So I just got back from a day trip to Phoenix for a Adobe CS5.5 workshop. It was a last minute decision to go, but I’m glad I did. Not only was it a great workshop and a good networking experience but it was also a Social Media experience in traveling with an iPhone.
Going down to Phoenix, Arizona, a two hour drive from Flagstaff in Northern Arizona is a necessity when living in a small town and trying to maintain a big city career as a graphic designer. If you want to stay up on current trends and fresh on the current software and technologies you need to participate in all the events you can. Webinars are great but you sacrifice face time and valuable networking. I have found maintaining contacts in Phoenix a valuable resource and refreshing source of inspiration. Plus you can’t beat the real life exposure to the city. It is alive with networks of communication that speak to you the moment you enter; roadway signs, city transport advertising, architecture, radio airwaves and fashion trends all seek to get your attention and inspire or motivate a mind in need of new motivation.
With my iPhone prepared I planned ahead the night before and asked on twitter for the best app to use as a navigation tool. I go to phoenix a few times a year and typically get lost or thrown off course at least once or twice. Thanks to @Mountain_O, a friend in the Flagstaff community of tweeps, I was referred to Mapquest, I’ve heard of it before but had not used it until now. So I tried it, plugged in my destination, along with a destination to a nearby lunch venue and lastly to a friends house from the event so that I would leave no room for error. Mapquest turned out to be a great tool and friend; the soothing female voice giving directions became quite comforting. Even though I’ve been to Phoenix a thousand times I never fail to take the wrong off ramp or get detoured by construction and end up in some undesirable neighborhood off the freeway where I feel like I need to lock the doors and not make eye contact for fear of starting a gang riot. Upon reaching my destination, a half hour early, I found I had time to do the necessary Foursquare checkin with an added photo of the brilliant architecture of the ASU Building of Design and Architecture where the event took place.
In addition to planning my route the night before I also purchased tickets online the night before via Eventbrite and was able to use my iPhone as a ticket at the registration table. The workshop itself was put on by AIGA Arizona and featured Brian Wood, an Adobe Certified Instructor. The course audience was mostly AIGA members from what I could tell but a few others had made it from the outskirts with one person from Winslow and another from Tucson. Upon entering and taking a seat I immediately went to my twitter account to find where the discussion would be taking place online. All I could find is the comments from various AIGA members using the @aigaarizona twitter handle. The first thing I look for in a seminar like this is a hashtag so that I can follow along with my iPhone too see what others are saying about the instruction, it also helps to push out quotes and thoughts to my friends back home and to network before and after the event is over. Twitter in defense to those who think “it’s a distraction during meetings or rude”, is in my opinion a great way to become even more a part of the discussion and for an outsider to learn a little about those sitting around you. As the discussion began I kept an eye on my twitter account but there was not really a lot being said, and if it was I was missing it because I was not a part of the networks within the room who most likely knew each other so I decided to tweet: “This #adobe workshop needs a hashtag @aigaarizona #justsaying.” Immediately I got a response from @MarkDudlik well known for writing an open letter to the Phoenix design community, calling for unity and forward thinking and thus inspiring Phoenix Design Week. Mark put out a suggestion that we use the hashtag #adobeaigaaz which seemed good enough to me. At the end of the event I thanked Mark even though no one had really used it besides us, however he did say they would continue to use it for all the following workshops. So in a way I felt I had contributed in a small way to the groups’ presence on twitter and hope it will become a future resource to keep all tweets in one unifying stream so outsiders like me can participate while attending, or if we can’t attend but want to know what’s going on.
The next phase of my iPhone enhanced day would be to find my next destinations via Mapquest which I did seamlessly and of course to foursquare each stop. The amazing part of foursquare is that you are able to see what and where your friends are while out and about and I came across several Phoenix friends’ trusted spots along with tips and recomendations. It was quite a cool experience going into a restaurant and getting a tip on what to order from a familiar face. It was also cool to see that many of my Flagstaff friends were also in town that day and as a matter of fact some were nearby, given more time I would have chatted them up via twitter, but I was in a rush to get to my buddy’s house where I would be able to recharge my battery sucking device and visit “IRL” (in real life) without digital intervention for a while (unless you count that we watched the new Star Trek on his Blue Ray T.V.)
My last endeavor of the day would be on my way out of town where it became necessary at the oncoming sunset to find the nearest Starbucks. This usually does not require a digital device as there is one on every corner, but when you find yourself scouring parking lots and hitting every red light and every store front people-crossing you decide that an immediate source of information is better than endless searching, so I downloaded the Starbucks app and sure enough there was one just down the street from where I was. Upon leaving, Mocha-Coconut Frapucchino in hand, I Foursquared: “Time to head back up the hill. (@ Starbucks) http://4sq.com/k25BXf” and received yet another tip of a nearby restaurant from a foursquare friend as well as a message from a twitter friend @Azdurawrap, to have a “safe trip”.
All in all it was a great day participating in virtual and real life experiences where I was never for a moment alone. The voice of my trusty Mapquest companion kept me on the right path. I received tips and suggestions of my Foursquare friends. I helped provide a place to stream tweets about the future AIGA Arizona events and oh yeah I attended a great workshop via @AskBrianWood and @aigaarizona.