Today is the first official day of the Shareware Industry Conference.
The morning started out as usual with an excellent breakfast provided by the conference. In this case, it was omelets made to order, which has been my favorite breakfast meal for every SIC I have attended. This is my sixth year attending, having gone to my first in 2000 in Tampa, recognized as the most luxurious SIC due to venture capital spending by adware companies (all now defunct), and missing 2001 (the first of two in St. Louis).
My first order of business was to find the supposed speakers meeting at 8:30am, about which I was informed by Paris Karahalios (Speaker Coordinator) the previous evening. At the prescribed time, but having no set location, I dutifully checked each room and found no meeting, nor any signs suggesting one. I then saw Paris in the registration room (obviously not in any meeting), so I found a table with a few friends who I knew were also speaking, figuring that we could make or miss a meeting together. None of us saw anything, so I am still not sure whether Paris may have simply been pulling my leg.
I got involved in a conversation with a couple of friends I know, only to realize that they had not met each other in person, despite having actually worked together online. Such is the nature of our business that it is possible to work with somebody but never actually meet. The great value of this conference is the ability to interact with associates and online friends and acquaintances on a more personal level (though the presentations are valuable as well).
As usual, the conversation lasted past the start of the first session. We attended Building the Automatic Software Company Machine, by Brian Leach of Steelray Software. It was interesting but perhaps not directly applicable to our company at the moment. There was discussion of a “depth chart” that had two (or more) people who could handle any task, which immediately showed that Steelray is a significantly larger company than we are.
For the second session, I attended the User Interface talks given by Sue Pichotta of icons-icons and Becky Lash of Epic Trends. Sue and Becky both discussed the new Microsoft Vista interface, which was certainly interesting. While I have a beta copy of Vista, it refused to install on my one (and so far, only) attempt, so it was my first look. Some of the seemingly arbitrary changes to Vista are directly contradictory to advice I would be giving in my talk.
After the session, it was time for lunch. Though there was no official event planned, there was a lunch at a nearby restaurant/pub for AISIP (Association of Independent Software Industry Professionals), which my wife, Sherry, and I both attended. In a reflection of the previous session, our host was Sue Pichotta, and Becky Lash sat at our table, along with Dave Collins of Shareware Promotions, who had also already spoken at the conference (and would do again). We had a great conversation about family, marriage, and all sort of issues not directly related to shareware marketing, but probably near the core of why we all work for ourselves.
I skipped the next session to get more work done on my upcoming presentation. Did I mention that I had never created a PowerPoint presentation before? I spent much of the hour getting the structure and outline for the talk down in data form, but I was filling in some of the content from my notes before leaving the hotel room.
The next session was Reviewing and Critiquing Attendee Web Sites, which I attended to get ideas as I plan a company wide rebuilding of our (more than a dozen) web sites. When the reviewers, Sharon Housley of NotePage, Ben Weintraub of Merit Software, and the aforementioned Dave Collins, asked for business cards, there were not too many takers at first, so I threw in mine (for the main SophSoft site). Eventually, many people volunteered but, alas, my site was one of the few selected for review above more worthy sites (and by that I mean those actually selling product). Sharon served as primary reviewer on my site, and suffice it to say, the review was not favorable. (If the 1980s are mentioned in relation to a web site, when the first web page did not even exist until 1990, that is bad.)
Instead of attending the final session of the day, the family went on a short ride to the store to pick up a few missing essentials to make the rest of the stay more enjoyable.
The event for the evening was a reception hosted by Digital River, which always tries to have some sort of spectacle. This year, there were motorized toilets racing around within inflatable track walls. (Last year, it was a mechanical bull.) The food was decent, and there was free beer; in fact, DR representatives tried to hand a bottle to my 17 year old son on the way in. Unfortunately, as with previous years, there was loud music for the theme, and as soon as it looked like people were actually having conversations, the volume was turned up louder seemingly to drown it out. They could really take a lesson from Protexis, who sponsored the networking event the previous evening.
A shareware gathering tradition continued when a small group of us, led by the fearless Eric Isaacson of ZIPKEY and Eric Isaacson Software, went out for ice cream. This evening, we went to a Cold Stone Creamery that we found last year, in lieu of a proper local store. We were joined by Brandon and Rebekah Staggs of SwordSearcher, Gary Elfring of Elfring Soft Fonts, Jerry Medlin of Medlin Accounting, Becky Lash (again of Epic Trends), and my two sons. (Tip: Since the group size is always limited by seating, having a car, as I did, is the best way to assure an invitation.)
It was a good first full day of the conference, but I am definitely looking forward to some sleep.