ClueCon – Best Engineering Telephony Event of 2010 August 10, 2010 at 7:40 pm

This past week, we announced our new project – the 2600hz Project – at the annual ClueCon Telephony Developers Conference in Chicago, IL. This event continues to be the number one event that I look forward to year after year.

Let me explain why this conference is so special to me. First off, the FreeSWITCH team goes to great lengths to line up speakers who know telephony inside and out. These folks don’t just talk about trends related to PBXes and such. They discuss – in tremendous detail – things that most companies would consider company secrets. Likely topics include building a hosted cloud-based phone system that scales to millions of nodes, or how to tweak parameters in FreeSWITCH to improve performance on Amazon EC2. I am not sure how long this trend will continue, but for now, the idea that I can sit in front of a company’s top CTOs and developers and have them explain deep technical information about the inner workings of their product – that’s pretty amazing and incredibly helpful. At the end of the day, it feels like everyone is just trying to build cool new VoIP tools – and once they get going they’re excited to share it with the world.

Second, the crowd who participates in this conference is unique. They are mostly developers. There are no vendor tracks. There are no sales tracks. It’s all engineers, and they are all really passionate about what they do. Most of them are also a lot of fun. This conference really has a feel of community. It is not unusual for people to know at least ten or twenty others at the conference (mostly thanks to the insanely active FreeSWITCH IRC channel). At most conferences, I find the after-party events a bit awkward and stale. Most people don’t stay very long. At the FreeSWITCH after-party event (put on by iCall both last year and this year), people hung out, chatted and really engaged with other folks.  I look forward to the after-party events as much as the talks, although by Thursday I’m admittedly pretty exhausted and don’t have much of a voice left.

Finally, the last thing I love about ClueCon is the networking. Many people who attend ClueCon are actively seeking partners, jobs or other engagements. The ideas being presented are regularly fresh and creative, so it makes sense that conversations about partnering and building long-term relationships happen at ClueCon. And with companies continuing to send their top-level folks to the conference, you actually get to talk to the people who really make executive level decisions. This avoids extra rounds of introductions and scheduling of conference calls and such that I often find you must go through with other firms who send non-CTO level staff to their events.

There are some concerns I have about the ability for ClueCon to remain this open. This year, the conference saw a lot more paid sponsorships – I hope this is not the precursor to a tradeshow or exhibit hall being introduced. There are plenty of other events to fill that gap. In addition, I noticed several companies who flew in staff just for a day or so to do their talk and then depart. This is a bit different then the “community” feel that comes with folks who fly out and stay for the week. Finally, the conference is simply getting more popular – without good strategies around ice breakers and possibly more personalized events I think people will slowly become more reluctant to share ideas.

All in all, the conference remains the top-notch event I continue to look forward to every year. I don’t expect this to change anytime soon and I’ll continue to attend, watch and listen as time goes on.

Special thanks to Michael Collins and Brian West for doing such a wonderful job getting this year’s ClueCon organized. It was, as usual, better then last year’s. And an extra special thanks to Meraki. They provided wireless Internet stations throughout the conference floor. This is the first computer-related conference I’ve ever been to where the Internet actually worked reliably. Awesome.

See you next year.

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