Reblogging this post about Cascadia.js 2014 because Cascadia.js 2015 is in full swing and I’m feeling all nostalgic about last year. Note that I’m posting an epilogue/update at the end.
Usually, when I do a trip report, I’ve taken lots of notes in conference talks and this is my chance to regurgitate them. Happily, all of the 2014 Cascadia.js talks are online and, since the organizers had 170 proposals to choose from for 21 speaking slots, they are all phenomenal talks, so no regurgitation here. Here is a bold statement: this was the best conference experience I have ever attended which includes speaking or just attending. This was not my first conference. (Note: I was also on the roster to give a talk with friend and mentor, Ryan Dy.)
What made this such a great freakin’ conference?
There are some very specific reasons why I had such a great time and I hope that other conference organizers will take some of these reasons into consideration when organizing their own conference. (If you know a conference organizer, please share this post with them.)
1. Code of conduct
This is not a standard yet, but all conferences, meet-ups, etc. should have one. NO EXCUSES.
If you are STILL wondering why this is so important, Leigh Honeywell has written an excellent blog post which puts this in simple terms even a nerd can understand.
The standard you walk past is the standard you accept — David Morrison via C.J. Silverio
Cascadia.js was very up front with their COC and I’m sure it made the conference better. If you are a conference organizer and don’t where to start, have a look at this template.
2. Single track…ftw!
Having been to both extremely large conferences and peer conferences that included about 10-15 people, I am now convinced that small and single-track is my favorite conference format. It gives everyone at the conference a conversation starter. There are no choices about which talk to attend, and the talks are usually better because there are fewer speaking slots.
I’ve been to conferences where the speakers have all been “industry experts with X years of experience.” I guess that’s one way to sell the value of what someone is saying, but people who are new to a language or to speaking have their own lessons to offer. For example, what Ruth Baril had to say about the anxiety of asking questions at meet ups was something that I think everyone needs to hear as it addresses approachability within the tech community.
4. Creating a wider audience for a conference
Watching Lydia Katsambaris’s talk on Bookmarklets and releasing her first code to the world resonated deeply with me since I’ve just had my own first release. In fact, it resonated in a way that any of the deeper code talks wouldn’t have because it speaks to my personal experience. I would much rather watch a talk that speaks to me in that way than to watch a man in an aloha shirt, stomping up and down a stage yelling out excessively boring metaphors about how building software is building a house. (This happened years ago and I walked out of that talk.)
5. Interspersing technical talks with cultural talks meant that more people watched both
On the flip side, I’m sure there were people listening to my talk about mentoring who probably would have skipped it otherwise. Because we were all sitting down in a hot tent, everyone was listening to all of the talks.
The lovely professional photos seen throughout this post were shot by Matthew Bergman