I’ve been in this “Internet industry” since around 1997. That doesn’t make me the first on the stage, but I’ve had a very wide set of experiences: from deep within the commercial software world to the front lines of open source and from the smallest startup sites to helping fifteen of the world’s most highly trafficked web sites. My focus for a long time was scalability, but that slowly morphed into general hacking and speaking. As a part of my rigorous speaking schedule, I’ve been to myriad conferences all around the globe; sometimes attending, sometimes chairing, but almost always speaking. I’ve often been asked: “Why do you travel so much? Why do you go to so many conferences?” The answer is simple: the people.
Some go to conferences for session material, perhaps most attendees even. In multi-track conferences, people tend to stick to one track or another. I’d argue that all conferences are inherently multi-tracked: you have whatever tracks are on the program, me and you have the hallway track. The hallway track is where I go to learn, to feel small and to be truly inspired and excited about the challenges we’re collectively facing and the pain they’re causing.
The hallway track is like a market research group, a support group, a cheerleading sideline and a therapy session all in one. I like it so much, I founded the Surge conference at OmniTI to bring together the right people thinking about the right things with an ulterior and selfish motive to concoct the perfect hallway track. Success!
Now for the next experiment: can we emulate a hallway track conversation from the observer’s perspective. Would an online Q&A between me and a variety of industry luminaries be interesting? I hope so and we’re going to find out.