Last week I accompanied my friend (as well as O’Reilly author) Jason Hunter on a “Geek Cruise” — a curious combination of typical conference sessions and non-stop informal meeting between programmers set on a moving hotel with a staff that caters to your whim. I wasn’t sure what to expect at first. After all, cruises are sometimes seen as being for older and retired people. And I was a bit skeptical of being able to think about technical matters while enjoying drinks on the beach. Much to my surprise, the chemistry of the event worked well.
The sessions I attended were full of interesting questions and great dialog between the participants. And the best conversations were found amongst the many informal areas of the boat. I talked about threads with a couple of people while working out in the gym and talked about Ant several times over drinks. I even found myself explaining synchronization to somebody by the pool while enjoying the sun. It’s this level of casual conversation that is missing at traditional conferences.
At most conferences, you get about an hour to listen to a speaker and maybe a few minutes after his talk to ask questions. On the cruise ship, you get a chance to talk with them all week long, possibly over drinks, likely over dinner, and maybe even while you are playing with stingrays. The environment lets the conversations go deeper. After all, where are you going to go? Where’s the rush? The environment encourages depth and discussion rather than simple quick questions and answers.
Neal Bauman, the CEO of Geek Cruises, is onto something here. I’m not sure he’s got the marketing of the conferences quite down pat yet, but if the one that I just got off of is any indication, he’s got a winner on his hands. As for myself, I know that I’ll be going again.
Have you been on a Geek Cruise? What did you think?