Last weekend, from the 29th November until the 1st December 2019, MageUnconference took place at Tor 28 in Cologne, Germany. It was the fifth edition of this unusual conference. At an unconference, there are no previously set talks or presentations. Instead, every attendee is invited to propose a topic which is then voted on. The talks with the most votes will then form the day’s agenda.

On Friday, the event started with a pre-party for all attendees. Thanks to the sponsors, food and drinks were covered, and everyone looked like they enjoyed a good time with friendly people.

Then Saturday morning came around and people entered Tor 28 where the organizers had prepared everything: The attendees’ name tags and shirts, along with a Lebkuchenherz sponsored by main sponsor maxcluster. There was freshly made coffee and smoothies as well as some breadrolls for breakfast.

Scaling is hard

Again, MageUnconference was sold out. This year, due to an issue with ticket sales, there were more tickets sold than originally planned. As a result, the venue was pretty busy on Saturday with ~150 attendees. The more attendees there are, the more topics are proposed. The more topics are proposed, the more time it takes to introduce them all (even if it’s just 3 sentences per topic) and the more time it takes to count votes and create a schedule.
Also, some people brought a suitcase full of interesting topics with them – which is great, but it also takes up a lot of time to introduce them all.
More people in one room also means more background noise. So it would be helpful to have a microphone in use. Like a MageUnconference branded throwable microphone (what great sponsoring opportunity)!

My suggestions for next year:

  • Limiting the number of attendees to ~ 130.
  • Limiting the number of suggested topics per person per day to two.
  • Adding a microphone.

Schedule of Day One

Our team presented suggested several talks at MageUnconference and some of them made it into the agenda.

Magento 2 frontend performance

My colleague Willem Wigman held a talk about Magento 2 frontend performance, demonstrating the recent improvements he did for two of our projects. A blogpost on this will follow soon.

It’s all about communication

I offered a non-Magento talk about communication models. Explaining theoretical basics, my aim here was to help people understand others and to communicate better. With an engaged audience, I very much enjoyed the session. Following a question from the audience, I now researched whether sign language is regarded as digital (word based) or analog (represented by a similar object) communication:

Some researchers have argued that the features of motion and spatial relationships marked in ASL [American Sign Language] verbs of motion are in fact not linguistic morphemes but are based on the analog imagery system that underlies nonlinguistic visual–spatial processing.

Aaron J. Newman, Ted Supalla, Nina Fernandez, Elissa L. Newport, Daphne Bavelier

Neural systems supporting linguistic structure, linguistic experience, and symbolic communication in sign language and gesture

So much knowledge, so much to memorize and organize

Before lunch, I attended a talk by Christian Münch and Vinai Kopp about personal knowledge management. Christian demonstrated his own knowledge management with Trilium which I found very cool.

Future of smaller agencies and freelancers in the Magento world

In the recent past, we have seen a lot of consolidation in the market of Magento focussed agencies which may have led to my colleague Andreas’ topic suggestion “Self-employment with Magento” which was combined in a session with Christian Münch’s topic “Can smaller agencies / freelancers survice?”. During this discussion and in numerous conversations at MageUnconference, it became clear that the complexity of Magento 2 requires a bigger project budget compared to M1. The complexity also makes it hard for freelancers to get the required experience to start on their first project.
Interestingly, we heard very different opinions on the difficulty to sell a Magento 2 project / find a good client.

Raccoon Riddle

The talk by Christian and Vinai took place in the Raccoon room which integer_net as a main sponsor “decorated”. Instead of really decorating, we offered a raccoon riddle. In general, it’s called the nine dots puzzle.

When the talks of Day One ended, we picked the winner of the raccoon riddle that we had organised as a main sponsor in the Raccoon room. One cute little stuffed raccoon has now moved in with Julian who promised to look after them really well.

After Show Party

Later that evening, all attendees were invited to join the After Show Party at meyers in Cologne. An old-school pub with skittle alley in the basement and 80s music running on low volume so people could actually talk to each other without the need to shout.
And yet, Carmen’s voice gave out.

Schedule of Day Two

The first session I attended on Day Two was not officially part of the schedule. David Manners, who recently got his German citizenship, showed us some of the questions about Germany, its political structure, and culture that you need to pass in order to get your citizenship.

Meanwhile, my colleague Christian gave insights into running an escape room. During the last four years, he has built up some experience with his own escape room Raus!.

