If you have met me in person, there’s a good chance it was at a conference. Since 2009, I have been at 60 different conferences, and I gave a presentation at most of them.
I have drastically cut down the number of conferences this year, for various reasons. But one of the conferences I couldn’t make myself skip was MagmaConf in Manzanillo, Mexico.
MagmaConf and Me
Summer 2011. I was living in Portland, Oregon at the time and was getting reading for my first trip to Mexico, to speak at MagmaRails (now called MagmaConf). I was pretty excited. At one point, I even submitted an entry to GitHub’s ticket give-away, just to retract right away.
But it wasn’t meant to be. The day before I was supposed to leave for Mexico, Manzanillo was hit by Hurricane Jova. The conference was canceled.
In November 2011, I moved back to Germany. Flying from Germany to Mexico was something neither I nor the conference could afford. After having to turn down invites from them one time too often, the conference team decided to run a crowd-funding campaign to get me to MagmaConf 2013. It was a massive success. Within a little over two weeks, we had enough money to fly me over.
How things have changed in just one year. Not only could Travis CI cover all my travel this time, we are also a proud MagmaConf sponsors. I arrived a few days earlier to take care of our sponsor swag. I was promptly promoted to staff member.
A Social Event
One of the things that sets MagmaConf apart from other events is the high quality of socializing and networking. Staying almost a week with enthusiastic attendees, friendly speakers and welcoming staff at The Magma Village is an amazing experience.
I have been to conferences with beautiful scenery and marvelous beaches before, but you would often meet people there that only visit because their company pays for one conference trip a year. Not so at MagamConf.
At many a conference people would split up in smaller groups for evening activities. Naturally you would hang out with the people you know, I myself am guilty of this. It is exactly this behavior which creates a divide in the community, especially since most of the people I know and hang out with are also speakers.
At MagmaConf, every person is at most a five minute walk away. Moreover, you can bail and unbail at any given point in time. You always have conference staff around. These are the ingredients for a welcoming and inclusive event.
An Amazing Location
It’s a big part of making the conference such a great event. Tropical climate, the Pacific coast, drinking from Coconuts, BBQ at the beach. And all that not too far away from California.
Instead of staying at a hotel, you stay at “The Village”, comfortable houses in a beach resort, all close to each other, next to the beach and with their own swimming pools.
Granted, getting there from outside the Americas is not very convenient. I’ve done the trip from both Berlin and Tokyo, but it was worth it every time.
The talk quality was phenomenal. I didn’t listen to a single talk that made me regret sitting through it. Due to the high talk quality, there was next to no hallway track.
Unfortunately, the talks were not recorded. I am still trying to locate the GoPro footage of the Spanish rap I opened my talk with. However, all talks were being live blogged, so you could follow along at home.
“Work happens in silence and solitude, and no one cheers while you do it.” - @sandimetz #MagmaConf— @rkh_popcorn (@konstantinhaase) June 5, 2014
I myself was most inspired by the keynote Sandi Metz gave about grit and motivation. Her ability to tell a captivating story is outstanding.
Once we decided to sponsor the conference, the question came to swag. No one really wanted to do Travis CI shirts. That’s what everyone does and we all have drawers at home that are overflowing with “nerd shirts” already.
Justine, our designer, joked about sponsoring sombreros. Everybody loved the idea. Buying sombreros turned out to not be an issue at all. They are locally made from palm leaves. We bought fifty. In retrospective, we should have probably bought more.
Our plan was to bring Travis CI ribbons, which we could glue to the sombreros. We didn’t manage to get these in time. Instead, we had an arts and crafts day two days before the conference, cutting and gluing together Travis “T”s. The night before the conference I sat in my room, with a glue gun, attaching them to the sombreros.
The sombreros turned out to be even better marketing than we expected. They stick out on every picture, everyone would be wearing them all the time, some speakers even wore them on stage. We have had the first tweets come in of people wearing them in other places.
In sombreros, we had something typical for Colima. We also wanted to bring something typical for Berlin. And what else could that be than Club Mate? I have to admit, the initial idea was a bit selfish. Last year, my main complaint was the lack of Club Mate.
We found a guy in Monterrey who could import it for us. The 288 bottles arrived just in time for the conference.
Everyone seemed to enjoy it and the bottles were gone before the conference was over.
We want to thank our friends at Crowd Interactive for organizing such a great event. A special thank you to Esteban, Indira and everyone else who helped us organize the sombreros and Club Mate.
See you all next year!