Austin TX – Day 3 and 4

Wow, this week has flown by. It’s been two days since I updated and most of it was a blur. I actually intended to write about my experience yesterday but I was so tired I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.

Thursday was the first day of intense breakout sessions. There were twice as many as the day before and it was even harder to choose what to attend. I was able to see “Making Ideas Happen in the Creative World” with Scott Belsky, “Good vs. Great Design” with one of my personal favorites Cameron Moll, “Everything I know I learned from Video Games” with Dave Werner and “Variations on a Rectangle” (magazine design) with DJ Stout.

Probably the most helpful, especially in terms of design and inspiration was Cameron. It was a really great session with lots of insight on pushing your ideas to the next level. The video game session with Dave Werner was also interesting from a software standpoint. They’ve developed a great product in Atmosphir that’s essentially a “create your own game” platform. It looks very slick and I hope they succeed with their product.

We also had the chance to visit the exhibitions themselves and pick up some schwag. When I say some, I mean 6 bags full. I actually beat my previous record of “free t-shirts” from a computer conference in high-school with a resounding 9 shirts. A couple hats, toys, books and even a messenger bag are all mixed in there along with all the brochures and info sheets about various products. There was actually quite a number of paper companies, which I found rather odd. I was always under the impression that designers usually found and then used a printer that suited their needs and that the decision for a specific brand of paper was usually up to that printer. I guess a designer could ask for Monadnock paper instead of Mohawk, but I doubt a printer is going to go find, buy and ship in a special paper from some unknown paper company just for a certain job. More likely they’ll just suggest something similar from what stock they have. Who knows.

Paper is something that both facinates me from a strictly product standpoint as well as is a non-issue for me unless we’re talking about photo papers. Regardless, it was interesting to talk to people about their various products.

Thursday I decided to take it easy and just chill at the hotel. These sessions are hours long and we’re walking everywhere so I was pretty tired. My coworkers and I go some food and called it a night early.

Today I got up early and went to the “Early Morning Photoshop Show” presented by Adobe. It was probably the best session from the entire conference. I got more out that hour and a half than most anything so far. There are literally hundreds of little, tiny updates and changes to the CS4 Suite that I hadn’t figured out yet. It was very interesting to see how and why Adobe has updated what they did. By the way, if you have CS4, you’re going to want to check out the Configurator app. Trust me.

After that there were a couple less memorable sessions and a couple pretty good ones, including “Web Strategy that Works” with Mark O’Brian. The main focus of that was web clarity, marketing, search engine strategies and other random tips but the real focus was on creating and maintaining a creative writing schedule, something I’ve struggled with from time to time. There were a few good tips on staying true to your content, how to get over writers block, that sort of thing. Very helpful.

That’s about it for today. Lauren is driving up from Houston to join me for the weekend and I’m really excited about that. We haven’t been able to get away for quite a while and I think we’re way overdue. I’ve got a couple more classes first thing tomorrow, but after lunch we’ll be on our own and we plan on exploring Austin a little bit. I haven’t had a chance to go see the capital yet, so that’s definitely on my to-do list. I’ll try and share some pictures when we get back.

Matt out.

Austin – Day Two

Had a pretty good day of seminars today. Everything kicked off at 8am with the conference opening up the exhibit hall which resulted in the “t-shirt gold rush” that conferences typically turn into. I came away with 4. Not bad. I was a little rusty, but I made out better than the co-workers. Apparently that was only the first part of the exhibitors and the rest will open tomorrow, which will probably result in a repeat of this morning.

Besides the typical shwag grab, there are of course the classes we all came there for. I started out in “Photoshop CS4 Extended Advanced” with Russell Brown. It was actually pretty interesting. He detailed most of the more advanced features of the new Photoshop CS4 including the 3D features, the ability of make 3-D (as in the red and blue glasses variety) images from layered files, some advanced HDR merging and blending techniques as well as some general “tips and tricks”. I really enjoyed that one. It also didn’t hurt that they had a Versi-laser set up in the corner engraving things. I almost got my cell phone engraved but just settled for metal dog tag they were giving away.

After that we took a break for lunch, had some Mongolian BBQ, then got back to the second session.

That, however, wasn’t that great. We took “A Splash of Flash” which I had hoped would be more of a “these are all the cool things Flash can do these days”. It was, instead, a “here’s Flash 101 followed by every boring action script feature ever”. I really dislike Flash, with a huge passion, and this only cemented the fact that it’s tottally and completely useless. I sincerely hope that Flash, by this time next year, is a DEAD technology. Especially with the HTML 5 specs coming, I really hope Flash dies, hard.

