Value Adds For Developer Conferences (formerly ConnectJS) is an excellent regional annual conference for web developers in Atlanta, GA. I’ve attended pretty much every year since the beginning, and it is the only conf I’ve been to for some time. So believe me, I’m not knocking the hard work the organizers put into this conference every year. They’ve done their job so well that it has left me wanting more, so I thought I’d share a few ideas openly in hopes that it will help make or another conference even better. We’re developers, so we’re all about feedback and incremental improvements, right?

Missed tracks

Every year, I want to split myself into two or three to catch multiple tracks that are happening simultaneously. Since I don’t have access to a malfunctioning Star Trek transporter, I have to content myself with pestering the speakers to tweet a link to their slides, and learn what I can from there.

Idea: record all the sessions, and charge attendees for access after the fact. This is easy (live streaming would make it even easier) and could boost the value of conference attendance AND conference revenue.

  • Record or stream all the sessions
  • Sell digital archive access as a ticket upgrade
  • Sell digital-only access for those unable to travel (like DC4D)
  • Sell access to popular talk recordings to local meetups

Idea: require presenters to submit URLs to their slide decks in advance, and tweet them out automatically from the conference Twitter account at the ending time of each track.

Firehose effect

I can handle a lot of technical information, but after a while even my eyes glaze over. For some reason this is happening more this year. Maybe I’m getting old, who knows.

It goes like this: several hours in, a talk triggers my brain to go into creative mode, and I want to engage with the content that I just learned, to the point that I have trouble mentally staying with the next talk. The breaks never seem long enough to explore and hack (interestingly, both undirected learning and representational systems were keynote topics this year).

Idea: Schedule all talks to the first half of the day, and schedule undirected hackathons for the second half of the day. Where possible, have the speakers for each track hang out in designated areas so that attendees can get help while they hack, experiment, and explore.

Idea: Conclude with a hackathon project demo, and enter creators for a chance at some nicer exclusive door prizes.

If all that is too logistically difficult, providing track recordings to attendees would make it possible to deliberately skip tracks at will to make time for undirected learning, and come back and catch up on the content later.

Picking a talk

Deciding when and where to be was a pain point this year. Presumably to cut costs, the schedule is online-only this year, but the mobile version of the schedule didn’t have room numbers, so I had to physically write each track, time, and location in my notebook. This took time and hassle that felt unnecessary.

Idea: Improve the layout and content of the mobile web experience to include the location information.

Idea: Print the schedule as a handout included at check-in on the first day.

Idea: Add a “happening now” page online showing the current+next talks and locations.

Idea: Add a “fave” feature, combined with notifications to alert attendees when and where to go to hear the talks they picked.

Idea: Do all this in a mobile app, published at least a week before the start of the conference. Alert attendees via email, Twitter, etc.

Idea: Gamify the talk selection process, in Tinder-like fashion. I’d love to effortlessly iterate through the talks I’m interested in until I have identified my top two preferences for each conference hour.


Undoubtedly all this costs money, and volunteers will be needed. As a loyal fan, I’m definitely interested in helping out. Conference sponsors might also be interested in specific opportunities to increase the value of this conference, drive demand, and thereby increase the value of their own participation. 2018 had over 1,000 attendees for the first time. It will be even bigger in a few years–and enhancements such as these would help to get there.

Written on October 19, 2018