Today RIACON 2012 has officially wrapped up. The newer venue made the entire conference seem bigger than it actually was. Not sure the actual numbers, but it was indeed a smaller, regional type conference. The conference organizers, AboutWeb, are very happy to keep the conference on the smaller side. They really do not want to be another CFUNITED.
Even though the venue is small, the quality of speakers was amazing. The last regional event I attended was one in Dallas. That conference, which will remain nameless, featured an array of different technologies including: CF, Java, and even PHP. Yet only about half the speakers at that one day conference were decent. RIACON on the other hand had a lot of quality speakers.
The only downside with any conference seems to be the tradeoff of sponsorship. When you pony up with the big bucks, you get to send your own speakers to fill some of the spots. Adobe has some great speakers, but sometimes you get an engineer who isn’t great at public speaking or a product person who is really good at sales, but not a technical speech. Most of the time their engineers and product people are fantastic, but no organization is perfect. That issue was minimized at RIACON this year. In fact, I only remember one “talk” that seemed more about selling the idea of the product instead of introducing me to how to use the product. I attended a non-CF session called “Intro to PhoneGap” presented by Andrew Trice, an Adobe employee. The presentation felt more like a feature list discussion than a “how to” session. I’d rather have “lab” format for that and skip what I could have read on their website.
Hopefully the organizers will continue to shape the conference to contain less overview materials and more technical sessions. Don’t get me wrong, there were a good number of technical sessions but they could have stood to have more of what I would call “advanced technical” sessions. The national conference that comes to mind that does a great job at that is CFObjective. If that format could be adopted at RIACON, then RIACON would become the first choice for local developers. It is slowly getting there but with some leadership it could be exactly that at RIACON 2013. In fact, I would probably just dump most of the introductory sessions in favor of more technical sessions.
Being a regional conference, the keynotes were not really “noteworthy”. They did highlight information that was interesting, especially when talking about mobile trends. Code names for future products aside, there was no real breaking news but that is not important at a regional conference.
Overall, I would say this conference was well worth the money. It was particularly a value for local attendees like me. With 10 main sessions, it worked out to be about $12.50 per session. You can’t get that kind of value at a national conference. I will definitely try to attend RIACON 2013.