Back from Alt.net – my brain hurts

Last weekend I drove up to Austin for the Alt.Net conference. It was well worth the trip. It had been many years since the last time I went to a conference where I would not be a speaker. I’ve signed up for this conference because of the proposed "open space" format, where the attendees were the ones managing what sessions they wanted to see, and each session was pretty much an open-ended discussion. There weren’t sessions where the speaker would walk through a typical presentation, showing drag-and-grop operations on a cool new product. Instead, a topic would be proposed, the topic’s proponent would throw in a few words to get the session going, and anybody could contribute to the discussion, with questions, opinions, etc.

What attracted me to this conference was the amount of brain power that was going to be there. A number of bloggers and people whose opinion I value were going to be there, so I figured maybe I could learn something through osmosis.  🙂

Different from regular conferences, where the speaker usually walks the attendees through a specific problem, and then shows how to address the problem, at Alt.net a session may end without a clear solution or recommendation being identified. And this is good because it stimulates the attendees to think and discuss through scenarios of the real world, instead of being taken through one of the possible solutions, which is usually a lot biased by the speaker’s personal experience and point-of-view. Hearing different scenarios, solutions, and questions from people coming from very different background is refreshing because it teaches you to think a lot more out of the box.

I’ll be posting some other entries with some thoughts based on some notes I’ve made for myself while I was there. These are things that stuck the most to my brain, so I’m blogging about it even for my own sake so that I don’t forget about it (I’ve made notes in my PocketPC, and I lost the notes after having to put the device through a hard reset…).

I’m definitely looking forward to other editions of Alt.net! By the way, even though some people had the idea that the conference would have an "anti-Microsoft" feel to it, it wasn’t like that at all. Actually, there was a big number of Microsoft employees there, including Scott Guthrie, who showed the new MVC framework for .NET first-hand at this conference. Very cool!

If you just do a quick search on the web you’re going to find a lot of blog posts from other people who attended the conference, so make sure you do that to get more details about it (different people absorbed different ideas, so it’s good to get different point of views out there).

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