I'm here at Gnomedex in Seattle. It's been a couple of years since I've attended, for a variety of reasons, but I love the participants and have made many great connections here over the years. I made the decision last minute and picked up an extra ticket from the Hop Studios. The experience - as always - has been great: thanks to @chrispirillo and the rest of the Gnomedex team.
I want to talk a bit something I've been thinking about for a while, which is "first timers". The thinking behind growing BarCamp Vancouver to ~300 participants last year was simple math. If we have about 50% new people every year, that means only 75 new people experiencing the unconference format and BarCamp experience. Growing it to 300, meant we double the "new experiences" we can enable every year.
But "new" is constantly shifting. At Northern Voice this year, the conference sold out in just a couple of weeks. And yet, when we informally polled the audience, they were again about 50% new people. Here at Gnomedex, the "show of hands" of new people seemed higher than 50%.
My hypothesis is that, in part, the adoption of new technologies, people discovering them, and connecting with other people using them, is what drives this shifting of new. With Northern Voice, it was the bomb of Twitter adoption in late 2008 - everyone "saw" people they knew through Twitter buying tickets. They felt a sense of blogging because they "knew" these people from Twitter, and so Northern Voice was the conference where they met a bunch of people from Twitter in real life.
Here at Gnomedex, @bre talked about his MakerBot. As part of it, he talked about his history. He did stuff on the Internet, but didn't really know anyone else. So in 2005 he came to his first Gnomedex and met the other people from the Internet.
In 2009, 4 years later, he's on stage presenting, telling us about @makerbot.
The Giant Ant Media team (go buy the Bongo Film album!) talked about something similar. 2 years ago, @jaygrandin didn't have a home computer, and he thought Hotmail was the best ever. Oh, and they used MySpace.
Whatever conference you're at, especially if you're there for the first time, think about that. The new is always shifting, and your challenge is to participate, and to chart your future so that in 4 years, you're up on stage.