A few months back, I attended OSCON which was an 18-track conference, at least. I wasn't alone being overwhelmed by the unmanageable amount of material.
Choice paralysis was the condition of the show.
But it doesn't take the 18 tracks of OSCON, or the 50+∞ tracks of SXSW Interactive to force some tough, and largely uninformed decisions about how to spend your time, and ultimately, money. With just 4 tracks of RailsConf it's easy to feel like "oh, I have a project about this, but I really want to learn about that". What to do?
All else being equal, the recipe I'm looking for goes something like this:
The talk is:
- presented by one person...
- who is affiliated with an organization for which I have some respect...
- who is talking about one hard problem / interesting project / concretely defined idea
Now, there are exceptions and exceptions and exceptions. But playing the odds, with little other info, that's what i'm going to look for. Why?
One person: this greatly increases the chance that you'll be seeing a confident and competant speaker (for the duration of the session).
Organization that I respect: this will vary wildly depending on who you are and how you work, but if an organization is being repped that you're curious about, follow your inner professional fandom.
Lastly, one project: at the end of a conference I'm often most glad about having heard one really smart person going in depth about one really interesting problem.
Like I said, exceptions abound. These aren't hard-and-fast "rules" but a light framework for making quick decisions.