Tuesday, February 24, 2009

VizThink 09 Day 1 Quick Summary

Starting out on day 2 here in San Jose. Day one was a whirlwind of networking and sessions. Started out in the morning general session with Tom's Table Scramble, chaos and commotion in the main conference room as Tom created networking opportunities for people along with a real-time live data visualization using the attendees ourselves to represent Mac users vs PC users, distance in miles flown etc.

Interesting opening discussion by Colin Ware about visual thinking - my main take away from that being, communication is best if we use the appropriate medium.

Breakout session 1 - Karl Gude. Oh my God! That guy has energy! Karl showcased Do's and Don'ts in infographic design. Very entertaining session and a few take-aways. Probably deserves it's own dedicated blog post some time later.

Breakout session 2- Joyce Hostyn. Interesting points on 3 Brain Theory, 6 types of story. She presented the case that facts are meaningless without a contextual story. Having a good story is essential to visuals being able to communicate your intent.

Afternoon general session - the every impressive Tom Wujec - some very cool visuals, how the brain works to process visual information - nice seque into Dan Roam discussing principles from his Back of the Napkin book. I attendeed Dan Roam's session last year and highly recommend it to anyone this year. I'd attend myself, but it's at the same time as Luke W.'s session on visual communication and the web today. Really looking forward to that one. Luke W. has a couple of nice summaries of Tom Wujec's and Dan Roam's general session presentations.

By the end of general session yesterday I was exhausted. Karen and I needed a break from the commotion so we snuck out for a quiet dinner at Original Joe's. Some great Italian with huge portions. After that, the plan was to prep for and attend the scheduled VizCamp at 9pm, but I ended up having to attend to some work issues till about 9:30. After that there was no way I could process anything more.

Time to get ready for Day 2.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

VizThink 09 Opening Reception

VizThink 09 kicked off today with the opening reception in the lobby lounge, along with an Fairmont's Oscar party. By my count about 60 - 70 VizThinkers congregated around the bar under the big screen broadcasting the Oscars. Lots of conversation, mingling and networking going on. A bit noisy and congested for my taste so I hung around the periphery with the Brazilian SOAP team and then cut out to E&O Trading Co. again for Indonesian BBQ beef and Alaskan Winter Ale. Mmmmmm! General session starts at 8:30 tomorrow so it's time for bed. Looking forward to Day 1 of VizThink 09.

VizThink 09 Saturday Pre-Conference Tweet-up and Restaurant Reviews

Karen and I arrived to the conference hotel late Friday night and spent most of Saturday wandering around the neighborhood checking out restaurant options. More on that below.

The Tweet-up was scheduled for 6:00 in the hotel lobby and we arrived around 6:15- 6:30 and didn't see anyone we recognized or any indication of a VizThink Tweet-up. We did recognize Rodolpho and chatted with him for a bit. It wasn't long before Tom showed up and honed in on the Tweet-up crowd. Tom served as our bird-dog and we followed him to a group of 6 - 8 people chatting in a corner.

We introduced ourselves to Tom and Tom introduced us to some others and we chatted with Tom for a bit. I was struck by how much energy Tom still had after two days already spent setting up the conference. Sounds like attendance at this conference will be a bit smaller than last year, but still well over 200 attendees and the line-up of facilitators is very impressive.

Before long the Tweet-up group had expanded to about 20 people, mostly dispersed in small groups of 4 or 5. We found ourselves conversing with Tom again, as well as Mark and his SOAP (VizThink Sponsor) Brazilian compatriots, and Julia, a local VizThink volunteer.

Lots of good conversation about visual thinking, presentations, books, culture, surfing, physics and local restaurants. At some point, Ryan showed up, as well as Dave Gray and Karl Gude - veritable visual thinking celebrities. The get-together was planned to last until 7:30, but it was still going strong at 8:45 when we pulled ourselves away to go find some dinner. All in all it was a great little gathering with some good conversation and networking - and the conference hasn't even officially started yet.

Restaurant Reviews

There's seems to be a pretty diverse variety of eating options within a 3 block radius of the hotel, in addition to the hotel restaurants. On arrival Friday night we opted for Gordon Biersch, a chain brew pub. We're both fans of microbrew beers. Gordon Biersch isn't the greatest, but they do have some pretty decent beers. Food was ok, nothing fancy. Ambience is a bit noisy as you'd expect. The schwarzbier and Marzen were both pretty good.

