I just arrived in San Francisco this morning returning from MAX Japan 2008. The event was great and it was a great way to end the MAX 2008 conference season. Japan had record attendance at 1900 attendees and the community was there in full effect. Overall 2008 was a year of great change for MAX, we added a new track “ENVISION”, we added 4 Unconferences, and we built the content (sessions & speakers) different than past years. Overall it was an amazing success, even with the economic downturn we had record attendance at all 3 events.
MAX 2009 will be my 3rd year coordinating content (keynotes and sessions) for the event. Over the past 2 years we have built a foundation delivering a better quality event (process and team) while at the same time growing attendance(2X in 2 years). So what should you expect in 2009?
MAX 2009 keys for success:
– More Community
– Better Speakers & Content
We are going to build the content for Adobe MAX 2009 openly under the Camp process we established last year. The goal is to make the content at MAX the best ever, content is king. To start, we are making changes to our speaker benefits to eliminate any barrier to having the best speakers at MAX. We are also going to get the community much more deeply involved in MAX content creation, planning, and speaker selection within the Camp process. Additionally we are going to expand the Unconference program and better integrate it into MAX overall.
To drive all this planning, the team has created the MAX Open Working Group on Adobe Groups to get anyone involved in MAX planning at a very early stage(9 months away!). We will leverage the MAX Open Working Group site to build all the content from session proposals to Camp Management to Session ratings and comments. Ideally anyone who wants to contribute to the conference can join us online. It will take a lot of work but this level or transparency and openness is essential to making MAX a leading industry event and the best event possible for attendees.
Camps and Camp Managers
In 2008 internally our team built all MAX content using Camps and Camp Managers. If you look at MAX as an whole there are about 36 biased interests that make up the content, examples include: RIA Design, Web Standards, Photoshop, ActionScript, Mobile Development, Web Design, ColdFusion, etc. Our first task was to define each biased interest group into a Camp and find a person passionate about the camp’s interest to lead/manage/own the camp. Each camp was then allocated a number of sessions to balance into 3 tracks: 50% in DEVELOP, 35% DESIGN, and 15% ENVISION. Each camp manager then picked the best sessions from the entire pool of proposed sessions that best met their camps interests. The camp managers were given complete independent control over sessions and speakers but were limited to the submitted session pool even internally. Last year especially, we saw a lot of new faces speaking at MAX and overall session averaged 20% better than prior years in quality in the surveys, these were largely due to the Camp and Camp Manager process. The process placed content control in the hands of the Camp Manager allowing them to do what was best for their biased interest group or Camp. It also made one person accountable for the quality of one set of sessions and this drove better session quality.
In 2008 a large majority of Camp Managers were Adobe internal, but this year we want a better balance of external Camp Managers. Given the success with externally managed Unconferences, MAX will be a much better event if community leaders manage more Camps at MAX. I really believe that this type of change will result in a much better content and event for everyone attending. Better still it lets attendees get involved in building the event they attend and that is great all around.