I attended the 11th anniversary of the Silicon Valley Code Camp this year on October 1st and 2nd in San Jose California. When I speak around the country and get into a discussion about community driven conferences like Code Camp’s, I encourage whomever I am talking to that they should attend this Code Camp just once, since it’s the largest in America (maybe the world) and is my favorite one.
In recent years, the Silicon Valley Code Camp averages 2,500 attendees per day (larger than most paid conferences) and has 200 volunteers to help run it. These volunteers are very important because they help with everything from checking in attendees, serving lunch, helping out the speakers and much more. Also very important are the sponsors since they are the ones who fund this code camp that includes paying for the food, paying for rooms at the venue.
Of course the speakers are most important since most share their knowledge out of the kindness of their heart. There are some speakers from large companies like Microsoft, but the vast majority of the speakers are developers just like you and I. For me, these are the best speakers since they live in the same world as the attendees. They speak on topics that they are passionate about and you should be too.
Lastly, hats off to the team that puts on the Silicon Valley Code Camp! These hand full of people, lead by Peter Kellner, work part time most of the year to pull this conference off. They are all volunteers too! Watching this conference work every year is pretty amazing. I always remember the first year I attended in 2011 where at lunch time there were pizza boxes stacked higher than me (I’m over 6ft tall)! This year, they served pizza on Saturday and burritos on Sunday. The speaker/ volunteer dinner after sessions on Saturday featured BBQ that I always look forward to after a day of speaking and attending sessions.
Unfortunately, attendance and sponsorship were noticeably down this year for some reason. With technology growth and change moving faster and faster every year, I’m not sure why there wasn’t more attendees this year than last. This year there were over 150 sessions over the two days… for FREE! All you have to do is pay for travel if you live outside of the area.
To the sponsors, all I can say is that large community driven conferences are the best place to get the word out about your product. If you’ve sponsored a community driven event before and didn’t feel it was worth it then you might be doing it wrong. I have, in the past, given advice to companies about how to drive developers to their booth and it always worked… I guess because I’m a geek. My favorite story was when I told one sponsor to give out Twinkies at their booth. They went out and purchased an entire pallet of them. Their booth always had more geeks around it compared to the other sponsors.
If you’ve never attended the Silicon Valley Code Camp, then start making your plans now for next year. I will be there for sure.