What makes a good conference?

Last week I attended the Affect Conference in Portland. A 2-day event about the work, culture, and design of social change, with a dash of volunteering. It also had childcare, ASL interpreters, reserved wheelchair and accessibility seating, gender-neutral restrooms, a quiet area, code of conduct and photo policy, and a “no laptop” rule during talks. In short, very thoughtful, very inclusive.

The speaker lineup was equally as thoughtful. Gamers, activists, developers, and designers sharing stories of gender identity, gaming for good, the ethics of care, and designing government to be better. When once you choose to live a life devoted to social justice, how your life will never be the same. How we are not saviors but servants. Why we must take care of ourselves first. And my story, on the 6-year tale of the design side of the #NOKXL campaign. A full schedule of talks that went down so many roads, some to a firm destination, and others with plenty to still think about and work on.

I think that’s what I enjoyed most about the conference. It wasn’t just a design conference. It wasn’t just a tech conference or an activist conference. It was a social change conference and that can be reached by so many means. Different talents, career paths, issues, and causes. In whatever city you happen to live in, dealing with the local and national politics of the day. We can all get there. And the stories that are shared from the place of social change are as varied as the people living them. 

This makes for a diverse conference. It challenges you to never get settled in. It keeps you on your toes as ideas you don’t really know about are discussed and the ideas you think you know well, have new light shed upon them.

A good conference is also just long enough. Perhaps too brief. As you are still looking for more. Which means you have been spurred on to get back to work and continue the fight in whatever way your days take you.