What is a back-end programmer, such as myself, doing at a conference like An Event Apart? Truth be told, I learned HTML and CSS before I learned PHP. As such, I’ve always had an interest in the techniques and technologies used on the front-end web, even though I’ve made my home on the back-end. I feel, and hope other programmers do as well, that the more you understand about what the front-end guys (and gals!) are trying to achieve, the better you’re able to support them from the server-side. This conference was a perfect extension of that.

The speakers, all experts in their disciplines, held very interesting talks on a range of topics from bleeding-edge CSS techniques, to conceptual approaches to managing content. All the talks were well presented and organized, as the attendees possibly benefitted from it being the last iteration of the conference for 2011.

One of the key concepts reinforced by the talks was, unsurprisingly, responsive design. Plank has already completed a number of sites using this new approach to screen sizes, and it’s interesting to see the challenges this put on everyone up and down the workflow cycle. I look forward to refining the solutions needed to accommodate these new approaches.

As for the conference itself, I’m in no way a veteran conference-goer, but An Event Apart was definitely the best-organized event I’ve been to. The Palace Hotel in downtown San Francisco was supremely impressive, and I only saw the first floor! The catering was top notch; the event scheduling was near perfect; the audio-visuals were without a hitch; the Wi-Fi was stable. I had no complaints about the way the event was handled.

Being my first time on the west coast, I took in a lot of what San Francisco had to offer during my short stay in city. The architectural style, urban planning and multiculturalism are all to be admired. The most remarkable, however, was the city’s dedication to the environment and its conservation. From countless hybrid taxicabs and electric tramcars & buses, to LEED certified buildings, to large protected gardens and parks; every city has something to learn from the example set forth by San Francisco.

In closing, An Event Apart is a mature, inspiring conference, which I feel benefits not just front-end developers, but also project managers, client managers and designers. Although unrealistic, it would have been great to have the whole Plank team present, as I feel everyone would have walked away with something. My only hope is that An Event Apart continues to maintain the size it has, avoiding the quality-diminishing impact brought-forward by a ballooning in popularity and attendance, much like SXSW has already experienced.