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GroupThink: Attending Web Conferences
By Samuel Ryan     GroupThink     Comments

Every year, there seems to be more conferences catering to internet designers, developers, marketers, and bloggers. Some have been around for quite a while, like SXSW and the "Future of" conferences. So the topic for discussion is:

What do you think of these conferences? Are they worth the time and cost (especially if you're paying for it yourself)? Have you ever attended one and what did you find valuable?


Groupthink Contributions
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1
Meg from FruWiki.com
My first real web conference was SXSW this year. There were a few good panelists and plenty of swag, but I didn't really learn anything new from the speakers -- which was a bit disappointing since I know I'm knew the field and have a lot to learn. My impression was that speakers were chosen because they were well-known, and they were well-known because they had ONE good idea and made money with it. They weren't necessarily very knowledgeable or creative when it came to ideas other than their own, or at least they didn't show it. I would have loved to have really learned more, and not just heard the same buzzwords repeated. Of course, maybe I just happened to have sit in on the wrong panels.

However, being able to meet other people in the field in person, people in the trenches and energized by new ideas -- that made it money well-spent.

So, my advice is to go and focus on meeting people. Don't get caught up in the Who's Who game. Just go and start talking to strangers about what they think of this or that new idea. You can make a lot of valuable connections, but they might not be the ones you'd expect.


2
Adam
Hi! I work as a freelancer in London and I have been to a couple of these conferences now, including FOWA and PHP London 2008, and I will be off to FOWA next week.

I really enjoy going to these events because I get to meet like-minded people, and the people who attend are generally very dedicated to their field (otherwise they wouldn't be there!).

Also, when a client comes to me and says they are thinking of using PayPal (or whatever), I can turn around and say "Ah, I was talking to the PayPal Development team at a conference last week and they said..." This shows the client that I really am on top of my game (which is nice for any freelancer). I also met my current hosting provider (flexiscale.com) at FOWA and they are a really great bunch.

I liked FOWA because it was a two day event (and my first) and by the second day I had really got into the talk-to-anyone thing. I still have a bit of trouble getting into the swing of things at the one day conferences, but sometimes you just have to go for it and hope for the best.

Ok, time to stop rambling now!


3
Mitchell
the value of every conference i've been to has been more about networking and dissemination of basic ideas than anything else.

i go to them now because i don't pay for them. i'd probably not go to them in the future, unless i managed to grow my network so that i'd be with friends/acquaintances there. more like a vacation than work.


4
Charles
I think conferences are useful for certain trades, but as for web conferences, there is so much great free info already out there (like this site for instance :-), I would usually (at most) just get a conference CD. I know a lot of people will say face-to-face networking is important, but considering the industry we operate in, you can build solid relationships just as easily via online tools and communication...


5
Brett
I think they provide a great outlet for making contacts and connection within the community. I haven't attended either of the Web Design conferences but have been to Photoshop World a couple times (work related). It's a great place to actual see other people in the same realm as yourself.

Taking new things away from the conference all depends on the attendee and how receptive they are to new ideas and ways of doing things.


6
Medford
I attended NODE 08, Frankfurt last week, I found it inspiring, informative and I did learn about some new software as I did on eof the many workshops. Generally I think it is a great opportunity to meet like minded people and share ideas, points of view and meet people that you wouldn't normally in your industry.

Last word..Good Idea.


7
Ramona Iftode
We have some events like this in Romania too, since there are already some successful people who'd like to teach. Still, I think their quality is not as good as it should be to make up for the prices they ask.

I never attended such events since most of the time I don't recognize the value of the ones who are supposed to "teach" us and most of the time what they say there is just some general mambo jambo I can create too, just from reading 2-3 articles on the web.

My education in web design and development is made solely on articles I was able to find online. They are as close as a click goes and they are of course free.

I did attend some blogger meetings in my city for instance and was able to make friends with other web developers. This was amazing since we were able to start some nice partnerships. Still i am wary when it comes to paying, especially since I do have to work a lot for my money.


