Back in the day when Niteo was still a consulting company I had to do a lot of traveling to find and do work. And to attend conferences. I loved to go to conferences. But being away so much, in boring hotel rooms and eating out every day took a toll on my (mental) health so I decided I needed a break.
The hiatus is now over! I’ve been to three conferences this autumn and I gladly found out they are as enjoyable as I remember them. I’ve been to Open Data Science Conference in London, the annual Plone Conference in Barcelona and finally MicroConf EU in Lisbon. They are vastly different conferences: ODSC is huge and very corporate and academical, MicroConf is tiny, lifestyle-oriented and friendly. And then there is PloneConf: consistently the best fun you can have at a conference. 🙂
Here are a few random thoughts:
- The data science community is very much where the Python community was a decade ago in terms of Open Sourcing their work. The questions “But how do you make money?” and “How did you convince your boss?” came up a lot during the conference. Maybe I need to do a talk to address these next year. We’ve been open sourcing our code for a decade now and recently also published our internal policies and work processes for others to learn from.
- Conferences absolutely *suck* if you don’t do a talk. As soon as you are a speaker, at least 50 people will have a feeling they know you (since they were listening to you talk for 30 minutes or more) and they will approach you in the hallway, on social events. You are invited to VIP events where the crowd is smaller and the newly formed relationships are stronger (because you interact with a smaller group of people more often). If you haven’t, you gotta try it. You’ll see how much it improves your conference experience. You’ll have a better time, you’ll meet more people and you will learn a ton more.
- If I’m ever organizing a conference, and we’re doing a social event in the evening, people need to get free drinks. It sucks that we as a community need alcohol to open up, but sadly, we do. Not everyone, but it helps. And conferences are about meeting your peers. You learn the most when discussing problems with people, not when listening to talks. The “hallway track” is the thing that makes conferences great. And that two beers on the social event help jumpstart the conversations. Obviously, make sure you have great non-alcoholic options, you cannot go wrong with lemonade or even freshly pressed juice.
- Plone is still very much alive and has a vibrant community. A great example of an Open Source project that was able to survive handover from original authors to contibutors that joined years later.
- Lightning talks are one honking great idea — let’s do more of those!
- There’s a whole community of self-funded, bootstrapped entrepreneurs out there. So bummed I did not realize this earlier, it’s such a welcoming bunch of people. MicroConf is definitely going on my yearly conference schedule.
- off-topic: Until recently I couldn’t care less about NFC-powered credit cards. Then London happened. Wow is it convenient to have NFC readers on subways, buses, pubs, everywhere! Any other city you need to consult the map to know which zones are you crossing, what ticket you need to buy, etc. In London you tap your credit card when you get on and off whatever public transport you use, and the system automatically charges you an appropriate amount. Completely hassle-free. Why isn’t every city like this?!
2018 is shaping up to be great! EuroPython in Edinburgh, PloneConf going to Tokio (!!) this year and possibly another MicroConf in the beautiful and surf friendly Lisbon. See you at one of them!