Honestly, I just don’t see the point of it. The instructor gave no real world, actual examples of anything Flash could do to actually make a web experience better or more productive. The example he did give however, was laughable. He created an empty square with a stroke around it and linked it to some action script that would grab a defined JPG and add it to the frame. That was it. He then created an HTML page with dozens of these flash frames embeded. He previewed it in the browser and the called JPGs faded into the frames, then remained static.

…Congrats moron. You just required your sites visitors to install a plugin just to view a couple static images. What the hell was the point of that? You could have just used the actual images in the first place. The flash files just added to the loading time of the page. The plugin is a non-standard. You had to take the time to crop and size the images in the first place, so it’s not like it’s saving any time. A very pointless example. He certainly didn’t win me over with that one.

After that, we headed back to the hotel, relaxed a little bit, then regrouped and headed out for Austin’s historic 6th Street. He started off at R.D.O’Brians, a cool little Irish pub. After some food and drinks we headed down to the Jackalope for some kick butt Blues guitar and a few more drinks.

That’s about it for day one. I decided to leave the MBP here at the hotel, which turned out to be a good move. There weren’t any power outlet anywhere and a 4 hour session with a 3 hour battery just wasn’t going to fly. Oh well.

Anyway, I’m tired as hell, so I’m heading off to bed. Gotta get up early

Austin TX – Day 1

I’m not really sure if simply getting here counts as day one or not, but we’ll just go with it. We’re all checked into the hotel and, as you can see, the wireless is working. It took a little under four hours to get here but the trip was pretty uneventful, as it should be. We did stop at Buc-ee’s, the international rest-stop of awesomeness. Honestly, those stores have everything. I limited myself to a giant piece of homemade jerky, which I’ve already eaten.

After we got here and checked in at the hotel we ran downtown to the Austin Convention Center to get our packets and badges. The conference officially opens tomorrow at 7am, but I had little doubt that the line were going to be crazy, so I wanted to get that stuff out of the way early. The expected turn out for the conference is 4500, not counting exhibitors and lecture guests. They’re also giving away tshirts… so that should be, well, nuts. Something tells me 4500 tshirts are going to go fast.

After that we drove around a bit to try and plan our parking strategy. There isn’t any parking directly for the convention center or in the adjecent buildings, so we’re going to have to get a bit creative. Our thought is to park at the Mariott downtown, which is the “sister hotel” to ours. Hopefully flashing our room keys will be enough. It’s worth a shot. If that doesn’t work, there’s a downtown garage a few blocks away. That will have to do.

I was just flipping through the information packet about the vendors and sponsors and low and behold, SCAD will be here as a “platinum sponsor”. I’ll have to try and get a tshirt off them. I was going to bring my SCAD hat, now I’m regretting having decided to leave it at home. Oh well.

Now we’re just chilling at the hotel, waiting for the third person in our group to arrive at the airport. They’re renting a car and doing their own thing, but we had made plans to get some dinner with him. I hope it’s not much longer, I haven’t eaten since this morning, not counting the jerky.

Anyway, lots of rest tonight, lots of walking tomorrow.

Matt out.

HOW conference

This time tomorrow I’ll be gathering my things and heading off to the 2009 HOW Design Conference in Austin, TX. Since it was so close this year I’ll be driving up with a colleague. I’m pretty excited. HOW is the largest design conference in the country. It’s like MacWorld or E3, but just for designers and artists. Adobe will be showing off CS4 and beta versions of features for CS5, designers and pundits like Cameron Moll and DJ Stout will be there along with Photoshop experts like the grand-master Scott Kelby.

It should be pretty awesome. I’m hoping that the Austin Convention Center will have wifi, but I’m not holding my breath. If it does, I’ll probably be live-blogging some of the talks, just for note-taking purposes. If it doesn’t, I’ll try and recap in the evenings back at the hotel.

If nothing else, I’ll at least replenish my supply of crappy trade-show grade t-shirts. You can never have too many t-shirts you can paint in, lol.

Predictable RAGE

It would seem to be redundant to say that GameStop sucks, but it does. They are, without a doubt, the single worst online retailer I’ve ever had the displeasure of dealing with. In terms of actual brick and mortar stores, I still have a special place of disdain for BestBuy, but GameStop is a close second. Let me tell you a little story of ineptitude, poor excuses and lost faith in humanity.

GameStop was having a sale. A big sale. They had copies of Rock Band 2 on sale for $95. That is a ridiculous (more than 50% off) sale price. I jumped all over it the second I read it. As I placed my order, the website said “in stock” and “free shipping”. I clicked “buy”. That was last Wednesday.

