On conference formats

Matt Wynne just blogged about conferences that have a high proportion of curated content, and how that can seem to create an undesirable rock-star culture in which very few of the attendees participate actively. I didn’t attend the conference that sparked Matt’s thoughts, but I do tend to agree with his sentiments. Here are a few random responses of my own:

  • Stage-managed is much less engaging and enjoyable than spontaneous. This is one of the reasons I’m no longer involved with AgileNorth.
  • I like BoFs (Birds of a Feather sessions), which are more like round table discussions than presenter-led talks.
  • I like SPA‘s randomly-selected buddy groups, in which a group of strangers meet occasionally to share their experiences of the conference so far.
  • I loved the hacking on raffle in response to Matt’s call-to-arms at the Scottish Ruby Conference in 2012.
  • The lightning talks were one of the highlights of this year’s #scotruby for me.
  • I was uncomfortable at SPA the year Kent Beck came to talk about XP, because the whole 3 days became the Kent circus; he was accompanied everywhere by 50 sycophants.
  • After Jim Weirich‘s rspec-given talk this year I wanted to stand up and say “This excites me so much that later I will be re-coding the event_bus specs in this style — who wants to pair?”, but there wasn’t the time. I wish every conf session would end with pairing challenges such as that.

Hearing new ideas from speakers is great; but discussing ideas and learning from friends and strangers is much greater. In my opinion.

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