Notes from DotNetFringe 2016

After quite some time on the road, I am finally back in San Francisco. My last stop on the way back was Portland, for the DotNetFringe conference. I’ll be totally honest: after 2 months away from home, I was a bit wiped out, and looking forward to some quiet time in my own place - not necessarily the best mindset heading to a conference. However, as it turns out, I ended up having a fantastic time there, and came back with a nice boost of energy.

Part of it was, obviously, the content. The lineup was pretty dense (more on this later), and quite diverse, in many ways. I won’t go into the talks themselves, as you should be able to enjoy them on YouTube at some point. I’ll just say this: it was refreshing to see a conference that was truly a .NET conference, and not “a C# conference using Visual Studio on Windows”. As an F# enthusiast, I was of course quite pleased with seeing plenty of F# content; this is my primary language, and a conference where F# is just a side note won’t be very interesting or relevant to me. But beyond that, I actually enjoyed the non-F# part of the talks as well. I suspect this had a lot to do with the self-professed goal of DotNetFringe to be “an atypical conference for open-source .NET developers”. If I want “typical” content, I can just search online and read the manual. What’s valuable to me at a conference is to be challenged with topics I don’t know about, see what others are exploring, and get a chance to discuss about it.

And, from my perspective, the discussion part is the one thing DotNetFringe really got right. I was initially not fully convinced with the single track, 30-minutes talks format (This of course has nothing to do with me finding out at the last minute that talks were not one-hour long, which might or might not have required performing late chainsaw edits on mine). My concern was that half an hour is really a long lightning talk, rather than “a real talk”. In hindsight, this worked really well, for two reasons. First, you have to boil down your talk to what really matters, and drop all the superfluous weight. In the end, regardless of how long you have, you won’t be able to convey everything there is to know on a topic in a talk. In that case, you might as well make it as short as you can, and focus on the essence of the matter. If people don’t care about the topic, you didn’t waste their time, and if you piqued their interest, they’ll dive deeper on their own time, or come talk to you.

Then, as a side-effect of this decision (sometimes, side-effects are good), every talk took place in a single room (a gorgeous one, too), with a secondary room setup as a hacker space - with the occasional massage sessions :) This turned out to work really well. Instead of spending your time wondering if you were missing another awesome talk, rushing at the break to find the next room, or tweeting left and right to try and meet your friends, you could just sit down, relax and enjoy the show - or head to the other space to hack and talk. Another nice touch was the sitting arrangement. Instead of the conventional rows of chairs, attendees were seated at large round tables, which helped break the ice and engage in discussions, something that isn’t always easy.

Long story short - I had an absolutely great time at DotNetFringe, I recommend it 110%, and can’t wait to come back next year. There is a lot of goodness I left out of this post, you’ll have to come and check it out yourself! Huge thanks to the organizers, you put together something special, fun, human, and deeply enjoyable. Plus, I was so pumped out afterwards that as soon as I arrived back home, I sat down and fixed an old nasty bug that was resisting my efforts in no time flat. Go Portland :)

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