Another weekend has come and went. But this weekend was the one that I look forward to all year long. It was the weekend when I would attend Macstock. Centrally located on the North American continent, roughly an hour outside of Chicago, it makes the trek that more accessible for everyone. Still, people travel from Europe and other distant locations to attend.
This year was Macstock’s fourth go round. I’ve been fortunate enough (I dare not use the word “smart” in my instance) to attend the last two. But I know of people who have attended all four. From my experience and their stories regarding the first two, this conference gets bigger and better with each passing year.
The whole conference is the brainchild of Messr. Mike Potter. He invites the speakers, procures the state of the art auditorium at the local community college, arranges for their culinary school to prepare lunches, designs a unique logo each year for all the swag, appears on numerous podcasts promoting the event, and anything else that you can think of.
Every year he has a “Eureka” moment and comes up with a new twist as to the proceedings. This year, he conjured up three – having a keynote speaker, having each 20-minute presentation based on a single theme, and selling a “Digital Pass” so that if you could not attend, you could view all of the seminars online at a later date.
This year’s theme was ‘Productivity.’ No matter what your topic, be it some software, a piece of hardware, or a workflow, it had to enhance your productivity. We had sessions on mind mapping, video editing, iOS workflows, microblogging, and around a dozen more.
And these aren’t just any presenters from the local MUG. We’re talking people such as Bob “Dr. Mac” Levitus, Mike Schmitz, Jean McDonald, Chuck Joiner, Wally Cherwinski, and Allison Sheridan to name a few.
And if you were left with questions after the 20-minute presentation, then you could later attend a ‘Deep Dive’ session which lasts for approximately 45-minutes where the presenter goes into greater detail on their topic.
The greatest part of all this is that all of the presenters are easily approachable. If after attending both the initial presentation and corresponding Deep Dive session you still haven’t found the answer to your problem, simply stroll up to the presenter and personally ask them what’s on your mind. (I had an interesting issue with Text Expander, so after a Deep Dive, I was able to approach Kelly Guimant and ask her about the issue that I was having.)
Also, you can be turned on to things that you had heard about but never really delved into. As an example, Brett Terpstra gave a 20-minute presentation on how you can improve your efficiency multi-fold by using tagging.
This year there was a bonus. To close out the event, we were witness to the world premiere of a new documentary, “Love Notes to Newton,” a documentary about people who productively use the Newton to this very day (in fact, during one of the 20-minute sessions, I spied an attendee in the first row using her Newton to jot notes).
But with all of that learning you need a bit of social activity to take a breather. Enter Barry Fulk.
Barry has as many “Eureka” moments as Mike, in my opinion.
Friday night, as everybody was arriving, Barry held a social gathering at a centrally located pub/restaurant, where you got to meet up with old friends, make some new ones, and recuperate from your travels with a bit of food and drink.
After Saturday’s full schedule of sessions, that evening you had several activities to choose from to decompress. First, there was another gathering at the pub/restaurant. After which you had several activities to choose from.
One room was family oriented with board games and such plus non-alcoholic beverages.
Another room had Apple streaming games to play. There was also a Karaoke room!
Or you could just hang at the pub and indulge yourself in conversation.
Sunday was back to learning, followed by the world premiere of the aforementioned documentary. After which some of us parted ways while others banded together and visited local restaurants.
All of this was borne from one simple idea. For those of us former Macworld attendees, we missed the camaraderie of being with each other after a long day on the conference floor.
For me, the conference is a no brainer. Once a year, I get to meet up with friends from the Apple community that I keep in touch with online throughout the year. It’s so much nicer communicating with them face-to-face.
And don’t think this is just for people whose names ring a bell. I had a great conversation last year with a doctor who was in her 90’s and telling me all of the benefits she derives from her new Watch. This year, I met up with one of the Nosilla Castaways (and man but this kid was sharp!)
I can’t wait for next year. Mike tells me that he already has another “Eureka” moment brewing.
I hope he’s gonna follow in Oprah’s footsteps and tape iMac Pros under each of our seats next year (hint, hint).
Couldn’t make it to Macstock 2018? Well, launch your calendars. Mike has announced that Macstock 2019 will be held on July 27th and 28th.
©2018 Frank Petrie