Back in Hungary I usually attended to one-day Microsoft conferences, which wrapped up some topic, for e.g.: ASP.NET development, AJAX development and mashups, new features of upcoming software. Many times the material was prepared and presented by students from BUTE (Budapest University of Technology) AUT department, which had a good connection with Microsoft. I'm not a Microsoft only guy, throughout the years I attended several one-day SUN conferences, TeX conferences, PHP conferences.
(One time I even attended to a full day hands-on lab on Microsoft Windows Mobile, it was given by professionals from Germany. One of the greatest conferences was a two-day wrap up of the MIX 07 conference in Budapest for middle Europe, it was called REMIX 07 and it was held in beautiful Museum, and was followed by a ship cruise party on the Danube at night. Sandor Nacsa was the driving force of REMIX and the one-day conferences in Lurdy Mall.)
I intended to continue this tradition (that I always try to widen my perspective and keep myself up-to-date with new technologies) at my current living place also. Let me list some very good conferences and events in Tennessee, close to the Nashville area:
- devLink: this is a 3 day long conference around Nashville during the summer
- CodeStock: 2 day long conference in Knoxville during the summer
Both of these events feature very experienced speakers, and you can find plenty of topics too which are not Microsoft related!
Besides that I regularly attend to the Nashville .NET Users Group and the Nashville Web Developers Group monthly meetings. Usually topics are new to me and interesting.
There's also an SQL Users Group in Nashville, I have attended only one time yet. And now I discovered an event series called SQL Saturday, so I'll visit Birmingham, AL this month. Because my new job is heavily connected to databases and data mining, I think I can refresh my knowledge about database design, and I can also pick up best practices, experiences.
If possible I also join Microsoft's MSDN Unleashed and ArcReady event series in Microsoft's Franklin HQ (Microsoft has talented guys, like Brian H. Prince).
Why do I attend to these conferences? Does it worth?
I think pretty much! First of all most of these are totally free or very low cost. Secondly, not only the topics are important (I believe that someone can indeed pick up some knowledge if he/she is eager enough), but someone can hear very interesting things when we just chat with each other. I meet with lots of people and make friendships.
I also have a theory that in our busy rushing life a software developer often just doesn't have any time to learn by himself. So devoting time explicitely to these events I reserve resoruces (from myself) for them and hence I have at least some oportunity to learn new / enhance myself and get out of the everydays monotonity for a short time.
I mention concrete benefits. For example from January 2009 to August 2009 I attended to a C# .NET + ASP.NET developer course. We had to create a news portal at the end of the course to present our skills. Apparently I've attended to Michael C. Neel's presentation about Lucene at the 2009 devLink conference (BTW, Michael C. Neel is the organizer of CodeStock conference). It was very fascinating, Lucene seemed to be a very good tool for ipmlementing full text search support for websites. And guess what: one of the features our needed news portal was full text search. I used Lucene, and I was very pleased, thank you vinull!
You can sometimes experience podcasts live shows as post conference events, previous year I managed to attend to Deep Fried Bytes and .NET Rocks talkshows.