I’ve been working with Richard Eskins at the Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) on this years Front End North conference since the start of the year.
Things were going really great until very recently. We had the venue sorted, some sponsors lined up and a few early speakers – but ultimately things are not coming together in a way that can move forward so we’ve decided to reschedule the event to further into the year.
There’s no shame in doing this, we still have a great conference planned, it just needs to evolve and for that to happen we need more time to get things right.
In the meantime I’ll share some of the issues faced in organising this event:
Finding Front Enders
Front End North was planned as a very focused ‘front end’ event – there was to be no design, business, UX, opinion, workflow or any other general web/digital/etc topics on the roster.
My ideal line-up would cover modern topics such as OOCSS, BEM methodologies, CLI tools, developing frameworks, practical use of HTML5, performance talks and tools like Bower, Grunt, Gulp and of course Sass/LESS and any modern JS happenings like Angular, Impress.js, Backbone etc… Some of topics I actually don’t care about myself but I know the community do.
I also wanted to embrace brand new speakers and encourage them to get on stage and share what they are doing.
This hard line approach was hurting the conference. I found myself turning down more talks than accepting them because of my narrow focus. For the next phase we’ll be more pragmatic with talk submissions and try for a good balance.
Quick fire round
One other idea for Front End North was the use of a ‘quick fire’ or ‘lighting’ talks session which would dominate the afternoon. The idea was to give speakers 10 to 15 minutes to demo something awesome. It had to a live demo, no slides (maybe an intro slide), just code.
This idea, although valid, terrified and inspired speakers in equal measure and has since been dropped from the main line up.
I’d pencilled in a panel for Front End North titled ‘The Framework debate’ which would allow the room to discuss the growth of front-end frameworks like Bootstrap and Foundation. I got my inspiration from visiting Forefront Leeds where one of the sessions turned from a talk about frameworks into a heated group discussion with everyone in the room having varied and quite vocal opinions.
One issue with this was that I couldn’t find any speakers that would argue both sides. In general, hardcore front-end developers hate these sort of bloated frameworks and finding a defence for this proved to be a massive challenge – I feared the session would turn into a ‘framework bashing’ session rather than a worthwhile debate so the panel was eventually dropped which led to more planning around the schedule and of course, further delays.
Living for the weekend
One final problem was when we moved the conference from being a Saturday event to one on a Friday. This was done to allow speakers and attendees who did not wish to travel or take personal time out over the weekend.
This small change caused a long delay as we had to find a new venue within MMU which could accommodate us mid-week. We did eventually find a larger and more suitable space for the conference but this added a couple of weeks to the planning phase which were not anticipated.
The other more personal issue
I’ve recently found out that I need to have minor surgery and the procedure is tentatively booked in for June (my doctor would rather it was done ASAP). It’s estimated that I could be out of action for a couple of weeks – it’s nothing serious, actually pretty embarrassing but quite personal (I will blog about it one day) and it means that I can’t commit to event management around the same time.
At first I shrugged this off and tried my best to shuffle things around to fit the surgery in and just get on with it. But the looming surgery plus the mounting and awesome client work we have over at Make Do add up to June and July not being the best time of year for me to be out and about.
Front End North is still happening and is still going to be in Manchester and will still be a low-price community style event. None of the original ideals have changed – we just need more time to:
- Pick a new date
- Work with our speakers on new topics
- Find new speakers
- Organise a new schedule
Stay informed, get involved
You can stay up-to-date by joining the mailing list over at frontendnorth.com or follow @frontendnorth – I’ll also be tweeting updates as will Richard on his @eskins account.
If you’d like to speak at Front End North or be involved in volunteering or just helping out let me know by dropping an email to [email protected] if I don’t reply right away don’t worry, I’ll make sure to give everyone a response.
And if you are a MMU student make sure to follow these updates, there will be a number of FREE tickets allocated for students as well as a significant student discount on the standard ticket price 🙂
They say everything happens at the right time.
Onward and upwards!
Feel better soon.