Why REST Fest? (by Mike Amundsen)
This piece first appeared on Mike's personal blog.
I'll be attending REST Fest 2010 this September 17th & 18th. In fact, i'm a co-chair of the event w/ my good friend Benjamin Young. There are lots of conferences, seminars, workshops, etc. but unlike many existing events I've attended, REST Fest follows the Open Spaces "unconference" model and is designed to focus on practical issues, emphasizes discussion over lectures, and encourages hacking on code as a social activity.
We're hoping this approach is interesting enough to attract a relatively small, but animated group of like-minded REST-o-philes to the NEXT Innovation Center in Greenville, SC for two days of high-quality, low-stress interaction with some cool folks.
To that end, here's some basic principles we kept in mind as we put together the event:
Less Theory, More Practice
Theories, studies, and formal papers on network architecture and the future of the web, yada-yada are cool, but that's not what we're interested in here. Instead, if you're "doing it", we wanna see it.
If you're building a RESTful HTTP library, we'd like to hear about it. If you're using and existing HTTP library in a RESTful way, show it off! If you've got some hard-won experience wrangling some existing framework into a RESTful result, we'd like to see it in action.
We All Talk
Another thing we decided early on is to make the entire event as interactive as possible. That means we are encouraging all attendees to come not just listen but also to talk. while we will have a few "Selected Talks" that feature smart folks saying smart stuff, we are also setting aside a large block of time for "Lightning Talks" or Five Slides in Five Minutes. In fact, we hope everyone will offer at least one FiveInFive talk this year.
So we made it super easy to propose a talk. When you register for REST Fest, all you need to do is supply a title, short abstract, and audience level (Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced) for one or more talks and that's it. All proposed talks will get at least a FiveInFive slot for the Saturday sessions. Some talks may also be picked as a "Selected Talk" (30+ mins).
And your talk proposals don't have to be all "Here's the right way to do X" or "Now I'll give you the big secret..." Instead, maybe you want to talk about how hard it is to understand some part of the REST arch style or how much of a pain it is to do something "simple" over HTTP, etc. So you might want to offer a "How Do I do X?" talk or "Why is REST so danged Y?" talk and see what kind of feedback you get.
Cuz, the point is - we all need a chance to speak out minds, right?
We All Listen
Since everyone will be talking, that means we all get to listen, too. And we mean active listening; as in questions, comments, suggestions, elaborations, etc. We'll be setting aside Breakout Rooms where people can gather to explore topics brought up in the FiveInFive sessions. So attendees can create their own breakout sessions on stuff the attendees think is interesting.
This is especially true for FiveInFive talks that pose a question instead of trying to solve a problem. Maybe a bunch of folks all have the same question! Maybe they all have a tiny piece of the answer. If we all listen, we might just be able to put it all together.
Hacking Is A Good Thing
We also wanted to make it easy to go off and hack away at some exsiting library or framework project; even make it possible for folks to come as a group and spend their time building cool stuff. So we'll have a Hack Room open throughout the event.
Got a project you want to share with others? Get some feedback on? Looking to rope a few code-jockeys into helping you build a cool framework? This is the place to give it a shot. Who knows, maybe someone will get some ideas from the talks and head into the Hack Room to build "the ultimate HTTP library" all at the same time!
Hey, it could happen<g>.
Oh Yeah, It Should Be Cheap, Too.
I've attended enough events that cost upwards of four figures; sheesh! We wanted to make it easy for everyone to attend without breaking the bank. If we could, we'd make it all free (but we can't - yet). This year, you can attend REST Fest for as little as 25 USD; 50 USD if you also join in the pre-conference workshop.
That way, you don't have to worry about justifying a huge conference fee to your boss or raiding the family vaction money just to get a chance to interact w/ some like-minded folks.
So That's Basically It
We wanted to hang out w/ with smart folks, talk about real-life examples of REST and HTTP programming, get a chance to say our piece, maybe do a little hacking, and not go broke in the process.