Web Conferences – Are they worth it?

I have been to about 8 major web development conferences over the past 5 years. So at a rate of more than 1 per year I would say I am quite well placed to comment on whether they are worth the money.

To cut a long story short the answer is YES. If you leave a conference having seen 1 or 2 talks that change the way you think about web development, or you discover something that will improve you as a developer then YES, its worth your while.

Here is a list of the conferences I have been too and what talks inspired me, recharged my pasion for web development or blew my socks off and introduced me to something new.

  1. @media 2005 (I would provide a link but the sites seems to have been pulled down)

    Jeremy KeithThe Behaviour Layer
    In 45 minutes Jeremy managed to change my whole attitude towards JavaScript, suddenly it wasn’t evil.
    Joe ClarkZoom the Web: The problem of giant fonts
    At the time Joe was the top dog for all things Web Accessibility. He introduced me to Zoom layouts and inspired me with his drive to make web sties accessible. I loved the fact that after the talk he wanted to invite everyone to the cinema to watch a movie with captions.
  2. @media 2006

    Jeremy KeithUsing DOM Scripting to Plug the Holes in CSS
    Without a doubt the most inspiring talk I’ve heard. I left this conference a changed man keen to learn DOM Scripting as it seemed so simple. I bought Jeremys book soon after the conference and for anyone wanting a clear and simple place to start with DOM scripting I couldn’t recommend Jeremeys book highly enough.
  3. @media @2007

    Andy ClarkeRoyale With Cheese
    Now I am not a designer but I left this talk wanting to design. I remember sitting in a pub the next day and filling my bag up with promo flyers as I liked the layout and colours. Andy’s a bit of a geezer and his talks are always entertaining.
    Nate KoechleyHigh Performance Web Pages
    Nate introduced me to CSS sprites, putting CSS at the top of the page and JS at the bottom. I have never taken so many notes at a talk than this one, my hand was on fire trying to note each of the points.
  4. The Highland Fling 2007

    Andy BuddThe Future of CSS
    I had seen Andy talk at @media the year before, and remember him pitching his talk at completely the wrong level, but he got it spot on at the Highland Fling. Andy really opened my eyes with his talk and I started using CSS2.1 straight after this.
  5. @media ajax 2007

    John ResigWhy and Which of JavaScript Libraries
    I remember thinking to myself, “yeah JQuery is cool but its a bit like cheating” before this talk. But once I saw Johns talk and had a conversation with a random geek at the night out I was totally hooked. JQuery is like crack, once you start using, it’s difficult to get off it.
  6. @media @2008

    Nate KoechleyProfessional Frontend Engineering
    After seeing Nate a few years back I was well prepared for plenty of more tips for speeding up my site and Nate didn’t disappoint.
  7. Full Frontal 2009

    Todd KlootsMore accessible user interfaces with ARIA
    I felt sorry for Todd, he was trying to blitz through what was probably a 1.5 hour talk in 45 mins. He done a good job and really opened my eyes to ARIA with good tips and excellent examples of real life situations.
  8. Future of Web Design 2010

    Bruce LawsonHow to Build a HTML5 Website – Live Demo
    I came to the conference wanting loads of HTML5 and CSS3 goodness. Bruce did not let me down, and he threw in some comical think bubbles.

Conferences are funny things, different people get different things from them. I love how you can be listening to a talker and thinking “god this has nothing to do with me”, or “WTF is this dude talking about”, yet the person beside you is totally immersed and will leave the conference thinking thats the best talk of the day. Its really all about what you are hoping to get out of the day(s), but my advice is to keep an open mind, go to some talks that may not be directly related to your own specialised area of work, and make sure you go to the after parties.

I sure there are plenty of folk out there who were at these conferences or indeed sessions. It would be interesting to hear what your favourites were.

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