Monday, May 14, 2012

Let's Test Raises the Bar for CONFERences

If you follow me regularly, you know that I speak at, participate in, help to organize, facilitate, sponsor, etc. a *lot* of conferences, you know I do my best to give praise where praise is due -- and Let's Test 2012, Stockholm Sweden, held May 7-9 is due plenty of praise for raising the bar for Testing CONFERences.

Lest I offend anyone inadvertently or unnecessarily, allow me to share with you how I categorize conferences.
  1. Academic Conference: Summary presentations of detailed papers... frequently research based, infrequently directly applicable to industry. Papers are vetted in detail and peer reviewed (theoretically leading to high quality content, but that is a debatable matter of opinion)
  2. Peer Conference: A 20ish participant, invitation only, pay your own expenses and no one turns a profit, intense 2-3day, tightly themed, facilitated, deep exploration of participants 1st hand experiences related to the theme.
  3. Vendor Conference: I broadly think of this as any conference put on by a for-profit organization for the purpose of earning money, winning new clients, and/or keeping existing clients happy. I make no distinction between vendors of tools, services, training, or publications. This is what most people think of when they hear "conference"
  4. CONFERence: A hybrid of Peer and Vendor conferences, focused on content and community, organized by non-profit or volunteer groups with no established financial goal beyond "break-even" designed specifically to encourage attendees to CONFER (i.e. self-manage discussions and interactions related to, extending, and/or debating presented materials, as well as simply taking the opportunity to get to network and build relationships w/in their professional community.
Personally, I find it somewhere between difficult and pointless to compare or contrast "goodness" of one category of conference with another. Each category has a purpose, a value proposition, representative instances of "good" and "not-so-good", and I've had both positive and negative experiences with conferences in each category. So do me a favor, and don't misquote this post as making "cross-category comparisons". Cool? Cool.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled blog post.

Ladies & Gentlemen, this CONFERence ROCKED! I simply can't say enough good things about it from beginning to end, but let me try to give you a summary of what's got me amped & making the "bar-raising claim":