness: The Perception of Speed in Web Apps.  He ran through three main points that articulated perfectly what I’ve always kind of known in my gut for a while. The perception of speed can be created through good design.

Thanks to everyone who made this event happen and I’m looking forward to next year.

Photo of me at mesh09 by CNW photographer Kaz Ehara: more

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