DevDay 2015 & my evolving perspective on conferences

DevDay 2015 is history now.

If you don't know what DevDay is, check my summaries for prev years' editions (2014 or 2013) or google for someone else's review of this year's edition (I believe that they'll start appearing any minute) as this time I'm not going for a 'standard' point-by-point review ...

I'll try to make it brief, but I have to start with a personal intro:

I DON'T attend conferences ...

  • ... to learn some theory (language / framework / library / whatever) - there are other, better, faster, more efficient ways to do that
  • ... to learn about new goodies - announcements / plans - these are rarely announced at local conferences, so the news you can obtain this way is usually outdated
  • ... to socialize with the community (anymore) - this is something about myself I've learned recently - I focus on my regular community contacts who are usually either in Warsaw (where I live) or so well established that we don't need conferences to stay in touch
  • ... to recharge inner batteries / recover motivation (another recent finding) - at least not in a way I was doing it before: access to information is that good nowadays that I don't have to go to conferences to know how many great things are happening around every day - reaching to passionate people & learning about their work has never been easier
  • ... to enlighten everyone around with my presence ;) - well, I'm just not a spotlight addict - I believe that my work or opinions of people who work with me are the best testimony of my skills & knowledge; and if people want to contact me (for whatever reason), I believe they can find a better way than looking for me at the conferences

But I DO attend conferences ...

  • ... to hear practitioners telling their actual war-stories - not basic theory you can find in any tutorial, but ACTUAL problems in ACTUAL situations with ACTUAL efforts taken to overcome them (regardless of the output, lesson learned is value itself) - such sessions may be extremely valuable
  • ... when I need a deep dive into something totally new - new community, new technology, new method, new whatever; it usually happens when I have a limited perspective on a give topic & I want to get a fast but general understanding of the situation (tech landscape, community maturity, etc.) - that's how I started my romance with BEAM/Erlang/Elixir community
  • ... when I know that I can learn something from the best - but by 'learn' I mean really learn, not just 'listen to': so, what I mean are practical workshops (in a relevant subject) with some top-notch people that could elevate me to some higher level of proficiency or just understanding of particular discipline

Ok, what about DevDay 2015 then?

Based on the criteria mentioned above, DevDay is not for me anymore, I think. Why?

  1. It's a conferences for software developers. In general. Any platform. Any language. In fact, majority of people who attend DevDay are somehow related to .NET, but it's still a very wide range of topics. That's why speakers have to keep their sessions generic & on a rather introductory level.

  2. There were very few war-story-like sessions (namely: just Wunderlist one?). On the other hand, there was plenty of tutorial-alike evangelist stuff (Aurelia, Octopus, RethinkDB, ...). Too much preaching, too little actual building stuff.

  3. Even if a speaker is an absolute badass in a particular topic, it's possible to make non-advanced session that may be interesting for the whole audience without going too far into details. Great example is Jon Skeet's session from DevDay 2013. This year, there was only one session like that: Chris Heilmann about the future of JavaScript.

  4. There should be always some 'soft-core' sessions that are not necessarily about programming itself, but as they are somehow related to our craft, they help us gain a bit different perspective on what we do & how we do it. We all remember awesome performances by Dan North or Rob Ashton from past years. Unfortunately, this edition's ones didn't worked out that well - today I've already struggled to remember what were they about (1 day after the conference!).

What does it mean?

DevDay is not a bad conference. That's for sure. Orgs are very enthusiastic, there's a lot of positive energy in the air, I've met great people: some of them I haven't seen for quite a long time & it was a good opportunity to get back in touch. And there was Rob Conery, absolutely as positive as you would expect after watching his courses or listening to podcasts. I've also wandered a bit around Cracow: a city I've spent fabulous 5 years of my life.

It may still be a great conference for youngsters - people who have just entered the professional software development community: it can help them orientate themselves in its breadth & variety of career options that lay ahead. It may also help them to meet people who can give them a good advice or even steer them in the right direction.

But it's not for me anymore or at least - it's not a 'MUST-ATTEND' event in my conference calendar. Maybe I'm just getting old, but I think that in future I'll lean more towards 100% workshop conferences & single topic, narrow-themed events.

P.S.

The venue is getting far too small for the event of that size.

P.S.S.

I know I may have just picked wrong sessions - different setup could change my perception on the conference. But it's quite unlikely that I was THAT unlucky, I think.