You might have already read the great review of Web Summit 2015 by Gosia (aka The Cheerful Designer) and be thinking about going next year? Well, maybe it is time to hear my (aka The Awkward Developer) opinion.
TL;DR Don’t go.
I knew Web Summit with 42k (!) attendees, gazillion startups and bazillion things might not be the best place for introverts or socially awkward individuals like myself. And that the event is not meant for programmers, but rather marketing people, entreprenours and startupers. Yes, I don’t even know how to spell “entrepreneurs”, but still decided to go when my great friends from Amazemeet invited me to join them. It sounded like one-of-a-kind experience. Plus, I wanted to see the “Toys” on show at Machine Summit.
Well, it quickly turned out the Web Summit crowd wasn’t only a problem for introverts. I’m sure 99.9% of attendees felt overwhelmed at some point (and the remaining 0.1% probably just skipped the event and went straight to the pubs). There were lots of helpful volunteers, team members and even law enforcement doing their absolute best to make the whole thing work as smoothly as possible. But with 9 main stages, 10 minutes walk between the 2 main buildings, 15 minutes walk to the Food Summit, no breaks between 15-20 minutes talks, queues and plenty of other attractions – it was just not possible.
But I don’t give up easily. I decided to come up with (survival) strategies to best spend my time and enjoy the experience as much as possible. Since there were 21 different “summits” happening during the whole 3-day event, there was a lot to choose from.
1. Out of my comfort zone: Fashion Summit
My first idea was to go and listen to something I have no clue about and fashion was an obvious choice for me. I was hoping to see other points of view and hear some new stories. But after waiting for 35 minutes (and hardly moving) in the best-dressed queue ever I decided to crawl back to my little world (Code Summit). Still, I’m planning to use this idea during my next conference. And maybe wear nicer shoes.
2. Big names: Centre Stage
The second idea came from the obvious fact that big conferences have some big speakers from big companies. So, like many others, I decided to watch talks on the Centre Stage, where most famous speakers were invited. Sure, some of the talks (here and everywhere else) sounded just like shameless self-promotion, but generally the products & companies were interesting or the speakers were entertaining enough to keep me listening and enjoying it. And some were really good – just like Gosia, I absolutely loved Creativity by Pixar’s Ed Catmull, Mike Schroepfer talking about Facebook’s bold plans to bring the Internet to remote communities, and many others. On the Centre Stage, I also saw the worst presentation I’ve ever seen – “The CyberPsychology of CyberCrime”, which turned out to be … a cringe-worthy promo for the “CSI: Cyber” tv show, with (surprise!), the overuse of word “cyber”, no real information and a mandatory Freudian-penetration-penis joke that all the 9-year-olds in the audience found hilarious.
3. The comfort zone: Code Summit
Code Summit might sound like a perfect safe haven for a developer like me, but I was afraid the talks would be too general or too basic for a rather experienced programmer. My plan was to go there only to listen about security, but I ended up attending a lot of presentations when the Fashion Summit idea didn’t work out. And yes, the talks were a little bit too general, with hardly any code, but the really passionate speakers made it worth the time (Jeff Pulver Remember to breathe, Bryan Liles Application ops ladder, Gautam Rege Gopher it). And then the talks about security started and I was absolutely blown away by Nico Sell, Mikko Hypponen, Eugeny Chereshnev – just to name a few.
4. The Heaven: Machine Summit
This was my primary reason to attend The Big Conference. The chance to see and maybe even play with Pepper the humanoid robot, Jibo the social robot, mini-drones, the latest wearables, try Audi Oculus Rift Experience, all the `fit-bits for cats` gadgets and so on. I love it all. Discussions about Not so uncanny valley or Robot ethics (which turned out to be about having sex with robots), Cynthia Breazeal’s talk about Rise of the social robots and the Keynote from Pebble were my absolute favorites. Sure, I was tempted to start counting the number of speakers telling the audience that what their company is doing is almost as exciting as Tesla :), but yeah – that was true most of the time.
Also, the WiFi and coffee were good. And Dublin has the best pubs and live music. But unless you enjoy shopping on Black Friday, barging your way through the crowd or you love networking so much even overdosing on it still sounds like real fun ….