Clojure SYNC is a new conference that I’m organizing in New Orleans. Going to a conference can be a big expense. Is this new conference worth the investment? But more importantly, is it worth your investment? A single conference can’t be for everyone. I wanted to share some of the things that make Clojure SYNC special.
1. See New Orleans and the French Quarter
I searched high and low for the perfect venue in New Orleans. I was tired of going to conferences in corporate hotels where everything is fine but uninteresting. New Orleans is too unique to visit but spend your time in a box with grey walls.
With a bit of work, I found a beautiful theater in the heart of the French Quarter, just a few feet from Jackson Square. When I saw the place, I jumped on it.
2. Get out of the snow
The conference will be in mid-February. For a lot of people, that’s in the worst part of winter. Well, not for us. The average high temperature in New Orleans in February is 65 degrees. That’s the average for the whole month. It can be significantly warmer toward the end. You might want to bring a swimsuit.
3. Clojure/West is combining with Clojure/conj
Cognitect has announced that Clojure/West is being combined with Clojure/conj. That really opened up the US event calendar, which is why I chose this early date. If you were planning on attending Clojure/West, consider Clojure SYNC instead. There are still only two major Clojure conferences in North America. Just to be super clear: Clojure SYNC is the only US Clojure conference in the first half of the year.
4. Clojure has a philosophical community
If I’m going to run a conference, I want it to be special. It’s definitely going to reflect what I like about Clojure and the community. The thing that draws me most about Clojure is that it’s a philosophical community. We’re not just writing code. We’re exploring meaning. That’s why Clojure SYNC is oriented about three big themes that look deeply into what we’re doing as software developers.
5. The speaker lineup
Wow, am I lucky to have such awesome speakers. I did my best to make sure they were all high-impact speakers, and when I look over the list, I can’t believe how lucky I am to have them.
6. A single track
I’ve attended Strange Loop a couple of times. It’s a great conference. But I have to say, one thing I don’t like is that there are so many tracks. Sure, it means there’s variety. But what it makes me feel more than anything is regret. I think “this talk is okay, but one of these four other ones is probably better”. Then when I talk to someone during the social time, we haven’t seen any talks in common. Nothing to chat about!
One of the meanings of SYNC that I’m trying to tap into is that the attendees are synchronizing. They are having a shared experience in the same place and same time. They all enter, have their minds blown, and leave changed in similar ways. I think a single track helps make that possible. The most valuable part of a conference is the other attendees and I want to foster bonding between them.
7. Social events
The average conference party is boring. There. I said it. Some of them are pretty awesome. But the ones in the hotel? Meh. And when I asked a local hotel how much a party would be, fhew!, that’s a lot of money. I don’t want to seem cheap, but that price for such a boring party? Definitely not worth it!
I was looking around for another way to do it—more affordable and more awesome, when I had an idea: why not get local volunteers to guide events? Attendees would get to experience the city in a way they prefer and have smaller, more intimate groups where you can have great conversations. People have thought of all sorts of cool stuff, including vegan dinners, pub crawls, jazz nights, and more.
8. A great excuse for a company meeting
I worked remote for years. Whenever our team (or the whole company) would get together, we were so productive. Just being in the same room with people made everything happen so much more smoothly! If you work in Clojure and you’re remote, consider making Clojure SYNC a team retreat. There are houses you can rent within walking distance. You can attend the conference and stay the weekend. It will be a great bonding and group work event. I’d love to help you if you need some pointers for where to stay.
9. Mardi Gras
Okay, I don’t know if this is that clear, but Clojure SYNC starts two days after Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras is actually the last day of the whole carnival season. It starts at the beginning of January, ramps up until it climaxes on Mardi Gras day.
If you’ve never been to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, it is something to experience. The whole town is involved. You might have visions of lurid drunkenness and sexuality. That definitely happens, but in general, it is a celebration of life with great food, drink, family, friends, and of course costumes. However, after Mardi Gras should be one of the quietest times of the year, which is why we can get great rates on the hotels.
It’s worth considering coming about four days early if you want to experience it. The logistics of that would require a whole article by themselves. But please email me if you’re interested in hearing more about it. Oh, and New Orleans is celebrating its 300th birthday in 2018!
10. Food and drink
New Orleans is known all over for its unique cuisine. The dishes we love are a fusion of Native American, African, French, Spanish, and more. They have evolved for hundreds of years and are enjoyed in homes and restaurants.
I know craft beer has been a trend for a while, and you can find some of that here, but really New Orleans is a cocktail town. The Bourbon Orleans (one of the official hotels) has a beautiful bar on Bourbon Street and they’ll help you discover all of the cocktails New Orleans is known for.
New Orleans has also had a coffee culture for quite a while. You won’t find many Starbuckses here because we’ve had coffee shops for a long time. Our specialty is café au lait, which is half coffee and chicory and half steamed milk.
BONUS: Pay for it with 2017 tax money
Because tickets are on sale now in 2017 and programming conferences are tax deductible expenses for programmers, you can spend those last dollars from your budget to avoid paying extra taxes this year.