Software Sauna team at WeAreDevelopers 2023, Berlin
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Conference Chronicles: Fun and Learning at WeAreDevelopers World Congress

We, the curious team of Software Sauna developers (and our friends), went to the WeAreDevelopers World Congress in July this year. The main conference schedule was on Thursday & Friday, with Wednesday scheduled for pre-schedule events & workshops, which we also attended. The event was held at Berlin’s Citycube.

WeAreDevs 2023 Berlin - Software Sauna

The program was huge and varied. The conference page speaker list numbered 342 people, giving you a glimpse of how many parallel tracks there were and how small the time slots were to fit all that into a single day of workshops and two days of talks and workshops.

The good thing about this is if you’re a developer, it is highly unlikely that you couldn’t find anything interesting. A huge range of topics was covered, from the always-present topic of software architecture, to the currently popular topic of AI on which even Tim Berners Lee had some thoughts in his opening keynote.

WeAreDevs 2023 Berlin - Software Sauna

However, this meant that the time slots were quite small. The longest talk was half an hour, excluding opening and closing keynotes. The speakers could start going into a topic but then needed to wrap up quickly. Some people managed this well, but others could not – IT topics are often complex, and most speakers are best at development, not live content delivery.

Talks that fared best were the ones that took half the time to present a problem, seemingly neutral and objective, then used the other half to market their product (which, who would have thought, solves the problem).

Even the workshops were cut to 1-2 hour lengths. Workshops are often hands-on. Participants usually do stuff on their own laptops, and the speaker often has to go around and help out. Waiting for everyone to finish before moving to the next stage is normal.

This kind of flow was not possible given such short time slots, and a lot of speakers started their workshops with disclaimers like “This is normally a regular workshop format, but we had to convert it to show-and-tell style because we have no time.”

WeAreDevs 2023 Berlin - Software Sauna

For this amount of speakers, having tiny time slots is not enough. The number of parallel tracks meant the conference would have to have a lot of stages. There were thirteen stages at this conference (not counting some vendor hang-outs and various lounges), most of which were placed in the middle of the expo – a sprawling open space with vendor stands, crowds, and a lot of noise.

The A/V staff and tech were pretty decent (microphone glitches were commonplace but were quickly dealt with), and the conference app’s Q&A feature mostly worked. However, it would have been better to put some of the stages away from the expo or at least put some soundproofing (as I guess putting the stages within the expo was intentional).

WeAreDevs 2023 Berlin - Software Sauna

The conference app was decent (although it had some annoying “features”), and the Q&A feature worked pretty well. After each talk, the host (each stage had its own) would read the most popular questions, and the speaker had a chance to answer them. Most questions were answered, and all speakers were available after the talk to answer additional questions personally.

Overall, our conference experience was positive as we all found interesting stuff throughout the conference schedule but still had the energy to catch up and goof off together at the end of the day. 🙂

I want to extend a huge thanks to Software Sauna! I can imagine sending six developers to a 3-day conference with tickets, accommodation & flights paid in full is not a small deal for a 30-people company.

I hope we’ll take a chance and spread the knowledge we gained to the rest of our team in the near future. I’m looking forward to the next conference, wherever it will be, because traveling with coworkers can be a lot of fun if they’re the Sauna type! 😉

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