Well, it’s done. Our first ever Day Camp 4 Developers was yesterday and was by most accounts, a rousing success. Some of the comments over at Joind.In are just wonderful. I won’t rehash all the great times and comments but I do want to list a few things I learned, even if only for myself.
Don’t write software, use the tools available
I came up with the idea for DC4D one Friday afternoon. By Saturday evening I had a site up and tickets for sale. I had a mailing list and an online venue. Everything I needed to put on and publicize this event was ready for me to use. Many of the tools were either free or no-cost until I actually used them. It is amazing the tools that are available to entrepreneurs these days. I am a programmer, my first inclination is to sit down and hammer out the code I need to do the task. That is not only not necessary these days, I would say that it’s actually a bad idea. Use what is available. Don’t be afraid to pay for good tools, the programmers that wrote them deserve to make a living just like you do.
Ignore for a moment that it’s founder is also a big tool, WordPress is the cornerstone I built DC4D on. Everything I needed to get the site up and running quickly was there. It took me an hour to get WordPress up, running and configured the way I wanted it. I spent the rest of that day writing content and getting ready to promote the conference.
This was the first experience I have had with EventBrite but it won’t be the last. It is a reasonably priced service that takes care of all the details of selling and managing tickets. I cannot recommend this service enough. Even the one refund I had to issue was painless and they gave me their fee back for that ticket automatically. Their integration with PayPal was seamless.
I knew I would have to have a mailing list to communicate to the attendees and the “wannabe campers”. I’ve been using MailChimp for php|architect for 6 months now and really like the tools and service they offer. My only complaint regarding mailchimp is that they advertise EventBrite integration but it is a very limited integration. It would have been nice to have been able to setup a pipe that automatically added ticket holders to a mailing list so that I could use MailChimp’s tools to communicate with them and not have to rely on EventBrite’s limited mailing tools. Beyond that, they were great as always.
Every silver lining has a cloud and GoToWebinar was our cloud. On the surface, it’s a great tool and since I used their 30 day free trial to host DC4D, I suppose it’s hard to complain much…but I will. First, they have been saying for months that they are working on a Linux client. Guys, quit promising vapor-ware. Either do it or admit you can’t. You aren’t winning any friends by just saying “it’s coming”. Second, if you say there is a limit of 100 people, mean it. What you don’t tell people is the 100 person limit on a room counts each connection. So if someone connects, disconnects and then reconnects, they are counted twice. Not to be rude but that’s just stupid. I started getting notices that the room was over it’s limit and that people weren’t being allowed to connect even though the counter clearly showed “51 Attendees/ 101 Max”. Change your algorithm or change the damn counter, either works for me. Also, gotowebinar is a bit pricey. It’s the cheapest service I could find that will actually do the job but it’s not cheap and it’s not really a value for what they offer. I will be looking around again at other services before our next DC4D.
Long breaks are bad
We had 15 minutes between each session and 2 hours for lunch. WAY TOO LONG. The next one will have much shorter breaks. I was trying to model a real conference and while I did, I didn’t take into consideration that people may just want 30 minutes for lunch to get things prepared and then eat while the next session is going on. The next one will be shorter because I will do 5-10 minute breaks and 30 minutes for lunch.
People will forgive a LOT if the content is good
Regardless of any technical issues we had, the attendees hung in there, listened, participated when possible and generally enjoyed the conference. Josh dialed in from his cell phone for his audio so it wasn’t as clear. That didn’t stop people from listening, quoting him and participating in the irc channel. It was true in the beginning of the web and it’s still true today, content is king.
Even in cyberspace, people want a place to just yak
I didn’t announce it earlier but we did have an irc channel setup for attendees. We had an average of 50 people in attendance at any time and usually 40 in the irc channel. My parter in Blue Parabola, Keith Casey was in there the entire day and had this to say.
As much as the irc conversation drifted, it mostly came back on point. Sort of like the community.
Honestly, I’m still reading the logs as I didn’t get a chance to participate much. From what I have read so far the irc channel served the same purpose as tables out in the main hallway of a conference. It gave people a chance to connect, discuss what they learned and generally hang out.
Face-to-face still trumps cyberspace
I just got back in from ZendCon and I am heading out tomorrow for CodeWorks. I know the value of a live, in-person conference and don’t expect DC4D to even make a dent in conference attendance. However, to draw crowds, conferences have to stick with topics that are popular. DC4D was designed from the start to cover smaller topics. I don’t ever expect to have more than 100-150 people at a virtual conference. But those 100+ people are all very interested in the topic. DC4D gives me a chance to present topics that aren’t big enough to draw at a major conference but are still important to developers.
Wraping it up
That’s my wrap-up. Not your typical conference wrap-up but then again, DC4D wasn’t your typical conference. Again, to all my speakers, thank you for taking the time to participate, I know creating content isn’t easy and I hope you found the experience rewarding. To all the attendees, thank you! You were kind, you were patient and you were polite. I am thrilled that some of you posted that you thought the conference was a good value for your money. Those who know me know that my passion is helping developers; I count DC4D a win because from the feedback received I think some people were inspired, motivated and when necessary, kicks in the seat of the pants.
Until next time,
I <3 |<