On Thursday I got a call from GS “Order Verification” asking me to verify that my order was in fact real. Of course it was real, so I said yes, they thanked me and said my game should ship out the next day. That would have been Friday.

On Monday, it still hadn’t shipped and it’s status on the website had changed to “pending”. I was a bit concerned so I called their Online Orders Department. I talked to this nice lady who had no idea what I was talking about. She said it didn’t say in the computer why my order was pending and that she’d call me back.

An hour or two later she did. She said she had checked with her manager, and he had explained that they had sold out early but that I would get the first ones on their next shipment. A shipment that was arriving on June 30th. She even upgraded my shipping to “Overnight” because of the inconvenience.

I figured that was ok, I could wait a couple extra days for it, it was still a good deal. I also figured it was legit because she had “talked to a manager”.

Today is Thursday, 3 days later. I open my email to find a note from GameStop saying that my order has been canceled and that they’ve discontinued that item and I won’t be getting it. Ever.

I was understandably confused. Just three days ago I had confirmed, for the second time, that even though it was sold out initially (which was bullshit to start with) they would in fact be getting more. So, I called them again. I talked to another nice lady would said that it indeed had been cancelled and that there was nothing she could do about it. They offered me a $10 coupon to go away.

I explained to her all that had gone on previously, that the order had been confirmed TWICE and asked what had changed. She blamed it on inventory problems and that they weren’t going to get any more. I called her on it and said that I had been told that they were in fact getting more. She said she didn’t know anything about that.

I asked for the manager. His name was John.

I then had to explain the entire saga all over again to John. He listened and at the end said “Gee, I’m sorry, but we’re just not getting anymore, it was a really good sale and it just sold really well”. I couldn’t take it anymore. I proceed to tell John that not only had I placed the order while it was “in stock” but that it had been confirmed not once, but twice that eventually I would get one and that I’d really like GameStop to make this right. They have to honor their own sales.

Again, he blamed inventory. I launched into how in this day in age, surely they have a computerized inventory system and couldn’t they have figured this out ahead of time. Then he blamed the website for letting people order even though they were sold out. I suggested that they fix their dumbass website and that they still needed to honor a price they had sold something at. Then he blamed the SKU# saying that it was a special SKU just for the sale and that the SKU had been canceled and they couldn’t sell anything under that SKU again. I told him I didn’t give a crap what SKU it was under, why couldn’t he just sell me a normal copy of the game for a discount.

He laughed. He audibly laughed.

“No, no, I couldn’t do that” he chuckled, “you ordered a used one, I couldn’t sell you a new one, they’re not the same”. That’s where I lost it. I said, in a not-so-nice tone that their fucking website had gone out of it’s way to explain that they BOXES were slightly damaged but the contents of said boxes were in fact brand new.  This is what the website STILL says as of this moment:

“During our annual spring cleaning, one of our associates came across a forgotten chamber in the warehouse. He found a cache of leftover Rock Band and Guitar Hero games. These are all new games, but the ravages of time and being entombed in the depths of our warehouse have left some of the boxes in less-than-mint condition. So, although the outsides may be a little worn – just like some of your favorite musicians – the games and products themselves are still in perfect shape.”

I went round and round with John, saying that they needed to make this right, that it was pretty blatantly false advertising, especially if they were considering them “used” in the computer. All I asked for was Rock Band 2, at the price they had quoted. I didn’t want anything for free, I didn’t want anything extra. I just wanted the game. I asked if he could call a store in my area and see if they had a copy, even a used copy and that maybe we could work it out that way, that I’d even pay the difference. He said they had no control over, or way to monitor, any of the EB/GS stores.

In the end, he offered me a $20 coupon for my trouble. I told him that was fucking ridiculous and that maybe if he gave me 5 of those coupons, then that would make it alright. He laughed again. I told him to fuck off.

So, what’s the moral of the story kids? NEVER EVER SHOP AT FUCKING GAMESTOP. It’s my fault really. They had two strikes in my book but the deal was so good that I gave them another shot. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, I will fucking end your existance.

Everyone have a nice day. Except GameStop, who can go fuck themselves.

Wow, this pretty much sums up the entire GameStop shopping experience right here. Even if I had wanted to, with my pathetic $20 coupon, buy a copy of RockBan at full price, I’d still get the shaft. You see GameStop, when you reduced the price of something by $20, then ADD a $19.99 handling fee, you’re pretty much declaring that you’re just raping the customers and you don’t give a damn. Pathetic. Truly pathetic.

Gamestop Sucks

Gamestop Sucks