Earlier this month I took some vacation time and went to http://devopsdays.org/events/2013-atlanta/ , and it was a great experience. The conference itself was very laid back, with breakfast, a few sessions, lunch, and then open spaces. I had never attended an event that had open spaces before, but they have quickly become one of my favorite forums for discussion.

The general idea of an open space is you propose an idea (from the podium after the final talk of the day) that you want to discuss, then everyone votes. Once voting is complete, the open spaces are given time/areas, and from there you do whatever you want. You can leave an open space and join others, and no one gives you grief about it.

There was a lot of great discussion going on, transitioning from SVN to git, getting started with open source contributions, and how to bring new people on board as quickly as possible. There were a ton more as well that were really great, and I had to prioritize which ones I was interested in. The awesome thing about the open spaces is since you can leave whenever, and attendees voted for the discussions the people who are there care about the topic, whether they are just listening, or contributing to the discussion.

Another great thing about the DevOpsDays was the excitement about what devops really was, as opposed to simply a tool being pitched. On the first day I wore my SaltStack t-shirt, and had some great talks with other people who were interested in learning why I liked Salt, as well as others using Puppet and Chef, and why they were excited about those tools. I learned about some awesome tools I had never even heard of before, and was able to tell people about cool tools that I was using.

The talks were really interesting as well, especially since the day wasn't completely packed, it was a lot more laid back. That in addition with the number of attendees (somewhere around 100 I think?) made for a lot of mingling with other people, and learning about what they did. I really enjoy talking to as many people as possible at these events, and have no issue approaching strangers. This one was so low pressure however that people were approaching me, which I hadn't experienced a lot before.

Overall I'd say the DevOpsDays was one of the best conferences I've attended, and would highly recommend others go as well (especially as a first conference). You get to meet a ton of interesting people who share the same mentality you do, learn some awesome stuff, and everyone is very friendly. So let's discuss overall cost of the trip. The ticket itself was only 75 dollars for the two days, airfare was about 300 dollars round trip, and my hotel was 120/night (I stayed two nights, then flew out Friday). I only used public transportation and walked, so the cost there was about 6 dollars. Food outside of the conference cost about 40 dollars in total. So the grand total I paid for the trip was about $760, plus two days of vacation time. Overall I felt the trip was completely worth it, and enjoyed the experience!

If you've got the time and the resources, I'd highly recommend attending a DevOpsDays event, especially if there is one local to where you live.