Afterwards, I joined Claudia Teubner’s talk about the origins of European fairytales. Let it be known: the stories written by the Brothers Grimm are not grim at all compared to earlier fairytales.

Customizing Magento’s multistore concept

In a recent project, our team faced the challenge of integrating more than 30 countries in one Magento 2 store. Nothing that Magento 2 can’t do. Fabian presented the solution that our team applied: They tackled the issue by modifying some of Magento’s usual behaviour in order to reduce the number of store views.

What do developers want? More transparency about their salary

Another valuable session for me was Anton’s HR toolbox, presented by Anton Boritskiy of Sitewards. He let us in to his contemplations about employee retention, transparent salary calculation, and employee evaluation. Showing the steps he took to come up with the solution applied today at Sitewards made it easy for the audience to follow his talk and to understand the thoughts that went into creating “Anton’s HR toolbox”.

The Unconference As A Whole

Food? Yes, lots of it.

As always, MageUnconference had a lot of food to offer. Breadrolls, croissants, pudding breadrolls. Fresh veggies and fruits. Freshly made smoothies & coffee. Lemonades, juice and water in glass bottles. Sweets, chocolate, and warm food for lunch and dinner including vegetarian and vegan options.
Since it was the 5th “birthday” of MageUnconference, there was cake for everyone with everyone’s name on it. And donuts, so many donuts.
In true unconf style, people were invited to take any leftovers with them on Sunday afternoon when the event ended. I should have packed a box of vegan lasagna but my hands were already busy carrying flowers.

Flowers?

Yes. Fabian and the rest of the organizers gave me a big bouquet of flowers. I had helped organise MageUnconference in 2016, 2017 and 2018. After the event in 2018, I decided to leave the organizing team. Even though I was lucky enough to have an employer like integer_net that let me do MageUnconference organization tasks during my working hours, it was one more open tab in my mind that made it more difficult for me to focus on what I wanted to achieve.

It wasn’t always easy for me to see the organizers doing their organizers things and not being part of it. Carmen, Claudia, Fabian, Rico and Tobsen are lovely people who get stuff done, always looking for ways to improve the event and its inclusiveness. (Did I mention the MageUnconference offers child care? Thanks to great sponsors at root360 and team neusta who see the relevance and value of such an offer to our Magento community!)

WiFi? Sure.

With Enrico Tischendorf present, you know that someone really cares about providing a good Wi-Fi quality. When I used it during my talk, it worked like a charm.

Open minds

During the pre-party, I had the chance to chat with Sebastian Hamann, Niklas Dzösch and also briefly with Stefan Hamann – all of them of Shopware. Shopware at a Magento focussed event? Yes! The three of them had been explicitly invited by the organizers to attend MageUnconference. For me, the conversations we had offered the opportunity to reflect on Magento’s (Adobe) and its community’s behaviour, strategy, way of doing things, the necessity, cause and effect of a community around an ecommerce platform.
Unfortunately, the three of them couldn’t stay long enough to attend the Shopware session on Saturday. I’d say it’s a valid excuse for them to attend their own Christmas party. So instead a group of others led the Shopware session and turned it into an open discussion.
I don’t know if any official Magento (Adobe) employee attended the Shopware session. There were more than 40 attendees sitting in a circle, discussing pro and cons of Shopware 6, its license model and feature set, migration tools and tech stack.
The average opinion of people in the Magento community on Shopware has definitely changed.

Even bigger, better, brighter?

The next MageUnconference will happen on 13th – 15th of November 2020, again at Tor 28 in Cologne. Given the dimensions of the venue, I hope the number of attendees doesn’t grow. However, looking at the attendance of our own team, it may be useful to offer one-day tickets which hopefully make it easier for the organizers to estimate how many people will actually be present. E.g. the number of people at the After Show Party was significantly lower than during the day.

I’m confident that MageUnconference 2020 will be sold out too. So better book your tickets early and if you want to sponsor, you should also contact the team early. More information about MageUnconference can be found on their website.

Finally, the biggest thank you possible to the organizers who did an outstanding job this weekend and throughout the year.

Sonja Franz

Author: Sonja Franz

Sonja Franz is the Marketing Manager at integer_net. She especially enjoys organising events. Sonja is a Magento Certified Solution Specialist for Magento 1 and Magento 2 and has been awarded as a Magento Master in the category “Maker” in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

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