I went to my first every conference in January of 2011. It was the inaugural New Adventures in Web Design (#NACONF) and the final talk of the day was from Brendan. For me it was the most informative, engaging and entertaining talk of the day, which is quite a thing considering everyone in the room had numb buttocks for at least an hour before he took to the stage.
Suffice to say, I was really looking forward to seeing Brendan speak again, and he did not disappoint in delivering a both inspirational and motivational talk.
If you want to take a look at the, rather curiously titled, Curiosity, Cats and Low-Tech Hacks! talk (as I'll reference a few of them below), you can find the slides here.
If you've already taken a look, we are led to believe that the poor kitty in slide three had already "gone to a better place" before being turned into a heli-cat.
This slide (which linked to a video, which I'm sure you'll be able to find if you search YouTube hard enough), set the tone for a dive into the mind of someone who explores interactions between object, humans and technology.
We moved from flying cats, to the use of actuators in small furry toys whose eyes light up green when you touch them, to controlling the speed of a choreographed martial arts fight scene with a lump of Play-doh, through to the many and varied objects created using a 3D printer.
Laugh at perfection. It's boring and keeps you from being done.
The enthusiasm of building, toying with interaction, and finding out how things work really rubs off on you.
The idea of building a box for your wife that, when each time it is opened, fetches one of your past SMS text messages that you once sent to your better half and displays it on an LCD screen, is brilliant (if brilliantly geeky).
N.B. There is a disclaimer that this gift must be accompanied by the thing your wife actually wanted.
From all of this, I wouldn't say I learned new skills, or things that I could take back to the office and share with everyone. Instead I took back a spark of inspiration. Perhaps spark is an understatement, rather a roaring fire coupled with a great enthusiasm. I wanted to get home, sit down with my 6 year old boy, break open all his broken electronic toys, and then sit with him to see what we could build.
Learning is great, but the inspiration to go and figure things out, to break and put back together, to make something you need out of things you don't, that lets you take away something of a much greater value.
So that's it. At least until MKGN#2 which is on next week (20th Sep 2012). At the time of writing, there are 3 whole tickets left! If you're not going, what's wrong with you? Are you mad? It's free for heaven's sake! Get your ticket now!