It’s hard to believe a year has passed since MERGE! burst onto the scene in its inaugural debut.

Many attendees have converged to meet in Orlando, Florida this year at the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista – Disney Springs Area to pick up where we left off last year discussing an array of digital principles — Domains, Hosting, Digital Search, CMS, Cryptocurrency, IP, Blockchain, eCommerce and Security.

2018 MERGE! Attendees

2018 MERGE! Registration

Companies, exhibitors, and attendees began trickling in late Friday and Saturday just in time for the opening keynote — Two Roads in the Software Forrest — given by Mike Demopoulous (BoldGrid Product Evangelist and Joomla Organizer).

Mike Demo - Two Roads in a Software Forest

From Mike highlighting the importance and value in forking open source software to the Future of Web Design, Jason Nickerson — Founder of CMS Summit and JoomlaDay Organizer — gave a very insightful presentation of how the web has progressed over the last few decades.

The next session I attended was very informative and hands-on engaging about how to build accessible interfaces for everyone — Access for Everyone: Building Accessible Interfaces — presented by Tim Knight — Director of User Experience at GravityFree Studios.

Access for Everyone: Building Accessible Interfaces - Tim Knight

As mid-day approached, Jothan Frakes and Ray Neu both greeted MERGE! participants and casted vision for their expectation all participants would realize — making new relationships, yet continuing relationships.

And with relationships fresh on the mind, the welcome quickly transitioned into participants engaging in a networking exercise facilitated by no other than Howard Neu.

Very much like speed dating, participants sat on either side of the table and introduced themselves to one another, with one side of the table sliding to the right every three minutes.

Many participants continued conversations with newly made friends over lunch as the expositions and exhibits hall open its doors.

Leading off after lunch were sessions based on extending content management systems and an ethereum discussion.

While I attended the Extending CMS’s panel with Duke Speer (moderator), Chris Edwards, Mike Herschel, Tim Knight, and Jason Nickerson, there was also a concurrent, deep-dive discussion as it related to ERC20 and ERC721 with Jothan Frakes and Christa Taylor.

With the afternoon quickly passing by, participants were hard pressed to select from a number of concurrent sessions the remainder of the day.

Although the design and experience sessions (listed below) were certainly worth attending, I chose to stick to sessions pertaining to domain names, such as the Three Part Series about Direct Advertisers and Parking.

  • Breaking Up With Design with Taylor Cox
  • Frogans Addresses – A Visual, Focused and Intuitive Online Experience with Philippe Collin
  • Part I: Direct Advertisers or Parking – What is Better for my Domains with Christa Taylor, Matthias Kaiser, Sam TSeng, and David Warmuz (see image below).

And although Adam Melcher’s session on Earn 6 Figures Building Your Client’s Dreams caught my eye, I remained in Escrow’s Keynote Hall for Part Two of Direct Advertisers and Parking with a fresh panel.

  • Earn 6 Figures Building Your Client’s Dreams with Adam Melcher
  • Leader Generation: What’s the point of a persona without a plan?
    Naomi Lantzman
  • Part II: Direct Advertisers or Parking – What is Better for my Domains with Christa Taylor, Marlon Phillips, Mike Robertson, and James Tuplin (see image below).

In the final multi-session hours of the day, I took to the stage to moderate Secrets of Domain Leasing with longtime industry professionals Stevan Lieberman, Victor Pitts, and Jeff Sass.

  • Using Drupal for your Next Project with Michael Anello and Mike Herschel
  • Emoji Domains and You
  • Secrets of Domain Leasing with Alvin Brown, Stevan Lieberman, Victor Pitts, Jeff Sass

The session went a few minutes long with great questions from the audience in regards to which party — lessor or lessee — should be the recipient of a UDRP during a domain lease agreement.

Nevertheless, the session concluded just in time to reward participants with the opening of “Rock the Cash Bar” in Expo Hall.

The final keynote of the day was a very energetic roast of never seen before websites by Justin Davis — a longtime user experience professional, and Co-Founder of CrowdSync and Founder of Madera Labs.

Justin Davis — a longtime user experience professional, and Co-Founder of CrowdSync and Founder of Madera Labs.

From websites with domains that didn’t pass the radio test to websites with flabby call-to-action or no call-to-action to websites in violation of many accessibility issues mentioned earlier in the day by Tim Knight, Justin reviewed and examined each aspect of each website until it hurt.

This concluded the first day of MERGE! sessions although hosted a networking suite well into the night.

Having prepended a family vacation a few days prior to MERGE!, I chose to skip the networking event in favor of a date night with my wife sans kids! 😉

Stay tuned for more of my MERGE! experience this year. Thanks and that’s all for now!

Written by Alvin Brown
He's an experienced and passionate serial entrepreneur, founder and publisher of Kickstart Commerce. Alvin possesses a great love for startups dominating their market using profitable digital strategies for greater commerce.