CocoaConf PDX

At the end of last week I attended my first conference since WWDC07. That's quite the hiatus!

This time it was a much smaller conference: CocoaConf PDX, a small two-day touring conference organized by the Klein family, which visits a number of cities each year.

Now that I'm doing new contract work (in addition to my own apps), I thought it'd be good to stretch myself a little outside my comfort zone with some networking. What better way to start than a small conference in my home town?

Despite being in Portland, I stayed at the conference hotel — mainly because I live about an hour away, and wanted to avoid that commute. The hotel is quite nice, for one by the airport — a nice foyer with ponds and streams, and all rooms are two-room suites. I put in for an upgrade to a "premium" room, and got that, so enjoyed additional benefits like free snacks.

One bit of pre-conference excitement (and hassle for some attendees) was the arrival of President Obama in Portland. I happened to catch Air Force One coming in for a landing, and the motorcade as he and his entourage headed downtown.

The conference provided some nice swag, including a helpful booklet with information about the sessions. Unfortunately, many of the sessions were rescheduled at the last minute, but I still got to attend all of the ones I most wanted to see. Perhaps in the future they'll use an app, so the information can be updated dynamically?

Some conferences are single-track, meaning that everyone attends the same sessions. Others (like WWDC) are multi-track, with a number of simultaneous sessions to choose from. There are certainly pros and cons of each — a single track means more opportunities to meet other people, but could mean having to sit through (or skip) sessions that aren't interesting... while multi-track gives more choice at the cost of fewer personal interactions.

I liked the balance that CocoaConf had: some single-track sessions, and some in three tracks. Plus 15 minute breaks between sessions, and catered lunches and dinner. So there were plenty of opportunities to meet new people, catch up with old friends, and of course learn about the topics that are most interesting (while also expanding one's horizons with new topics).

The circular tables helped with meeting new people — better than the rows of chairs at WWDC, where the only interaction is in the hallways or queues.

Another fun event at the end of the first day was a performance of James Dempsey and the (Conditional) Breakpoints, the biggest group in Cocoa rock.

I recorded a bootleg of their final song of the evening, The Liki Song:

Overall, it was an excellent experience. I'm very glad I attended, and definitely plan to go again next year. I'm also thinking about other conferences that I could participate in... probably not WWDC this year (even the alt conf stuff), but I'm considering the new Release Notes conference in October, as a more business-focused one, though there are many other excellent options.