It's Always Worth It

I am exhausted. I’m sitting at gate K16 in terminal 3 of Chicago O’Hare and I am exhausted. Release Notes 2017 is over and it always takes a toll on me. But it’s worth it.

And let me be honest. I knew what I was getting myself into. This was my third Release Notes conference. Two and a half days of almost non stop suppressing my introverted Jekyll and trying to encourage my extroverted Hyde to show up. That’s tiring. The jet lag didn’t help either.

This year was particularly cathartic.

My partner, Alice, and I started the conference feeling completely lost. A fairly recent change to the App Store Review Guidelines suddenly put our entire business model in jeopardy. However, everyone we spoke with at the conference sympathized and many offered advice. By the end, we were starting to feel better and were forming an idea directly inspired by the talks and conversations we had over the course of the conference.

That’s the Release Notes community in a nutshell. Once a year we get together for this truly utterly amazing event and we support one another. We listen. We offer advice. We have fun.

Charles and Joe really know how to put on a good conference. From picking great and skilled speakers to organizing a dine around to making sure everyone feels comfortable and safe. They’ve thought of everything. I particularly enjoy how much time between talks they leave for socializing. They even encourage attendees to switch tables often. It’s a nice, gently push for those of us, for whom meeting new people does not come easy.

The talks this year were among the best I have seen at Release Notes. That is saying something. I have always been impressed with the speakers I have seen at this conference, but somehow they stepped it up a notch.

Since I have attended Release Notes the two previous years, I know many of the other attendees. This makes meeting new people an even greater challenge. It’s very easy to just stick with people you know. It’s comfortable and familiar. Although I am always open to meeting new attendees, I’m certain I could have done better going up to others and introducing myself. It’s something I’ll have to work on next year.

Rejection Rebound

With our recent rejection on my mind, talking to people was especially difficult. I started at a mental disadvantage. I had trouble focusing my energy on the conference. But I tried.

Sometimes, Alice would nudge me to talk to people. Other times, I would do the same for her. That is a benefit of attending the conference with her. We encourage each other to meet others.

Then, something happened Wednesday just before lunch. My brain started putting together bits and pieces of various talks and conversations I had with others. By lunch, I felt I was on to something, but didn’t know exactly what. Around this time, I also saw Alice furiously scribbling in her notebook. I could tell she was working on something, too. This was the first time in the week I started feeling positive. It felt good.

During the afternoon, ideas stewed in my head. I straightened up my posture. I smiled. I talked to more people. During the rest of the talks, Alice and I occasionally glanced at one another and nodded. It seemed as if something in the talks was directed at us. The presenter wrote that slide specifically with us in mind.

After the conference ended, Alice and I went to the John Hancock Center with a group of Release Notes attendees. While waiting for the elevator to the 96th floor, we began discussing our apps’ strong points and weaknesses. We talked about what our customers actually want. We discussed what works and what doesn’t. It felt good. There was an excitement that I think was missing from our business for a while. We wanted to experiment.

Thursday was my last day in Chicago before flying back home. Alice and I went to the Drawing Room with the intention of hammering out a framework and timeline for moving forward. We discussed the core idea for a new app. We tried to work out how to migrate our existing customers. We discussed business models. We thought about features and selling points.

Most importantly, we agreed to move quickly. We cannot spend two years developing an idea, again. We whittled the concept down to the absolute minimum to get started. Our apps never had a huge launch before, anyway. Our modus operandi has always been to grow over time. So we don’t need every feature in there from the start.

I am excited. I’m sitting at my desk in my office in my home and I am excited. Release Notes 2017 is over and it always takes a toll on me.

But it’s worth it.

Update: Dan Counsell, who was also at Release Notes, has a great post on why going to a conference will help your business. I really wish I knew this when I first started my indie career.

Feel free to reach out on Twitter. I’m @yonomitt.

Have a nice day,