Tag: Conferences

Why I Go to Conferences

Usually by 9pm on a given evening, I am winding down, feeling introspective and generally not chatty. However, this Sunday evening I had just arrived home after attending PyCon in Santa Clara, California. Upon realizing I was talking Sherri’s ears off, I stopped to ask, “Am I always like this after I get home from a conference.” The answer was a definitive: “Yes.”

It got me thinking about about why I go to conferences.

Not For the Technical Content

Perhaps this is heretical to say, but for whatever reason, it’s really difficult for me to learn technical topics deeply at conferences. I learn best in environments where I can minimize distractions, go at my own pace and engage one on one with my subject matter and instructor.  Conference learning is the antithesis of this: tons of distractions, the speakers set the pace and the learning is one to many, even in the smallest sessions and tutorials.

This does not mean that I get nothing from technical talks. Some are very inspiring and give me ideas of subjects to look up and study later, when I get home.

For the Community

Conferences connect me with community, and that is their most important offering. Over the years, I have found there is simply no substitute for time spent with people in real spaces.

Don’t misunderstand me. I love that our world is made smaller by technology. I love that I can work for Mozilla remotely using Skype, Vidyo, IRC and other internet-based technologies. I enjoy the convenience of being able to attend local planning meetings without leaving my home. It’s allowed me to continue participating even though my family obligations have increased substantially over the last year.

But technology doesn’t provide the same sense of connection and of belonging that I get from joining the physical space of my community. At conferences I see people I never see in person except at conferences. I run into people  with whom I have trouble connecting online due to our mutually busy schedules or offset timezones. At conferences I am able to interact with whole, three dimensional persons rather than flat images or disembodied voices. Because of this, conversation itself feels as if it has greater depth and meaning.

The connections that I form and strengthen at conferences have a lasting and cumulative effect. They provide the connective agent that makes online interactions between in-person events stronger and more productive. The people that I meet at community events become my friends, colleagues, peers, managers and mentors.

Why do you go to conferences and other community events?

Event Planning for Geeks Workshop to Debut at OSCON 2012

This summer, Sherri, Audrey and I will debut our Event Planning for Geeks workshop at OSCON. We gave a very successful session on this topic at last year’s OSCON and decided to scale it up to be a three-hour interactive workshop.

I’ve included the description and abstract below, or you can read about it on the OSCON schedule. If you’re planning to attend OSCON, but haven’t yet purchased your ticket, use the code OS12FOS to receive 20% off your ticket price.


A fun, comprehensive tutorial on how to host a successful code sprint, hackathon, (un)conference or workshop.


Event Planning for Geeks is back with even more resources for event organizers from beginners on up! We’ve expanded our successful talk from last year’s OSCON into a full three-hour workshop.

If you’ve ever thought about hosting a code sprint, hackathon, (un)conference or workshop, this talk is for you. We’ll give you an overview of what you need to know to execute a successful event, including:

  • assembling and organizing your planning team
  • identifying and securing a venue for your event
  • how to get money and pay for things
  • volunteer recruitment and management
  • determining your event format and creating your event’s schedule
  • advertising your event
  • tickets and registration
  • insurance, liability and what to do when things go wrong
  • deciding on must haves and nice-to-haves (e.g. food, wifi, etc)
  • dealing with venue logistics (space, sound, power, etc.)
  • codes of conduct, after parties, considerations for serving alcohol
  • how to keep the momentum once your first event is over

Attendees will also receive copies of our event planning handbook and links to examples of how we run specific events like Open Source Bridge, Ignite Portland and BarCamp Portland.

Summer Conference Schedule and Other Projects

It’s been quiet around here because I’ve been busy running BarCamp Portland and planning for Open Source Bridge, among other things. And it’s not going to slow down any time soon. Here’s my Summer conference schedule and an update on some of the projects that will be keeping me busy for the next several months.

21-24 June — Open Source Bridge

The conference for open source citizens, now in it’s third edition. I’m co-chairing the event this year, so while I won’t be giving any talks, I’ll be kicking off the conference and hanging around to make sure things run smoothly. Registration is still open, so come check it out if you’re able and be sure to find me and say hi.

23-34 July — Community Leadership Summit

The CLS is a free unconference for community organizers. I attended last year and found it worthwhile to connect with other community leaders who are in town from all over the US and beyond to attend OSCON.

25-29 July — OSCON

I’m giving two talks at OSCON this year: Tools for Spelunking a New-to-You Codebase and Event Planning for Geeks with Sherri Montgomery and Audrey Eschright.

Other Projects

WhereCampPDX (7-9 October)

WhereCampPDX is a free, volunteer-created unconference for anyone interested in geography and technology and this will be it’s 4th year. I’m helping to organize and if you want to help out, you can join our mailinglist.

Tech Workshops for Beginners

We want to run a series of recurring intro technology workshops. The workshops will be peer-driven, have a low instructor-to-student ratio and serve as the base for on-going mentor relationships. We’re not looking to teach a specific language, but rather offer a handful and let students choose what they connect with most. To make this a success, we’re going to need a lot of help from the community. Want to get involved? We have a mailinglist for that.

Stumptown Syndicate

The Syndicate is a non-profit that Audrey, Reid and I started late last year. Its purpose is to support technology education and professional development through fundraising, space and resource coordination, and other activities. It’s the organization we used to run Open Source Bridge, and we’ll be using it to run WhereCamp and possibly some other events this year. We want to earn 501(c)(3) status so that we can accept tax-deductible donations and we’ll be working on our application over the summer. Want to help? Email us at board@stumptownsyndicate.org. Want to keep track of our progress? We have a newsletter for that.

BarCamp Planning

Yes, yes, I know, we just had BarCamp Portland 5. But there’s a lot we want to accomplish for next year’s event and so we’re going to start early. We want to totally revamp our branding and our website and do a lot better at marketing the event. Want to help? Yup, you guessed it, we have a mailinglist for that too.