I’m ready for a new kind of conference

During the last week I was able to go to two software development conferences, the Ann Arbor Day of .NET and Stir Trek. I love these events because I get to see a lot of people that I don’t get to see on a regular basis.

On the other hand, I don’t feel like I get much out of the sessions anymore. It’s not that the sessions are bad, but I feel like I’ve heard a 100/200 level talk on pretty much everything I want to hear about. At each of these conferences there have been some talks that I have really enjoyed, but a lot that I don’t have a real interest in hearing again.

Granted, I’ve been to more of these events than a lot of people. I remember the first time I went to events like this and they were awesome. I was learning a ton of stuff and it was new and exciting.

I miss that feeling. I certainly don’t know it all. I know there is a lot that I could learn. But I guess I’m ready for a new kind of conference. Some ideas floating around in my head:

  • A conference featuring mostly 300-400 level talks
  • A BarCamp style event where anyone can sign up and show code
  • An all open space conference

I know there are conferences like this. I know I’m not the only person who thinks this because I’ve talked to other people feeling the same way. I’ve heard of some of these conferences, but they’ve been other places other than Central Ohio. For example, look at the session list for the most recent ALT.NET Seattle event and notice the difference between this event and the various Day of .NET events. Granted, the target audience is different. But I’m a part of that target audience. I don’t always have the time and money to travel to these events.

I think part of the problem is the wide breadth of technologies in the .NET space. In the last year Microsoft has released Silverlight 4, Windows Mobile 7, .NET 4, ASP.NET MVC 2, OData, and probably other stuff that I can’t remember off the top of my head. So it’s really easy to come up with an “Intro to <insert new MS tech here>” because there are so many choices. Often times these are compelling topics, don’t get me wrong. But every day I go to work and I’m working on plain old web apps or Winforms apps or WPF apps like the rest of you. I want someone to come talk about how I can do better at what I’m doing every day. Show me how to better implement design patterns, or how to test my code better, or how you structure your MVC app to take advantage of jQuery validation, or how to use some ORM, etc. Those things will help me do a better job on the projects that I’m working on today. Sure, I’m curious about Windows Mobile 7 and Silverlight and OData, but my first priority is to get better at the stuff I’m using at work right now.

I feel like I’m getting a lot of talks that might pique my curiosity about new technology, but not a whole lot about how I can improve at the stuff I already know. I’m talking about talks like Nate Kohari’s talk at MIX about how he built Agile Zen with ASP.NET MVC and jQuery. When I watched this talk, I got some ideas on how to do some things, but I also realized that Nate is doing some crazy stuff with jQuery and JavaScript that I would’ve never thought of. It showed me some things that I need to go learn that could really help me on my current ASP.NET MVC project.

Please don’t think I’m criticizing conferences like Stir Trek or the Ann Arbor Day of .NET, because they’re good events put on by volunteers who spend their own time to put it on without any compensation, and I’m really thankful that people spend their time so that we can have community events like this.

I guess I’m just looking how I can take my daily work to the next level.