The 2017 Monktoberfest

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On March 3, 2011, I sent an email to a few people internally, subject line “Conference Thoughts.” It was about the possibility of RedMonk hosting its first event, one that that would later come to be called the Monktoberfest.

The absurd amount of support the idea has garnered on Twitter has more or less changed my mind from “I’m totally joking” to “this could actually work.”

A lot of what might go into the conference, we knew. We knew the location. We knew we had an incredible community. We knew we had world class beer and experts to talk about it.

But while we were confident about being able to create a differentiated experience on the basis of those factors alone, the crucial question of subject was unanswered. The prospect of holding a conference just to hold a conference, or worse, replicating a topic already covered by another conference, held less than no appeal.

After debating some specific technical themes, ultimately we decided to let that our speakers help us figure that out.

I think content would be dependent on who was available and agreed to speak.

Those who were willing to come and be a part of the event would, in other words, help us determine its direction, what the conference would be about.

What we built with the assistance of those first speakers and the many that followed in their footsteps was a conference that explores the intersection of the technology world with the social world around us. Sometimes this was lighthearted, and sometimes it was not. Whatever else it may be, the Monktoberfest is a conference that has reflected the people who make it. Those who sacrifice their time and attention to attend, those who honor us by speaking, and those who make it all possible from organizer to sponsor.

If the conference is a product of the people, however, it must also be a product of the times that they live in. As their attitudes, outlook and purpose changes – and inarguably they have changed over the past year – the conference must evolve along with them.

Which is why The Monktoberfest this year featured experts on automation and job loss, digital activism, gerrymandering, leadership principles and national security among other subjects. Powerful, and in many cases vulnerable, talks.

These are not topics that occur at every technology conference, let alone together, but maybe The Monktoberfest isn’t a technology conference anymore.

It if it does its job, however, the show provides a home for talks that are important, ones that do not have a home elsewhere. It will spawn more pieces like this one or this one. It will challenge those of us in the industry to think about our role in it, and our industry’s role in the world we live in. It will be a time for us all to step back and think critically about what we do and why we do it. It will be an opportunity for us to consider how we can put the valuable skills that we have to work.

The Monktoberfest will be, in other words, a force for good. And for craft beer.

We hope to see you all next year, if only so that you won’t be mad at your past self.

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 either no Monktoberfest or tickets are thousands upon thousands of dollars.

  • Abbot: Of all of our sponsors, only one has been with us every year that we’ve run this event. Red Hat‘s not only the world’s largest pure play open source company, they’re a company that gets developers and community, and is willing to invest to support them. Without Red Hat, it’s hard to imagine what the Monktoberfest would have been, or be today. Thank you for always being there, Red Hat.

  • Video: Given the importance we place on the talks at the Monktoberfest, we believe it’s equally important that they are captured and shared for posterity. The good folks from Cisco DevNet make all of that possible with their generous underwriting of our video efforts. Thanks to their support, all Monktoberfest 2017 talks were recorded and will be posted in the coming weeks so that you can catch up if you missed it or share your favorite if you were lucky enough to be with us.

  • Diversity Scholarship: New this year at the Monktoberfest was our Diversity Scholars program. Taking a page from the amazing efforts of our sister conferences in London, the Monki Gras and ThingMonk, the Diversity Scholars initiative is an opportunity to give people who would not otherwise have the means or opportunity to attend the conference a free ticket, connections with mentors and travel stipends where necessary. None of this would have been possible without the generous support of DigitalOcean.

  • Attendee Giveaways: Every year at the Monktoberfest we do a giveaway, and this year’s was particularly unique. In partnership with the great folks at Rogue Industries, we had the idea of making unique, leather cable wraps for the people at the Monktoberfest who are afflicted with too many cables. Which is to say, all the people at the Monktoberfest. We needed help to bring these to attendees, however, and the Cloud Native Computing Foundation stepped up and made these possible.

  • Lunch: We invest a lot in our food at the Monktoberfest, and we’re only able to do that with the help of sponsors like IDEXX. Supporting science around water quality, veterinary, dairy and other markets through technical innovation, we’re proud to have one of Maine’s largest employers come on board as a Monktoberfest sponsor for the first time.

