Conferences and Conferring

Matt Heusser just posted a blog entry on conferences, where he makes excellent recommendations. During much of my career, I relied primarily on magazines and online communications (remember CompuServe?) to broaden my horizons. These were worthwhile, but are no match for face-to-face communications.

Notice that there’s two parts to the above paragraph. The first part is about learning more about my craft–the career that I’ve chosen (or which has chosen me). I’m amazed, sometimes, by people who show no apparent interest in learning. Perhaps, though, it’s just not apparent to me. In any event, I find learning more about software development fascinating. I also find it necessary, as the field constantly changes and grows. Why I remember how excited I was when I first learned about Data Flow Diagrams…sorry, I guess I’m geezing out, again.

The second part is that I learn this stuff from people. The fact that I got much of it via printed and online communications doesn’t change that; it just obscures it. And for a geek, like me, that made it more comfortable. I’ve come to find, though, that learning directly from people is a much deeper, richer experience. It’s more work for an introvert like me, but that’s OK.

This leads me to mention a conference that Matt didn’t mention, Amplifying Your Effectiveness, or AYE. This conference is different in a number of ways from the ones that Matt describes. It certainly isn’t like the big ones–the attendance is limited and there are no PowerPoint presentations, for example. The sessions are experiential, not lectures. The biggest difference, though, is that while most of the attendees are software developers, testers, or managers, the sessions don’t teach you how to do these things. Instead, they concentrate on working effectively with the people around you. I am limited more by my people skills than by my technical ones. Perhaps many geeks are in a similar situation.

Matt also mentioned that you can start your own conference. It’s even easier than that. You can just get some like-minded people together and meet. That’s how we started the Agile Maryland group.

It can be hard to find the time to meet after work. It can also be hard to find others within a reasonable distance who will also take the time to meet. But it’s very rewarding, and well worth the effort.

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