SES Day 3 Ends on Surprise Note

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I’ve arrived home from Search Engine Strategies Chicago 2006. We snuck out of the hotel at 8:20 am while it was still quiet and empty of the hordes of people from what appeared to be two conferences going on there.

For the record, the SES name tags were a lot more colorful and interesting to look at than the those worn by attendees of the other conference. However, as was presented to me by Rand Fishkin and others in the press room, the badges weren’t user friendly because the print was hard to read. So they wrote their own and increased the size of their names so that they could be easily read. Usability is leaking everywhere, isn’t it?

Back to Day 3

My third day started out poorly and not to my expectations. After a nice lunch with Eric, I went on to report on two more sessions. Both of them covered information from the user side of things rather that the search engine side being the leading man. I was happy to see that both usability oriented sessions were in the Stevens 3 and 4 rooms, which meant they already knew there would be more people attending them and they’d have to fit them all into the space. The last talk was on the union of SEO and usability.

Perhaps it’s a fitting end that one of the last sessions of the conference rests on a usabiltiy related note. I was sought after everywhere I wandered or was spotted by someone wanting to talk about what I do and how it can help them with their website. This is why I missed Danny Sullivan’s keynote speech.

I had walked into the press room to post my second session report for that afternoon to Barry’s blog, but most of the spots to plug into the Internet were in use. I could go upstairs and post it, so I wasn’t concerned. However, I saw a table with Webpronews and Rand Fishkin there. Webpronews reprint articles and blog posts that I write that they feel are worthwhile. They asked if I’d consider letting them do an interview of me.

I wasn’t sure about a video. I mean, I hate getting my picture taken, so a video might kill me, ya know?

But, Rand persisted in his belief that this is something I should do. So I agreed on the condition I could run upstairs, meet my obligation to Barry and his blog first, and then return. I asked for a half hour, but I think I got back in about 20 minutes.

Mike McDonald, of Webpronews, is a lot of the reason I agreed to be interviewed. He and his partner, (whose name I didn’t get, I’m sorry!) hooked me up, showed me my seat and within minutes, and not a single second to think about what my hair looked like, he launched into some quick questions about usability.

It was not a prepared interview. Rather, talking to Mike was like talking to anyone that I meet who is curious about what I do and why it matters. I had dragged my husband and official “Technical Engineer”, Eric, downstairs with me to the press room for moral support. He was apparently watching and listening because he later told me I did fine and had given Mike my “elevator speech” on usability.

He also told me that I need to work on my giggle.

Now, I’m even more terrified to see that podcast.

It was over in about 10 minutes. Mike had promised they’d be fast, so I could dash off to Danny’s keynote. And they kept their promise. What’s it like to be interviewed with a camera pointed at you, watching your every move? Not that bad. What worked for me, being a woman, was staring into Mike’s big eyes. I doubt that worked for Rand or the SEO men, but it was loads of fun for me. As far as I cared, Mike could have kept on going and I would’ve kept answering questions and pretending to be single. (Cough.) (Wink emoticon would go here).

I really hope I made some sense in the video, if they run it. What usually happens is that whenever anyone starts asking me about usability work or any of the functional testing I like to do, is that the passion bursts out all over the place and I light up.

What gets me jazzed even more is when someone asks me something and I can tell they expect a traditional answer. I usually don’t have one of those because every website has different roles to perform. There’s a zillion ways to do that and only testing and testing and testing will give you the correct answer. Not me.

Missed it Anyway

After thanking Webpronews for thinking I was worthy, (The story they told me is that I was recommended to them by several people. Thank you to them, if they read this.), Eric and I headed for the Keynote speech, which had already begun by the time I got myself out of the press room.

I realized that I was already late and wouldn’t get a good seat, so we stopped to let me think about what to do. Within seconds Christine Churchill saw me and came over. She and I still hadn’t had our chance to spend some time together. I could pick between Danny and getting the squeeze on the latest in search engine land, or get to talk with my friend, Christine and catch up on life, work and stuff.

I chose Christine.

Eric left and she and I sat together for awhile and finally got our gab session in, that we had hoped we would get time to do on Tuesday evening.

That Nice SEO With the Bum Knees

The people I met at SES Chicago for the first time, and even those I already know, were very friendly and kind. This particular post means a lot to me.

The Top 10 Underrated/Under-appreciated People in SEO

#1 Kim Krause Berg – Candidate for “nicest person in SEO” (maybe it’s because she’s not a true SEO but instead a usability guru). Bonus points because she basically lends her expertise for free (well, not free, but it’s REALLY cheap, I keep bugging her to raise her prices but she never does!)

I haven’t been writing about my knees because you don’t see them from where you’re sitting. I think its time to say something.

The summer of 2005 was when I first learned something was wrong with my knees. Nothing miraculous showed up on X-rays for them, but X-rays and an MRI on my lower back showed why the back was driving me nuts. Arthritis. To make matters worse, when I stand for longer than an hour, my legs turn to pins and needles and if I ignore it, it can take days before I can walk without pain again. I’ve done PT and made lifestyle changes to help with that.

More tests, on the nerves, showed I have a “Hollywood butt”. This is a real source of pride. One doctor told me that most women would die for a butt like mine. I have a small pelvis and it tilts in such a way that, in blunt terms, I have a cute rear-end. However, that tilt and the arthritis pinch a nerve and I put up with pain that I can usually manage.

The knees were not something I could fix on my own. About two months ago another set of x-rays was done because I had to face the fact that I could barely walk. I have arthritis in both of them. Even I could see the big open space between the bones.

No way was I going to miss SES. We tried cortisone for the pain and that was wonderful. Then, because I’m young and healthy (except for my thyroid, but meds control that), I was told I was a good candidate for injections of a gel substance that lubes the knees. It’s been known to sustain people like me for years, keep them pain free and hold back the need for knee replacement surgery.

My last injection was four days before leaving for the Chicago conference. I should have been pain free, or close to it, according to the doctor. That didn’t turn out to be the case. I struggled to walk the entire time I was there.

This is why I didn’t go to the parties. I didn’t want to have to explain this to everyone who invited me, so I didn’t. Only a few people who were with me long enough to pick up on my pain even knew there was anything going on. I brought 3 prescription pain killers and was pretty dosed up. This is why I limited my drinks and stuck to Fuzzy Navels (mostly orange juice, but with a bit of peach schnapps).

I had forgotten the painkillers, and had a glass of wine at the Exhibition cocktail hour. By the time I met Review Me Roy, I was feeling far better than anyone should be feeling on just one glass of wine. I had to use Eric and Joe Dolson to get me out of there safely until I came back down to the planet again.

After that, I just resigned myself to behaving myself. I needed to ice the knees again on Wednesday night, so my trip ended quietly but on a positive note. I had seen everyone on my list that I had wanted to meet or see again.

I did my job for Barry and truly loved every second of it (except for the part about blinding Danny with my camera.)

This conference was worth every step and every single ice cube.


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Uability Consultant, Kimberly Krause Berg, is the owner of UsabilityEffect.com, Cre8pc.com, and Cre8asiteForums. Her background in organic search engine optimization, combined with web site usability consulting, offers unique insight into web site development.

SES Day 3 Ends on Surprise Note
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