To do so I will go over a few main aspects of the event:
The most important part of any conference one attends is the talks, right? Well, yes and no. Let's be honest; it's also a lot about networking (but we'll talk about this in another upcoming article).
So here, I would like to focus on the talks, and there is not much to criticize! Most talks were awesome—well thought through, with a good ratio of information and jokes, keeping the promises they made in the short description and title provided upfront. Needless to say, some talks are more of a marketing presentation. But what does one expect when listening to a talk called "How Product XY Helped Us Solve All Our Problems - by Someone from Product XY"?
In contrast to that, some companies also understand their role as educators for the niche they are filling for developers. One great example was a talk by Gernot Starke and Benjamin Wolf from INNOQ, who presented the arc42 architecture communication canvas. They simply explained why they needed this kind of template in their daily work and showed how one can benefit from using it on a day-to-day basis. I personally feel talks pointing out a problem, a proven way to solve it, and a starting point to find other solutions are probably the best setup for a 30-45-minute talk. This is just a preference, though.
All that being said, multiple talks were outstanding and allowed me to bring back ideas and things I immediately started to use in my work, as well as topics I am keeping an eye on to deepen my knowledge on the side.
In conclusion, the talks were very good, earning a 4/5 if I had to judge.
This topic is far more difficult for me to judge, as I only attended workshops on the dedicated workshop day (Wednesday) and not on any of the two conference days. The workshops I did attend were well-organized and provided the insights I was looking for. In fact, I felt they could have been longer, as one to one and a half hours is not a substantial amount of time for a hands-on deep dive into most technical topics.
To sum it up, I'm probably not the right person to provide a general judgment here, but my feeling was that the focus of the congress was not really on the workshops, so they were treated as a relatively average part of it. On a rating scale, I would give them 3/5 points.
My least favorite part of "WeAreDevelopers" was definitely the booths. From my perspective, there were three kinds of booths:
- Recruiting -> Companies searching for developers.
- Sales -> Companies promoting their products.
- Prestige -> Representative booths for leading companies.
Without blaming any specific company for doing a good or bad job with their booths, I think each of these types has a right to exist. However, what I missed, especially with the "prestige" style of booths, was having good technical spokespeople around their booths.
Other than that, my complaint about the booths is more about why they needed to exist in such a large amount and without providing meaningful insights for the average conference attendee. It's more of an organizational complaint, but I personally am not a fan of a conference where about 70% of the space is taken up by booths that do not interest me.
In conclusion, I would rate the booths 2/5 because I think it is not the fault of most companies that there were just too many of them.
First of all, the number of people attending the congress and the organization needed to make this happen is endless. This alone is outstanding to me personally. So all the things I disliked about the way the event took place are solely focused on the in-person experience of visiting talks and the event itself.
There are three aspects that really stand out for me in terms of organization:
- Floor plan
- Drinking water
The floor plan was an issue in itself. The plan was really awfully designed, so it took a few hours to at least understand where one could find what. But that being said, the general planning also came with a problem regarding the noise level wherever one went. If you tried to attend talks in the big conference area, it was a gamble whether you could actually hear the speakers well enough. This ultimately led to me neglecting talks in that area, as I felt like I wouldn't be able to follow the talk anyway. A big improvement would be to have rooms like on the lower floor of the City Cube, where the rooms were enclosed by booths from three sides.
The schedule was simply too tight. Less overlap and bigger buffers would allow people to actually get from one stage to another and still find a seat, as the number of seats was very limited for most talks anyway.
This is an issue that just shouldn't exist at a congress in Berlin. Not supplying enough access to drinking water (apart from the sanitary facilities) is a no-go to me. It is easy enough to swap some of the goodies handed out for a reusable water bottle and set up enough water dispensers for everyone. So personally, I hope this will not be the case again.
All in all, the organization might sound like it was awful, but it really was not. All these points are critiques on a high level. These points go beyond making something work. So to provide a rating, I would give the congress a solid 3/5 for these things, taking into account the additional criticism for the booths.