Technical Chair Michael Keeling on How to Get the Most Out of SATURN 2014

The SATURN 2014 schedule was officially published to the conference website last week. Creating the program schedule for the core conference turned out to be much more challenging than I expected. I think this was an unintended side effect of having so many great submissions. The biggest problem for me was trying to overcome the impossible task of creating a schedule where I get to see all the talks I want to see! There are just too many amazing presentations. As a conference organizer, I can tell you that this is a great problem to have.

Looking at this year’s program, I truly believe that you cannot go wrong with any course of sessions that you pick. So rather than talk about the highlights as I see them (I think the entire program is awesome), allow me to share some strategies for how you might build your perfect SATURN conference experience. Again, you really can’t make a bad decision, so ultimately it’s all about understanding what you want to get out of the conference.

  1. Use the themes. Every talk and participatory session covers one of three primary topic themes–Technology, Methods & Tools, and Leadership & Business. One way to choose which sessions to attend is by theme. You can focus your SATURN experience around a single theme or use the themes to make sure you see a breadth of topics. For example, say you want to hear only hard technical discussions for the entire conference. Then you should focus on the sessions marked “Technology” with the yellow banner.

  2. Get hands on. There are four 90-minute participatory sessions scheduled during the main conference. Choose a participatory session to build some variety into your SATURN experience and have some fun. Participatory sessions are required to be at least 50% hands on, so you have a chance not just to learn something, but actually to try it too. Space will be limited for these sessions even more than for the experience reports, so get there early.

  3. Attend two tutorials. In every conference I’ve attended, I have noticed that everyone starts off a little nervous but eventually loosens up once folks start to break the ice and get to know one another. To accelerate this process, I always try to attend a workshop or tutorial in addition to the main conference when I can. Before the main conference, it gives you a chance to meet a few people, which for me helps take some of the edge off of networking. Likewise, I always get a lot out of attending a tutorial at the end of the conference when I am most relaxed and feel “in my element.” Whether you choose the beginning or the end (or both), you should sign up for at least two tutorials to take advantage of the great discount at SATURN.

  4. Meet people. Every speaker for every session is listed on the SATURN website with a complete bio and picture. A number of software architecture authors, gurus, and thought leaders, as well as software architects and developers from companies big and small, across multiple industries, and from all over the world, are presenting at SATURN this year. Check out some of the speaker bios and think about whom you’d like to hear speak or meet in person and talk to at SATURN.

  5. Fork the schedule. Open Space Night is Tuesday starting at 6:30pm. From that moment until the Open Space closes on Thursday after the final keynote, there will be dedicated space where anyone can present, run workshops, teach, learn, discuss. Is something missing from the program that you want share? Is there a question or problem you’d appreciate discussing with expert colleagues? Did you learn something new that you want to explore in more depth? Advertise an Open Space session on the schedule board and you’ll have an opportunity to make it happen. Just like on GitHub, forking creates opportunities to explore ideas in an open and collaborative way. Take notes and pictures, blog about what you learn, and share on Twitter so we can “merge” your branch in with the main conference. ;)

The program committee has made some hard choices in creating this year’s schedule. Now we pass the buck to you: What talks and participatory sessions excite you most? What Open Space sessions would you like to create or attend? Whom do you want to meet? Let me know on Twitter using the #SATURN14 hashtag.

- Michael Keeling
SATURN 2014 Technical Chair

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