For breakfast yesterday (more like brunch actually), the hotel Concierge recommended Flames, about three blocks northeast of the hotel, next to San Jose State University. It's apparently a chain restaurant though I had never heard of it. Nice, clean, open atmosphere, good service an enormous selection of breakfast choices. Belgian waffle for me and crab cakes benedict for Karen - both very good. They've got a weekday early special which might be a good breakfast option for VizThinkers if you want a good sit down breakfast outside the hotel at much better prices than the hotel restaurants. Another option is the Bijan Bakery in building adjacent to the hotel (actually in the same building as the hotel's south tower). Lots of pastry options, bagels and coffee. A bit disorganized when I went down for coffee and croissants this morning, but pretty good croissants.

Since we had a big late brunch we weren't hungry until late afternoon and skipped lunch. On our way to Gordon Biersch we had past by E&O Trading Company. At VizThink 08 in San Francisco we had had dinner at the their San Francisco location and both enjoyed it so we popped in for an appetizer and drink before the Tweet-up. E&O's fare would probably be described as Asian Fusion. It's an eclectic blend of southeast asian (Thai, Singapore, Indonesia...) with some Indian influence as well. They also have some good beers on tap. They're seasonal beer right now is Alaska Winter Ale from Alaskan Brewing Co. I didn't have to hear anything else. Anything from Alaskan Brewing Co. is going to be good and the winter ale didn't disappoint. Outstanding beer! Nectar of the gods. For appetizers the sesame beef satay and panir cheese naan bread we're also very tasty.

At the tweet-up we got some recommendations from Julia, who lives in the area. Her recommendations; La Victoria for Mexican, Il Fornaio or Original Joe's for Italian and Hanuman for Thai. The Thai food options on Maui are a bit disappointing so good Thai food was high on our list of dining on this trip. Hanuman is a pretty small little family place located between E&O and Gordon Biersch, within a block or two from the hotel. The dining room is on the second level, nothing fancy, very quiet, very good service. I can't seem to every expand my Thai horizon past phad thai so I ordered up a big spicy plate of chicken phad thai and Karen got a bowl of tom ka with shrimp. Tom ka soup was excellent, some of the best in Karen's opinion and the phad thai was the best I've had since the little neighborhood thai restaurant in Seattle where we lived several years ago. If I order it again though I'll go for the medium spicy level, rather than spicy.

So, high recommendations from both of us so far for E&O Trading Company and Hanuman. Highly likely that we'll be back to both of these two during our VizThink stay. And we still need to try at least one of the italian restaurants and La Victoria.

It's a cool, cloudy, rainy day in San Jose today so we'll likely spend our day inside on some visual thinking projects before the reception this evening. Should be an interesting reception this evening. In addition to hundreds of visual thinkers, the hotel is hosting an Oscar awards party in the lounge and the timing of the two will partially overlap. So, if you're torn between watching the Oscars and coming to the reception, you can do both at the same time. We'll be there tonight, sporting our visual thinking t-shirts. See you there.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Tony Karrer's comment in my last blog post about doing a T-shirt for the upcoming VizThink conference was a great idea. Tony's suggestion was to do a T-shirt with my mind map from the previous post that shows what my visual thinking interests are. Great idea, but I thought, why not come up with a T-shirt design that other people might be interested in wearing as well. I've previously sold some T-shirts online through CafePress for another website/blog that I run. So, I figured, why not come up with a Visual Thinking T-Shirt? So, here's the first "VizWear" (that I'm aware of).
And here's a look at the design on a T-shirt from the CafePress store.
My wife (who will also be attending VizThink) and I collaborated on the design (she also did the VizWear logo at the top of this post) and finished it this weekend and I opened up the Cafe Press Visual Thinking Store and ordered one for myself and one for her. We both plan to wear our "VizWear" at the opening reception on Sunday night and Monday so we'll be easy to spot. This little project is primarily intended as a networking tool for us to distinguish ourselves at the conference. Both of us are natural introverts so schmoozing and socializing don't come naturally to us. So, we hope the T-shirt idea will help us mingle and meet people a little better. But, if you like the design enough to sport one yourself, they're on sale now in the Cafe Press Visual Thinking Store.

We've also got another design in the works that will go on T-shirts as well some other items like mugs possibly, so you'll have more opportunities to show off your inner visual thinker with pride. Coming to VizThink in San Jose later this month? Be sure to look for us sporting our VizWear and introduce yourself.