Last week I was invited – by the lovely Graham Lee – to talk about mobile code at the QCon London conference. I said that the most interesting thing I’d been doing in the mobile sphere was my AppInventor workshop for kids (the BCSWomen App Inventor Family Fun Day) and so I talked about that, with the title Creating Apps with 6-Year Old Girls (and their Dads) (BTW slides are available from that last link). I’ve done loads of conference speaking in the past, but the vast majority of it has been at computer vision conferences, or at women in tech gigs. Mainstream technology conferences, particularly massive ones, like QCon, are a different beast.
Firstly, they invite you! This is great. To get into a computer vision conference, I have to do some original research, write it up in a paper (usually 6-10 pages), submit that paper, get that peer reviewed by people who don’t know who I am as the paper is anonymised, and then get accepted (the big conferences have, like, a 4% acceptance rate for presentations). If you get in you’ve been selected to talk about that one paper, and you’ve most definitely not been selected on the grounds of your speaking ability.
Secondly, you don’t have to pay to attend. QCon paid my conference fees… and even the richest research conferences don’t pay your attendance fees. They may be free for keynotes, & for the main organising committee. But not for presenters – if I stand up and talk at BMVC, I’ve paid my registration like everyone else.
Thirdly, they sorted out my hotel. All the speakers were in the same hotel, and it was a cut above the places I usually stay in London. Not only did I not have to pay for it, I also didn’t have to book it. SWEET!
Fourthly, the swag is much higher quality. We’re talking free t-shirts, nerd gear, prize draws for 3d printers (I lost). One stand, organised by Trifork, had the best coffee, with actual barristers.
Anyway. QCon: Fun conference! If I had the cash I’d probably quite like to attend as a normal attendee. Talks were varied and the ones I saw were strong. Apart from one slightly off-colour t-shirt (“kiss my app”? please!) and a keynote who made a couple of comments about aspergers, the conference was super friendly. I met some really interesting people. The view from the stairs at the QE2 is pretty much a “greatest hits” of Westminster, which is also nice.
My talk went well, too. The conference app let everyone vote on your talk, and I got 75 green smiley faces, 2 yellow unsure faces, and 0 red frowny faces. I’m not sure that’s the most sophisticated way to evaluate a talk, but I’m fairly sure it indicates I was OK.