Why we organise tech conferences

2013-05-27 · 4 min read

Note: A conference in this article refers to an event that is organised on a general topic, out of general interest. It is different from product-oriented events (sometimes also called conferences) organised by companies to promote their own specific products.

Recently EuRuKo, a nomadic, european Ruby conference, got its own page on Wikipedia - long awaited moment and well deserved distinction. A conference that always inspired me, mainly because of its openness and its community-drive. It was a great influence back in 2006 when I founded RuPy Conference.

This particular circumstance of EuRuKo getting a page on Wikipedia got me thinking about my personal interests and ambitions towards tech events organisation - why do I really make an effort to organise them? I realised that my motivation is built upon three important principles.

The first one is that conferences are supposed to embrace diversity. It's about accepting and respecting anything that seems foreign and strange. Specifically in tech, it's about being always open to use a different toolset. Communication is not the problem anymore. It seems that we don't need, as much as in the past, another conference focused on a particular framework or programming language when the community used it to support themselves. It is much better and beneficial to mix different thoughts and to encourage a holistic view on technology. Therefore, these days, conferences should facilitate comparing and contrasting different approaches while avoiding group isolation.

The second one is that conferences should be made out of passion: with love and not for profit. Therefore they should strive to be affordable. Their main objective is to spread the knowledge and to reach as many people as possible. They should facilitate human interaction, not make the price stand in the way. Also, funding a conference does not have to be expensive.

Lastly and most importantly, conferences should be community-driven. Nowadays companies make great effort to be different and stand out from the crowd. Conference organisation provides without a doubt a great marketing leverage for business. But wouldn't it be better if such organisations emerged from a collective initiative of people brought together because they share the same ideas and because they want to make something genuinely good that supports the community? Let's also not forget that business is an integral part of any conference - it generously supports event organisation in form of sponsorships which already provides great marketing effect.

On top of that three principles, I believe that a transparent approach is mandatory for any community-driven endeavour - we are all stakeholders. In the next post I'll explain how we are going to tackle the challenge of transparency at RuPy 13. This year’s mission for RuPy is to become one of the most open and transparent conferences that ever existed: a conference that always places the community first.

A conference is like a vessel which brings people together, and for that reason it should be like an open book. The real value lies in an exchange of thoughts and through multiple connections established between people while it happens. More importantly, such defined value is beneficial for every participant; it is her or his « social capital ». For that reason, a conference only makes sense if its organisation committee is neutral. In addition, closed groups may simply intimidate and discourage any form of participation in conference organisation. As in Open Source, you should be always able to join, knowing your contribution will remain individual, open and free. I like to think about the committee as of gallery curators who just keep watch and who facilitate « the discovery ». It's about easy access to knowledge for everyone willing to learn, on a neutral ground - that's why we should organise conferences.