Category Archives: Events

Future Insights Live 2014 Recap

I attended Future Insights Live last week and had a great time. The workshop I attended was educational and full of awesome tips, the sessions were uniformly good, and the people (as usual) were awesome.


On Monday, I attended the Ember.js workshop taught by Jesse Cravens. It was truly a delight and I felt like I learned a lot in the workshop setting that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise. There were a few things that I particularly enjoyed about this day long session.

First, Jesse was ridiculously prepared. He had a lesson plan that he followed with estimated time for each section and a desired workflow as the day progressed. Each lesson had code samples online as a standalone JSFiddle, which made it super easy to play along.

Second, the morning session focused almost completely on the concepts that lie at the core of Ember before building into the more practical / utilitarian aspects of application building with the framework in the afternoon. I appreciated this because Ember is full of framework magic and it was nice to see where things fall into place. Some people in the workshop felt that the morning session glossed over things too quickly, but I felt the pacing was appropriate and didn’t have any trouble keeping up.

Finally, Jesse encouraged experimentation and a certain degree of competition. He stated at the beginning of the workshop that we should each be playing with the concepts, either by forking the JSFiddle examples he had prepared or coming up with our own, and that the “best” app at the end of the workshop would win a copy of his new book.

Given my love of competition, I jumped right in (as soon as I could anyways, I had to repair a corrupted drive the first hour of the workshop) and built a small roster management application that included a multi-level master/detail view with editing functionality. I used static JavaScript objects (so there was no persistence) but it wasn’t bad for never having used / played with a JavaScript MVC/MVVM framework like Backbone, Ember, or Angular. I was proud of myself and ended up winning the book (although that may have been by default as I think I was the only one who built anything).

Anyways, the workshop was fantastic and I felt energize and excited after the first day.


The quality of the sessions this year was fairly high overall. There were some misses that I just didn’t enjoy, but I don’t want to dwell on those. Instead, I want to talk about a few of the speakers that I really learned from.

Carl Smith – Lessons From the Lemonade Stand

If you have a chance to meet Carl, you should absolutely take advantage of it. He is one of the most positive individuals I have ever met in my life and he has been a keynote speaker the last two years at FILive.

It is hard to explain what you get with Carl’s talks so I won’t really try. That being said, I can tell you that his words have had a meaningful and positive effect on my life.

Kirsten Hunter

Kirsten’s talk was entitled Designing Irresistible APIs and it was excellent. She gave a great high-level overview of why you might build an API, how you should treat your API (spoiler alert: as a first class product) and the things you can and should do to promote adoption / usage.

I really enjoyed this session because Kirsten stayed at a relatively high level. The session was more about the “why” of APIs rather than the “how” and I feel like that’s a harder question to address. Everyone in the audience could probably build a little Node + Express app to serve JSON from URL endpoints, but not everyone could justify doing so from a business standpoint and that’s what this session was designed to help us do.

Another reason I liked this session was purely selfish. Kirsten pointed out multiple times that your API should serve your customer (whoever they are) and their use case rather than blindly and slavishly adhering to a strict REST / RESTful paradigm. I thought that was a powerful statement from someone with so much experience and it made me feel better about the APIs I’ve built in the past.

As an additional note, I spent about an hour talking with Kirsten after her session and over lunch and she is just a fantastic person with a lot of real-world experience and some interesting opinions on the tech industry. I really enjoyed my time with her.

Other Speakers

There were three other sessions that I feel deserve to be mentioned specifically. First, Developing in Public by Daniel Hengeveld was a terrific overview of the many artifacts of software development that aren’t code. He pointed out that the things around the code you write, including decisions you made, the reasons why, the documentation for the code itself, etc, is probably just as important a the code itself. I think this is an important point and one that Daniel made quite convincingly.

Second, Logs & Metrics by Thijs Feryn was a great look into log aggregation and querying, the tools you can use to perform those tasks, and why you might want to. I know I mentioned earlier in this post that I enjoy high-level talks more than implementation centric ones, but Thijs really knocked this out of the park. His examples were great and he provided just enough information to whet the appetite.

