Fifteen Years of Awesome Events: Why I'm Retiring From Organizing

I've been helping run conferences for 15 wonderful years. It is time to step back.

Django Conferences & Meetups

I'm Retiring from Conference Planning.

2018 will be the last year I'm involved as a conference organizer. I've had an absolutely wonderful time doing it, and gotten a chance to work with some of the best people you could imagine doing so. It has been wonderful for my career, my passions, and my circle of friends.

But it is time to move on to other things. I haven't completed that album I've been threatening to record since college, and actually have put together a nice enough home studio to finally do so. I've got two nephews that are the light of my life, that I want to spend more time with. My work with other people in the recovery community is something that is non-negotiable.

The Second Life Community Convention

I was part of the team that started the Second Life Community Convention, many years ago. Second Life was the ultimate blank canvas for a geek like me: an open 3-D world where you could build like I used to with Lego, and a scripting language to boot. Second Life gained a reputation in the press for being little more than a corporate fad with lots of sex sprinkled in, but it was and is so much more. I haven't been involved in years, but those early years from 2003 - 2008 sure were magic for me. I made some great friends that I'm still in touch with, and started the Second Life Community Convention with them.

Our first year, we had 150 attendees in New York City. Just ten months later in San Francisco, the second exploded to about 450 attendees. In the third year in Chicago, we had 800 paid attendees, but I can guarantee you with the press and people who came for the "hallway track", we were over 1000.

Philadelphia Based Conferences

I've also been involved with many Philadelphia based conferences over the years. I started working at The Wharton School in 2008 - it is hard to believe I've been here for a decade! - and quickly got involved in helping run events at Wharton. Soon after I started, our Learning Lab ran the Evolution of Learning Symposium. To keep a long story short, we eventually merged with another conference being run at the school and formed the Wharton Web Conference.

This allowed us to bring some amazing speakers to the school, including keynotes like Steve Wozniak, Felicia Day, and the best conference talk I've ever seen, given by Cory Ondrejka. I also got involved in hosting BarCamp Philly: while our city's first few BarCamps were at University of the Arts, it has been hosted at Wharton for many years now. It has been such a joy.

DjangoCon US Organizers 2017
The DjangoCon US 2017 organizers.
Credit: Adam

Why Now?

I have been asking myself this question for some time. After speaking with people close to me, I've come to realize that it is time to let someone else experience the joy. Organizing conferences has been a boon to my life, my career, and opened up so many opportunities for me. While running conferences is a lot of work, much of it thankless, it is also a service opportunity. By continuing to organize in the communities I love, I am blocking that service opportunity from someone younger, someone who might need it more than I do. Conferences also continually need new people to keep relevant and full of energy, and it is time for that to happen.

Working with the DjangoCon US team for the past few years has been amazing. I have learned so much, and feel foolish for the way I did some things earlier in my organizing ventures. But that's what life really is about: life long learning, and a quest for self improvement. To make the world just a little bit better for someone else. To learn what true empathy and altruism are. Being a DjangoCon US organizer have taught me these lessons in spades.

I've immensely enjoyed what I've done, and I'll be continuing to attend the conferences I love so much. So not goodbye: I'll still see y'all soon. Thanks for everything.