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Last weekend (March 3rd - 5th), we attended the MageUnconference in Cologne with the entire team. The German unconference was this year organised again by the Firegento association, in particular Carmen, Sonja, Rico and Fabian. First of all, thanks for your hard work!
This was not the first time we attended an unconference. We also attended the MageUnconference in Berlin last year, aswell as the MageUnconference in Utrecht (The Netherlands), which we also sponsored. Unconferences are our favorite type of conferences, and we’ll use this blog post to explain why.
Which talks? Well, you don’t know beforehand. An unconference is a conference with speakers, they’re just not set when you enter the venue. Everybody is invited to put up a topic they either want to hear about or want to talk about. When the windows are filled with A4 with topics (not necessarily Magento-related), the voting starts. The topics with the most votes get in the schedule and we’re off.
Why is this a good thing? Because it makes the conference as relevant as possible. No ‘case studies’ which actually are sales talks or ego-boosting one-man shows. Only topics that people want to hear about will be chosen. Besides that, because of the (usually) short time of preparation beforehand, the talks usually end up being group discussions, which is great for everybody attending.
Talking at an unconference is a low-barrier entry to the speaking world. Testing the water with like-minded people who have actually shown their interest in the topic you are talking about beforehand – you can’t really get a better springboard to start speaking than that. Unconference fosters new speakers, and that’s a great thing.
Parties and drinks, those are just the ingredients. The actual worth in those parties and drinks are the people you meet. The chats you have with people who do the same thing as you on a daily basis, the stuff you find out you have in common with them. Because at the end of every conference, I come to realize that I have more in common with all attendees than we have in difference. But you learn from those differences, it what makes us better programmers; look around, talk to people and learn from them. And you learn just as much (if not more) from those brilliant minds at the (after-)party than at the conference itself.
We try to attend these unconferences with the whole team. It’s not obligated in any way, but we highly encourage participation. So far, everybody has enjoyed these bi-yearly outings very much. It strengthens team spirit, widens the gaze, narrows tunnel vision and teaches everybody on a wide variety of subjects (including lockpicking!). This is why we also sponsor the Unconference in The Netherlands; we feel that it is conferences like these that is the glue of the Magento community.
At our unconference retrospective this week, everybody agreed it was a very fun event and they learned tons. It certainly gave everybody new tools & techniques to learn about, like vim, regular expressions, Knockout JiSse, Prometheus, git rerere and even lockpicking.
Walking towards the venue - 360 video
The next MageUnconference will be the one in Utrecht, the Netherlands. It’s held at an actual fortress and this year it’s in summer (August 25 - 27) so you can pitch your own tent if you feel like it! Visit the site for more information, we hope to see you there!