API Craft Detroit: Day One in the books

A conference that isn't.

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  1. It seemed like a bad omen - a week before the API Craft conference is set to boldly go where no other API conference has gone (the midwest is odd enough, but Detroit?), Detroit goes bankrupt. Undaunted, the API Craft organizers plowed onward and ended up making a statement with this conference in more ways than one.
  2. It started with signs posted along the windows that proclaimed: "whoever attends, they are the right people; whenever it starts is the right time; whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened." A little philosophy with that API, please. Not to mention a chicken and waffles buffet, of course. 
  3. Okay, so we gather in a bankrupt city not known as a tech hub and we eat chicken and waffles, which was a first for some of the crowd... and then it really got different. For most of us, this was our first experience with a conference that had no set agenda or speakers before it started. The concept here is that we would decide together what we would talk about and when. There was an open mic and what was basically a Kanban board - if you had something you wanted to talk about (not present upon - big difference), you came to the front of the room, stated your name and what you wanted to have a session on then added it to the board. Boom! Wondering how to deal with API versioning? Add that. Having trouble convincing your execs you need an API program? Add that too. What are the warning signs that you have a bad API on your hands? Let's talk about it.
  4. It's risky... and nerve-wracking for the organizers. What if nobody offers up a topic? What if there aren't enough topics? What if nobody is interested in the topics that were suggested? And yes, it was slow at first. It's a little hard to wrap your head around - I can suggest anything? But once people saw that no idea was a bad one and that many of us were struggling with the same things in our work, the momentum built. Until finally... we had more topics than time and boom! A 2-day conference was born.
  5. Oh, we don't want to forget this special stamp of geekiness (and a brilliant one at that, which makes you wonder why this doesn't happen more often)... the agenda and all the session summaries go into github for later reference. Uh huh. We really MEAN it at this conference.
  6. So, we had the agenda - that hurdle was overcome. Now to see how well the rest of the concept worked. The conference took place in the Madison building, a renovated tech space in downtown Detroit with a bangin' view of Comerica Park and an easy walk from many hotels in the area. It's also where the conference organizers, Apigee and QuickenLoans, are housed. We took over the open space loft and had enough room there to hold 4-5 sessions at a time. And that doesn't include the rooftop deck and hallway couch spaces that were also ours to use. Everyone held their breath a little when the first set of sessions started, hoping enough people would join and be engaged to make them worthwhile. 
  7. There was nothing to worry about. Turns out we all love to talk about APIs. Go figure. (As a side note, I make my living going to conferences for one reason or another and there is no friendlier gathering than an API conference. I've yet to figure out why but if you haven't gone to one, I recommend it.)
  8. Somewhere in there we broke for an amazing Middle Eastern buffet, where some of us relaxed in the Detroit sunshine on the rooftop deck and others kept talking APIs in the open space below us. What was really fantastic was the collaborative and open format of this event that made it easy to choose whatever made you comfortable.

    And with the morning under our belt (and those belts loosened with some great food), we went into the afternoon with none of the nerves that jangled us a little in the morning. Now we got it. This was OUR conference. The talks were not a passive event where one person talked - they were an exploration, a discussion, a collaboration.
  9. Before you knew it, Day One was over and we all congregated in one room to share our thoughts about the day and get ready for dinner and drinks on the roof. 
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