Today I'd like to talk about a less technical topic: IT Conferences! I have been participating on conferences as an attendant and also as a speaker since 2009. Well, some years ago, at least here in Brazil, I used to see more motivated people - guys annotating important topics on talks, asking questions after a presentation, paying attention all the time on the speaker. Conferences were a nice place to learn new stuff.
However, since last year, I have noticed an interesting point - at the biggest IT Conferences here in Brazil, I see people sleeping on the talks, or people who attend to a presentation and absorb nothing new from it. Of course, I am not talking about everybody, I am telling that I saw this behaviour grow on the last two years.
Are people getting less interested? I doubt. Conferences are not cheap, and IT guys usually like to learn new stuff always. Let's speculate a little - maybe people are arriving to conferences tired - an extra fact that I noticed at least in Sao Paulo is that IT people usually have a 10+ working hours days. So maybe people arrive tired and cannot enjoy the conference.
Another speculation - there are lots of great icon people on IT world, and maybe the events have been repeating the speakers every year. Not only the speakers, but the same topics - and we live in a world where we have lots new information that we would not need to repeat the same topics every year. Maybe this have raised a bit of disinterest on the audience.
One last speculation - maybe people are getting tired of a unilateral conference where a speaker talks and everybody listens. That's why small conferences, at least in Sao Paulo, are getting popular - the interaction between people is higher. Also, "unconferences" and informal meetings on a cafe are also taking space - people can change information but everyone has chance to participate actively.
Again, I am not saying everyone lost the interest for conferences or that a conference repeats speakers and topics every year. I am just trying to bring up some facts that I have observed after many conferences I have participated. What we could do? Maybe if you lost the interest for conferences, try organising small or informal meeting about a nice IT topic. Seriously, there are always someone wanting to learn new stuff. If you like big conferences as they are, but enjoyed or agreed the points I have mentioned, you could try to suggest open spaces inside those big conferences. Open spaces are great because someone can propose a topic and everyone can join the discussion and give their opinion on that topic. Another nice idea would be create shorter talks and have a separated time for discussions and questions.
To sum up, this is not a post to criticise conferences and people, it's just a way to give ideas that could improve further conferences. If you enjoyed the Open Spaces idea, take a look at this post and web sites like meetup.