Conferences vs. codecamps? Is it binary? (Message from the CTO, newsletter 48)

02 June 2011

While at Tech·Ed in Atlanta, Jeff and I recorded a specially-themed Message from the CTO about conferences and the like.

Conferences or codecamps? Is it binary?

For a change, Jeff and I have moved out of the studio to our booth at TechEd in Atlanta to record this particular Message from the CTO. As we're here, what better topic than a discussion about big conferences versus little codecamps.

Over the past couple of years, there has been a marked increase in the number of programmer codecamps being produced. You can understand why: many of them are free or low-cost compared to the $1000 entry cost or so of the big conferences. And they're usually right next door, they have the same speakers, and they attract local recruiters. You have some great opportunities for one-on-one networking with peers and with vendors.

That's not to say that big conferences are all negative. The gathering of a large number of attendees is a great opportunity for big splashes: the new product, the shift in direction, the big names. Just think of conferences like PDC, JSConf, Google IO. These days even stay-at-homes can benefit: the videos of the keynotes and talks are broadcast immediately or are made available quickly. For the attendees, there's usually a big attendee party at places like Universal Studios to relax after sipping from the firehose.

For vendors like ourselves, the issues are magnified. We have a certain pool of money for marketing and advertising. Do we spread it out? Concentrate on doing more smaller events, or a couple of larger ones? Doing smaller ones involves more travel: we have to send our evangelists out to more places, so there's more flights, more hotels overall. Doing larger ones means more logistics: there's the booth design and transportation, more swag to produce, and more people to send.

So, what do you think? Do you like the big official shows or do you prefer the intimacy of small codecamps? Let us know.

Thanks must go to our Community Evangelist, Rachel Hawley, for providing me some of the better ideas I put into the post. The rest of them are mine, alas.

You can view the video here.

(Aside: it was a hoot to record. Amanda was standing right next to the camera holding up my laptop, which was acting as my teleprompter. Unfortunately my “distance” glasses had broken earlier that week and I had on my “computer reading” glasses instead: I was finding it difficult to read my own words on the screen. Hence. The. Almost. Shatneresque. Delivery.)

Anyway: what do you think? Do you prefer big conferences? Or the smaller local codecamps and user group meetups?

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