  • Glasses and a Diversity Scholarship: Longtime time friend of RedMonk and the Monktoberfest David Pollak and his latest creation, Telegr.am brought not only the excellent 16 oz Willi Becher glassware but an additional diversity scholarship as well. Thanks to David and Telegr.am.

  • Breakfast and Buy a Round: Because what goes better with breakfast than a round of beer, Adobe was kind enough to sponsor both. From the breakfast sandwiches handmade across the street at Sisters to the absurd rounds on display at lunch and dinner, Adobe did its part to make the Monktoberfest something special.

  • Coffee: Because Monktoberfest attendees are almost as picky about their coffee as they are about the beer, we go with the very well regarded Arabica. Thanks to Dremio and SiteGround for bringing coffee to our thirsty, tired attendees.

  • Buy A Round: Joining us again this year to buy a round was Nuxeo. We are able to go above and beyond with our beer selection because of support like this.

  • Snacks: In what we believe is a first, two of our most enthusiastic fans got together and helped bring snacks to the Monktoberfest. Thanks Matt & Erik!

  • In Kind: Lastly, we’d like to thank Moo for their generous offer to provide free business cards to our Diversity Scholars, who were very excited about this.

  • 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 Travers:

We had seven different beers to choose from at the show – at lunch. One of which is currently considered by a few sites – example – to be the best beer in the world. There’s a reason all of this happens, and as I tell people every year when they thank me for the incredible selection, it sure as hell isn’t me. Ryan Travers is the force behind The Monktoberfest’s frankly absurd set of offerings, and it’s an honor that he made the trip up here for us again.

  • Lurie Palino: Lurie and her catering crew did an amazing job for us, and as she does every year, delivered on a ridiculus event yet again. With no small assist from her husband, who caught the lobsters, and her incredibly hard working crew at Seacoast Catering. How many conferences have a raw bar, a sushi bar and a lobster bake – all at the same time?

  • Kate:

Though as many of you noticed Kate wasn’t around the conference during the day because of her day job as a dean, she did all of her usual hard work putting the fundamentals of the conference in place: finding, booking and working with venues (especially this year’s new one, the William Allen Farm), 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: Rachel wasn’t able to be with us this year, sadly, because of the happiest reason there is. But while she couldn’t be there in person, her hand was all over the event as her incredible organizational skills let the rest of us more or less sail through the event with everything minutely documented, timed and pre-planned. 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. Katie filled in for Rachel and did an incredible job of being the onsite coordinator and organizer working with Emma, Jamieson, Kim, Celeste and Elizabeth to handle the chaos that is the event itself with ease. We’ve got an incredible team that worked exceptionally hard.

  • Allagash Brewing: One of the largest, and in my view best, breweries in the state of Maine is Allagash. But while they are a lot bigger than they were when we started this event all these years ago, they haven’t changed a bit culturally: they’re still amazingly good people who are always ready to support events like the Monktoberfest. From their Hoppy Table beer to the Confluence barrel they gave us, it is a pleasure to have Allagash involved because the people are as good as their beer.

  • The Alchemist: Our favorite Vermont brewery was fantastic to us as always, helping us bring attendees options from their single IPA Focal Banger to their world reknowned Heady Topper, an incredible and incredibly hard to get DIPA. They’re fantastic people, they are there to support us every year, and if you’re in or around Stowe, VT, you really need to go see them.

  • Diamond Back Brewing:

New to the Monktoberfest this year was Diamondback Brewing, who not only supplied us with excellent beers but actually sent one of their own to join the festivities. Thanks to Colin Marshall and the entire crew down there for their support and participation.

  • Mike Maney: Let me also mention that another friend of the Monktoberfest and RedMonk, Mike Maney, showed incredible devotion to the show by making available a special, aged four aged pack of Dogfish Worldwide Stout obtained at the brewery by his parents, and signed by Sam Calagione himself, available as a giveaway at the show. How many conferences have people who will do something like that?

  • The Attendees: Last, but certainly not least, let me thank all of the attendees. Conferences are a lot of work, but reactions like these make it worth it. Thank you all.