October 7th and 8th, I attended the IDEA conference in Chicago. It was put on by the Information Architecture Institute and held at the impressive Harold Washington Library. The ornate gargoyle-like building decoration reminded me of the ghostbusters, one of my favorite childhood movies, and the ghostbusters theme song kept running through my head throughout the two days.
I was fortunate to be able to travel with Chris Hanrath, a very fun and social classmate who also has a lot of industry experience. (We traveled stylishly via Megabus there, train back – megabus was very quick yet bumpy, while train was slower yet roomy and a smooth ride)
The conference was the best possible use of my time for those two days. It was different than I expected: more intimate (there were maybe a couple hundred people in attendance), and more theoretical than practical (focused on the ‘future’ of computing, browsing, and IA rather than current IA practices). The conference community seemed tightly-knit; audience members cracked jokes and encouraged the folks on stage, and the folks on stage really seemed to know and respect the audience. At the same time, there were plenty of people who were relatively new to the scene, so I felt comfortable and welcome.
I met some Information Architects who reported that they were there ‘to find out what I’m supposed to be doing.’ This was interesting, as I know there has been recent drama on IA Institute email lists regarding the big question – what is information architecture? I’m not sure that anyone really got an answer to that question at the conference, but perhaps a hazy definition began to form in our collective minds by the end. Regardless, at least 3 people I met at the conference said it was by far the best conference they’d ever attended.
The conference was really social, which was awesome. Mega awesome. The first night there was a hosted cocktail and dinner party held at the Institute of Design. I spent some time talking shop & BS with some really fun people from all over – British Columbia, Toronto area, Chi-town, New Hampshire, etc. I complimented Dave Gray and Jason Kunesh on their talks, and spent some time talking politics and economics with Dave and Jorge Arango, the conference organizer/IAI president.
Later there was karaoke at the Blue Frog, a sort of fun dive bar somewhat near that big old McDonald’s with the giant arches. That would be the Rock n’ Roll McDonald’s, actually. Dave Armano and Russ Unger rocked the mike and belted out songs that seemed appropriate at the time.
There was also a giant cardboard cut-out in the corner of some strange man in an 80′s windbreaker, pageboy haircut, and blueblocker glasses…
I hung out with Chris and his old pal Amanda, who is a recruiter for Sapient and one of the nicer people I’ve met out in the world.
I really want to get into details about the talks, but I am in the midst of a carpet cleaning and I need to eject.