The 2014 Monktoberfest

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Last Thursday at ten in the morning, this auditorium was full because I made a joke four years ago.

Describing the Monktoberfest to someone who has never been is difficult. Should we focus on the content, where we prioritize talks about social and tech that don’t have a home at other shows but make you think? Or the logistics, where we try to build a conference that loses the things we don’t enjoy from other conferences? Or maybe the most important thing is the hallway track, which is another way of saying the people?

Whatever else it may be, the Monktoberfest is different. It’s different talks, in a different city, given and discussed by different people. Some of those people are developers with a year or two of experience. Others are founders and CEOs. People helping to decide the future of the internet. Those in business school to help build the businesses that will be run on top of it. Startups meeting with incumbents, cats and dogs living together.

Which is, hopefully, what makes it as fun as it is professionally useful. It doesn’t hurt, of course, that the conference’s “second track” – my thanks to Alex King for the analogy – is craft beer.

During the day our attendees are asked to wrap their minds around complicated, nuanced and occasionally controversial issues. What are the social implications and ethics of running services at scale? When you cut through the hype, what does IoT mean for our lives and the way we play? Perhaps most importantly, how is our industry industry actually performing with respect to gender issues and diversity? And what can we, or what must we, do to improve that?

To assist with these deliberations, and to simultaneously expand horizons on what craft beer means, we turn lose two of the best beer people in the world, Leigh and Ryan Travers who run Stillwater Artisinal Ales’ flagship gastropub, Of Love and Regret, down in Baltimore. Whether we’re serving then the Double IPA that Beergraphs ranks as the best beer in the world, canned fresh three days before, or a 2010 Italian sour that was one of 60 bottles ever produced, we’re trying to deliver a fundamentally different and unique experience.

As always, we are not the ones to judge whether we succeeded in that endeavor, but the reactions were both humbling and gratifying.

Out of all of those reactions, however, it is ones like this that really get to us.

The fact that many of you will spend your vacation time and your own money to be with us for the Monktoberfest is, quite frankly, incredible. But it just speaks to the commitment that attendees have to make the event what it is. How many conference organizers, for example, are inundated with offers of help – even if it’s moving boxes – ahead of the show? How many are complimented by the catering staff, every year, that our group is one of the nicest and most friendly they have ever dealt with? How many have attendees that moved other scheduled events specifically so that they could attend the Monktoberfest?

This is our reality.

And as we say over and over, it is what makes all the blood, sweat and tears – and as any event organizer knows, there are always a lot of all three – worth it.

The Credit

Those of you who were at dinner will have heard me say this already, but the majority of the credit for the Monktoberfest belongs elsewhere. My sincere thanks and appreciation to the following parties.

