Garrett Smith, August 17, 2015

What Makes a Great Conference?

The best conferences I’ve been to have been small. Like 150, or less. They’ve had great speakers with challenging content — super smart people talking about things I should know more about. That attracts great attendees. In this sea of talent I’m buffeted by new thinking and experiences that challenge my status quo and inspire me to grow. Looking back I can say that these events have been the most formative in my professional development as a programmer, easily.

A great conference is more than listening to speakers. It’s exchange — some planned, but much spontaneous and unpredictable. A great conference is marked by the emergence of new ideas, experiments, and knowledge.

In some ways conferences are the new guild system, bringing like minded people together to focus on shared interests, even if for a short time. Conferences do what email, Twitter, and IRC cannot: bring us face-to-face, increase our communication bandwidth 1000 fold, and activate the social, cooperative intellectual play that is the hallmark of human creativity.

So yeah, I love conferences. Especially great ones :)

Here’s what I’m going for with City Code:

  • Small — always less than 200
  • Speaker led content — find amazing people and invite them to talk about what they think is important
  • Exchange — more than listening, but social dialogue where the lines between speaker and attendee are blurred
  • Surprise — the speakers and ideas at City Code must be diverse enough that no one escapes without something new and challenging

City Code is starting in my home town of Chicago. And what better venue to provide a connection between speaker and audience than the amazing Second City Theater? It’s been a blast working with the creative folks there — and we’re keeping a secret that every City Code participant will be super psyched to learn! We’d tell you, but it’s a secret, so stay tuned!