SIC 2006 Diary, Day Two

This is the “hump day” of the conference, and the day of my presentation.

The breakfast this morning was not omelets, so I mostly reverted to my standard operating procedure (i.e., no breakfast). I was running a little later than normal, so the socializing with friends and colleagues was minimal, though I was able to chat with Ellen Craw of Bits du Jour, a unique marketing concept that is getting some national media attention. This site offers a special discount on one product each weekday, providing value to customers and an effective marketing channel for software vendors. Check it out!

Upon looking at the schedule for Friday, I actually did not see many that I just had to attend, so that combined nicely with the fact that I still needed to finish my presentation. Fortunately, SophSoft had another attendee at the conference, too, so we were covered, though there was nothing earth-shattering to report. I spent the morning in my hotel room transferring my notes into PowerPoint (somewhat awkwardly).

For lunch, the ASP (Association of Shareware Professionals) Luncheon was scheduled. I found the food to be decent, especially for something that had to be explained to me, but that opinion was not widely shared. My wife and I sat at a table with many ASP officials, and the company and conversation were enjoyable. The highlight of the luncheon was the induction into the ASP Hall of Fame for Rob Rosenberger, of, and Kent Briggs, of Briggs Softworks. Volunteers for the ASP were also recognized with certificates; mine says “Voice of the ASP”, a reference not to marketing but to sheer volume. [Note: Audio recordings of the ASP luncheon are now available online.]

After the ASP luncheon, I again returned to working on my laptop in isolation, timing and editing my presentation (to be shorter, as usual). I emerged once to make use of the wireless internet available to SIC attendees in the hospitality area. It was there that I talked for a while with Christopher Williamson of DreamQuest Software and was shortly thereafter introduced to Barbara Hernandez of TechSmith, with whom I would be sharing the session later. Ironically, we both live in the same city, but we had to travel more than 1200 miles to meet.

The Good News was that I did manage to get my presentation finished, with time to spare (helped no doubt by having to lose material). I thought that the bad news was that I missed a session that would have been nice to attend. However, the real Bad News came when I went upstairs to my hotel room on the 9th floor to get my laptop/presentation, only to find that my key card had stopped working. Fortunately, it just took some extra elevator travel to get everything fixed in time for the session. The problem was, of course, a software bug.

With my heart racing, whether because of the scare, the additional exercise, or stagefright I am not sure, I arrived at the riser in the bigger of the two presentation rooms with enough time to test the video hardware before the session began. Fortunately, everything worked as expected (though the wireless mouse did not transmit far enough to reliably advance screens from the floor).

Barbara Hernandez gave her presentation first: Designing the User Experience: User Centered Design and the Software Development Cycle. Fortunately, despite minimal advance coordination between us, our topics were complimentary, rather than redundant. The focus of Barbara’s talk was the process involved in designing and, most importantly, testing user interfaces for customer usability. She spoke about how the process was applied to SnagIt 8, which was slightly ironic given that I was the programmer for SnagIt 2.1 more than a dozen years ago. I had to acknowledge that her PowerPoint garnered all of the style points.

My presentation was entitled, Practical Interface Guidelines: Things they did not teach us in programming class. As the (porcine) name suggests, I presented a large number of practical issues that should be considered when designing, implementing, and testing user interfaces. I deliberately went through the suggestions fairly quickly, in a successful attempt to keep within my time. We were finished with both talks with five minutes to spare for questions. At first, there were no questions at all, so I filled some time with one of the stories I had omitted earlier, and then we took a few questions that developed in the audience.

After my presentation came the reviews, the first (and worst) of which was from my wife and business partner. She felt that I could have done better with my speaking style (specifically, fewer “um”s). In retrospect, it is probably that she knows me so well that she can perceive my (otherwise masked) nervousness. I quickly sought an unbiased opinion from another programmer who I knew was in my target audience, and he said that he had not noticed, and that the talk was good. I got several spontaneous compliments throughout the evening, including from one person who suggested that the lack of questions was due to the audience still processing the large quantity of actionable information.

The activity for the evening was Exhibit Night, where attendees can visit booths of show vendors, as well as eat and drink (not necessarily in that order). Actually, the SIAF Board strongly encourages attendees to visit every booth by having a drawing for some nice portable music hardware; to enter the drawing, one needs to have ones “passport” stamped at each location. It seems to work well, as the event is always busy, even a little crowded. In addition to the SIAF giveaway, the DRM companies, the download sites, and the Digital River juggernaut, the ASP has a booth with regular (valuable) giveaways throughout the evening.

It was a great night for goodies. Several of the vendors had T-shirts, which some of us gratefully add to our wardrobe (and, yes, we do wear them). My son won a “goody bag” from the ASP, containing free copies of some member software and discounts on marketing services, fairly early in the evening. Of the three grand prizes from the SIAF, Sherry won one of the two 30GB Creative Zen Vision MP3/video players, the other going to the Thornton family, of Thornsoft, who also later won an iPod from one of the download sites. Our luck continued, too, as I personally won a copy of Borland Developer Studio 2006 Professional from the ASP ($1090 retail, courtesy of Borland).

After the exhibits closed down and we had all dumped our SWAG in our hotel rooms, we went on another late night ice cream run. This tim
e, though, Eric Issacson (ZIPKEY) had found a local store, Bonnie Brae Ice Cream, which in my opinion was far better than a chain joint. Most of the previous crew went, and we added Loren and Kim Brewer of Shareware Solutions. We did feel a little guilty that we had to leave without Mitchell Vincent of K Software, who had to disassemble the ASP display, but we enjoyed the ice cream nonetheless.

With my presentation behind me, I was able to relax and watch Monk on television before dozing off.

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