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Entries from March 1, 2011 - March 31, 2011

Monday
Mar282011

Milwaukee Beer & Brat Bash: We Made it Happen

Mbbb 2011 Patio

TWO YEARS AGO, I was at Austin airport, waiting for a plane with my friends Brian Artka and Derek Dysart when the idea for the Milwaukee Beer & Brat Bash was born.

We were hanging out in the departure lounge, coming off a great week at SXSW Interactive in Austin, TX. We ate our last breakfast tacos while recalling our experiences when Brian suggested we throw our own Milwaukee party for everyone at SXSW.

It would be an opportunity to share a little Milwaukee culture with the variety of people at SXSW and create a fun atmosphere for them to meet each other and us. Most of all, our party idea would be different than every other party at SXSW.

We loved the idea, but as ideas often do, it hibernated for several months.

The Re-awakening

In December 2009, the idea re-awakened in Brian's head, as he prepared for SXSW 2010. He asked me if I was interested in taking the Milwaukee party idea seriously.

I was game, and so were several other Milwaukee SXSW attendees and a friend from Austin. So, in January, we researched venues, food and sponsors. We were going to make it happen.

A contract for a venue was signed and money put down, even though we didn't know how many (if any) people would attend the event, or without having all of the needed sponsors lined up. If this idea went bad it could have been costly, though bearable.

Milwaukee Beer & Brat Bash 2010

For the first event in 2010, we arrived in Austin excited about the event, inviting everyone we saw to the Bash. Eventually our little Bash was mentioned in a variety of online newspapers and on Twitter accounts — a pleasant surprise!

When the day came it was rainy, so using the Cedar Door patio was out. The staff invited us to use the restaurant to serve our 200 guests beer brats, potato salad, cookies, and Milwaukee beer, all while enjoying the company of other attendees.

My favorite story of the day was from a guest who said his bratwurst brought back fond memories of Oakland A's games. As a kid, he would spend his summer days watching baseball and eating his fill of brats.

With a belief in ourselves and lots of hard work, our first Bash was a success.

Milwaukee Beer & Brat Bash 2011

Happy guestsIn late 2010, with experience and a successful Bash already under our belts, we worked out the details, convinced sponsors to join the fun and put on another great Bash.

For the 2nd annual Bash, we finally had the Cedar Door's sunny patio as well as the interior of the restaurant. This helped us serve 360 guests delicious Milwaukee beer-soaked bratwurst, regular and Pretzel buns and Tofurky brats for our vegetarian guests. Of course we had potato salad, cookies and Milwaukee beer to round out the Bash menu for 2011.

For 2011, we raffled bags of coffee from Milwaukee's Stone Creek Coffee and 18 Milwaukee Beer & Brat Bash t-shirts printed in Superbowl Champion Green Bay Packer green & gold.

The Bash was a hit. SXSW attendees had something fun and different to enjoy during the day. We were able to share a little Milwaukee culture and love with our friends and colleagues in Austin.

I was sick and couldn't make it to Austin for the event, but the team stepped up and did a great job of making the Bash a huge success. I was able to invite many of my friends to the Bash remotely and watch the event over a UStream channel, set up by the team.

Make it Happen

The key lesson learned from the Bash?

Take initiative and make something happen.

Nobody in Milwaukee or Austin gave us permission. We decided to do it for ourselves.

We had no experience organizing an event, but we had experience in other areas of life and business, which we used to make the Bash happen.

You can do more than you think you can.

Notes and Tips

For others considering an event, I want to share a few things we learned through the process of planning and running the Milwaukee Beer & Brat Bash, two years in a row:

1. Use a collaboration tool for your team. One of the best things we did was to create a Basecamp project for the Bash. It became a central hub where discussions happened. Basecamp worked well via email, freeing the team to reply on the web app or on a mobile device. Basecamp threads from '10 were very helpful in planning the '11 Bash.

2. Keep the team small and delegate. Because our team was small and everyone pitched in, the load was never overbearing for any one person. This year when I had to recover from a sickness, having others there to take up the organization was critical to making the event happen even with me out of commission.

3. Don't be afraid to ask for sponsorships. If you decide to seek sponsorships, ask everyone you can think of. We asked many more companies and individuals to help than accepted the opportunity. We also were open to small donations from individuals and small businesses, because every dollar helps.

4. Designate one person to handle the funds. It might be tempting to have all sorts of team members accept money, but we found having one person handle funds worked best and kept the process simple for our team and sponsors.

5. Say thank you. After the event we made it a point to contact every sponsor and say thank you for their help, with a report about the event and links to event photos and new coverage from local radio and news outlets.

Thank You!

Thanks go to the teams for the 2010 and 2011 Bashes: Brian Artka, Derek Dysart, Tracy Apps, Hung Nguyen, Andy Wright, Cindi Thomas and Kevin Ciesielski.

Thanks also to our sponsors who made the Milwaukee Beer & Brat Bashes happen. We appreciate you all.

