A love letter to New Adventures

It is without any hesitation I say that New Adventures is the single greatest thing that has happened to my career thus far.

This is a very bold statement, but allow me to explain. My first three acquaintances with web conferences were WebDevConf 2010, Heart & Sole 2, and WebDevConf 2011. I had started to get into web events, but I was still not really all that passionate about the web; I mostly just did what I could get away with in order to get decent marks at university.

Wayne Hemingway standing at the New Adventures lectern

Wayne Hemingway delivering the second last keynote of New Adventures. Photo by Andreas Dantz.

Then came New Adventures 2012. I bought tickets on a spur of the moment as I heard one or two people say nice things about it on Twitter, and the student tickets were reasonably priced. I arrived without having previously met a single attendee in person, and departed with a bunch of new friends, more inspiration than I’ve ever previously had.

Needless to say, when the tickets for New Adventures 2013 went live, I snapped up the tickets quicker than I have ever completed any other online purchase, and practically started counting the days until the 24th January.

What made New Adventures so special for me was the meticulous love and craft put into every single touchpoint of the conference. Take the emails: They’re very simple and straight to the point, but excellently written, always eliciting a chuckle or two, and they even apologise for the time I spent reading them – which is odd, as they’re one of the very few emails I was delighted to receive.

Jason Santa Maria standing at the New Adventures stage

Jason Santa Maria delivering the first talk of the day. Photo by Ashley Baxter

The associated events are another example. This year featured both a relaxed evening of talks in the form of a regular Nottingham web event, Second Wednesday, plus another round of Erskine Bowling. Choosing between these genuinely broke my heart, as I love great talks from clever people as well as occasionally hitting a few pins down with a bowling ball, but there was no way on earth I’d miss the talks from the brilliant Rachel and Robert.

Second Wednesday did not disappoint – the venue was perfect for the occasion, a casual atmosphere with a music level that didn’t force you to shout into people’s ears to have the most rudimentary of conversations, and Rachel and Robert had some fantastic talks. Robert largely covered the material from his book which I’ve previously read, although the refresher certainly didn’t go amiss; and Rachel was being her usual happy, talented, inspiring self, urging us all to be a superhero in our own way. There was plenty of time to socialise at the bowling afterwards as well, and I even got to embarrass myself in front of people by playing a round.

As for the conference itself – well, there are other people who write about this much better than I. Prisca Schmarsow’s coverage is particularly excellent, and I thoroughly recommend you give it a read.

What I will say, however, is that every single one of the speakers were truly fantastic in their own right, talking about multiple diverse subjects. Much like last year, emphasis was on taking risks, expanding your horizons, and thinking about your craft and the way you work. A special mention will go out to Wayne Hemingway’s talk – while the web is unique in so many ways, I believe we have a lot to learn from other, much more mature industries.

Several delicious cupcakees with a vanilla frosting

Since New Adventures, events without cupcakes are now considered inferior. Photo by Andreas Dantz.

The afterparty was hosted in a casino – a most excellent choice. The large amounts of space and reasonable music volume facilitated both insightful discussion and hilarious banter, and the novelty of a casino made for plenty of talking points – I watched a guy lose £200 on a single round of blackjack – he seemed on the verge of crying. As seems to be the case at every conference, ever, I met a few people I wanted to meet, had a couple of new acquaintances, and spectacularly managed to miss even more people I wanted to chat to.

Unfortunately, the highly anticipated fr00tball tournament the next day was cancelled due to an unexpected amount of snow on the pitch. As a result, football was replaced with a visit to BrewDog. Beer is an adequate replacement for football, right?

Upon catching a train back down south that evening, I have never been as happy and inspired, and yet so incredibly, incredibly wistful. While I have never had a career in anything other than making stuff for the web (a few stray jobs here and there), I remain utterly convinced that it’s truly one of the world’s finest industries to work in.

It’s wonderful to meet up with a bunch of fellow colleagues, who, in many cases are technically competitors, and still share so much information, knowledge and inspiration, and strive to do more of it every day. Looking at the careers of most of my friends and family, I’ve found very few communities that are remotely like ours. I paid for the ticket, travel and accommodation out of my own pocket and took holiday days off to learn more about my craft, and I did so very happily. I have this feeling I wouldn’t be doing anything of the sort if I were still scrubbing toilets in a youth hostel or translating marketing material as my job.

I may be soppy and sentimental, but I believe New Adventures so far has played an instrumental part in realising how fortunate I am. New Adventures 2012 was the elephant-sized eye-opener I needed to truly realise that I was entering a special industry with wonderful, talented and friendly beyond belief, and New Adventures 2013 cemented this even further. Thank you to Simon, Greg, and everybody who has been a part of these special conferences; from the fantastic speakers to the lovely attendees. I owe you all a great debt.