Good Times at Macstock 2019

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I spent the weekend in Illinois attending the Macstock conference. Macstock started out as a group of friends getting together following the demise of Macworld, and over the years it has grown into a conference and social event that includes about 200 people having a good time talking about AppleScripts, Shortcuts, and debating the finer merits of the very best text editor; in other words, they are my kind of nerds, and it is a lot of fun.

It took me several years to make it to Macstock, but I finally made it there last year and had a great time.

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This year, Stephen Hackett and I had the privilege of recording episode 500 of Mac Power Users in front of a live audience at Macstock, and it came out great (although it won’t drop for a few weeks now). I also gave a talk falling somewhere between nerdy tips and hippy-style productivity. Best of all, I got to catch up with some old friends and make several new outstanding ones. Also, northern Illinois gave me more mosquito bites in two days than I’ve had in the last 10 years.

Just a few highlights:


  • With a call out to the room something akin to asking for a doctor on an airplane, Stephen sprang into action like a nerdy superhero, replacing RAM and a drive on an aging iMac. In order to do so, he had to peel off the screen, pull every part of the machine out, and then put it all back together. He did that on a lunch table.

  • Mike Schmitz (co-host of Focused) crushed a presentation on Ulysses and taught me a few tricks.

  • I made a friend who recently played percussion on a symphonic performance of the Harry Potter score.

  • I made another friend who came from Perth, Australia, to nerd out with us.

  • Best of all, when we finished recording episode 500, we received a standing ovation. That was a moment I will cherish forever.

Flying home, I couldn’t help but reflect that this was an outstanding use of my weekend, and if they put on another one next year, I’ll be there.


MacStock 2019

Last year I made a last-minute decision to attend MacStock to see what it was all about. I had a great time, and this year I’m looking forward to going back. Moreover, this year I am participating. I will be giving the session, and we will be recording the Mac Power Users episode 500 live at MacStock. Stephen and I are making lots of plans, and I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.

MacStock has the feel of Macworld, but at the same time, it is much more intimate. Because there are fewer people, we all get to spend more time together.

If you’re interested in attending, I can get you a small discount with the discount code “macsparky”. Regardless, if you do attend, I’ll see you there.

Macstock 2018


Over the weekend I took a short trip to Woodstock, Illinois, where I attended, for the first time, the Macstock conference. Macstock has been going on for several years. The conference grew out of a lot of friends who used to attend Macworld looking for an excuse to get together. I’ve been hearing about the conference from friends for years and was delighted to have the time to attend this year.

The Conference

It looked to me like there were about 150 attendees, and I watched a lot more presentations than I usually do at a conference. The speakers were all excellent, and the content was designed to help users up their game. Content covered both iOS and Mac platforms with an emphasis on productivity, which was, of course, right in my wheelhouse. 

The conference facility, with comfy seats, was great. Also, the WiFi worked flawlessly.

The Macstock team dialed in the operation and everything just happened, without drama. The speakers had a ton of support from getting mic’d up to getting their slides on the screen. 

They also fed everyone lunch every day, which gave all of the attendees a chance to get to know each other. I really liked that. Indeed, if I had one suggestion for the Macstock team, I would like to see even more space between sessions going forward for speakers and attendees to socialize even more.

The Social Aspect

On that point, I particularly enjoyed the social aspects of Macstock. I met people ranging from high school students to retirees, and they were all friendly and passionate about getting the most from their Apple technology. 

When I first arrived, I attended a social event where I saw about 20 people that I had not seen since the last Macworld and immediately knew I was home. It wasn’t just old friends though. I made plenty of new ones. I found connecting in the flesh with other like-minded humans even more satisfying than the Macstock content.

This Is Not Macworld

Macworld Expo was glorious anarchy. They had something like 20,000 people between their exposition hall and conference tracks. It offered a lot more people, content, vendors, and madness.

Macstock is different. It’s more intimate and friendlier. Moreover, it’s the kind of conference that can survive at a time that Macworld could not.

Having attended, I can easily see myself going back. If you would like to spend a weekend with fellow Apple nerds, I would recommend it to you as well. While the conference is intimate, and that is part of its appeal, I think it would be even better with 100 more attendees. If you are interested, mark your calendar for some time around the last weekend of July next year.