This post is my rant on how to make QCon a better conference or any developer conference for that matter. I’ve attended it for my first time in 2012 and was expecting a great deal since it’s probably the best there is with opening keynotes from people like Martin Fowler.
Quality Over Quantity
In my eyes it’s much better to have 1 day worth of talks with exclusive speakers than three days with lots of very average content with average presenters. QCon had 3 days, 7 parallel lanes and 6 presentations in each one of them. That’s 18 presentations in total for one visitor to see. Or over a hundred presentations in total. However it seems to me from following twitter that only ~10 of them were very well accepted. Some were so good that there was not even a spot to stand.
This leads me to suggest that the conference should be more strict who can attend these massive conferences. I would suggest that it only accepts speakers who have spoken in smaller conferences at least 5 times. There could be selective early bird invites to review the talks before they get accepted. Maybe you could get a discount if you agree to do so. The author would obviously have to make a recording of his talk.
Talk Titles Descriptions
So many times I have felt fooled and lured by a catchy title just to try to stay awake during the talk. I guess there’s nothing wrong to have a catchy title. However I would suggest that each accepted speaker has an introductory video on who he is and what he’s going to speak about. That way you can get a feel of a person before you go see him. Also if the above suggestions have been followed then links to his previous speeches in video should be included so viewers could review how good the speaker is.
Another great addition would be to mark how advanced the talk is. Just add a simple tag: introduction, advanced, expert. However I would argue that QCon should not have any introductions to topics like NoSQL.
Hack Fest Anyone?
My colleague suggested a somewhat crazy idea. To organize a hackfest so that people could do some coding together, solve some challenges, get to know each other, compete, get EXCITED. Have you seen the movie Social Network where devs were competing for a job at facebook and had to hack a linux box while drinking vodka shots during the challenge. Something in that direction maybe?
A conference for everyone
This is an experimental thought also suggested by my colleague. There’s a pattern that developers love talks which talk about organizational changes. It’s weird but they applaud more the talks on how to have a great team, great processes rather than a new tool. However when they go back to their organization it’s very difficult to apply these ideas at your workplace because most of the time you’ll be met with outright scepticism and denial. What if your product managers, your QA’s, your sysadmins and maybe even your CEO would find it worthwhile to go to such a conference. How awesome would it have been if all these different roles could haven seen the Github talk together with you? Or would you be interested to hear from CEO’s who were developers once and how they became who they are and what they’ve learned along the way.
Always organise giveaways at the end of the conference in one big go rather than at random times during the conference. This will keep people from going home and staying in the main hall, getting a few beers, maybe meeting someone and it will also make it more convenient for the visitors.
Don’t kill the messenger
This whole rant might make me sound like an ungrateful bastard but it’s not like that. I do appreciate people trying and doing what they do. The QCon that is right now is still infinitely better than no QCon at all. However as everything else it can be even greater.