At most open source conferences, a lot of attention is given to the talks. At the ones that I have been to (Djangocon and Pycon), the most fun that I have had, and the most I have learned is during the sprints. I want to talk about the value and importance of staying for the sprints at a conference.
First off, lets talk about why you are going to the conference. I am going to assume that you are a developer, interested in the technology, and passionate. So the main reason that you officially go to a conference is to learn. Open Source conference talks are amazingly tech heavy, and the knowledge transferred in the halls is vast. A speaker will give you a really great idea, insight into a problem, and other priceless knowledge.
Then you go to another talk. You are inundated with other amazingly new and interesting ideas. At the end of the day, your brain is saturated, and then the dinner and the nights happen. The unofficial reason to go to a conference is networking. Networking is such a crappy term though, I view it more as drinking and making friends. I now consider lots of ridiculously smart people friends from late night conference experiences.
So now the conference is coming to an end, you have learned a ton, and you have met a ton of great new people. It all seems so short, and you’re sad that you have to go home. WRONG. This is precisely the time that you want to stay and enjoy things more! That’s what Sprints are for.
Sprints allow you to solidify the friendships and knowledge that you learned during the conference. You get to spend 2(-4) days of working with these awesome people, on problems that you care about, in person. You can take all of the knowledge that you have gained, all the ideas that you have had, and put pen to paper.
The guy that gave the talk that inspired your idea, when you get stuck, is sitting across the table from you. The people that you took shots of whiskey with 3 nights ago are helping you debug something in the Django Admin. You are helping your new crazy friends conquer the concurrent turtle conundrum rife with GILs. You are absorbing the vibrant energy that emerges from rooms full of motivated, passionate, people getting shit done.
I really can’t speak highly enough about the value of sprints. There is just so much goodness and uniqueness about them. I try my hardest to stay for them at any conference that I go to.
Do you have any awesome sprint stories? Something that I have forgotten to mention that just blows you away? I find that sprints aren’t talked about very much, but I think they are one of my favorite parts of being a member of an open source community.