CodeMash 2011 is in the can and I’m mostly recovered after a weekend at the Kalahari and several naps yesterday.
Behind the scenes we organizers had a number of issues that gave us a load of last-minute grief, but hopefully we did a good enough job that most of those issues never leaked out in to public.
One of the big things we’ll refactor for next year is our approach to keynoters. Every year in the previous conferences we’ve had the same basic setup: 20 – 30 minutes for attendees to get their food prior to the keynoter kicking off their talk. This let us hold meal periods to 90 minutes, enabling us to not lose an additional breakout session right after keynoters. This also enabled us to get three great keynoters each conference, something I don’t think any other conference around does.
This arrangement has worked extremely well in the past; however, this year attendees made it clear by their Tweets and especially their behavior during the keynotes that they wanted a better separation of meals and keynotes. As a result next year we’ll likely drop down to one single keynote following a longer meal period. We’ll lose one additional breakout timeslot, but it will give everyone more time to deal with the logistics of getting though the food lines. I’m personally saddened by the loss of the two additional keynoter slots, but we need to follow what our attendees are pushing for.
Note on the food lines: Unfortunately, we had two meals that were quite honestly train wrecks regarding long lines at the buffets. I’ll personally take the hits on these due to some miscommunications with the venue’s catering folks regarding timing. This is the first time in five conferences we’ve ever had this problem. I covered the issues with the Kalahari’s awesome staff during the post-conference wrap up with them. Please trust me: the problem of grossly backed up buffet lines will never happen again. Ever.
Note on the Thursday lunch “keynote”: It wasn’t a keynote. This was specifically a special launch event. We thought it was a wonderful opportunity to have something of a global impact showcased at CodeMash. We’d be happy to consider other vendors approaching us for future events of a similar nature. We’ll also work harder to ensure everyone understands the differentiation between launches and keynotes.
We’re also going to consider refactoring the notion of allowing family members to eat with the attendees. As was very obvious, CodeMash has been extremely limited in venue space the last couple years – the dining hall is completely full with attendees, so there’s no physical space for family members or guests to eat meals alongside the attendees. Previously it’s also been a nightmare to deal with the separate billing required to cover food costs.Thankfully two things have happened that remove a couple significant roadblocks.
First, our move to Eventbrite for ticketing has GREATLY reduced the headaches associated with our registration system. We should be able to handle the mechanics around separate meal-only tickets now. Secondly, the Kalahari is adding on new construction that jumps their conference space from the current 18,000 square feet to well over 120,000 square feet. As a result, we’ll have physical space to seat a lot more folks. We won’t turn CodeMash in to a huge 5,000 attendee conference, but we certainly should have the space for attendees and guests to chow down together.
To be clear: Guests during mealtimes isn’t a done deal, but we’re certainly going to have a hard look at it.
OK, so on to a few things I consider highlights of CodeMash 2011 – and I have a much different view of things I personally find successful than most other attendees.
On a closing note, I have to thank the amazing crew who puts on CodeMash. A large number of newcomers to CodeMash don’t understand that the conference is organized and executed completely by volunteers – and a tiny crew of them at that. I’ve heard of similarly-sized events having volunteer staff of 30 – 100 staffers. We do CodeMash every year with SEVEN, plus a couple on-site helpers.
The core organizing committee, aside from myself, are:
- Brian Prince, Vice President, Board of Directors
- Jason Gilmore, Secretary, Board of Directors and co-chair, speaker committee
- Dianne Marsh, co-chair, speaker committee
- Jason Follas, Sponsor Coordinator
- Mike Woelmer, VIP Coordinator
- Darrell Hawley, Jack of All Trades
- Jeff Blankenburg, Graphics
All youse folks are awesome, and it’s amazing to work with you again and see you do tremendous things. (Want more details on how cool these folks are? Read my post from last year I am not CodeMash.)