My wife and I went to .NET Fringe this year. This was the first conference either of us have ever attended so my baseline for comparison is rather lacking.
I'm dealing with low-grade burn out both at my job and with programming in general. I decided to attend, with a few extra days tacked on around the conference, to rejuvinate and, hopefully, get some clarity. So, the days before the conference were spent at Cannon Beach, the rose gardens, the Japanese garden, and just soaking up the awesomeness that is Portland.
The kick-off was a day-long workshop on Sunday. I had RSVP'ed for the Machine Learning with F# course. But, when I got there, things were overbooked. Adron said he wouldn't turn anyone away but that things were going to be cramped. I took that as a sign to bail, grab my wife at the hotel, and head off hiking. The Columbia River Gorge is pretty (even though a local almost punched me once for not thinking it was pretty enough) and you can't go wrong with pulling off at a waterfall and hiking whatever trails are nearby. We made it back in time for the welcome reception where we met up with some familiar-from-Twitter faces.
Monday was the start of the conference itself. I want to call out the seating because it was a great idea. Tables instead of rows. Automatically making it easier to socialize.
Scott Hanselman did the introduction and then Andrea Goulet delivered my favorite talk from the conference. After that it was a flurry of high-level talks that scratched the surface of some interesting ideas. Lightning talks were slotted for an hour after lunch and crammed even more new projects and concepts in.
Since I'm terrified of speaking in public, I had signed up for a lightning talk and I conned Dave Glick into getting on stage with me. Dave has quite a few open source projects including my favorite, Wyam, a static site generator. Our plan was to cover submitting your first pull request. We still got through some of it but technical difficulties cut off the most interesting part. Apparently my fight-or-flight response, according to Aaron Dandy, is humor. I have no idea what I said but I did get a few laughs from the audience. Even though the talk was a disaster, I had a few people come up after to thank me for the talk. In conclusion, I'd highly recommend giving a lightning talk; especially if the thought of doing one terrifies you.
Concurrent with the talks going on upstairs, there was a great space for unconference talks. There were six tables and a board. Want to talk about something? Throw a post-it on the board for the timeslot you want. I thought it was a great way to encourage more community interaction. Of course, there were about 500 F# topics going... but this is .NET Fringe after all and F# is still pretty fringe.
Tuesday was another solid day of high-level ideas. My second-favorite talk of the conference was Evelina Gabasova's talk on data science with F# and R to quantify why Star Wars episode 1-3 was so bad compared to episode 4-6... and why episode 7 was almost as good.
The community was good. It was great meeting new people, and meeting people that I've talked to on Twitter for years but never met in-person. The talks were varying in quality and, of course, none of them had time to really dive deep into anything. But I think that's kind of the point with conferences. If there's a Fringe 2017, I'll be back. Heck, if it's in Portland, we might live there by then (it really is a nice city).