Well, that’s a wrap - tied with a bow - for .NET Fringe 2016 and Node PDX 2016. That’s two years in a row for .NET Fringe and the 3rd year for Node PDX (2012, 2013, and 2016). All of the conferences have been very stressful, intense, and rewarding. I’ve learned a lot in the process and had a chance to work together with a lot of great people including Troy Howard, Glenn Block, Scott Hanselman, Phil Haack, Itamar Syn-Hersko, Alena Hall, and many others.
At this point I’ve deemed it time for a solid retrospective on organizing, community, and related topics. I’m breaking this article into the following segments:
- Conference Organizing - Taking a Break
- Community Organizing vs. Value Added
- Workshops - What’s valuable
Conferences themselves are great experiences for the vast majority of people that attend the conferences. It’s also a great way to build a community that knows each other beyond the virtual space. Having these connections is invaluable - from the connections that Steve Jobs & Wozniak made at conferences that led to Apples creation to Microsoft at the same, to today with open source conferences like OSCON, Strangeloop, and other great community led conferences. These are the places where conversations start that build this industry and take us into the future.
In that sense, I hope Node PDX and .NET Fringe have helped to grow the community in Portland and beyond. I hope it has helped people to expand on ideas, projects, and overall grow as individuals and build more cohesive organizations. I too, have grown and been able to expand and build on ideas and various projects because of these efforts. In many ways these conferences have helped me to build my future.
I myself am going to take a break this coming dozen or more months, ma ybe permanantly, from conference organizing. I have however already started plotting some of the next big projects that I will contribute or build. Namely, I intend to start speaking and providing workshops on several key spaces within the tech industry that I see a horrid gap that needs filled. More on that real soon.
Community Organizing vs. Value Added
I’ve always enjoyed organizing events of various types. From meetups like the Elastic Meetup that I’m currently helping to organize or conferences like .NET Fringe or Node PDX. Each tech stack, event type, and related slices of categorization have different communities built around it. Some have inspiration, others networking options, some are great for project building or team building. Whatever the case they each have their positives. In the same light, each type of event has it’s various negatives too.
Conferences are almost all organized around speakers speaking at an audience. Sometimes there is time for questions, but there is strong argument that questions for a speaker doesn’t add a lot and often derails the momentum of talks for the overall audience. Some conferences have workshops before the actual presentation sessions. Other conferences work around an unconference or open spaces style event setup. Each style has benefits for people and negatives, as an example, I myself love to attend open spaces conferences and feel that I gain the most value from conferences like that.
I’ve always aimed to mix the elements together to find the best combination of value for people, along with Troy, Glenn, and the teams we’ve put together to organize these conferences. It’s actually an extremely difficult mix to get right. I think we’ve done a good job of getting that mix right, but I’m sure there are a number of things we can improve on to get even more value out of conferences for people.
In an attempt to get more value out of social gatherings like conferences, meetups, and the like I’m going to work dilligently in the coming weeks to get new ideas together to build even better events. Some of the requests and demands of various audiences range widely. Here’s a few questions I’ve noted as of late, with a tweet that kicked off several of the conversations.
I'm kind of over conferences. The whole, "Speaker gets up and talks" mode of transferring information is busted. I learn by doing.— Scott Koon (@lazycoder) July 10, 2016
Gathering Questions for Ideas
- What do people enjoy in gatherings that help us attain the maximum learning?
- What makes gatherings interesting enough to attend?
- What negatives can we remove?
- What makes the environment good for meeting, talking, and working together on ideas to learn more?
- What are an ideal set of goals, specific goals, to actually work toward?
Then some of the other goals that I aim to figure out, largely by testing out or building tools to do this:
- Improve ability to communicate with specific members of the attendee audience when needed, with appropriate mediums, and reasonable expectations of information disseminate.
- Find ways to ticket by group, event, time, and related criteria that will allow communication and group association to simplify both things (ticketing and grouping).
- Find better ways to delegate payments and billing that aren’t hard linked to individual people and singular accounts.
- Find better ways to allocate work to volunteers and those interested in helping that has more globally viewable content to help give everybody involve better visibility into what we’re trying to get done.
- Study up on and work on my communication skills. This is, of course, something that has been an ongoing learning experience which I suspect will continue being an ongoing learning experience.
I’ve got a ton of material that I’d like to break out into groupings for screencasts/video how-to or training content, blog entries, and hands on workshop training. After discussing space opportunities Mark at NedSpace (thanks again for helping with .NET Fringe Mark!) and have worked with Code Fellows (Marty rocked 2 Node PDX Workshops) and working with Mathias Brandewinder, Evelina Gabasova, Aaron Stannard, Beau Palmquist, and Jared Schaab. After gaining that experience I’m seriously working on determining how to provide more workshops, but with a bit more of a twist. I want to add new elements to workshops that can extend the entertaining value of the workshops but also the learnings of the various workshops I’d like to provide.
One of the ideas that keeps rolling around in my head, which really is rooted in this question, “How do I combine the elements that I love providing in meetups, conferences, and existing workshops into a medium and mode of delivery that people would find valuable?” In summary, how can I do and teach the things I really enjoy so that people determine it is enough value to pay for? As in any business, it’s an interesting challenge. So in the coming weeks I’ll have more conversations and more ramblings on the blog here about what I’m determined to acheive with the delivery of workshops and gatherings related to learning lots of awesome things.
Until then, I hope you’ve had a spectacular time at .NET Fringe AND Node PDX. I send thanks to all of the attendees and all involved - thanks and CHEERS!