This was a great conference, and the organizers did a great job. This is my first visit to the EU, and so far I’ve had a great time.

Over the last day or so, I’ve had some interesting conversations with people about how we can improve our conferences, and I wanted to write down some notes before I forget these ideas. Apologies in advance for rambling and incoherence. It’s 1:30am here in Pisa and I’m beat.

  • Shortening the auction – at YAPC::EU this year the auction was done as competition between three teams, UK, US, and EU. Each team had 4 lots to sell, and we competed to see who could raise the most money. Smylers made the excellent point that a competition incentivizes the teams to take a long time on each lot to maximize the price. One way around this might be to simply impose a very hard time limit on each lot (2-3 minutes?). Another might be a softer time limit (5 minutes), but to measure the winner based on dollars/euros raised per minute used.
  • The high-value/interest auction items should be announced well in advance, so people make sure to reserve money for items that interest them. There would still be room for a surprise item or two, of course.
  • Raising prices – I think YAPC is too cheap. We’ve been at the 100 dollar/euro price point for quite some time. Raising prices just 20% would raise an additional $4000-6000 at a YAPC::NA, which is more than the auction raises. We could still do an auction focused on a very few entertaining items (maybe 3-7 items), just for fun.
  • The YAPC::EU schedule started at 10am, which was fantastic. We need to stop trying to pack so much stuff into the conference.

We discussed a number of ideas for improving the social aspect of the conference. We all agreed that the social aspect of the conference is as valuable (or more) than the technical aspect. Ultimately, I think that people who have a good social experience will feel like the conference was a good value for them.

I suggested seating plans for the sit-down dinner. However, upon further discussion, we seemed to reach the conclusion that a buffet style dinner with less seating might encourage more mingling. I think YAPC::NA 2008 in Chicago was a great example of this. The dinner was in a big game room in the student center, so people ate, drank, bowled, played Wii, rocked out with guitar hero, and generally ended up mingling, rather than just sitting at a table.

Smylers suggested another way to encourage people to approach more people would be a sort of “human scavenger hunt”. Instead of silently auctioning off tons of books for very little money, we could offer them as prizes. The hunt would ask people to do things like …

  • Find a first-time YAPC attendee
  • Find two people from Europe (or UK, or US, as appropriate)
  • Find a person with 10+ modules on CPAN
  • Find an author of a Perl book (and a non-Perl book)
  • Find someone who has attended at least 5+ YAPCs and workshops
  • Find someone who learned Perl within the last two years

Goals like these would do a good job of encouraging newbies and experienced attendees to interact.

Another idea I had to encourage mingling would be some sort of “speed dating” event. This would have to be broken up into smaller groups, since you can’t really have 150 people in one speed dating event. Maybe we could encourage groups of 30 or so to split off and do this. Maybe this could be scheduled as one of the sessions. We could even do this as a plenary session, and split people up based on something arbitrary (value of ACT user_id % 7).

If you had a YAPC idea you’re afraid you’ll forget, please leave a comment here!