CITCON 2023, Berlin, Germany
by Željko Filipin
Reading time: about 5 minutes.
Organizers should organize conferences this way. The famous living and evolving board with sessions. Everybody can vote and move sessions around the board.
This was the sixth time I had participated. We went to CITCON 2012 and then changed our Testival conference to an open-space/unconference format. I have even organized one of them (Zagreb 2014).
I have attended many conferences. Looking at the list of conferences, I can see that I’ve attended a lot of them just once, and some of them many times. CITCON is one of the rare conferences I return to.
I have been to a lot of conferences. I have been a speaker at some of them. I have even helped organize a few. I like going to conferences. I also think that going to most of the conferences is a waste of time.
Going to CITCON is not a waste of time.
Before the Conference
I contacted Christoph Jauera from Wikimedia Deutschland (WMDE) when I thought about going to the conference. WMDE has an office in Berlin. He decided to join me for the conference. He also organized a small informal hackathon on Friday before the conference in their office. One more person joined. We talked about a project we are working on, upgrading WebdriverIO to v8 (T324685). It was great to meet people in person. Some for the first time, and some after a few years of pause caused by the recent pandemic.
At the Conference
I love the CITCON conference. It’s a day-and-a-half event.
Day one is shorter, half a day. It’s always on Friday afternoon with a short introduction on how the conference works. Then, everybody sits in a big circle and shortly introduces themselves. After that, everybody can propose a session or multiple sessions. That’s followed by dinner during which everybody can vote on sessions and move them around the schedule. It sounds like chaos, but it works great. Friday itself is a lot of fun and the conference didn’t even start for real.
There were a lot of people at the conference interested in artificial intelligence (AI). I proposed four sessions. Three of them gathered enough votes to be scheduled.
Saturday, day two, is a longer, full day. It’s when the sessions happen.
I have started the day with Testing a full Linux distribution completely automated session. There were just the three of us in the session, but it was great. That’s how it often is at CITCON. Sometimes the smallest sessions are the most interesting.
The next session I joined was How to Learn from Frustration. (In case it was not obvious so far, not all sessions were about software development.) That was a great session. I’ll post a couple of my notes.
- Being wrong feels perfectly normal.
- Learning you are wrong feels bad.
In the session, I learned about the Four Tendencies Framework. The framework includes Upholder, Questioner, Rebel, and Obliger.
On Friday I proposed a chess session during lunch on Saturday. When lunchtime came, I set up a couple of chess boards. There was no big plan, just to play some chess. We have spontaneously self-organized into two groups. It was a mix of lessons and playing.
After lunch, my session Healthy Coder was merged with Live Outside Work. We have talked about staying healthy while our jobs require us to sit for many hours, for many years and decades. A few books were recommended.
Then, it was time for another session I proposed Deep Work. I am a big fan of the book. I will use every excuse to talk about it.
The final session was Using ChatGPT to write anything. I have not used it before. It was a good introduction. We were collaboratively rewriting the conference homepage with the help of ChatGPT. A couple of other tools to help with writing were mentioned.
The conference closes with another session of everybody sitting in a big circle. (There’s an obvious lack of a fire in the middle of the circle.) Everybody shares one or more aha moments from the conference. I was very glad to hear that a few people liked the Deep Work session.
After the Conference
I enjoyed playing chess during lunch at the conference, so I started a chess club. This way, we can stay connected and continue playing. If you were at the conference and want to join the club, let me know on the conference Slack.
I was thinking a lot about the conference while writing this blog post, so I have posted this in the conference slack channel. After some thought, I think it would be good to make it public.
We had a short discussion about renaming/rebranding CITCON at dinner after the conference. I’m not sure if the organizers would seriously consider that.
First, I think CITCON is an established brand and I do not propose changing the name. However, I always believed CITCON means a conference about continuous integration and testing. But, when I read the website, I couldn’t find any mention of it. So, maybe the rebranding has already started.
According to Archive.org, my theory is confirmed. It was called a continuous integration and testing conference from 2006 to 2016. In 2017 the homepage stared talking about continuous improvement.
In my opinion, that is the direction the conference should move to and market itself. CITCON is a conference for software developers. It focuses on continuous improvement. Many people interested in testing and CI/CD attend. Testing and CI/CD were maybe more important in the first decade of the conference (but I have missed it) than they are now.
I’m not sure if organizers can share the numbers of registrations/attendees/sponsors over the years. Are the numbers stable/growing/declining? Do you have a short/medium/long-term plan for the conference? Are you happy with the current numbers? Would you like them to grow?
To move from theory to practice. I’m not sure when the time will be right, but in the next year or two I would like to bring CITCON back to my city. If we market it as a CI+testing conference, we are seriously limiting the amount of both attendees and sponsors. To get more people and sponsors, we can advertise it as a conference for software development and continuous improvement.
Organizers should organize conferences this way. People sitting in a circle, looking each other in the eyes, introducing themselves.tags: citcon - event - photo