On the weekend of 27 and 28 October, Mage Unconference 2018 took place in Cologne, Germany (or Köln for the connoisseurs). Integer_net did not only attend with 10 out of our 12 employees, but for the 4th year in a row, we were a proud main sponsor of the event. A personal recap from a first-time attendee.

As a fresh new employee at Integer_net, but a long-time Magento developer, I’m no stranger to Magento conferences. But never before did I visit an UnConference. As the name suggests, it’s not a conference. So, then what is it?

UnConference, the Definition

As the FireGento site states:

The Magento Unconference (MageUC) is the first of her kind in the Magento environment. It’s similar to a regular conference, which means experts and specialists attend the event, presenting and listening to various talks, networking and gaining experience. In contrast to a regular conference, the event’s focus is on conversations and free topics. Talks and speakers are collected and elected during the event. Every participant has a chance to get involved.

 

The MageUC is organised by Firegento e.V., a non-profit association originated in the community, and therefore, pursues no commercial interests. The feedback to the last conference was so positive that we expect to welcome 150 participants from the international Magento environment.

So there is no program. And there are no speakers. Or potentially, everyone is a speaker. There is no program until it’s created by the attendees. Everyone is free to suggest a topic, which is then put up on a wall. You write down the subject and your name in case you want to give the talk yourself, or you keep it open for someone else to jump in and give the talk.

In case there are multiple similar topics, they may be merged. Then suddenly you have multiple speakers for the topic. If there is no expert available, but there is enough interest, you get a discussion panel with a moderator.

In the morning, after the topics have been put up, they are introduced by the person who wrote it down. This is also where the speakers and the format of the talks are decided. All attendees get 2 stickers per day, which they can use to vote on a topic. The topics with the most votes are selected and placed on a program-board. There was place for 4 time-slots and 4 rooms, so 16 talks per day.

The Experience

An unorganized event might take even more planning than an organized event. Everything that could be prepared for the weekend was done with a lot of care. The location was the exact right size for the amount of people (sold out at 150 tickets) to accommodate the most popular talks as the ones with less attenders to create a more personal atmosphere. The food and drinks were exquisite; hot meals, fresh fruit, sweets, fresh smoothies and coffee from a barista. There was a game corner with air-hockey and a foosball-table. And there was childcare!

The organisation did a fantastic job, before and during the event. The host of the conference, Fabian Blechschmidt, made us comfortable from the moment he officially opened the first day. As a non-German visitor it was very nice that there was a ‘strict policy’ on speaking English, which really makes you feel more included.

The Talks

Because the program is made in the morning, the subjects are diverse and timely. The range of topics is very broad, from development talks to growing teams and taking care of mental health or even talks about things unrelated to work. It gives the opportunity to learn about new things and get inspired. It also makes for a diverse offering of speakers. Seasoned talkers like our own Fabian held several talks, while I got the opportunity to step up and take the stage for the first time. Something I had been wanting to do for a long time, but never before it was so easy to make the step.

Fabian and I talked about how we integrated a React Checkout into Magento, replacing the default checkout as a “drop-in” component. It’s exciting material since React is going to be replacing the current Magento front-end in the near future, so we’re trying to stay ahead of the curve and already use React in current projects.

You may expect a blog-post on our React checkout soon (we’ll link it here when we publish it), but if you’re interested, make sure you follow us on Twitter, add a comment below or send us an email so we can keep you up to date.

The Family

From the moment I arrived at the venue I felt like I was visiting a family reunion. So many friendly faces. Some familiar, many new. It is a special thing when you meet someone for the first time, after years of contact through Twitter only (hi @simonsprankel). On a regular conference there’s usually no time to just hang out. You hop from talk to talk and grab a coffee and sandwich in between and have a quick chit-chat.

In other communities you’d be ‘networking’, here you are ‘making friends’. And I look forward to meeting them again next year.

Want to read more? Check the Twitter hashtag #mageUC18, or read Karen Baker’s post. You can read about the event from an organizer’s perspective in Sonja Riesterer’s post on Medium.

Willem Wigman

Author: Willem Wigman

Willem Wigman is Magento 1 and Magento 2 developer at integer_net. His focus lies in front- and backend development and ReactJS.

Willem started as a freelance developer in 2007, works with Magento since 2011 and ran his own Magento Agency for a couple of years.

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