Hey, this is Luis Sánchez, also known as Chief Blagger. I have been organizing this event since its inception in 2016, and now I would like to provide a personal overview of J On The Beach 2023.
Before diving into the details, let's start with some general statistics about J On The Beach 2023.
Comparing this year's edition with the previous one, we had nearly the same number of attendees. The main difference was that last year, we had a separate Data Science track on the workshop day, and around 130 visitors attended only this day. For this year's event, we aimed to have everything in one venue and decided to incorporate Data Science talks into the agenda of the second and third days of the event. Our goal was to bring together developers, DevOps, and Data Science professionals around Big Data. Did we achieve it? According to feedback from a couple of attendees, they were expecting more talks related to Data Science, with more in-depth and technical content. We will strive to improve this for next year.
One of the significant changes compared to last year's attendees is the increase in international participation, which accounted for 47% of the total attendance. This is more than double the number of international attendees we had last year, likely due to the lifting of pandemic restrictions. This percentage is similar to what we had in the editions prior to the pandemic.
Post-event survey results:
In general, most attendees expressed satisfaction with the event, according to the survey ratings. However, this year's ratings were slightly lower than last year's. The main complaints from our attendees were related to the food, water, and catering services. We understand that the catering company had some organizational issues on the first day. We failed to announce the event menu in advance, resulting in chaos during lunchtime. People were queuing unnecessarily, trying to grab food before others, and mistakenly thinking that there was a shortage of food when, in fact, there was plenty. The catering service was a bit slow in delivering dishes, and there was a bottleneck at the exit of the waiters. I observed the mess with frustration and received a few complaints about the lack of food. I reassured them that more dishes would be available, but they needed to wait. At the same time, I had to guard the vegetarian table to prevent people from taking the special menus. Food and registration are always challenging, but we will make improvements next year.
Regarding the content of the talks, the main complaints were that they were not deep and practical enough and that they were too abstract and focused on product/commercial aspects. We will take note of these complaints and make an effort to address them.
Below, you can find the highest-rated talks from the last JOTB23.
Challenges Faced by Us:
Undoubtedly, every event presents challenges for the organizers, and J on the Beach 2023 was no exception. We encountered several challenges that we had to overcome to ensure the event ran smoothly and exceeded attendees' expectations.
The primary challenge was selecting the venue. We needed a venue that could accommodate a larger number of attendees while providing state-of-the-art facilities and infrastructure.
The first three editions of JOTB took place by the beach at La Termica. However, due to the lack of support from the venue and the limited capacity of the main hall, we had to move to the Exhibition Hall, which we believe is the best-equipped venue for an event like this. Nevertheless, we still receive feedback from attendees asking us to return to the previous beachside venue. We will attempt to do so next year because we believe that the essence of JOTB is being on the beach.
Last-minute changes can be nerve-wracking for organizers, and the cancellation of three speakers just a few days before the event posed a significant challenge. We had to reschedule workshops, talks, print new materials, and bear the additional costs incurred.
However, one of the most significant challenges we faced was catering to the diverse profiles of the attendees and providing them with a personalized and exceptional experience. To achieve this, we prepared custom badges for each attendee, featuring their photo.
Here's how we did it: We individually searched for each attendee's photo on their LinkedIn, GitHub, or social media accounts. Then we sent each photo to Midjourney, requesting that they create a similar style to that of Robert Crumb (an underground comic artist whose comic books we recommend). We received four potential results for each photo and selected the one that most closely resembled the original. Just imagine doing this for 800 people including their dietary restrictions and T-Shirt size...
We also produced limited custom editions of goodies for the welcome bag.
Finding a reliable supplier of custom caps that could customize not only the front but also the different panels of the cap took us some time. However, we eventually found the perfect supplier, and we are extremely proud of the Chiquito de la Calzada caps, featuring him surfing the waves of El Melillero on both sides.
Olive on the Beach:
We collaborated with a small olive oil producer from Andalusia called Aceite de las Valdesas, who did an excellent job manufacturing our 100ml bottles of pure olive oil from the Arbequina variety. Attendees could take these bottles back with them on their flights.
Regarding the T-shirt design, our intention was to pay tribute to the leading scientists who have contributed to the principles of distributed computing while expressing our love for music. We took inspiration from Kraftwerk's legendary album "Computer World" and replaced the faces of the band members with designs of Barbara Liskov, Leslie Lamport, Donald Knuth, and Jim Gray. We contacted Barbara, Leslie, and Donald to send each of them a T-shirt, and they all kindly replied, thanking us for considering them as references.
Last year, we received feedback suggesting the need for a live concert and more networking activities. This year, we aimed to improve in these areas, so we organized an extra activity for each day of the event. Although the attendance for the Lightning Talk challenge was satisfactory, we were a bit disappointed with the turnout for the quiz and the final concert. We are not entirely sure why there was low attendance for these activities, but it may have been due to the disconnection between locations, which made it difficult for attendees to participate. As for the concert, we understand that not everyone enjoys punk-rock music or is accustomed to loud music. However, we encourage everyone to join and embrace the experience. Hey, ho, let's go!
See you next year...On The Beach ;)
Luis Sánchez de Ybargüen
Organiser of J On The Beach