Issue 41

SoCraTes 2015 Unconference

Mihnea Lazăr
Java Developer
@.msg systems Romania


“The most interesting parts of a conference are the coffee breaks”

That is a key idea on which the concept of “unconference” was based upon. That the networking and information transfer, the best part of a conference, happens in a more efficient and enjoyable manner between sessions.

Also known as an open space conference, an unconference steers away from the classical concept of fixed conferences with predetermined subjects of discussion.

SoCraTes 2015 Germany

After a few years, SoCraTes has expanded as an event, and now takes place in multiple places across the world (United Kingdom, Belgium, Canary Islands, Switzerland). The Germany edition of SoCraTes took place in Soltau.

The conference started on Thursday and ended on Sunday.

On Thursday, the conference began in the evening. Participants attended a World Café, a meeting where they got to know each other better.

On Friday and Saturday were the Open Spaces, the main attraction of the conference. On Sunday, the participants were free to make workshops of their own, where they could apply the knowledge they had accumulated and/or work on different projects with people they had gotten to know at the event.

The open space

The main tool of the open space: the board! On the left side of the board were the time slots available for the session (base time of 1 hour each), and on the upper side, where the meeting rooms available for the sessions.

After the World Café event from Thursday, the participants had gotten to know each other and were more comfortable with sharing their ideas. So, they were invited to line up and present the topics they were interested in.

The line of people waiting to add topics stretched on both sides of the board. The board was filled with topics, which stretched out from 10:30 up until 18:00 on both days! Some topics were later expanded and discussed at dinner, after dinner, at the bar, or repeated the next day.

An average of 10 participants attended each session, creating the atmosphere of work colleagues discussing random topics after work, over beers. Most topics were discussed without any presentations prepared before, so the questions were welcomed at any time clarification was necessary. Because of the small number of people, the questions could flow at a comfortable pace for all that were present.

Some sessions started discussions that grew into other sessions. In these cases, they were either continued outdoors, in the hotel court, they found another timeslot later, or they exchanged contact info or blogs.

Inevitably, there were situations when a participant would leave during a session, which was perfectly ok. Participants were free to attend more than one session in a given timeslot, and get basic information or references from each.

A selection of sessions:

  1. Web front-end

2 . Personal knowledge management and productivity

3 . Blender 3D modelling introduction

4 . Remote work, where a number of people shared their thoughts on this process and compared notes. Some of the people worked remotely, some had colleagues who worked remotely, and some managed over people who worked remotely. Each brought some original ideas to the table.

5 . Remote pair programming, where some tools were presented, with the purpose of improving this process

6 . Code is music

7 . Monorepos

  1. Open salaries

8 . Concurrency, robustness & Elixir



Photos: https://twitter.com/coderbyheart/

Socrates 2015 Sessions: https://www.socrates-conference.de/wiki/2015/index

"Code is music": http://supercollider.github.io/



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