Tecnonov 2008: fiasco or success?

I could start writing about this issue in a several number of ways. I could, and maybe should, start by not using a title such as "fiasco or success?". But, while a lot other prespectives could be chosen to talk about how was Tecnonov 2008, and probably some more useful than this one, I'm writting this way because I'll try to focus in what was more important for me, and what I think is important in future tech "meetings" (conferences, unconferences, social meetings, whatever) in Portugal, at least for folks like me.

First of all, Tecnonov. Tecnonov is the result of an idea that Octávio and me had while I was working at MagicBrain. The concept evolved, and in the end of 2006 we already knew exactly what we wanted. Tecnonov 2007 was, thus, planned to be a slightly technical free conference about Technology and Inovation in Portugal, in a public place (like FNAC) where anyone could pass by and listen if they were curious about the theme.

Tecnonov 2007 went well: it was Winter and the wether wasn't pushing you to go outside and play, so many people went to FNAC and ended listening to the talks that happened. Sometimes, the place was really full, with most of the people not knowing that they would be listening to a Tecnonov presentation before. But a lot of other things were also happening, like - for instance - the thirst there was for "geek meetings" in Portugal, that weren't happening.

Tecnonov 2008 was... different. We chose FNAC because it was a public place, and the event could run for free. We decided to make it bigger, so we made it from morning till dinner time. We scheduled thirteen presentations, doubling last year's. It was a sunny day. The whole day was spent with almost only the people that went there to talk about something, presenting to the others that were there doing the same. If the target was to talk about technology and innovation to a non-tech public, then Tecnonov 2008 was a fiasco.

But was it? Sure, this year we didn't have people blogging about the event afterwards (at least until now). But, for me, this was the best event I attended to in Portugal (thanks to the networking I did, the stuff I learnt, the people I met and talked to, the contacts that were made, the informal conversation it was). At least two other attendies also prefered this year's event than last years. Why? Were the presentations better? Well, maybe, but I don't believe that's what matters in this issue. I think that this year Tecnonov was a success, because people interested in technology, with similar or different backgrounds, had the chance to informally talk about different things, learn and network.

So, what's the future of Tecnonov? I don't know - it's too soon to tell. What I can say is that:

  • If you want to talk to non-tech people, this model doesn't work (at least as it should). I have several ideas of how to make a better model, but I'm not really interested in going into that (at least for now). (If you're interested in talking about it, feel free to leave a comment here.)

  • This is the kind of "informal meeting" that, at least I, was seeking with Barcamp, OpenCoffee, or "OpenPub" or whatever. We managed to do it "by chance", but the formula is not hard: and it would be awsome to have something like what this Tecnonov was for me several times a year.

  • "Social Meetings" or "Technical Meetings" were regulars are asked to do "Lightning Talks" or something like that, well... That doesn't work. Plus, you'll be throwing away cool oportunities. Two of the best talks this Tecnonov had for me was one from a Debian Developer talking about Debian (its philosophy, development process, community and so on), and other from a lawyer focused on "digital copyright" issues (copyright applied to computer programs and so on). I don't think I would have the pleasure to listen these guys talking if they're were invited to be there (so, no chance of these kinds of presentations in a Barcamp, for instance).

Why am I saying all this? Where am I heading to? Well, these are just "raw thoughts" that came to me after this event. They don't mean nothing - yet. What I know is that Portuguese tech people still feel the need to find ways (real places, events and forums of gathering, networking, discussion,...) of hanging out with each other. In two weeks we'll have the TakeOff conference, and this year we'll have another SHiFT. Barcamp Coimbra 2008 and Sapo CodeBits 2008 are probably happening (I suppose). But is that enough? Is that the best way? In the meantime, the best is just gathering with some people in a Pub? Or is something else that could be made?

Unrelated note: I'm, on purpose, not talking about the various talks that happened. Still, here's the note that every one of them was - for me - really interesting. Maybe I'll talk about each of them later, but that's not as important as talk about what I'm talking about in this post (at least for me).

Note to self: never do 45 minutes presentations again. If the presentations and issues are good, then the funnier part - where people discuss about it - will make any theme to take longer than 45 minutes.

Yay moment: My GPG key is finally signed by a Debian Developer: YAY!