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Last year as a StarTechConf organizer



Leo Soto

Last year as a StarTechConf organizer

Posted by Leo Soto on .

Last year as a StarTechConf organizer

Posted by Leo Soto on .

It's been almost 2 years and a half since we presented this slides of a crazy idea in a Startup Chile meetup:

Those ugly slides are the oldest public record of our intention to create an unprecedented community conference around programming languages, web technology and design. We called it StarTechConf.

StarTechConf 2011 ended up being a surprising success. A very seasoned speaker even called it the most successful "first conf" ever, given the number of people attending (700+) and watching the live stream (6000+) on the very first edition. Even then, numbers do not make justice to the amazing experience it was.

My personal dream was to bring back home what I had witnessed when travelled to other conferences, mainly in the US. The community vibe of being surrounded by a lot of smart and passionate people avid for sharing their knowledge. The realization that all those admired keynoters are pretty much like you and can also be extremely generous in sharing their own experience and knowledge. The empowering feeling that you can do extraordinary things too. Of course everyone in that initial team of StarTechConf co-organizers had their own personal dream and motivations, and I am not saying that this was our the overall vision as a team. But it was mine.

And it became true! StarTechConf brought to Chile a little bit of PyCon, RubyConf, JQueryConf, Google I/O, etc. The idea turned out to be a good one. But execution is way more important than ideas, which is why I'm proud of our 100%-volunteer-based team which executed the conference at a level comparable to any world-renowned technology conference in the world.

We didn't run the conference in 2012. I was studying abroad, and the other three co-organizers were busy running their respective companies/startups. Still, we are back recharged this year and everything is in track to do an even more awesome conference, this time aiming at a thousand attendees.

The success comes at a price, however. Now that the dream became real, it attracts all sort of expectations and interests from the environment. On the plus side more and more people and organizations want to help us making a better conference. On the minus side, the passion and the sense of doing it just for the sake of make it happen is not what seems to drive everyone to offer us help.

Also, In 2011 the main concern was that the conference may fail to happen.  So we put all our energy on making it happen. This time the concern is not if will happen -- people just assume it is going to take place, which is mostly a good thing. But it also refocus people on how it will happen, which a source of friction.

In 2011 we had a basic agreement: we wanted the conference to take place. There was a clear shared purpose.

In 2013 we spend way more time than in 2011 arguing about how it will take place, who does what, what will be included in the conference, what our web page says, etc. Even worse, now the "who will win what by doing what" conversation, which wasn't around in 2011 is sadly common. The journey is no longer the reward for all the people involved.

Maybe this is just the dynamic of things that go from the realm of dreams to the realm of reality: They get messy once they interact with all the other messy stuff of reality.

I am not a political animal.  Right now I don't have the patience to manage and balance the particular interests of many different parties while moving things forward. It draws an awful amount of energy from me and, even worse, some amount of passion. I fought to keep StarTechConf as community-oriented as it was at the beginning, but I don't have enough energies left for that.

That's why I decided that StarTechConf 2013 will be my last year as an organizer.  I was the right person for pitching and pushing the original dream. I am not the right person to keep this project on course on the following years.

Maybe you are the right person! Are you passionate about technology and communities? Would you like to be part of one of the biggest community-organized conferences in Latin America? Can you survive politics? I am probably too biased against politics after all, so you might be the right person to keep this project running!

I would be glad to mentor someone to take my place going forward. I'm still doing my best so StarTechConf 2013 can be at least as awesome as the previous edition. My current roles other than having a strong influence in the direction of the conferences are basically: keeping a eye at the big picture (month-to-month planning), handling the call for talk proposals process, proposing the final schedule to the rest of the conference organizers, managing the budget and other financial stuff, catering for the days of the conference (coffee breaks, lunch, drinkups), my share of sponsor pitching, and my share of finding the initial invited speakers (already done this year). If someone would like to join the organization in 2014, it might be a good idea to jump now to get a sense of it.

Are you interested? Drop me an email!

PS: I'm not retiring myself from dreaming and making new things happen in the chilean developer community and in our technology industry. That will continue, in one way or another :)