Last week I’ve visited Sofia, Bulgaria. I was attending DevReach conference. I’ve decided to visit at least one international conference this fall and DevReach was pretty much the best possible choice judging by the caliber of speakers and sessions. And combining that with the total cost to attend, it was THE best possible value.
The conference was held in the Arena Mladost multiplex and was very well organized. Aside from putting too much trust into Google Translate for the intro slide I have no complaints whatsoever ;)
FYI, you can hardly translate “Welcome” into “Pasveikinti” in Lithuanian in any normal situation. The real translation in this case would be “Sveiki atvykę”. But Kudos for the effort ;)
Other than that minor minor thingy, organization was pretty much flawless. Conference WiFi worked like a charm. Something you don’t expect from a developer conference. The fact that it was held in a cinema meant that sitting was top notch and by the end of the day my ass and back had no complaints.
Speakers were great. Obviously there were no big reveals or announcements, but the fact that there were tons of great speakers and most of them weren’t from Microsoft and weren’t doing a boring “read material prepared by MS evangelism team while showing slides someone else made”, more than compensated for the lack of big announcements.
I’ve already seen, heard or read most of what Scott Hanselman had to tell, but the experience could be compared to seeing your favorite band on video and then watching them live. You don’t complain that they’ve played your favorite songs.
A special checkmark goes to participating in the live recording of an episode of DotNetRocks podcast.
That was great, but considering the subject of “starting your own software company”, it was pretty strange not to see the founders of Telerik on the panel. I’ve expressed my surprise on Twitter and Richard Campbell admitted that this should be fixed and we can expect a DNR episode on the subject. Do I get a mug? ;)
As for Windows Phone, unfortunately Bulgaria is in the same situation as Lithuania – they can’t buy apps and they can’t submit apps directly. So interest in the subject is relatively low. I have no special arguments for Lithuania, but Bulgaria is a home of one of the biggest .NET vendors in the world, so, really MS, WTF!?
Another interesting observation – there are lots of female developers in Bulgaria.
I’ve arrived on Sunday (conference started on Monday). So I had a couple of hours for sightseeing. Sofia is a beautiful city, but unfortunately the weather was pretty crappy (I’ve travelled 2000km south and it was colder than back home and it was snowing!), so I couldn’t enjoy it properly. I guess I’ll have to return :)
And what’s up with the homeless dogs? Are they some kind of sacred animals or just friendly habitants of the city?
They can be seen in all parts of the city and it felt pretty strange, even though they looked sort of friendly. I like dogs, but I almost shat my pants when a huge black dog emerged from behind of a container right in front of me. Luckily the dog almost shat his pants too.
The location of the venue is relatively remote and there’s only one hotel next to it. So all the speakers and most of the international attendees stayed there. I had a great pleasure of meeting awesome people despite being a shy (read stupid) person: Scott Hanselman, Jesse Liberty, Stephen Forte, Joel Semeniuk, Gill Cleeren, Maarten Balliauw, Todd Anglin, Phil Japikse, Michael Crump, Tomislav Bronzin, Chris Eargle, etc. (sorry, if I forgot to mention you personally!)
Pro tip: never try to save on the accommodation when traveling to a conference. Stay where speakers stay. It’s worth every penny.
After the second day of the conference there was a party for speakers and VIP attendees where I finally got a chance to meet great guys from Telerik: Vassil Terziev, Valio Stoychev (thanks for the ride!), Vladimir Milev and others. And it was great to reconnect with Emil Stoychev.
I liked it. I’ll be coming back next year. Hopefully as a speaker(?) ;) If you are looking for a great MS technology related conference in Europe which doesn’t force you to break your bank, look no further. DevReach is it.
P.S.: special thanks to Natalia Dimitrova for planning all of this and answering my stupid questions ;) And thanks to Ina Toncheva (sorry we had only a short chance to chat).