My first day at Web Summit
My experience as a first time conference-goer: 6–9 November 2017
Web Summit, Monday 6 November 2017 was the first day of the first tech conference I have ever been to. I thought it would be a useful exercise for me and for anyone else interested to jot down my thoughts and experience of the whole thing.
However, I did not realise that not much really happens on the first day of the conference. I made sure when I booked my flights and accommodation that I would be ready prepared and set to go first thing Monday morning. Which turned out to be a bit of a mistake because actually, the first day mainly consisted of registration and a sort of opening of ceremonies event on the evening, attendance to which was allocated by ballot and so I didn’t go. As I’m here on work time, this therefore meant that I had to go find a place to get out my laptop and get on with some coding, which was a bit tricky as I needed to use VPN and the WiFi in the public libraries all seemed to block this. I ended up visiting 3 different libraries to no avail so ended up working off line which was a bit limiting but I did find this amazing library, which is quite literally a palace — it originally belonged to a noble family who were all executed back in the 18th century for an assassination attempt on the king, although it was a bit scandalous as public opinion is now divided as to whether they actually did it or not. Anyway, here’s a picture of one of the rooms:
Anyway, to get back to the point, the message of this story is to check the schedule before you make arrangements. Though I’m pretty sure that the schedule wasn’t up yet when I made mine. It also makes me wonder why a whole day is given over to registration — it consisted of being given a wrist band and a name tag to hang around our necks but I can’t help thinking that given that tickets are sold in advance, it would make more sense to simply post these out to attendees, which I have seen happen at other large scale events. Though perhaps there are other considerations of which I’m not aware.
So Tuesday was actually my first day and my second piece of advice is to turn up at least 20 minutes before the first talk you want to see starts — there were 60,000 folk all trying to get in and having to go through security checks (not surprising, really, when you consider some of the topics being discussed) — and I actually missed mine. Also, once actually inside, the immediate experience is pretty bewildering, with lots going on — it took me a little while to orient myself and figure out where the different talks were being held for the various individual conferences within web summit.
The talks are all pretty short — none last longer than half an hour and most are shorter than that — so you can cram in rather a lot. One of my biggest assumptions coming here was there would be a lot of developer focussed content but there really isn’t. The assigned developer conference ‘FullSTK’ doesn’t actually start until Thursday and only lasts a day, which would account for it but is also surprising, it being a web conference, that only one day is handed over to actual coding and development stuff. Perhaps I’m a touch naive (I’m willing to admit that I am), as clearly there is a lot to consider in web and tech that isn’t simply code (and I’m assured that there are conferences more specifically geared towards this) and it has to be said that these are interesting topics for conversation.
Finally, be prepared to queue. For everything. For toilets, for food, for coffee, for water, on entrance at security, to get into a talk — to be fair, most of the lines move pretty fast and they’ve done what they can to mitigate the effects of thousands of people in an actually pretty small space, nonetheless, it does get crowded and busy and yes, there is the waiting.
I had thought originally to bring my own sandwiches (which seems a terribly geeky thing to do) but the plethora of food trucks caught my interest and so I decided to just try and go with the flow (something I’m trying to do at the moment in general and with limited success). However, now that it is all over, if I were to go back to Web Summit, I may very well do this, just to avoid the queues and have a bit more freedom.
So, that’s the ‘boring’ aspects of the conference dealt with. If you want to hear more about my adventures at Web Summit….