The 2018 Monktoberfest

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It’s difficult, at times, to explain the Monktoberfest to someone who has never attended one. As one of the organizers of the event, I have the opportunity to speak with a lot of first time Monktoberfest attendees every year. Apart from some feedback about the audience which we’ll come back to, the most consistent comment I get is that while those new to the show didn’t know what to expect, the show was nevertheless not what they had expected.

In a good way, they hasten to add.

This is understandable. The Monktoberfest is a technology conference, and yet one in which those outside of our industry can and do attend, engage with and learn from. Social is one of the themes of the event, but social media is, for the most part, an afterthought. It’s an event aimed at professionals, but an event in which you will hear talks about intensely personal, and sometimes tragic, stories about the lives of fellow professionals. It is an event that seeks to welcome everyone, regardless of their background or life experience, and then challenge them to think about their role in the wider world.

It is, as one attendee put it, something unique, something they had not seen before.

Uniqueness has value, clearly, but it also poses challenges. Those who have attended and enjoyed their experience often go back to their organizations only to struggle to explain that experience, to communicate it clearly. Sponsors that have never attended, similarly, can struggle to see the event as something different than an another typical industry event.

For us, and hopefully for everyone who joins us at the event, those challenges are worth it. Our intention dating back to the original Monktoberfest was to create something different, not just have a conference for the sake of having a conference. If we’ve been successful in anything with the Monktoberfest, I think it’s safe to say – if the feedback we get is any indication – that that goal has been met.

Rather than just hold another conference, what we have tried to establish with the Monktoberfest is a place for conversations that we believe are important. Important, but without logical homes elsewhere. At any given event, attendees might be asked to consider anything from education to hiring to fake news to cultural change to empowerment to empathy to eldercare to what Stephen King can teach us about developer responsibility.

What we ask for and offer at this event, ultimately, is the time and space to take a step back from your day to day role, the chance to ask questions many of us forget to ask. What are you doing? Why are you doing it? What are the implications of what you’re doing on the world around you? Are you comfortable or happy with those implications? Should you be?

In short, the Monktoberfest is a manifestation of our own responsibility: the responsibility to use whatever platform we have with our company and our event to try – even if in very small ways – to make the world a better place. And to do so while drinking very fine craft beers.

If you’ve never been to the event, and none of this makes any sense to you, I would encourage you to speak to someone that has. They might not be able to convey the exact feel and nature of the event, but the adjectives they use may give you a reason to attend.

This year’s attendees were fond of “great,” for example.

“Amazing” was very popular as well.

There was “wonderful.”

And “awesome.”

And “unparalleled.”

And “fantastic.”

But out of all of the adjectives used, my favorite by far – which I also got in virtually every post-event email I’ve received from first time attendees – was “welcoming.”

Every year at the Monktoberfest, we’re asked the same question: how have we collected such a bright, talented and most importantly kind and welcoming audience? As I said on Twitter, the short answer is that we don’t know. It’s not as if we’re able to test for kindness during the registration process, and yet the attendees every year receive rave reviews from everyone from first time attendees to the team and vendors behind the event – many who have been with us from year one.

While we may not be able to explain how the Monktoberfest attracts such a positive and genuinely nice group of human beings, however, we would be delighted to introduce you to them.

As former attendees have said, then, don’t miss next year’s event. We hope to see you all there.

The Credit

I say this at the show every year, 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.

  • Trappist: It takes a special kind of company to be the lead sponsor for an event that features no speaking slots, no booths and none of the usual big conference trappings. It takes a company, ultimately, that understands and appreciates both the importance of developers, and their preference for being talked with than talked at, their admiration for organizations that support the projects or events they enjoy. Fortunately, New Relic is just such a company, having been early advocates of The New Kingmakers among other developer related trends.

  • Abbot: One of the iconic brands of the technology industry, IBM has been a long time supporter of things that developers love and enjoy from open source itself to events like the Monktoberfest. As one of the only companies in the world to survive multiple waves of disruption of its history, it was a delight to welcome them to the very non-traditional event that we put on.

    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.

    Joining us for the first time this year is a next generation player in this industry, the digital product company Two Bulls. With offices in Berlin, New York and Melbourne, Two Bulls has helped some of the largest companies in the world make the leap to digital. No wonder, then, that they chose to be with us at an event like the Monktoberfest.

  • 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 Google Cloud make all of that possible with their generous underwriting of our video efforts. Thanks to their support, all Monktoberfest 2018 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: For the second year in a row at the Monktoberfest we hosted a Diversity & Inclusion program. Taking a page from the amazing efforts of our sister conferences in London, the Monki Gras and ThingMonk, the D&I 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. None of this would have been possible without the generous support of our joint sponsors DigitalOcean and MongoDB.

  • Lunch: Based on the catering bill which will arrive shortly, it’s safe to say that we invest a lot in our food at the Monktoberfest, and we’re only able to do that with the help of sponsors like the CNCF and Oracle.

  • Glasses: Every year, the glassware at the Monktoberfest is one of our most popular takeaways, and 2018 was no exception. Helping us bring you custom Barlow glassware was none other than the good folks from Cisco DevNet.

  • Breakfast and Buy a Round: From the breakfast sandwiches handmade across the street at Sisters to the gluten free glory of Holy Donut, Pivotal 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 CNCF for bringing coffee to our thirsty, tired attendees.

  • Buy A Round: Joining us help buy absurd rounds like these were Cisco DevNet (again!), CitusData, Dremio, and NVIDIA. We are able to go above and beyond with our beer selection because of support like this.

  • Snacks: For the second year in a row, two of our most enthusiastic fans got together and helped bring snacks to the Monktoberfest. Thanks Matt & Erik! We also had support from Punderthings, your open source lifesaver.

  • 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. Thanks also to O’Reilly for a great collection of free industry texts.

  • 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 he drove incredible distances just to source the beers, ciders and meads for this show – and then walks through their histories like some kind of craft beer encyclopedia.

  • Lurie Palino: Lurie and her catering crew did an amazing job for us, and as she does every year, delivered on a ridiculous 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 slider bar – 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: booking and working with venues, coming up with menus in collaboration with Lurie, designing our glassware and so on. As I like to say, the good ideas you enjoy every year come from her – no joke. I can never thank her enough, particularly because she now has to wrangle a toddler solo while I’m wrangling the show.

  • Rachel: After a year’s hiatus for for the happiest reason there is, Rachel was back with us to run the day to day operations. Everything runs smoothly – even when it doesn’t and the bagel delivery is an hour earlier than agreed – because Rachel is detail oriented, organized and on the ball. 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. Alan, Celeste, Christopher, Dan, Elizabeth, Emma and Katie handled 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 Brett IPA, 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.

  • The Attendees: Last, but certainly not least, let me thank all of the attendees. Conferences are a ton of work, but you make it worth it every year. Thank you all, and hope to see you and many new faces next year.

Until then, enjoy Mike Maney’s shot from our Casco Bay Cruise.

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