Finally, Pete Hunt’s React: Secrets of the Virtual DOM was a good look into the current tools available to bind data to views in the browser. It covered each of the major players and then, unsurprisingly, made the case for why Facebook’s React is better than all of them. I wasn’t totally convinced, but it’s always exciting to see Big O notation used in a conference presentation, so I was at least intrigued. I also liked that alternatives were presented, even if they were dismissed along the way.


While I love the workshop and the sessions, I really attend FILive for the variety of people that I get the chance to meet. It is such an eclectic conference that you end up chatting with people from almost every discipline in tech. I met a ton of great individuals over the course of the week:

  • A Flash and ActionScript developer trying to transition to rich Single Page Apps
  • A sole proprietor from Sweden who flew all the way to Las Vegas to learn from his peers in he industry
  • A Norwegian frontend developer who I had a great lunch with and hope to continue corresponding with
  • Several individuals who I preached the gospel of freelance to – we’ll see if any of them convert
  • Max, a former music manager (living on the road, etc) and now Phonegap developer – what an awesome guy
  • Ankit, whose card read Ninja-Wizard Extraordinaire (no joke, and that is awesome)
  • A pair of developers from Aruba who were super friendly
  • A designer and developer pair from Brazil (the first people I talked to – coincidentally the first people I talked to last year were from South America as well)
  • Many more people who I had a ton of fun talking to and learning from

The experience of talking to all of these people is mentally and emotionally exhausting for me (I’m somewhat of an introvert) but I’m so glad I put myself out there and approached more people this year. I felt so lucky to be in a room with my peers, each with their own opinions and expertise. It was amazing.


The show couldn’t go on without sponsor help and I actually enjoyed talking to all of them this year:

  • The Internet Explorer team was there showing off some of the features in their new developer channel build of IE11 (some of which are really neat)
  • SiteGround promoted their hosting with a cool creative contest and also gave away a free year to attendees looking to take advantage of the power of their platform
  • Traitify demoed their personality testing software with a cool app that basically boiled down to What Superhero are You? and it was a great experience – I really liked this team
  • Firebase had two developers showing off their real time platform with a few cool demos and they were more than happy to answer questions (which I had plenty of)

The exhibitors collectively put on a great show and I was happy to talk to all of them!


FILive is a great conference. If you can attend, I highly encourage you to do so. I’m very much looking forward to attending again next year and very much hoping that it will be in Las Vegas again.

Future Insights Live 2013

This past week I attended Future Insights Live 2013 in Las Vegas, NV. The conference is geared towards people in the tech industry who want to stay on top of the latest development, design and business practices.

Here’s the short review: I had an amazing time at the conference this year and, whether it is in Las Vegas next year or not, I will be attending again. The long version is slightly more nuanced, but results in the same conclusion.


This year, the conference started with an optional full day workshop on one of several topics. Because the workshops were optional, they came with an additional charge on top of the conference ticket. The one I attended was hosted by Paolo Fragomeni and was focused on Node.js – what it is, why you might use it and how you would do so.

I loved the workshop I attended and feel like I got a lot out of it. Paolo was really energetic and full of passion for the topic and the format that he used for this particular workshop really resonated with me. In the morning, we went over the basic concepts used in Node, the philosophy behind node and some of the cool things you can (and people are) doing with it. In the afternoon, the workshop switched focus to more hands-on learning. We paired up with others in the workshop (I met an awesome dude named Gilber from Costa Rica and worked with him) and extended an attractive and functional (but kind of boring) chat client written with Node.js. Each pair was given a different task to work on – Gilber and I added several actions sourced from the IRC beginner’s guide to the chat application:

  • /me – starting your message with this command would replace it with your nickname when messages were broadcast to others
  • /nick – this command allowed you to change your nickname at any time after you had initially set it
  • /notice – this command allowed you to private message another user based on their nickname

We had a lot of fun implementing this and built it in such a way that we could pop in new commands as easily as writing a new callback that did what we wanted.


