Reflecting on my first web conference

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Written by Matt on 14th June 2016

Gee Up Leiden

Plenty of canals in Leiden

Last month our development team took a trip to the lowlands of Holland for a few days to the ‘GeeUp’ conference hosted by Low (Lodewijk Schutte). With a broad range of speaker presentations, the conference was targeted around the developer communities of ExpressionEngine and Craft content management platforms, both of which we regularly work with at A Digital on our client projects.

This was my first experience attending a web conference so I thought I’d share some insights into what it was like for a first-timer.

With Kendal being easily accessible to Manchester Airport, it was just a 50 minute flight to Amsterdam and a short train journey to the picturesque city of Leiden where the conference was being held. The three day trip would allow us to mix with other developers in the community, join in a workshop and listen to speakers from around the world in an old wool factory called Scheltema.

Gee Up Presentation

Low introducing the next presentation

Having had a brief opportunity to explore Leiden, Laura our lead designer and I attended a workshop on a content management system called Bolt. This was an open source platform developed by a Dutch based agency which we’d not come across before. But with it using a similar templating language to Craft, we were interested to see whether this might be a platform to consider for some of our smaller CMS projects.

The conference itself covered a varied spread of topics ranging from design, ethics, intellectual property to more technical presentations about automated testing, and the impact of technical debt on a website. The technical debt talk was particularly interesting, so look out for a separate blog post on that to follow shortly.

In following up the conference with this write-up, I wasn’t planning on going into specific details of each presentation. However, there was something for everyone and plenty of follow up discussion from each talk with new ideas being triggered between us.

One of the main benefits I found from attending the conference was the interactions with other developers and members of the web community. I have always heard others talk about the benefits of meeting other developers, but having never been to a conference, this ‘sideline chatter’ was where you could really get to know people who are working with the same tools, sharing their own experiences. Not something that normally makes the conversation at home!

Gee Up Windmill

Views to be seen even at night

I’ve returned from Leiden feeling positive with a renewed vigour to extend my own learning and try new approaches rather than simply sticking solely to tried and tested methods. With such rapid change in our industry, we need to keep developing ourselves to continue offering a high level of service and expertise to our clients.

If you’re a designer or developer considering attending a conference in the future and still unsure about it, I would just urge you to go! Coming out of my comfort zone and meeting others in the community surprised me in terms of the value I’ve taken away from it. This of course can lead to friendships and even new working relationships, but most importantly it is the self-development you get from being around like-minded individuals in a conference environment that is the ultimate gain.