By Friday, I was in my reporting groove and facing the task of reporting a technical session on AJAX, CSS and Search Engines. Ever since I told Eric about AJAX, he’s been fascinated by the possibities of what it can do. Me, on the other hand, can’t help thinking it’s the stuff in the little blue can.
Eric got more out of the session than I did. He spent every available free second I had (and there were many while waiting to get through the Lincoln Tunnel later that day), excitedly explaining to me how it can be used, and why URLS don’t change on the pages that include some sort of groovy AJAX application.
I neglected in Part One to mention that I met Chris Winfield of 10e20.com again. I had met him at an SEO gathering in Pennsylvania a few months ago. That was before he was married and I could still technically flirt with the cute guy. (Eric thinks this is funny.) Chris brought his new wife and business partner, Danielle, to SES NYC, and I was introduced to her. They are very New York and very much still on their honeymoon. (Eric thinks this is funny too. Why is that?)
I went to bed before Midnight, which by traditional SES standards is blasphemy, but it permitted me to be awake for my 10 am Webpronews interview with Mike McDonald. I think my interview in Chicago may be better.
For this one, we jumped all over the place and I don’t think we got into anything really meaty. He asked me about SEO and usability and the traditional, “Why usability, with SEO?” question. (Answer? Because investing in optimizing for search algorithms is only step one in the marketing process. Step two is optimizing/designing/persuasion for people. Otherwise, if a page falls in the search engine forest, nobody will hear it.)
We chatted a little about Cre8asiteforums and how it came to be. We also touched on my favorite topic of human Internet behavior and what we’re learning about it. We’re moving beyond designing the what, where and how. Now, we want to understand why visitors make choices and how they use things like search in their daily lives. Social media adds a thrilling layer of challenges, as niches are narrowed and communities are formed. All of this behavior and changes in existing habits will play a part in SEO/M and user centered design.
I really like Mike. I immediately did, when I met him in Chicago. This time, I wasn’t rushed for time. I arrived early for my chance to sit in front of the video equipment and pretend to look “natural”. After it was over, Mike and I kept on chatting. I think the better part of the experience came after the camera was turned off. We talked about our kids, their sports, him missing his little girl’s first soccer game and me missing my son’s first track meet this week. I had to catch Matt Bailey and Shari Thurow’s SEO and Usability session, but truly, talking with Mike was one of the highlights of the day, and I thank him for inviting me to sit in that scary interview chair.
Minutes later, I was reporting on Matt and Shari’s session for the third time. It’s a session that I could speak on as well, but they do a fine job. Shari is detailed. She always goes over her time, but this is because she really gets into teaching and she has so much to offer. She shows example pages with the precise placement of content and keywords, with the logic behind those choices that meet both SEO and usability requirements.
Matt is famous for getting audiences to understand the value of usability and accessibility by showing examples of poor design and execution. One only has to see his Butt Paste and Star Trek slides to be forever grateful for his gentle, but on target, reminders.
I Meet Mystery Guest
There was something different about this conference. I noticed it early on. For starters, this was the first time we never congregated in the “dark bar” called The Brick. Everyone I usually get together with was either at a private party, in the city playing, or would finally straggle into the lobby bar later, to see who was left alive and kicking. Where once the hotel seemed taken over by SEO’s, this time it didn’t feel like that. While I didn’t see as many of the top names mingling around, every session was packed.
I didn’t see people I usually would see unless I was invited to be where they were.
I resigned myself to the idea that I wouldn’t meet Geraldine, Rand Fishkin’s fiance (aka “MysteryGuest”). I thought it would fun to meet the woman who inspired Joe Morin to move mountains and Rand to propose on TV.
As Eric and I were dropping off the keys to our room, we chanced to run into Joe Morin in the hallway as he was getting ready to catch his plane. Moments later, as we rounded the lobby bar, I saw Rand and Geraldine sitting there. And so it was, that at the very end, I got to meet her and see for myself who this funny writer and apple of Rand’s eye really is.
A short distance away, the rest of the SEOMoz crew were glued, bleary eyed, to their laptops. I marveled in the car later to Eric, at how just a two years ago, Rand was just the guy with the odd yellow shoes who introduced himself to me at an SES conference in New York. Now he has an entourage.
We left the hotel at 3pm. An hour later, we were still in New York, a bare 2 miles away, trying to get into the Lincoln Tunnel. Traffic was the worst snarl of cars I’ve ever seen in my life. We sat on a ramp to the Tunnel, along with a jumble of other cars, in what looked like a parking lot rather than a road with cars that are supposed to be moving. Even the man who was trying to sell flowers gave up, as nobody was in a flowery mood.
We got home at 7pm, two hours after we could have been, had the roads been passable. I learned later that someone jumped off the Empire State Building at 3pm. I’m not sure if that’s why everything stopped, but it will be a long time before I’ll be able to hear a car horn again without thinking of New York city.
This SES conference was the last in a long line of Danny Sullivan-led events. He moves on with his own SMX: Search Marketing Expo in June. It will be smaller and on advanced topics.
Search Engine Strategies lives on and this year it will be even be visiting China.
As long as there are search engines and search, there will be companies who want their sites listed in them. While the search engine marketer can make websites rock in rank and visibility, the folks in user centered design, accessibility, persuasion architecture and usability will make sure those clicks are worthwhile once visitors arrive.
This is my only reporting assignment, as far as I’m aware, for this year. It was an honor and a real joy, to serve.