Mississippi needs a Web conference

This entry originally appeared on my disability blog, I hate stairs.

Imagine a bunch of folks who love working on the Web getting together to talk about trends, techniques, and all things Web design. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea then stop reading right now because that is what this little article is about. The Web conference. It’s like a cool club for nerds to talk about nerdy stuff. But to the nerds, it’s a priceless experience.

However, being that I live in Mississippi and that I can’t travel very far, I am rarely able to attend the various Web conferences that occur each year. But there was a time when I was able to attend arguably the most essential conference for people who make websites, An Event Apart. The conference made its first appearance in the Southeast when it graced the city of New Orleans for two action-packed days (not to mention some good food). Needless to say, it was amazing. Not having been around many people who cared (or even knew) what Web design was, I thought it nearly impossible that the few hundred people in attendance had the same interest in the Web that I did.

An Event Apart typically hosts four or five conferences a year in places like Boston, Seattle, and Chicago. Its appearance in New Orleans was unusual. And it hasn’t been back since. A little research revealed that, although An Event Apart was successful in New Orleans, there is typically more interest in the conference in the previously mentioned cities. In other words. An Event Apart is never going to come to a place like Mississippi. Why would they? Mississippi usually lags behind the rest of the country in just about everything. In fact, we’re so far behind that the recession took a while to affect us (and the same will likely hold true for the much anticipated recovery).

Dare I dream of having such a Web conference in Mississippi? Yes. Yes I do. We might not have enough people or enough money to attract a nationally known conference, but we do have people here who care about the Web. We have small agencies and a lot of freelancers who would all benefit from each other by attending such a conference locally.

Mississippi’s Web

I would love to know more about the state of Web professionals in Mississippi. What kind of projects are happening? What techniques are we using? What type of work do we accept? Is it mostly local? Is it national? How can we educate our clients so that they know what our respective jobs are and how we can help them? These are things I would love to discuss. And with the connections that could be made, imagine what great ideas we could come up with.

Now, let me state for the record that I am not some kind of Web genius. If you don’t count the volunteer projects I’m currently working on, or my current leads, I am not even employed (but that’s another, more disability themed, blog post). I’m just a regular guy that is interested in the Web and I think there are more people in Mississippi like me who feel the same way.

My suggestion is that we should do something about it. Let’s get some local experts in various Web specialties to speak. Set a modest admission price, get a venue and let’s do this. If someone thinks they could make a profit from it, great. If not, we can make it non-profit. Either way, if we could get it organized, the result would be worth the effort.

Until then, here’s a shout out to my fellow Web professionals in Mississippi. Cheers.

FYI: Books in 2010

As an aside, there are some interesting book developments on the way. From the folks who produce An Event Apart comes a small publishing venture called A Book Apart, which publishes short, concise books on various Web topics that are made for Web designers. The first book, “HTML 5 for Web Designers“, is coming soon. Also, Web designer Mark Boulton has published a great primer for Web designers who would like to know more about design theory. It’s called “Designing for the Web” and is part of Mark’s publishing venture, Five Simple Steps, which is set to release several titles in 2010. Finally, Andy Clarke, author of “Transcending CSS,” is teaming up with Five Simple Steps to publish his upcoming book “Hardboiled Web Design.” If you love learning about the Web, 2010 is going to be a good year for you.

One more thing

I would like to start a small resources blog of sorts. The idea is that we as Web designers come across interesting stuff on the Web that helps us with our work. It would be nice to catalog some of that stuff. If you are interested in being a contributor, drop me a line (actually, an email, rblakewatson@gmail.com).