4 good reasons why you should go to the goto conference…or any other quality conference

Going to conferences is often considered an expensive form of entertainment and more or less a waste of time, but I think this really misses the point. Conferences are one of the very few activities that help you attain multiple objectives: if you take a course you will just learn a new skill. If you go to meet ups you will just network and meet new people. If you read magazines like wired and blogs like signal vs. noise you may get inspiration and following specific groups on LinkedIn or quora may help you spot some trends, but going to a conference will provide all four things in one experience and more concentrated. It will also be something you will remember years from now (which most of the others aren’t)

Soon I am going to the GoTo conference, so let us take that as an example.

Like most tech conferences Goto conferences have several days devoted purely to training. Here you can keep up to date with the latest techniques like Continuous Delivery, new technologies like AngularJS or more soft areas like usability for mobile devices. This is a really good opportunity because the trainers are usually internationally acclaimed authorities in the field, who are also speaking at the conference. Chances are that training of this calibre is not something you find at your local community college.

Meeting people and expanding your network is always a good idea. First of all you will probably learn something from them, second they may in one way or another lead you to your next venture. Rumour has it that David Heinemeier Hanson, creator of Ruby on Rails and Jason Fried Co-founder of 37 Signals met at a GoTo conference and thereby laid the foundation for a true powerhouse in web development that gave us Basecamp and Highrise. It could also occur that you met a real moron that provoked you to think of something you hadn’t thought about before. Either way growing your network is a good thing at conferences.

Few places offer better chances to get inspired than good conferences. It could be that discussion about Doctor Who after the fifth pint of Guinness in the wee hours of the night, the presentation of a new technology in a booth or overhearing a heated argument about the best distributed database on the market. It obviously could also be a presentation at the actual conference, but inspiration in my opinion comes in unexpected ways and during a conference you are out of your normal (comfort) zone so you are more alert and exposed to new ideas.

Following trends and what is happening can be very difficult if you are not tapping into the right communication lines (and these lines are constantly changing), but at really good conferences you will very quickly spot what the trends are. You can do this by looking at the booths at the conference, listening to the conversations of others and generally looking through the program to find words that are repeated across different presentations and training offerings. These days it seems that Big data and Agile is on top.

So, if you are not going yet then you have four good reasons to convince your boss or yourself to go to the goto conference or other quality conferences.

The Secret Sauce of the Goto Experience And What It Will Bring Us In Copenhagen This September

Over the last couple of years I have attended Goto conferences and always thought they were one of a kind. I always came back with a lot of things I didn’t know and a lot of new thoughts on things I already knew. I will of course go again this year. Looking through the program, it struck me that there is actually a basic pattern that goes through all Goto conferences. I think I have deciphered it and unlocked the secret code of the Goto experience.

Like a good recipe you have to start with good raw materials and Goto always have class a speakers from all the most interesting companies. The same is the case here. They have speakers from Netflix, Uber, Pinterest, New York Times. They also have people who invented the stuff and wrote the textbooks, like Martin Fowler, Devlin Kenney, Jez Humble and Tim Bray.

Something provocative
At goto conferences we always find something provocative. This year Tim Bray asks “Does the browser have a future?”. It reminds me about 10 15 years ago when I saw a comedian asking the question “Is TV here to stay or is it just a fad”. We were all laughing our guts out (or ROFL as it would later come to be known) because it was so evident that TV, was here to stay. But asking provocative questions sometimes is an eyeopener. Consider asking the same question today? It could even be the theme of a serious op ed in New York times. No one would be laughing. So, try to control your ROFL and listen to the provocative questions.

Something agile
It is no secret that agile has always been at the heart of the goto experience whether it is continuous delivery, scrum or kanban. In later years much of the agile interest has turned towards the lean start up movement (as I documented a couple of years ago). This is also the case this year where the lean enterprise is in the program.

Something about UX
One thing that I have enjoyed a lot on Goto conferences has been the uncompromising focus on user experience and usability. This year Chris Atherton has an interesting talked called “UX for mobile: It’s all about attention” which I am looking a lot forward to. She combines a software design with cognitive neuroscience, which is another thing you often see at goto conferences: the courage to dig a bit deeper and look at cognitive, physical or neurological foundations of what is a basic computer problem.

Something about massive scaling
There is no denying the geeky heart of goto. One year for example it was about the data collection at CERN. This year we have Architecture at Uber to satisfy quench the scaling thirst.

Something incredibly nerdy about new languages or frameworks
A couple of years ago Anders Hejlsberg chose the goto conference for the international announcement of Typescript. There is always stuff about the most obscure and up-and-coming new languages and frameworks at the goto conference. One example this year is “Idioms for building distributed fault-toleratn applications with Elixir”.