  • Our Sponsors: Without them, there is no Monktoberfest
    • IBM: Once again, IBM stepped up to be the lead sponsor for the Monktoberfest. While it has been over a hundred years since the company was a startup, it has seen the value of what we have collectively created in the Monktoberfest and provided the financial support necessary to make the show happen.
    • Red Hat: As the world’s largest pure play open source company, there are few who appreciate the power of the developer better than Red Hat. Their support as an Abbot Sponsor – the fourth year in a row they’ve sponsored the conference, if I’m not mistaken – helps us make the show possible.
    • Metacloud: Though it is now part of Cisco, Metacloud stood alongside of Red Hat to be an Abbot sponsor and gave us the ability to pull out all the stops – as we are wont to do.
    • EMC: When we post the session videos online in a few weeks, it is EMC that you will have to thank.
    • Mandrill: Did you enjoy the Damariscotta river oysters, the sushi from Miyake, the falafel and sliders bar, or the mac and cheese station? Take a minute to thank the good folks from Mandrill.
    • Atlassian: Whenever you’re enjoying your shiny new Hydro-Flask 40 oz growler – whether it’s filled with a cold beverage or hot cocoa – give a nod to Atlassian, who helped maked them possible. Outside certainly approves of the choice.
    • Apprenda / HP: From the burrito spread to the Oxbow-infused black bean soup, Apprenda and HP are responsible for your lunch.
    • WePay: Like your fine new Teku stemmed tulip glassware? Thank WePay.
    • AWS/BigPanda/CohesiveFT/HP: Maybe you liked the ginger cider, maybe it was the exceedingly rare Italian sour, or maybe still it was the Swiss stout? These are the people that brought it to you.
    • Cashstar: Liked the Union Bagels on Thursday or the breakfast burritors? That was Cashstar’s doing.
    • O’Reilly: Lastly, we’d like to thank the good folks from O’Reilly for being our media partner yet again and bringing you free books.
  • Our Speakers: Every year I have run the Monktoberfest I have been blown away by the quality of our speakers, a reflection of their abilities and the effort they put into crafting their talks. At some point you’d think I’d learn to expect it, but in the meantime I cannot thank them enough. Next to the people, the talks are the single most defining characteristic of the conference, and the quality of the people who are willing to travel to this show and speak for us is humbling.
  • Ryan and Leigh: Those of you who have been to the Monktoberfest previously have likely come to know Ryan and Leigh, but for everyone else they reall are one of the best craft beer teams not just in this country, but the world. And they’re even better people, having spent the better part of the last few months sourcing exceptionally hard to find beers for us. It is an honor to have them at the event, and we appreciate that they take time off from running the fantastic Of Love & Regret to be with us.
  • Lurie Palino: Lurie and her catering crew have done an amazing job for us every year, but this year was the most challenging yet due to some late breaking changes in the weeks before the event. As she does every year, however, she was able to roll with the punches and deliver on an amazing event yet again. With no small assist from her husband, who caught the lobsters, and her incredibly hard working crew at Seacoast Catering.
  • Kate (AKA My Wife): Besides spending virtually all of her non-existent free time over the past few months coordinating caterers, venues and overseeing all of the conference logistics, Kate was responsible for all of the good ideas you’ve enjoyed, whether it was the masseuses two years ago, the cruise last year or the inspired choice of venue this. And she gave an amazing talk on the facts and data behind sexual harassment. I cannot thank her enough.
  • The Staff: Juliane did yeoman’s work organizing many aspects of the conference, including the cruise, and with James secured and managed our sponsors. Marcia handled all of the back end logistics as she does so well – and put up with the enormous growler boxes living at her house for a week. Kim not only worked both days of the show, but traveled down to Baltimore and back by car simply to get things that we couldn’t get anywhere else. Celeste, Cameron, Rachel, Gretchen, Sheila and the rest of the team handled the chaos that is the event itself with ease. We’ve got an incredible team that worked exceptionally hard.
  • Our Brewers: We picked a tough week for brewer appearances this year, as we overlapped with no fewer than three major beer festivals, but The Alchemist was fantastic as always about making sure that our attendees got some of the sweet nectar that is Heady Topper, and Mike Guarracino of Allagash was a huge hit attending both our opening cruise and Thursday dinner. Oxbow Brewing, meanwhile, not only connected us with a few hard to get selections, but loaned us some of the equipment we needed to have everything on tap. Thanks to all involved.
  • Erik Dasque: As anyone who attended dinner is aware, Erik was our drone pilot for the evening. He was gracious enough to get his Phantom up into the air to capture aerial shots of the Audubon facility as well as video of our arriving attendees. Wait till you see his video. In the meantime, here’s a picture.

With that, this year’s Monktoberfest is a wrap. On behalf of myself, everyone who worked on the event, and RedMonk, I thank you for being a part of what we hope is a unique event on your schedule. We’ll get the video up as quickly as we can so you can share your favorite talks elsewhere.

For everyone who was with us, I owe you my sincere thanks. You are why we do this, and you are the Monktoberfest. Stay tuned for details about next year, as we’ve got some special things planned for our 5th anniversary, and in the meantime you might be interested in Thingmonk or the Monki Gras, RedMonk’s other two conferences, as well as the upcoming IoT at Scale conference we’re running with SAP in a few weeks.

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