I think the conference planners did a phenomenal job in selecting all three keynotes, and although the last two were controversial, I think that was a good thing. For me at least, Dan Roam’s presentation was an excellent intellectual keynote. Whitney’s was an amazing emotional keynote. And Richard Saul Wurman’s was a confusing, yet entertaining mix of the two — he’s our Dr. House, focusing only on solving the interesting challenges and seemingly not giving a damn about people, even though he’s probably a caring guy. I’d hope that we all have some balance of intellectual curiosity, emotional attachment, and need to solve problems that each of the speakers embodied, and it’s up to us personally to figure out how much we want (or need) to focus on each. Of the past three years, this Summit taught me more about what being an IA is (as a human being), than the other two. And I know I still have lots of my own personal stuff to sort out…
It disturbed me a little when I heard people make snide comments about Wurman’s talk and Whitney’s talk. I didn’t agree with everything either of them said. But I also don’t go to sessions expecting to have my own ideas reinforced! I want to learn new ideas, see new perspectives, and have my own world poked, prodded, and turned upside down. I even want to be offended sometimes.
While I think the “how-to” sessions are valuable for learning about a certain skill, method, or technique (I heard several people say that this or that session was exactly what they needed for a current project at work), I personally find good speakers fascinating no matter what their topic. This year I mostly went to sessions given by people on my own list of favorite presenters and I wasn’t disappointed. I also discovered a few new favorites to look for next time. It’s worth noting that my definition of “good” goes beyond presentation skills. I won’t drop names, but these are the folks that do thoughtful research on a topic (perhaps only indirectly related to IA) and then present their findings in a clear and interesting way. They experiment and take risks, yet consistently inform and entertain. They see patterns that the rest of us may have missed, and help us see them too. In short, they are information architects. They share their understanding.
I was sad to hear that several of my friends won’t be coming back, but I guess that is inevitable. I don’t know where I’ll be a year from now, but I still believe I can learn a lot from you guys and fully intend to be at the Summit in Denver. I’ll also try to contribute more energy to its success.