WebCamp Zagreb 2012 - postfestum31 Dec 2012
This post is a bit overdue, little more then a month passed from conference but I wanted to gather my thoughts & feelings before writing this.
In my opinion first occurance of WebCamp Zagreb was a great success. We had little over 230 attendees listening to 24 sessions organized in 2 tracks and few days ago we published videos since all sessions were recorded.
We got lot of positive feedback directly from lecturers, attendees and sponsors but number of blog posts (all giving us positive feedback) written shortly after the conference confirmed that conference was a success. Why? In direct communication people will always put things much more positive then they really are, but when number of people decides to take some time from their family, friends or work to write about conference then you know you are doing something right. Just look back to all of the not so great conferences you attended and how many people decided to write about it...
Though we started WebCamp idea as a local web development conference targeting Zagreb and small area around we became regional fast. Not only people coming from other parts of Croatia but number of lecturers and attendees came from neighbouring countries too. Hopefully next year we will be able to attract even more people from region but this only proved that Zagreb was not the only place needing event like this.
If you attended WebCamp you might have noticed that all of our sessions were on time. All lecturers checked equipment early in the morning or over lunch break so we didn't waste time on 'my laptop doesn't work with this projector' problems. Every hour new person was looking over sessions so lecturers would be on time, since all sessions lasted 25 minutes after 20 minutes we started counting down. We were strict about enforcing this rules and that meant there were no unexpected delays and whole conference was running on schedule.
In process of evaluating submitted papers each of 6 user groups graded submissions and we used simple summing to decide on what will be the best content for the conference. No other influences since content is king! Why am I mentioning this? I feel very strong against sponsored sessions and I'am very happy that we pulled this off. Don't get me wrong sponosors are great (I don't see them as neccessary evil) but IMO they should not influence content in any way.
Really the most important achievement of this WebCamp is: we gathered 230 web developers in one place. It was a day when it wasn't important who is working on what or where, using what tools or languages but a day of exchanging expiriences, knowledge, ideas, best practices and getting to know each other. Conferences are great place for that, unfortunately lot of people don't know that so gathering this much web developers is a success in community like ours. But this will is material for another blog post ...
Also there were few questions that I got multiple times so I will try to answer them here. Please take into consideration that this are my opinions and might not be opinions of other WebCamp organizers.
Free admissions or 'Why didn't we charge for attendance and do we plan in the future?'
This is a non-profit conference. Our budget was built on only few expenses:
- food, drinks & coffee for all attendees
- technical material (we rented 3 laptops)
- operating supplies
As you can see here we didn't have any expenses for:
- renting conference halls
- trip and accommodations for lecturers
This meant a lot. HGK (Croatian chamber of commerce) gave us their conference halls free of charge and we are very grateful to them. Most of our lecturers were from Zagreb or close region so there was no need for those expanses (actually we were not in position to pay them).
Since we didn't have much time from time we decided to organize conference we went with one simple notion: 'Keep it simple, stupid! and it served us well. This meant that we needed sponsors quickly to finance our budget of around 1100 Euros and we decided to go out with only one sponsor package for 130 Euros. We could have asked for more but we saw this as a sale point were companies will not have to take considerable time (that we don't have) to decide. We had a tight budget and we were happy since it forced us not to spend time on things that conference doesn't need. Yes we had hand written stickers for attendees, we didn't have t-shirts to giveaway or sell, organized speakers dinner, no bags with pencils or calendars that everybody throws away 2 days later and so on. This was not only due to budget but also it would take time to prepare and we just didn't have it. KISS!
We decided to go with free tickets for number of reasons:
1) Red tape - we would have spent a lot of time on printing invoices and accounting
2) Avoiding vicious circle - with first batch of 100 tickets that were grabbed in less then 7 hours we created a lot of buzz. This meant that we got a lot of people interested in submitting papers and sponsors in "giving" us money. Other way around nobody would buy tickets if they would not know conference content and lot less people would submit papers it they don't see this as something interesting. Also who would sponsor a conference with no published content or interest from community?
3) We didn't need it :)
I hope we will be able to have free tickets in future too, but this will mostly depend if we will be able to avoid expenses for conference halls. If there will be a lot more interest in future WebCamps we will need to find a larger venue then HGK and it will force us to charge for admissions to cover those expenses (not more then 10-20 Euros hopefully!).
One day, Saturday?
We decided to go with Saturday since we wanted to promote going to conferences in our community. Most of web development companies are small and large number of them doesn't have culture of allowing their employees to leave work for conference and we needed to address this issue. We hope that this will change but probably not soon enough for our next conference. That also forced us to do only 1 day, having a conference over Saturday and Sunday would be a disaster (we all have families at home).
Why 2 tracks and not 1 or 3?
Some people would prefer that there was only one track and some said they would like that we had more. Since we had 2 conference halls this was the most logical way to go. Having only 1 track would mean that we would have only 12 instead of 24 sessions (and we had more then 60 submitted) on the other hand we had no third hall :)
Once a year
Number of people suggested that we should have more then one conference a year. In my opinion this would be great for short period of time but people would get filled up quickly. When I say people I mostly mean organizers and only then lecturers and attendees. We spent our free time organizing this conference and I believe that all of us will be highly motivated to organize it again in fall of 2013 not sooner. To do event of this size every 3 or 6 months would cause saturation fast and a ripple effect on lecturers and attendees soon after.
Yes we are a non profit conference, none of us earned a dime organizing WebCamp in Zagreb and I hope it will stay this way. I believe that money could cause just to many problems and as long as we all believe in event of this type we will be able to go on. I don't expect that exactly same team of people will be working on next conference but for sure there will be other people that are interested to help. And if you are interested send us email info (at) webcampzg.org or contact any of web user group managers. All help will be much appreciated!
Due to low bandwidth on location we were not able to stream sessions but we recorded and published all of them few days ago (link).
#wczg hashtag on twitter
I would like to thank all organizers and lecturers on finding free time and will to do this, sponsors for believing in us and attendees for coming in such a large number.
Next year we will be even better and I hope to see you all!