Conference FAIL

Wednesday July 09, 2008
Last night at a dinner with Ivan Krstić and Itamar Shtull-Trauring, we were all lamenting that too many (all?) software conferences focus specifically on positive results. This is what you want, of course, if you treat a conference as purely a marketing venue. However, most learning takes place based on something that someone did wrong and then needed to correct, not something that they did right.

All of the great software developers I know have at least one great story of how a project they were working on was a complete disaster.  Often these projects are shielded from the public eye, since nobody wants to talk about failure.  So, how do we make a public discussion of these ideas socially acceptable?

Thus, an idea was born: FAILcon.  The idea is simple: submitted talks and papers must be related to projects which failed in an interesting way.  The larger the better, of course — the bigger they are, the harder they fail — but anything that failed in an interesting way would be a valid subject for discussion.

I'm writing about it so that it won't be forgotten, because I think it's a great idea.  But I doubt that any of us are going to organize a conference any time soon.  So please, steal this idea.  Does anyone out there with conference-organizing skills want to get something together based around the common theme of failure?