I have just got back from O’Reilly’s Toccon conference in New York. I have been to several conferences (JavaOne, Seybold, Business of Software) but this is my first visit to Toccon. I wrote a blog post recently on the value of going to conferences. So what what this one like (and would I go again)?
Toccon is a smaller, focussed conference (occupying floors 6 and 7 of the huge Marriott Marquis hotel (great location on Broadway just don’t expect any bargains anywhere). The sheer size of the place (it is 45 floors with an Atrium and big internal lifts that look like the inside of the Star Wars Death star) probably made it feel smaller still.
There were a very wide range of attendees. As well as most major publishers, there were lots of associated companies as well as educationalists, but also people from Intel, Microsoft and Nokia. There were a lot of people from the local area, but also across the US, Europe, and Asia.
An important part of any conference is the hallway conversations, and I saw lots of these taking place. There were some great free parties in the evening but the music was unfortunately too loud and the venues a little too small for comfort.
We were exhibiting and the stands are arranged on 2 floors around the venue, so it has an intimate feel with good foot flow. The conference is focussed on publishing (probably with a bias towards book/article publishing) so there were lots of sessions on Ebooks, EPub, XML, and workflow. I was pleased to see HTML5 making a prominent appearance as well. The sessions are an integral part of the show so all the stands were quiet while sessions were in progress. Lots of the material can be found on the O’Reilly Tools of Change website.
The show could also get very manic such as when O’Reilly had some very popular authors on their stand to sign books. Cory Doctorow proved especially popular at the book signing. The startup show case for new companies to show off their new ideas for changing the publishing market was also a nice touch (interesting idea from UK company ValaBox).
There were some little things which could be improved… The big toccon signs everywhere certainly made sure you could not forget what conference you were at but tended to hide the actual directions signs so people could not find all the venues easily. Overall it was well worth 3 days in New York. And there was a nice surreal moment when Tim O’Reilly walked up to our stand and asked if I could tell him the password for the O’Reilly network (it was bookmark).
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