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Gnomex 6.0 – a fantastic conference

Gnomedex 6 has sadly come to an end, and I am now making my way home on a somewhat turbulent United flight back to London (damn there goes the seat-belt sign again).

Chris + Ponzi put on an awesome event, even more so when you consider this was an independent conference not run for the benefit of a large company like O’Reilly, Microsoft or Sun. The speakers were great (even John Edwards) and the whole thing was very well organised.

Pirillo’s found the sweetspot between the more traditional “sit down and listen to my 45 minute presentation” conference and the BarCamp-esq “Unconference” format. Don’t get me wrong, both formats are great, but Gnomedex seemed to combine the best of both.

At Gnomedex, presenters are “discussion leaders” who introduce a topic and perhaps their take on the issue. They then facilitate conversation which occurs in the audience. It works because a large proportion of the attendees to these conferences have just as much of an informed opinion as the person on stage. This, perhaps, is the key point to Gnomedex.

My only gripe, if anything, was that I wasn’t officially ticketed to sit in the ‘main’ room – but instead a video-feed room next door. Gnomedex has grown so popular that an overflow room is now required. I had booked late and as such only had the overflow room to choose from.

With the conference format so geared towards conversation, sitting in front of a large TV was somewhat frustrating. The lovely Ponzi did her best to run back and forth with a radio mike, but it still wasn’t the same.

However, at most conferences the sessions themselves are a bit like the plot in a porn movie. It creates a necessary structure, but that’s not the point of attending. What you really want is to meet the other people attending – both new and existing friends and contacts.

However, once again Gnomedex didn’t fail on that front. In addition to the old favourites, I bumped into many new people for the first time, including:

  • Chris Pirillo – had never actually met the guy before, but was glad I did. Very down to earth, smart and a very nice guy.
  • Dave Winer – who was as much of asshole in real life as he comes across elsewhere
  • Steve Rebel – who informed me that his boss uses the famous photo of me with a Yahoo “Mashup or Shutup” sticker on my forehead in his PowerPoint presentations (hmmm that photo isn’t licensed under CC, but still…)

Networking opportunities continued into the evening with the superb conference-organised after parties. They were at great locations including the Boeing Museum of Flight at the Boeing airfield and the Experience Music Project building on the last night (both of which we had entirely to ourselves as a private group).

These things cost money (and/or drain sponsorship fees) and so are an obvious place to scrimp and generate profit instead.

I think it’s fair to say that Chris pulled the boat out with the parties when he could have been more reserved and profiteered instead.

So, would I attend Gnomedex again? Undoubtedly yes.

I do think I would have been disappointed to have flown all the way from London purely to sit in front of a video screen, knowing all the action was happening across the hallway. But if I had a ticket in the main room, then I’d definitely be happy. And of course, now that I know the event is so good, I’ll be buying my main room ticket when they go on sale anyway.

(Clarification: Yes, I did fly from London, but I was already in San Francisco sorting out some important stuff (see next blog post) and so the short trip up to Seattle was of little cost or inconvenience.)

Published in Thoughts and Rants


  1. Sam Sam

    You get to meet Blake Ross ? Apperantly he was kicking around at Gnomedex…

  2. Hey Ben,

    Great to meet ya there and yup you gotta remember to book early to avoid the exile room. The drama in the “Bay” hall is palatable and great people (and screen) watching (i was right behind Winer).

    You are right, … the discussions from the stage are cool but sorta a constructed framework to justify showing up for the networking and partying that *really* makes it worthwhile. Funny cause the networking isn’t about “doing deals” or even “exchanging biz cards” but just jamming ideas and cross-pollinating thoughts. I dig the no-pitch, no-hype, minimal-cheese feel to the whole deal.

    Rock on with Citizen Agency! and come visit Vancouver! (oh yeah, my Gnome-y recap is on my day-job blog

    PS To Sam above, yup Blake was there, kept quite busy fending off attacks from the “grumpy uncles” in the audience.

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