Last week the fifth edition of GeeCON took place. GeeCON is my favourite conference and I attended it every year since my first time in 2010. This year I successfully spread the word and brought some friends with me to Kraków. The conference was awesome as expected and I learned a lot of things. At the end of the conference I was asked at least three times to make sure I provide proper feedback to the organizers. Being an organizer of community events myself, I appreciate open feedback from attendees. After fulfilling my duty in completing the GeeCON satisfaction survey I want to comment on several aspects of GeeCON without any specific order of items.
I was told that GeeCON will stay in Kraków for the next event as well. This might have several reasons, like a better venue or preferences of the organizers but I heard that it is because the international speakers like Kraków more than Poznan. Content matters, so it is paramount for GeeCON to attract world class speakers - and it does - but the conference is for the community, the Polish Java community to be precise. Different locations of GeeCON give people around the country a better opportunity to attend the conference, at least every second year. Travelling to Poznan was more cumbersome for me than travelling to Kraków, but I accepted it without question.
Compared to Kraków, the venue in Poznan was better suited for socializing. In the evening, people just exited the cinema and walked to the next place in the old city for dinner, allowing groups that formed during the conference to stay together without much hassle. In Kraków, everyone needed to go to the city centre either by bus, taxi or his/her own car, which made it more difficult to stay together in groups.
Reducing the conference booklet to a single page was a good idea to safe money. First I was surprised when I did not see the nice booklet in my bag but then I was happy that it was much smaller and saved space in my pocket. But then it was not possible to select talks during the conference because the abstracts of the talks was missing.
Devoxx has a great Conference Schedule app which I liked a lot. As far as I know it is possible to customize it for other conferences, so maybe you (organizers) want to have a look. It would provide the abstracts of the sessions as well which is handy from time to time.
I love the conference bags issued by GeeCON. The cloth bags are useful long after the conference, and the material is very durable. Usually my wife takes them from me as soon as I return from the conference and I never see them again. (I managed to hide one of the previous three bags for my personal usage, but do not tell her.) But this time the cloth felt thin and the black design was not suitable for daily usage. I know that "the colour is not important as long as it is black" but my wife did not even look at it a second time, neither did I.
The lack of Wi-Fi seems to be an usual problem on conferences. As local attendees just use their smart-phones, the load on Wi-Fi should be smaller than years ago. Still there were times when I wished for a working Wi-Fi at GeeCON, especially when I wanted to tweet something. On the other hand I lived fine without checking my emails all day. Nevertheless Wi-Fi should be working in all rooms of the conference all the time. Unreliable connections are just frustrating.
Some sessions had a title that was creating wrong expectations. Probably it was the speaker's right to choose a title he or she saw fit for the talk, still I wished the titles of sessions would reflect the content. When a session was mainly about applying a tool or framework, then the name of that tool or framework should be part of the title of that session. It happened that I would switch session in the first minutes after realizing that my expectations of the presentation would not be met. Beside that I was happy with most sessions that I attended. I learned some new things and I agreed to most things that I heard. Some presentations were important and every developer should see them (unless he or she is already familiar with the topic and even then refreshing one's memory never hurts).
Selection of Topics
One organizer told me that this year they grouped the sessions into tracks because this was a main complaint from attendees of earlier versions. It was clearly visible, there was a Scala track, a NoSQL track, probably a mobile and a Cloud track and these tracks reflected the current popularity of topics. I visit conferences to enjoy a wide range of different sessions and I definitely missed more presentations on code quality and testing. Maybe there were less submissions in these areas because they were less popular.
Between the sessions I had interesting chats with other attendees but then I was late for the next session. Maybe you (organizers) could install some audible sign that the next session is going to start in 30 seconds. This does not need to be something special, just a small bell that I would hear during the break.
Code instead of Beer?
The GeeCON beer sprint did not make me happy. I am not fond of beer and people did not end in the same place. After two days without any coding I felt itchy to write some code. A Coding Dojo styled evening would be a nice alternative to the beer sprint, of course people would still be able to drink beer there as well. Maybe we can make something up for next GeeCON?
Open Spaces was like a cherry on a top the awesome GeeCON experience. I met cool people and made some new friends. Unfortunately it is not easy to keep in touch with people if you only know their first name. I would like to see a list of all registered attendees, just their full names and/or Twitter handles, so I could look up people I talked to and get in touch again.
Dear GeeCON organizers! Again you did a great job, thank you very much.