So - it seems like there's going to be a "next year" for DevDays.
What would you like to see change from the DevDays this year?
This was a popular request for this years' DevDays, but apparently it didn't work out. There have been a few audio recordings made, and I'm looking forward to Jon Skeet's videos from the London DevDays, but it would really great to have recordings made for those that can't be in attendance or want to see a talk from another city, as well as helping those that do avoid the need to take notes, and consequently pay more attention to the presenter.
This doesn't have to be a philanthropic service either - I'm sure many people would pay money for a high-quality collection of talks on disc.
What I would change / tweak:
Employer buy-in: Although I found it relatively easy to get my employer to pay for it, I gather that something like 60% of the attendees at the London event had to pay for it out of their own pocket, and no doubt had to take a day off to attend. I think there would be mileage in providing some words that can be used by attendees to sell the next dev day to their employers.
Larger venue: I obviously can't speak for other venues, but Kensington Town Hall in London seemed a little cramped for the number of attendees.
Organised meetups: It would be great to have some organised opportunities to meet with other like-minded developers either before or after the event.
What I would keep the same:
Multiple topics: I liked the eclectic nature of the presentations, and in fact got the most out of a talk in which I had no prior interest.
Nobody expects a $99 conference to include an after party, but you should provide some sort of signal to attendees on where to go after the conference. Part of the allure of DevDays is having 500 devs in the same place.
As an added bonus, this would be incremental revenue for DevDays, because the bar/restaurant you send people would definitely pay you to be the featured destination.
I think its one thing Cletus and I could agree on. Though it is less likely I would fly to Perth
It sounds like the WiFi was pretty bad at most of the conferences. I know there are limitations in terms of what the venue provides, and I'm vastly oversimplifying, but why not at least get a few enterprise-grade access points and set them up in the corners? At least this way you wouldn't run out of IPs, like what happened in Boston. (As an example, I had to post this through my tethered iPhone)
Fortunately, this seems to be a priority for Joel, so I look forward to his solution next year.
There were two "house ad" played during the breaks: one for the Business of Software conference, and one for the FogCreek Training DVDs. Although people COULD have walked out and socialized outside, programmers are polite by nature, and they sat and watched the promos. That time would have been better spent for socializing/networking.
Please don't assume speakers have unlimited resources or that they're paid by anyone to attend.
I don't live near London, and London is hideously expensive to get to and stay overnight in. After paying to come to the Cambridge dev days, I ended up being the python speaker at London - which I am grateful for being incidentally :-) Financially though, it was a double whammy.
The fact that the event did have high production values though, was a paid for event and had lots of marketing talks (far too many, it's part of the reason I left early) led to much higher expectations. Audio dropping out regularly threw me badly, and that impacts the talk & audience impression. People moan more at the time when that happens though, and people give positive feedback later.
Perhaps worst of all, I felt that I had wasted the time and money of the attendees, due to the feedback, and felt upset at having essentially a very marmite talk (ie either loved or hated in about equal numbers, rather than generally useful to all). In retrospect, after chatting to those who didn't like it, they've generally suggested minor improvements but not wholesale change, which intrigues me.
On the day though, this led me I left thinking I had wasted my time and money - since like many attendees I didn't get paid by my employer to attend, nor did Stack Overflow appear to even consider reimbursing costs. Before the dev days I was happy with this. (All the speakers at community conferences - which I took this to be - pay their own way, and are a lot of fun - europython, pycon etc :-)
After discovering on the day it was primarily a commercial conference with a VERY heavy marketing agenda, I felt somewhat used. For example, I've been thanked for paying my fees to "attend" the Cambridge Dev Day I didn't bother attending after the nasty taste left in my mouth by London, indeed, received several mails about that, but not a peep from the organisers. So I paid for my lunch, ate it and went home early.
Seems a real shame.
HOWEVER, this is teething problems. Every new conference/dev thing has a starting point, and I absolutely agree with Jeff's talk though - the only way to improve is to deal with mistakes next time. (Beating up Jeff and Joel would be very wrong IMO BTW, because if it takes guts to give a talk, it takes A LOT more guts to put on a conference!)
That's my only reason for mentioning this stuff here - I'm over the above really - I've still got the deepest of respect for Joel & Jeff, I'm still really thankful of the real privilege that it was to attend the dev days and give a talk about something I love, and just hope that they take on board what's said here (if they read it - busy people :-), and don't assume next time that speakers have unlimited resources :-)
Finally, in case this comes over in any way as b * * * y, it's not intended that way. I've been umming and ahing about whether I should post anything and come to the conclusion that the only way Joel & Jeff can improve things is with feedback. (After all, my guess is this is just a combination of assumptions gone awry really, and we all do that since we're all human :-)
Hope Jeff liked the chocolate here :-)