Why I’m Co-organizing The Big Elixir

“Creating a conference is hard.” “It takes a lot of time, energy, and planning.” “You have to be a certain kind of crazy to want to create a conference.”

These are things I have heard time and time again. So why would I agree to organize a conference?

Let’s go back to 2015. By this time, I had been using Elixir for over a year. I had already created packages and interacted with the community, and Elixir is the first programming language where I did both.

In February of 2015, I started working on ElixirScript. Some time later that year, the CFP for the second ElixirConf came up. I wanted to apply, but I was afraid.

I had presented in front of meetups, but never at a conference. I mentioned it to Joe Ellis, the co-organizer of The Big Elixir. He convinced me to apply by applying himself. My presentation was accepted, and I presented on ElixirScript at ElixirConf 2015. That was also the first real programming conference I attended. I left energized to do even greater things with Elixir! All thanks to Joe for pushing me to apply and for that I am grateful.

In 2016, I got a lot of offers to speak at conferences. I turned all of them down.

Not because I didn’t want to, but because I have a fear of flying. Ironically, I married an ex-flight attendant. It is something I want to work on, but it has made it hard to take certain opportunities. I have the privilege to travel around the world and meet awesome people, but I’m kept chained where I am by fear of the friendly skies.

That fear is actually what planted the seeds for The Big Elixir.

New Orleans has lots of conferences, and even some technology conferences. But not many programming conferences. The technology conferences that come here tend to focus on business and entrepreneurship in tech more than anything. These kinds of conferences are important, but they are not for me. I want conferences here that I want to attend — the kind that the growing software engineering community wants to attend.

Conferences that we can get excited about.

Conferences like RubyConf, which was here last year. I met and chatted with RubyConf attendees for hours. It was great to have here.

Conferences like Clojure Sync, which Eric Normand organized and hosted. I was a volunteer and sat in on all the talks. I’m not a Clojure developer but I genuinely enjoyed the conference. I am excited that Clojure Sync is going to continue to be here.

JazzCon. VueConf. These are the kinds of experiences I enjoy, and New Orleans deserves more of them.

So, why would I agree to organize a conference?

Simply put, I enjoy talking to like minded people about Elixir, and I don’t like flying.

And creating more programming conferences in New Orleans will help grow the tech community here. And that’s what Joe and I want to do.

We may have decided to organize a conference, but it didn’t become real until Nicky Mast joined us. She has expertise in organizing conferences and she’s the engine that makes things run.

Together, we are The Big Elixir team. The Big Elixir is in New Orleans on November 8th and 9th and we hope you will join us.