Reflections on the Users' Conference
The Inaugural Accordance Users' Conference is now over, and like the other attendees, I'm still trying to process all the cool things I learned and experienced.
First, let me apologize that my live-blogging of the conference ended after the first two sessions. As I was doing it I found myself thinking, "I didn't take this many notes in seminary!" Beyond that, the sessions were all so interesting I didn't want to miss anything while trying to blog about them.
My spotty reporting aside, those who were interested in what was going on were still able to keep up on Twitter.
If you're interested in hearing about the conference after the fact, here are some of the things that stood out to me.
First, the speakers who were unable to make it were sorely missed. As I noted Friday, Dr. Abegg had to cancel for family reasons. Joe Weaks, Accordance power user and scripter extraordinaire, also had to cancel because of illness. Both were loath to cancel, and both seemed more concerned about our having to make a few adjustments to the schedule than about their own challenges.
Second, we really appreciate Centerpoint Church of Mesquite hosting the conference for us. Pastor Bob Abegg (Dr. Martin Abegg's brother) worked very hard to make sure everyone was comfortable and had everything they needed. He really went above and beyond what anyone could reasonably have asked of him.
Pastor Abegg wasn't the only one who worked hard. The speakers who came did a phenomenal job. Dr. Dan Wallace's description of his work discovering and photographing Greek New Testament manuscripts throughout the world was absolutely fascinating, and the quality of the manuscript photographs he showed is remarkable. Someone compared Dr. Wallace to Indiana Jones, and after hearing some of his stories, I think it was a fitting comparison. Okay, so he doesn't have to escape from angry spear-throwing natives, but he has certainly had his share of adventures and seen ancient treasures few other people have seen.
Another high point of the conference for me was the panel on mobile Bible software. Rick Mansfield did an excellent job of asking thought-provoking questions which sparked a lot of discussion. Nearly every member of the panel had been using Bible software on some kind of mobile device for quite some time, so it was interesting to hear their discussion of how far the technology has come. Drew Haninger of Olive Tree Bible software gave an interesting perspective on how users' expectations have changed over the years. He said that back in 2000, it just had to work. By 2005, users expected accurate electronic texts, but still had fairly low expectations when it came to interface design. In 2010, thanks in large part to the iPhone and iPad, users are looking for a "beautiful user experience." That's one of the challenges we're facing as we near the initial release of our own Accordance mobile app. On the one hand, we know many of you just want us to get it into your hands. On the other hand, we're trying to do all those little things which contribute to a "beautiful user experience."
Speaking of Accordance for iOS, we demonstrated the current state of the app in a plenary session designed to fill in for the speakers who weren't able to make it to the conference. Everyone was very excited to see what the app can do, and we got a lot of positive feedback as well as a little constructive criticism.
We had a few other plenary sessions designed to enable conference attendees to give us feedback and make suggestions for how we can improve. What most impressed me about these sessions was the passion our users demonstrate for Accordance. They're both passionate in their praise and passionate in their suggestions for improvement. It's that passion which continually motivates us to keep working hard.
In addition to the plenary sessions, we offered separate tracks for those wanting to learn more about basic features and those wanting to dig into advanced features. The room for the "heavy" track was much larger than the one for the "light" track, so I was a little worried we might guess wrong with respect to which parallel session would be more popular at any given time. It turned out that the two tracks were pretty evenly attended, and most of the feedback we've heard so far about the parallel sessions has been very positive. We're certainly glad we didn't try to take a one-size-fits-all approach to the training.
There's a lot more I could share about the conference, but this blog post is already long enough. For a first attempt at a users' conference, I think it was an overwhelming success. When we asked the attendees if they would consider coming to another users' conference, nearly everyone said they would. So chances are good this "inaugural" users' conference may indeed become our "first annual" users' conference.
If you'd like to read more about the Users' Conference, Rick Mansfield has posted an even more detailed summary here.