Sunday, August 26, 2012

Why go to conferences?

If people know me, it is no great secret that I am a great fan of going to conferences. Within the last year, I've been to several (GOTO Aarhus 2011, QCon London, QCon New York, and Community Day), and as I wrote in my last post, I'm going to GOTO again this year.

So, why do I love conferences so much?

Well, there are many aspects, but a lot of it boils down to two simple reasons:
  • Expanding horizons
  • Networking
Or to expand a bit more on it:

Expanding horizons: When working on projects on a daily basis, one tend to get bogged down on the problems there, and loose the greater overview. Going to conferences not only expands your knowledge, but also gives you new mental tools and frameworks to approach problems.

Heck, some times, the talks make you realize that you have been looking at the wrong problems all along.

Conferences are also great sources for inspiration towards improving yourself. E.g. at last years GOTO, Kevlin Henney gave a keynote talk on Cool Code which fired up just about everybody who listened to it (a video of a less energic version of the talk, which he gave at GeeCON can be seen here).

And of course, conferences help you keep track of tendencies and cool new technologies.

Networking: I am a quite social person (to put it mildly), and at conferences I get the chance to meet a lot of interesting people. The speakers are of course interesting to talk to, but the other participants are also frequently very interesting - the sort of people who wants to go to conferences are often opinionated and have interesting thoughts on many subjects.

So, if you go to conferences, remember to participate in the social events. Also, try to strike up a conversation with strangers, and see where that takes you. You'll often be positively surprised.

Going to the GOTO Aarhus conference

It turns out that I will be going to the GOTO conference in Aarhus this year in my capacity as a blogger. The kind people arranging the GOTO conference have invited me and some other bloggers to come along, and blog about the conference. I obviously thought this was a great idea, and thankfully my employers at NineConsult thought it was a great idea as well.

Since I am a great believer in full disclosure, I thought I'd better be upfront about this potential bias.

This will be the 3rd time I'm going to the GOTO conference - or rather, the second, as I've been once to GOTO and once to JAOO, which was the old name for the conference.

I can easily say that GOTO is my favorite conference - it has the right mix of talks about methods, technologies, frameworks, and broader developer-related subjects for it to appeal to me. It also has the advantage of not being wed to one specific technology - neither in talks nor in vendors. Another great thing about GOTO, is that the speakers are immensely approachable (to be fair, the same was the case at QCon London).

My blogging from the conference will probably be focused on two things:

1) Diversity,  or rather, how we get more diversity in our field, at our conferences etc. GOTO has been great in trying to increase the diversity both among speakers and among participants, and many of the people helping with GOTO are involved in great groups such as Ada Århus, which is a networking group for women in IT in Århus.
Those posts will probably be crossposted at my other blog, since this is a subject I discuss alot on that blog.

2) The talks. If there are some great or thought-provoking talks, I'll be sure to write about them. I've noticed that there is usually some kind of theme going through the talks (e.g. in QCon London in March, it was the concept of knowing your tradeoffs when making decisions), and I'll certainly make sure to write about any such at GOTO.
If any of the talks relate to error-driven development or how to end it, I'll of course also write something.