On BDConf 2012: Dallas

It wasn’t what I was expecting, but it ended up being just what I needed.

When one of the people who attended Breaking Development in Dallas, told me that on the last day of the event, I couldn’t help but smile. Single-track events are awesome, but they’re always a little nerve-wrecking as well. How do you balance code and design, pragmatic and conceptual? Each of those discussions has to happen to move the discussion forward, but balancing can be a challenge.

Sometimes the single track thing can scare people off. If you’re a designer, do you really want to sit through a bunch of talks about code? If you’re a developer working at a large corporation, do you really care about conceptual looks at what mobile could become? On paper these discussions sometimes feel like they’re going to be something that might not apply.

It’s often said that one of the great things about single-track events is you avoid the feeling of “missing out” which often comes with multi-track events. That’s certainly true, but the real beauty of single-track events is that it forces discussions to come together. Rubbing two stones together creates a spark. Similarly, allowing these discussions to take place together generates ideas that would not have been there otherwise. It also lets you avoid the feeling of “missing out” that often comes from multi-track events.

There are conferences that give you all of one thing: lots of live coding, all design, or all high-level inspiration talks. Breaking Development tries to blend them. There are talks that arm you with information that you can take back to your company and apply tomorrow, but there are also talks that you take with you and slowly digest over the next few months, forcing you to think bigger.

This was certainly true of Dallas. We had phenomenal case study presentations from people like Tom Maslen of the BBC and Christopher Bennage of Microsoft. Lyza Danger Gardner talked a lot about the real-world challenges she’s faced building for mobile. Brad Frost and Ronan Cremin gave pragmatic looks at responsive design and server-side detection. Chris Coyier took everyone on a whirlwind tour of the tools and workflow he uses when building sites. Karen McGrane hammered home the importance of careful consideration of your content. Belen Barros Pena dissected different mobile OS’s like a frog, revealing that fragmentation isn’t quite as bad as it may seem. Scott Jenson, Jonathan Stark and Luke Wroblewski all took a look forward at the incredible potential of the web, and what we need to do to fulfill that potential. It was a great blend of perspectives.

One of the great things about conferences is that blend, that tension between how do I get things done today and what will I be able to do tomorrow. Day to day work and pressing deadlines have a way of forcing us to put our heads down, and in some cases, forces us to lose some of the excitement we get from thinking about the potential of working on this incredible platform. But a good conference with great attendees recharges the batteries. It gets you excited again to work on the web while also arming you with the information you need to do awesome work at your company.

Judging by some of the responses we got, it seems the blend works:

@bdconf was truly inspiring and amazing! I am all prepped up to do something new!! — Sonali Agrawal

#bdconf is definitely the best conference of its ilk. Fantastic speakers, collective of design/dev/4ward thinking talent all in 1 room — Paul McManus

Kudos to @bdconf and all of the speakers for a fantastic 3 days. Wickedly smart and wildly entertaining – didn’t want it to end — Melissa O'Kane

Thx @bdconf! Incredible speakers. Great conversations. Optimistic energy. More pumped than ever to be designing for the web! — Jon Troutman

Every time I get a review sheet for each speaker, I wonder why are there other options than “Mind Blown”?… — Dillon Curry

My last night at #bdconf full of great conversation and good laughs. Rest assured, I’ll be back! — Jennifer Robbins

Love that I keep taking a step back, questioning my own methods and thought process. What a fantastic conference #bdconf — Kat Archibald

I mentioned great attendees, and that can’t be understated. One attendee, who had attended Breaking Development in the past, pointed out on the first night that it was the side conversations (like the one we were having at the time with a bunch of other attendees) that brought him back. The presentations were just icing on the cake.

The presentations have to be good, of course, but he was right: it is the hallway discussions that transform a good conference into a great one and a great conference into an inspiring and incredible experience. We’ve always had that kind of atmosphere at Breaking Development. The people who attend are passionate and eager to share challenges and solutions alike. We’ve seen people up until all ends of the night at every event we’ve done.

If it’s possible, Dallas took it to another level. Right from the beginning, people were sharing stories, asking questions and offering advice. Dallas re-emphasized something we’ve believed from the beginning: Breaking Development isn’t a conference so much as it is an ongoing discussion. It’s been fun to watch that discussion move forward, step by step, with each new event.

We’re headed back to Orlando in April, with a stellar lineup of speakers and we’re sure to have more incredible conversations. Here’s hoping you can come out next time and help us keep the discussion going!