tecosystems

The 2019 Monktoberfest

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If there is one thing all Monktoberfest attendees share, it is a fundamental inability to explain precisely what the event is. As a rule, one can sum up the audience and the content of most events in this industry easily within a couple of words, a sentence at most. The Monktoberfest, however, is not like other events in this regard. Nor does experience help: those who have attended multiple times generally have no advantage over those who’ve attended once.

Attendees are, notably, not the only ones with this issue. In spite of the fact that I have organized nine Monktoberfests to date, I am no better at describing this event than those who participate in it.

As someone who spends a fair amount of my time dealing with sponsors, both past and prospective, you’d think I’d have an elevator pitch down. For whatever the reason, and there are many, the Monktoberfest defies easy description or categorization – not that this is the only challenge for sponsor conversations. Imagine, if you will, trying to explain to companies accustomed to traditional sponsor offerings why something as basic as the agenda is not diclosed, and that they need to just “trust us.”

None of which is perhaps ideal, given that would be attendees often have to justify the travel or would be sponsors, the expense. To date, however, we have collectively found a way to make it work without having to fundamentally break the event in such a way as to allow it to be neatly summed up in a few words. We have all worked to make the event the event that it is – for better or for worse.

While the event may not be easily described, however, its primary function is clear. The purpose of the event has always been to provide a space for talks that might not fit at other, more easily described events. It has been to look at the intersection of technology and the world around us – the good, the bad and the ugly. It is meant to be, in other words, that rarest of all things in this hectic, furiously paced industry: an opportunity to step back. To let go of your day to day concerns. To not think about code, databases or your next meeting. To take a few days to think about where you are, what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it. To be exposed to people, issues and concerns you may never have been exposed to. And perhaps most of all, to talk to people you may never otherwise have had the opportunity or occasion to meet about said issues and concerns.

All of that sounds simple, but it’s not. It requires speakers willing to talk about incredibly private – and often unimaginably painful – experiences. It requires sponsors who see more than an opportunity to purchase a thirty minute walking, talking advertisement. And it requires attendees who are willing to take a step back, willing to be challenged, and willing to make the trek to a city with no direct flights for most.

When you think about it that way, every Monktoberfest is something of a minor miracle. But these minor miracles are sustained and made possible because the community around us sees value in this event – an event that can literally change the course of people’s careers and, thereby, lives.

All of which helps explain why, all of the blood, sweat and tears that go into putting on an event notwithstanding, all of us at RedMonk are profoundly grateful. It would all be worth it for any one of the below reactions, let alone all of them collected.

We are grateful that people are willing to take time out of their schedule to be with us, and hope that they have the kind of experience the folks above did. And most of all, we hope to hear sentiments such as the following.

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. It is enormously important to us that everyone who shares a hand in making this event possible and who makes it happen receives the credit they deserve, so please take a minute to thank the people that follow. Without their support and assistance, the Monktoberfest would not exist.

  • 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, Linode is just such a company, having bootstrapped a developer-focused cloud into one of the most popular dev-centric platforms anywhere.

  • 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 brand, they’re an organization 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 second 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.

    Last but not least we need to thank Lightbend. Focused on bringing real-time data to cloud native applications, Lightbend has deep expertise across a wide variety of technical areas as well as long time experience with open source. With its developer-friendly approach, the Monktoberfest was a natural fit.

  • Dinner & Breakfast:
    From the the crab cakes to the lobster rolls to the lamb chops to the sushi, we try and take care of our attendees whatever they may prefer to eat. Doing so – particularly when someone eats eight thousand dollars worth of shellfish – isn’t cheap and we need help to do that. Enter Datastax, the database for hybrid and multi-cloud company, and DigitalOcean, the developer cloud company, who both stepped up in a big way.

    DataStax went even further and helped out with our breakfasts, so whether you enjoyed a breakfast sandwich, a gluten-free Holy Donut or our other assorted options they deserve an extra thank you.

  • 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 Amazon Web Services make all of that possible with their generous underwriting of our video efforts. Thanks to their support, all Monktoberfest 2019 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 third year in a row at the Monktoberfest we hosted a Diversity & Inclusion program. Taking a page from the amazing efforts of our sister conference in London, the Monki Gras, 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 Accel, MongoDB and Solace.

  • Closed Captioning:
    Following in our sister concerence the Monki Gras’ admirable footsteps, the Monktoberfest was proud to introduce closed captioning to the event. Helping us bring a real time transcription of the event to those who needed it significantly elevated the accessibility of the event and our talks for all. We were grateful the Cloud Foundry Foundation for helping us bring this important feature to all of you.

  • Dinner Cruise:
    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 – this time with our dinner cruise. If you enjoyed the food and drink while threading our way between the islands of Casco Bay, IBM is the one to thank.

  • Glasses and Coffee:
    Every year, the glassware at the Monktoberfest is one of our most popular takeaways, and 2019 was no exception. Helping us bring you custom Barlow glassware was none other than the good folks from the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

    Additionally, the CNCF was the organization behind the coffee that even our pickiest coffee drinkers described as “excellent.” Our thirsty and tired attendees thank you.

  • 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 Cloudflare and Oracle.

  • Giveaway:
    Years ago, RedMonk talked to Dell about how unfortunate it was that none of the major hardware manufacturers were producing hardware designed exclusively developers. Dell agreed, and the result has been their Sputnik line of Linux-equipped XPS 13 hardware, beloved by developers the world over. At this year’s Monktoberfest, we were lucky enough to give one of these units away thanks to Dell.

  • Diversity and Inclusion Programming:
    In addition to helping offset the tickets and travel for our Diversity and Inclusion attendees, the Monktoberfest wanted to find a way to make their experience both at the event and following it a memorable one. As a result, we relied on help from Microsoft to provide items such as pronoun stickers as well as takeaways such as professional headshots – more on that in a minute. Microsoft generously help offset our costs in this regard.

  • Buy A Round:
    Joining us help buy absurd rounds like these were the good folks from StackPath, an edge-based cloud computing platform for developers. 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:
    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 four different offerings to choose from for lunch…of just cider. And then there were the browns, IPAs, lagers, pils, stouts and sours. Again – that’s just lunch. There’s a reason our lineup is so incredible every year, and as I tell people every year when they thank me for the the 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 human 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?

  • Mike Maney:
    One of our longest tenured attendees is also one of the event’s biggest supporters. For the first time this year, we put his unparalleled skills as a photographer to provide professional quality headshots to all of our Diversity & Inclusion attendees. We are enormously grateful for his continued support, and now our D&I attendees get to benefit from it as well.

  • Kate:
    Though as many of you noticed Kate wasn’t around the conference itself because of her day job as a dean, nearly all of the best aspects of the Monktoberfest are thanks to her. As I like to say, the good ideas you enjoy every year came 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:
    When it comes to the day to day, on the ground operation of the event, no one is more important than Rachel. Everything runs smoothly – even when it doesn’t and the deliveries end up in the wrong place – because Rachel is detail oriented, organized and on the ball and the human equivalent of a spreadsheet. 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 as well as handle the Monktoberfest social media accounts. Marcia handled all of the back end logistics as she does so well. Emma, Celeste, Elizabeth, Katie and Kim 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. It is always a pleasure to have Allagash involved because their 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.

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