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The 2016 Monktoberfest

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The week of the 2016 Monktoberfest didn’t start out particularly well. First our daughter, and then my wife, came down with fevers. Next, my brother got in a car accident (he’s fine). Last, there were the questions around whether Hurricane Matthew, the first category five Atlantic hurricane since 2005, would lead to widespread flooding in Portland as we had last year.

It didn’t, and the rest of the week was enjoyably drama free. Thanks in part to the blameless post-mortem policy that we borrowed from Etsy – from a past Monktoberfest talk by Rafe Colburn, in fact – our process improves perceptibly each year. Organizing a conference remains an enormously time consuming and stressful challenge, but it takes far less of a toll than it did the first few times we put the show together.

As I tell new attendees every year, using our twin broad themes of social and technology, the Monktoberfest has two primary goals. First, to encourage attendees to engage with other attendees. From the initial Monktoberfest through the sixth iteration, we design the conference with the explicit goal of giving people time, space and the opportunity to meet each other. To share stories, to make connections or just to talk about their favorite craft beer.

The other hope is that attendees of the Monktoberfest are challenged, that they walk away from the show with different perspectives than what they arrived with. Sometimes these insights may arrive in the form of new information, at other times through the sharing of personal experiences. Some of these experiences are intensely personal and difficult, so much so that speakers have told me that the Monktoberfest is the only conference they can imagine talking about these subjects. Which means that they can be hard, in some cases, for attendees to hear. But every talk selected for the Monktoberfest is selected for a purpose, whether that’s discussing how oral traditions are passed down in the technology industry or how technology is impacting children today in ways that are surprising and, at times, frightening.

This year’s slate of speakers met that goal and then some. They were, as always, incredible: researched, prepared and, in a few cases, very brave. To answer a common question: yes, the talks were filmed, and we’re working to get them online as quickly as possible.

The reactions to the event were, as they always are, incredibly humbling.

Based on that feedback, it should come as no surprise that the best part of the event for me are the people. Every year we hear the same thing from our catering staff, our organizers, the venues we select, from Ryan and Leigh: it is an incredibly kind, smart and welcoming group. As I tell each new class of Monktoberfest attendees, it’s not often that catering staff fights to work on your event because the attendees are such a good group of people. But somehow, that’s the kind of group that we’re able to attract to the event every year.

If you want more of a flavor of the event, Mike Maney documented his experience here.

The Credit

I said this at the show, but it’s worth repeating: the majority of the credit for the Monktoberfest belongs elsewhere. My sincere thanks and appreciation to the following parties.

  • Our Sponsors: Because we do not like conferences where talks are simply paid advertisements, we do not sell speaking slots at the show. This means that we have to find sponsors that understand that the benefit to their sponsorship won’t be standing up and pitching but letting attendees know that they helped to make possible an event that they enjoyed. We’re fortunate that we find such sponsors every year, and we can’t thank them enough. Without their support, there is no Monktoberfest.
    • Nuxeo: For a content-driven event, it’s appropriate that our lead sponsor was a content management vendor. Nuxeo stepped up in a major way, which went a long way towards ensuring that the Monktoberfest happened. If you enjoy conferences without pitches, make sure to thank Nuxeo for making this one possible. We couldn’t have done this show without them.

    • GE: Another major reason that we were able to hold the Monktoberfest was GE, who was both an Abbot sponsor and will be bringing you the videos as soon as they’re released.

    • 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 only sponsor to have been with us all six years, if I’m not mistaken – helps us make the show possible.
    • Pivotal: It should come as no surprise that a company like Pivotal, which is doing so much to rethink the way software is developed in a modern way, should sponsor an event that is similarly trying to rethink the way conferences are put together. Thanks to Pivotal for making the Monktoberfest happen.
    • Apprenda: Hopefully your brilliant new footed goblets made it home safely. When you get a chance, thank the good folks at Apprenda for them.

    • GitHub: Every conference needs food to get you through the day. To help keep our attendees powered up, GitHub bought everyone breakfast and snacks:

    • CircleCI: Our coffee, supplied to us by Arabica, got excellent reviews this year. Part of the reason it was there? CircleCI.

    • Funcatron: More conference snacks were brought to you by the Funcatron framework.

    • 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: Ever wonder why I call Ryan and Leigh the best craft beer team not just in this country, but the world? Take a look at this:

    The 2016 Monktoberfest Tap List from Mike on Vimeo.
    As I told them, we could not do this event without them; before I even start planning the Monktoberfest, in fact, I check to make sure they’re available. 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 did an amazing job for us, and as she does every year, delivered 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: Though as many of you noticed Kate wasn’t around the conference during the day because she had an event several times as large to coordinate the day after the Monktoberfest ended, she did all of her usual hard work putting the fundamentals of the conference in place: booking and working with venues, coming up with menus in collaboration with the caterers, making sure we have t-shirts, designing our glassware and so on. As I like to say, the good ideas you enjoy every year come from here. I can never thank her enough.
  • Rachel: Her first Monktoberfest as a full time employee, Rachel had, if anything, even more heaped on her plate than last year. Just as with 2015, however, everything was delivered and executed smoothly. Which should come as no surprise, because Rachel is one of the most organized people I have ever met. At one point on Thursday, one of our staffers asked “When are things going to get weird?” because they always have in the past. They didn’t get weird and out of control this year because of Rachel. We couldn’t have done this without her.
  • The Staff: Juliane did her usual excellent job of working with sponsors ahead of the conference, and with James secured and managed our sponsors. She also had to handle all of the incoming traffic while we were all occupied with the conference. Marcia handled all of the back end logistics as she does so well. Celeste, Elizabeth, Emma, Izzi, Jamieson, Katie and Kim handled the chaos that is the event itself with ease. We’ve got an incredible team that worked exceptionally hard.

  • The Alchemist: Our favorite Vermont brewery was fantastic to us as always, helping us change things up this year from Heady Topper to Focal Banger, an incredible and incredibly hard to get IPA. They’re fantastic people, and if you’re in or around Stowe, VT, you really need to go see them.

With that, we’ll hope to see all of you next year. Don’t miss it, or risk potentially lethal levels of FOMO:

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