I like That Conference. It’s a young conference; this August was only its second occurrence, and I’ve had the privilege to speak at both. It’s hosted at the Kalahari Resort in the Wisconsin Dells, one of these enormous hotels that boasts both an exterior and interior water park. The conference has always been family friendly (hence the location), so I’ve enjoyed bringing my wife and daughter with me. I certainly look forward to when my daughter is old enough to attend the Lego Mindstorm kid programming sessions! She’s only a year and a half old, though, so in the meantime she’s building quite a proficiency in pool splashing.
While I enjoy the family atmosphere and the focus on bolstering tech in the Midwest, the thing that impresses me most about the conference is the vision and heart of the organizers. The passion they exude is abundant, and the fortitude it takes to build an event like this as volunteers is worthy of applause.
One of the overarching themes that Clark Sell made clear throughout the conference was that this was our conference. The organizers had set the stage, but ultimately the success of the conference was in our hands. What would we learn? Who would we engage? How would we challenge our own views? Look at our coworkers and colleagues in a different light? Would we break out of our comfortable lectures to have discussions in the Open Space room?
I’ve heard challenges like this at the beginnings of other conferences, but something about this time rang true. The organizers are hackers like us. They had been engaging in the creative process for the last year, but the end product was not meant to be static. They started the conversation, but we had to continue it. The conference wasn’t perfect, but we had been given the opportunities to contribute, to make it better. Speakers, attendees, organizers, sponsors, we were all building an environment together.
Perhaps this is why I came away from this conference with many more thoughts and experiences to share that at other conferences. I’ll be sharing them here in following articles as a small contribution back to the community. When That Conference 2014 arrives, I will be excited to once again participate in this living environment and push our Midwest development community forward, one conversation at a time.