Resources

Here are articles and audio about the Bash in the media

Milwaukee BizTimes: Milwaukee beer and brats: a smash at national festival
88Nine Radio: Perceptions of Milwaukee (Audio)
88Nine Radio: Other Cities "Beer & Brats" (Audio)

Photos by Tracy Apps

Tuesday
Mar222011

Becoming Fully Who You Are

Art show extravaganzaHAD A GREAT DISCUSSION my friend Kyle Steed today. I told him how impressed I've been watching him grow into himself through his work, becoming more fully Kyle every single day.

I was reminded how important it is to focus on becoming fully who we are in a world where it's the default state to compare ourselves to others who are not us.

Seven years ago I wrote In The Valley of the Shadow of Creativity after seeing amazing design work and being bummed rather than inspired by it.

I described the temptation to measure myself unfairly against others and the work they do, judging my own work harshly when I fell short.

Since then I've shifted my mindset in two ways:

1. To celebrate the great work others do, letting it inspire and not deflate me
2. To focus on the unique work I'm able to do, striving to be the best me I can be

That shift in mindset has made all the difference.

Rather than feeling I'm competing with others, I can appreciate, enjoy, celebrate and encourage the work I see them doing. When I take this approach, it encourages me in the process, inspiring me to be my best while enjoying others' success. It's also a net positive, because those who are celebrated are encouraged to do the same for others.

Celebration of others reminds me how unique they are and I am. I then focus on ways to become more true to myself in the work I'm doing. How can I bring my unique experiences into my work? In what ways can I express my personality, thinking and sense of humor in the projects I do for myself and others?

My challenges to you:

1. Let go of your comparisons with others who are not you.
2. Ponder what unique qualities you have and how they can impact your work.
3. Focus on becoming fully who you are.
4. Become the best you possible.

Resources

Stop apologizing for who you are - Jeffrey Platts

Friday
Mar112011

iPad 2: 3G vs. WiFi Observations

iPad 2

Last spring I purchased an original iPad and had a few observations about choosing a 3G iPad over a WiFi iPad.

I thought these observations after a year of use might be helpful for you, if you're looking at the new iPad 2 (launching today) and are weighing 3G vs. WiFi networking as part of your purchase.

So, below are some thoughts about why you might choose a 3G iPad 2 or a WiFi iPad 2—maybe a few things you hadn't considered about them on the surface.

iPad 2 w/ 3G - The Pros

• GPS Unit - (WiFi doesn't) so that maps and other location services work better, even if you decide to cancel the 3G plan after the first month.

• Easy Re-Activation - Even if you eventually turn off 3G, it's easy to activate it on the spot, right on the iPad if you need connectivity. I needed this once and it was very convenient to have immediate access as needed.

• Equal AT&T and Verizon Plans - After reading the Apple Insider article on 3G options, both Verizon and AT&T plans are pretty close and let you turn them on and off at will. The article was updated to show no Verizon $35 activation fee at startup, or later on.

• Activation Really is On-Demand - I believe (based on our 3G iPad 1) we had to at least activate the first month, then we were free to cancel or activate at will afterwards. It worked really well for us—we ran AT&T 3G for our summer vacation, then turned off 3G for a few months, re-activating it a few times as needed later in the year.

• 3G is Great on the Road - Having 3G on the road was nice for maps. My wife did hotel research one stormy day while I was driving us home—3G was well worth having.

• Free WiFi on AT&T - If you go AT&T you also get access to AT&T's WiFi hotspots, which might be handy at Starbucks ands other locations where those hotspots appear.

• 250MB 3G Plans are Paltry - The basic $15 plan for 250MB data is really paltry. It didn't take long to exceed this for very modest data use—might be good only if you do email and other text-based low-data things with the iPad 2. I'd suggest the 2GB plan.

iPad 2 w/ WiFi - The Pros

• Tethering or MiFi Might be Better - One reason to go WiFi is if you have tethering with your iPhone, a MiFi (3G to WiFi device) or just never use it outside of the home or work.

• Cost Benefits to WiFi - Also, for a bit over the cost of the 16GB 3G iPad 2 ($630) you could get a 32GB WiFi iPad ($599) and a regular Smart Cover ($39) for $640. Having that extra space might be more important to you than 3G.

Our iPad 3G Experience

For us, the 3G device was a great choice. We wanted data access specifically for road trips, for mapping, surfing, video and other data uses on the road. On our big family trip last summer, we made extensive use of the Google Map feature in the iPad, which is aided by the GPS unit only found in the 3G iPad.

Having 3G on the road was also very helpful for finding hotels on the road—my wife was able to check the web for hotels nearby, call and get availability and then route us to the hotel using the large iPad screen.

As a general road trip device, the iPad was fantastic. Long battery life, access to game apps and videos for our 8 year old son was perfect to keep his attention for our 10 hour trip east and back. Especially key was battery life—10 hours made it easy to let us run the iPad without any concern about the thing going dead on us.

I hope these observations are helpful if you're pondering an iPad 2 purchase.

If you have other observations to add, please leave a comment so this article can become a resource for others.