Rebuild 2014 Report


I’m typing this from a café in San Francisco, but just 24 hours ago I was sitting in the Indiana History Center, listening to Julie Ann Horvath give a talk about people.

And just 48 hours before that, I was halfway across the globe, back home in Osaka. So it’s certainly been an eventful couple of days.


When Justin and Tony approached me about speaking at Rebuild, I was both honored and terrified. I had never spoken at a “real” event before (defined as one where people actually pay to hear what you have to say). In fact, I had never even attended a conference like this before (yes, I’ve lived a very sheltered life).

But the fact that you’re now reading these lines is proof that public speaking didn’t kill me, and I actually quite enjoyed the experience, in no small part thanks to the amazing Rebuild crew.

I also got to meet a lot of really great people, both among the speakers (some of which I had known for years online, yet never met) and attendees.

The Talks

To give you a feel for what the event was like, here’s a quick recap of the talks (I’m sure videos will be uploaded soon as well):

Mig Reyes took the stage first to start things off. His talk was a mix of autobiographical insights and thoughts about design, centered around the theme of not letting yourself be constrained: don’t pay attention to titles, move fast, and make ugly things.

After Mig, Benjamin Dauer talked about his work at NPR, and designing for listening. He had a very nuanced message about designing interfaces that fade away to let the user enjoy the experience, and tied it all back to his own love of music.

The third speaker was Julie Ann Horvath. Her talk was very different and very personal, more monologue than presentation. She shared some of the lessons she learned working with all kinds of people (some good, some bad), and reminded us that being passionate about your work shouldn’t be an excuse to treat others badly.

After the break, Morgan Allan Knutson took the stage to talk about his work at Dropbox and the concept of invention. Looking back, I’m not sure I remember what his talk was actually about. But I do remember that it was beautifully illustrated and extremely funny.

Sketchnote by @chrisbasham

Sketchnote by @chrisbasham

After that it was my turn to speak. In contrast to the other speakers, my talk wasn’t very autobiographical or personal at all. It was basically a 45-minute introduction to Meteor, centered around a step-by-step walkthrough of building a simple Meteor app.

I can imagine the material probably felt a bit dry for a large part of the audience, especially compared to the other speakers, but I think overall it was a good idea to have at least one technical talk.

I was followed by Rachel Andrew, who talked about her experience running 2-person bootstrapped company Perch. Nearly every point she made mirrored my own experiences running my various projects. Which hopefully means we’re both doing something right!

The day was concluded by Michael Lopp, who gave an amazing talk about Stables and Volatiles (people, not chemicals). He kept the audience captivated for the whole 45 minutes, and I’m still in awe of how good of a speaker he is.

Thoughts on Speaking

Overall, I would definitely call my first real public speaking experience a success. I didn’t stumble too much during my talk (as far as I can remember), and although I’m still convinced I put the vast majority of the audience to sleep, a few people at least did tell me they enjoyed my talk.

I want to improve, though, even though speaking (public or otherwise) isn’t really something that comes naturally to me (I’m more the quiet, reserved type).

So if you’re holding a conference and want someone to put your audience to sleep with 60 slides filled with 12-point code, I’m your man! Oh, and did I mention you’ll also need to fly me in from Japan?


One Response to Rebuild 2014 Report

  1. Pingback: How I learned to Network Effectively – Dennis Field

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