This blog entry is cross-posted from my personal blog site.
A few weeks ago, I enjoyed my very first experience at the Silicon Valley Code Camp. I have to admit, with all of the stigma and mystique surrounding Silicon Valley, I was quite intimidated walking into this event. With this being the 5th time actually holding a code camp here in Silicon Valley, I knew that they were going to know what they were doing, and they didn’t disappoint.
Let’s talk some quick stats first:
- Number of Days: 2
- Number of Sessions: 194
- Number of Speakers: 149
- Number of Registered Attendees: 3,065
- Number of Actual Attendees: 1,900
- Drop-Off Rate: 61%
- Number of Pizzas: 350
- Number of Deli Sandwiches: 920
- Number of Gallons of Coffee: 29
On a related note, Arun Gupta does a much better job of laying out the numbers for you.
I have been to numerous code camps, in and out of the state of Florida. Throughout these code camps, I thought that the biggest one around was in Miami, FL – which boasted somewhere around 700-800 people (I think). Boy was I wrong! I could not believe the number of people at this code camp in Silicon Valley!
The compelling number above, despite the sheer size of the event is the drop-off rate. In Florida, we factored in a 20% drop-off rate at all code camps. We just knew that was what would show up, within a few percentage points. This code camp had a staggering 61% drop-off rate! I was not involved in the planning at all, so I would be very curious to see what the reasoning might be for such a decline in attendance, versus registrations.
On a side note, if the drop-off rate had been less, I am not sure what the campus and organizers would’ve done. They ran out of free parking and drinks.
I had originally planned on attending both days of the event, but I have been running on empty in terms of energy for a while now, so I only went to the first day of the event.
One of the things that I was told recently was about the number of .Net developers in this area versus other technologies. I had no idea how true this was until this code camp. I know there were .Net notables all over this code camp (Sara Ford, Bruno Terkaly, and more), but I wasn’t able to find a single one. It seemed that everyone I met was a developer specializing in Java, Perl, Python, or iPhone.
I had 3 sessions. Unfortunately, due to an oversight by myself on the train schedule, I missed my first session. It was an Intro to DotNetNuke session. I did manage to get there for my next 2 sessions, which covered DNN administration and jQuery in DNN.
With the exception of maybe one person, I don’t think anyone in either session had ever even seen .Net code though. :( This caused me to screw up the timing in my demos, as I began to try to please the interest levels of the audience. Therefore, I deviated from my demo outlines that I normally have.
I felt especially sorry for Bruce, who was looking forward to some advanced jQuery, but he was only person in my session at that level. Despite those challenges, I think the presentations still did as well as they could. Next year, I will be a lot more prepared for this type of audience.
Signage coming into the event, and around the campus was perfectly done. This is not an easy task. Typically, someone just gets lucky with the placement of signage, but this event looked to be well-planned. It showed!
Check-in was very smooth for the average attendee, but as a speaker, I was supposed to check-in at a different spot. Unfortunately, the speaker check-in was not clearly marked at all. It was not until I suggested that I might need to check-in at a different spot, that I was directed to where that was. In my experience, the check-in process is always the guaranteed point of failure in an event like this. With over 3,000 registered attendees, this was hands-down the best check-in process I’ve ever gone through. You couldn’t ask for a smoother implementation.
One of the coolest things about the preparation I saw in the event was that there were maps on the back of our name badges to show us where to go. This was an outstanding idea! Due to the size of the campus and how spread out all of the buildings were though, I only wished that the maps included landmarks for registration area, sponsors area, and bathrooms.
There were also signs taped to the ground nearly everywhere you went that were perfectly placed to help you get from session to session. What was weird though was that many attendees kept ignoring those signs and the map on the badges, asking me how to get to certain places. I would simply ask them to turn their badge over and show them how to get somewhere on their badge, or point to a sign right next to them.
Considering the sheer size of the event in terms of people and the campus, you couldn’t ask for a better job with the signage. There were even taped arrows on the ground at the lunch area to help people pick the line for the type of lunch that they want.
I wouldn’t wish the planning of this lunch on anyone. It’s a lot of people and things that could go wrong, no matter how you look at it. But this group of people pulled it off with only a minor issue. For the most part, no one had any idea anything went wrong.
I had a great time at lunch though. I spoke with some people from Box.Net, a Java developer, and an iPhone guy. He was especially fun to speak to. We brainstormed on his next title, “Holistic Computer Specialist.” I hope you get the irony and subtle meanings as well as we did.
It’s hard to say anything constructive about anything that I might think could make the event better, because I doubt that I could’ve done a better job. However, there are a few things that I think could be improved upon in the future.
- The Sponsors were conveniently placed next to the registration, but there wasn’t any reason for attendees to walk past them during any other part of the day. This doesn’t really add any value to these sponsors who contributed so much money to be there. They and the registration would have been more strategically placed in the center of the campus where we had lunch.
- There weren’t refreshments like water offered throughout the day. The only hydrated people there were those who “knew someone” or who brought their own water. Everyone else hopefully stocked up at lunch time. Several people left the event to get water and come back. Hopefully everyone that left did indeed come back.
- Clearly mark the restroom areas along with the other signage.
- Do a much better job of preparing speakers. There were a few e-mails, but I for one had no idea what I was in store for in terms of what was happening, how the site & sessions worked, and the type of audience to expect.
Just to be clear… Those areas of improvement only exist because of how great the event was executed. I would speak to those points more as nit-picking than anything else. For example, the event was fantastic! If those items above were taken care of, then the event would have been perfect. :)
Great job to everyone involved! If you ever had a chance to attend the Silicon Valley Code Camp – do not hesitate. Register and GO! You’ll not regret it.