8
Keeshia
I have never attended a conference but have definitely looked into doing so. I think the experience itself is simply what you make of it and I would use it to it's fullest. I've yet to set out for one simply due to monetary conflicts but as soon as that isn't a problem, rest assured I will be treking out for these events.

True, you can just read it at home or connect with people online but why not take the opportunity to do it more actively?


9
Arun
I attended a BarCamp in my city last month (my first), and it wasn't nearly as good as I was expecting it to be. Not that my expectations were very high to begin with.

It started off quite well, I met a few nice people, a few weird ones, some people made some nice presentations, but towards the middle/end it got really boring. Plus, most of the people present there just took themselves way too seriously. Definitely not a lot of fun listening to them talk.

Before I actually went to that event, I thought conferences were really useful and a nice way to spend a day. Now, I'm not so sure. Maybe my first experience was just a one-off thing, or maybe it has something to do with the inherent nature of BarCamps in general, but I'm going to think twice before attending another event like that.


10
Chris Kelley
I attended FOWA Miami this year, and as with all conferences I have attended, I have yet to find anything that is as conducive to becoming inspired and driven than attending a good conference. There is nothing like being around like minded people who are excited and passionate.
For this and the networking alone, it FOWA Miami was more than worth the price I paid to come from LA for a few days.


11
David Conlisk
I have just returned to Scotland from CodeGarden 08 in Copenhagen, a developer conference for users of the Umbraco CMS. I thought it was a very valuable experience. They used the Open Space Technology (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Space_Technology) which meant attendees didn't just doze in their seats. I met a lot of other freelancers and came away with some great contacts. I also have a much better understanding of the technology. Definitely worthwhile and worth the expense.


12
JohnnyCaraveo
It would be nice to attend some web conferences to see what other companies are doing to move the web forward.


13
JohnnyCaraveo
It would be nice to attend some web conferences to see what other companies are doing to move the web forward.


14
Cfol
I went to the NNG Conf in NYC this year - serious waste of time. True there was a lot of info but it was 99% novice advice.

A person with 2 or 3 years experience will get a little out of their conferences, but not much. However for a newbie Im sure most of what he preaches wont be obvious.

If you're a pro skip them. If you're not don't miss it.


15
coving
NICE SITE INTERESTING ARTICLE MANY USEFUL INFORMATIONS THX


16
chlorophyll
Very interesting tutorial. It would be nice to attend some web conferences to see what other companies are doing to move the web forward. cheers


17
söve
It would be nice to attend some web conferences to see what other companies are doing to move the web forward.


18
Arti
I would usually (at most) just get a conference CD. I know a lot of people will say face-to-face networking is important, but considering the industry we operate in, you can build solid relationships just as easily via online tools and communication. Before I actually went to that event, I thought conferences were really useful and a nice way to spend a day. Now, I'm not so sure. Maybe my first experience was just a one-off thing, or maybe it has something to do with the inherent nature of BarCamps in general, but I'm going to think twice before attending another event like that.


19
Muhabbet
I never attended such events since most of the time I don't recognize the value of the ones who are supposed to "teach" us and most of the time what they say there is just some general mambo jambo I can create too, just from reading 2-3 articles on the web.


20
Mortgage in Scotland
Living in Scotland I am too far from most web conferences and workshops. London England tends to be the closest about 5oo miles away. I do find internet video useful. Most I’ve been to tend to be too detailed and dry.


21
amber gifts
I liked FOWA because it was a two day event (and my first) and by the second day I had really got into the talk-to-anyone thing. I still have a bit of trouble getting into the swing of things at the one day conferences, but sometimes you just have to go for it and hope for the best.
thx for great info


22
obsluga kart platniczych szczecin
It would be nice to attend some web conferences to see what other companies are doing to move the web forward.Very interesting tutorial.


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My name is Samuel Ryan and I make websites. Sometimes, I write about it. I disappeared from this blog for a couple years, but I'm jumping back in now -- even began using my twitter account. If you care to know more, go here.