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CFDJ Editorial — Making Heads or Tails of the Many CF Conferences

CFDJ Editorial — Making Heads or Tails of the Many CF Conferences

ColdFusion developers today are presented with more options than ever before - more developer tools, more conferences and learning resources, and more development choices in the form of frameworks and language features.

With the recent passing of yet another MAX conference, I want to take the opportunity to explore many of the decisions in educational community activities (conferences) that ColdFusion developers face today. I realize that for many developers, attending every conference is not a realistic option. Obviously, location and timing can play a large part in the decision of whether to attend a conference. But what if timing and cost aren't an issue? How do you decide which conference(s) to attend, then?

What should you look for in a conference? The first criterion has to be subject matter. Do you have interest in learning about technologies and products other than ColdFusion? Why would a CF developer want to attend a conference in which ColdFusion is not the only topic? Some CF developers are also designers and/or develop in other programming languages as well as CF - they might also want to learn about other tools and technologies. Another reason is that some developers may be so proficient in CF that they won't learn as much from attending sessions on CF topics, but they're interested in learning something new and have a lot to learn by attending topics on other technologies.

Another very important criterion is the speaker line-up and topics that they'll be discussing. There are many folks in the ColdFusion community who speak at conferences and user groups - some are great speakers and some... well, let's just say that some are not. A great speaker can give a presentation on any subject and it will be enjoyable. There aren't many of them out there, but certainly, there are some speakers worth seeing talk about any topic at all. I don't recommend getting your hopes up about seeing someone speak unless you know they have a lot of experience presenting and/or teaching.

The last thing I recommend taking into consideration is attendee feedback from prior events. While location, timing, subject matter, and speaker line-up do say a lot about an event, there are certain ambiguous characteristics that all the facts and figures cannot reveal. Some are aspects of an event that aren't deliberate - they are a product of attendee/speaker attitude and expectation, and have to do with the atmosphere. Other aspects are how well the event is run - that can make a huge difference for attendees. Even something as simple as catering can be the deciding factor. There is no substitute for past attendee testimony, but keep in mind that different people have different experiences, different likes and dislikes, and that they may also be biased or let other opinions influence their feedback.

My advice would be to try each year to attend at least one large conference, one grassroots event, and to regularly attend your local user group meetings if at all possible. The development community needs these events, all of these events, to bring us all together in order to explore new ideas and share our discoveries with one another.

More Stories By Simon Horwith

Simon Horwith is the CIO at AboutWeb, LLC, a Washington, DC based company specializing in staff augmentation, consulting, and training. Simon is a Macromedia Certified Master Instructor and is a member of Team Macromedia. He has been using ColdFusion since version 1.5 and specializes in ColdFusion application architecture, including architecting applications that integrate with Java, Flash, Flex, and a myriad of other technologies. In addition to presenting at CFUGs and conferences around the world, he has also been a contributing author of several books and technical papers.

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