This was my first ASA. My first impression was an incredulous, "wow, I'm around so many sociologists," followed by a creeped out, "wow. I'm around so many sociologists." I had been told to expect the overwhelming size, which was both nice to blend into the anonymity and limiting as far as some panel discussions went. But overall, I was very pleased. The substance of all of the sessions I attended were very good and some were even excellent.
However, I did expect to learn more about the professionalization of sociologists from this experience. What I did learn was that some sociologists couldn't hold an argument through to its logical conclusion. Yes, for some reason it did surprise me. In the most glaring instance I witnessed, it wasn't because he wasn't prepared or a good speaker because he was both, sort of. He was just so convinced of his conclusion regardless of his ability to support it with a cohesive connected argument. This was a good lesson for me; don't EVER do this. Some still supported him, simply because they supported his conclusion, public sociology is bad for sociologists as sociologists and sociology as a discipline. Anyway, it was nice to discover Deflem wasn't a monster, just a scientistic ideologue with an unmethodical analysis to protect the scientist's agenda.
The more inspiring/interesting speakers I saw included Frances Fox Piven, Barrie Thorne, Judith Blau, Barbara Ehrenreich, Robert Connell, Jeff Goodwin, Julia Adams, Michael Omi (on an especially interesting panel on the categorization of "race" and "ethnicity"), Patricia Hill Collins, Aldon Morris, Manning Marable, and Burawoy. I had hoped to see Evelyn Nakano Glenn and Lisa Lowe. Maybe they will present next year...
San Francisco was as wonderful as I remembered it. And to top it off, I was able to meet my cobloggers, which was a lot of fun. Not bad for a first ASA.