The conference keynotes (big group based sessions at the beginning and end of every day) were fairly good. In particular, I was really inspired by Carl Smith’s keynote “Your Money & Your Life: Designing a Business That Won’t Kill You”. It was amazing how Carl integrated his personal story into a wider narrative that, for me, was ridiculously inspiring.

Another highlight for me was Bruce Lawson’s “How to Destroy the Web” – a satirical look at all the things people have done and continue to do in a way that doesn’t open the web up to its full potential. There were a lot of laughs during that keynote and the phrase “Hippie Bullshit” was used multiple times with an accompanying picture of a neon-green bull with marijuana leaf tattoos.


The sessions were a mixed bag and I think most other attendees agreed. Sometimes you would step into a session and it would totally knock your socks off. Other times, it would amount to a 50 minute product pitch. Of all the sessions I attended, I thought two were really fantastic and want to comment on them specifically. They both included a combination of speaker preparedness and the content itself.

Josh Cramer did a fantastic job with his session “How to Build Apps Better and Faster Using Lean Startup Principles.” As far as session names go, that is quite a mouthful and if you hadn’t attended it I wouldn’t fault you for thinking it was going to be one long bullshit pitch about the lean process and how you can only do development this one way. That is not what it turned out to be at all – it was a well-presented end-to-end discussion of how you can work with your clients and customers to create things that people will want to use. I loved this session and it was probably my favorite of the whole conference.

Meanwhile, in a completely different vein, John Bender presented a session called “Math Envy and CoffeeScript’s Foibles.” I think that most people walked into that room expecting to hear about using CoffeeScript for development or to be presented with an alternative. I know that’s why I was there. Instead, John spent 50 minutes entertaining us all with an in-depth look at programming language syntax vs. meaning and ways to analyse those things. It took me back to my days in college (which was awesome) and John did a great job explaining everything in detail all the while making the subject really entertaining.


One of the big problems I had with Future Insights Live last year was that I felt there wasn’t really a great way to randomly meet people. They addressed that this year by making the lunch tables bigger, setting up stand-up tables around the main conference location and getting sponsors (most notably modern.IE) to provide communal spaces. I met so many awesome people this year at the conference, and this was a major highlight for me. Here’s a brief overview of people I met:

  • A team of six developers and designers from Costa Rica who came up together to learn more about the web
  • The user experience director at the World Wildlife Fund
  • A pair of Canadian’s (brothers) who run a business doing location based service-business tracking
  • Someone from the Google Adwords marketing team who took an impromptu video of me giving what was essentially a testimonial about how I used Google Adwords to launch my freelance business
  • A teacher from Devry University who was looking to stay on the cutting edge
  • Several people who worked inside of either an agency or small business as part of the technology team
  • A Fort Wayne native who had transplanted to Houston – we bonded over a shared love of Chicago
  • Two awesome US Bank employees who somehow managed to resist going and laying by the pool in favor of learning about the web
  • Members of the Quicken Loans web team, including a dude who works remote from Florida but is originally from South Africa
  • Two keynote speakers, including Jeff Atwood of Coding Horror and StackOverflow fame

If you take a look at that list, you’ll see what a variety there was in the attendees at the conference. It was amazing to have the chance to just touch base with all these different people and find out how they were working, what they were working on and what they were working with.


The food was pretty good overall – much better then typical conference fare. I especially appreciate the fact that fresh fruit was available at every break and that the coffee tasted good. I’d like to throw a special shout out again to modern.IE for providing an espresso cart every afternoon. The espresso cart baristos were super awesome and friendly and it was nice to chat with them for a bit every day.

If I enjoyed alcohol I would have been overjoyed on Tuesday because MediaTemple sponsored drinks after the closing keynote. I didn’t partake, but plenty of people seemed really excited about it.


Like I said at the beginning of this post, Future Insights Live 2013 was a great conference. I really enjoyed myself – I learned a lot, met a bunch of great people and came away inspired by some of the sessions. It was well worth the cost and I expect to attend again in 2014. Thank you to the Future Insights team for putting on a great event!