In responding to Dave, I see that Scott's down on conferences. I have to disagree. It's not just about innovation. Some conferences matter a lot--at least to me. Here's why.
In the last couple of years, I've made the transition from attendee to presenter. When I go to technical conferences, I'm usually there to present something as well as to learn from others. In fact, the only tech conference I attended this year that I did not present at was the O'Reilly Mac OS X Conference. But I did participate by blogging it.
I presented at the PHP Conference and four times (1, 2, 3, and 4 is not on-line) at the O'Reilly Open Source Convention. I will be presenting at next year's MySQL Conference as well. I seem to present twice a year at work, like this. And I've even talked at the local Perl Mongers.
(Okay, my horn is all tooted out now...)
The point is that I help to teach other people about the technology that matters to me. Conferences are a great way of doing that. I know because attendees will frequently tell me that they enjoyed my talks and learned from them.
I get to meet people I might not otherwise meet. Sometimes there are people who I can chat with via e-mail, but it's not until we spend some face to face time that ideas really get flowing. And I've even managed to stay in touch with some of 'em.
Several times now, I've taken the opportunity to talk with the MySQL folks about ideas I've had. I do it in person because it's a lot easier and faster. Discussions that might normally take days or weeks only need 15 minutes in person. Conferences are great for that kind of stuff.
Diversity of Ideas
I see and hear things at conferences that I wouldn't otherwise pay attention to. Often times they inspire me to try something new, learn a new piece of software, or just think differently about a problem.
It sort of reminds me of being back in College. There's a good diversity of ideas and a passion for them at the conferences I attend. That helps keep me going. It gives me a boost a few time a year.
Posted by jzawodn at December 10, 2002 11:03 PM
You forgot to mention "free stuff".
I just never got into that - but at Chicago Comdex last year I did pick up a cool keychain that was a rubber head of a sphinx and when you squeezed it green gel popped out of it's eyes. My kids loved it, but the marketing did no good as I never bought their stuff and can't even remember who it was. A firewall maker I think...