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Last week I traveled to Portland, Maine to attend what is, in my humble but inerrant opinion, the best developer conference in the country. Redmonk has always been way ahead of the curve in understanding how the technology industry really works, so it’s no surprise that their developer conference distills out the best parts of a technology conference and leaves the rest out.

I showed up for the first Monktoberfest in 2011 not knowing what to expect and was pleasantly surprised to find a conference that focused on what conference-goers often refer to as “the hallway track” - the connections and conversations that happen outside sessions, which often end up being far more valuable than anything on the agenda. If there’s any doubt about this being a conscious decision you need look no further than the agenda - a single page with a high level description of the conference schedule and not a single talk title or speaker name. The absence of a published agenda brings the focus back where it should be - on the 125 smart, interesting, passionate attendees.

It was especially gratifying returning to Monktoberfest as an employee of CircleCI because my first exposure to real, working continuous deployment was Rafe Colburn’s 2012 Monktoberfest talk. The crowd at Monktoberfest is in some ways perfectly wrong for someone trying to sell CircleCI because the attendees already intimately appreciate how powerful the tools we build can be to software development teams. Rafe returned this year with an incredibly important talk about how central Etsy’s Just Culture and Blameless Post-Mortems have been in making Continuous Deployment work through massive growth and an IPO.

And wait. Did I mention the beer? I should mention the beer. Monktoberfest started as a joke: Steve O’Grady, one of the original Monks, also happens to be one of the biggest beer nerds on the planet, and has managed, year after year, to assemble a (literally) world class array of beers that push the limits of what beer can be. Far from being a distraction from the developer conference, beer serves not only as a useful tool for conviviality but also as a platform for geekery unrelated to the attendee’s day jobs. One of the most enjoyable talks of the conference was Owen Zanzal’s romp through his Open Homebrewing Project - a glorious mess of Arduino and JavaScript that automates brewing from start to finish. This was pure, unadulterated geekiness accessible to everyone - since no one was an expert, everyone felt empowered to contribute to nerding out.

This leveling of the playing field is a recurring theme at Monktoberfest - the interesting person you met on the boat ends up being the dynamic speaker on stage two days later. The conference drives home the fact that speakers at conferences are normal people just like the rest of the crowd, and the organizers work hard to make sure they represent as broad a crossection of our industry as possible.

To be clear, for all that I’ve downplayed the talks, they were without exception wildly good. I can’t do them justice now, so I’ll just say you should keep an eye on RedMonkTV where I’m sure they’ll be posted soon. While you wait, check out the talks from previous years and prepare to be inspired.

Monktoberfest is the best damn developer conference out there, and CircleCI is proud to have sponsored coffee this year. We figured a boost of caffeine in the morning would power attendees the way we aspire to power development teams, and speaking as an attendee who may have gone back for seconds and thirds both mornings I think we succeeded. As long as Steve and his crew keep throwing Monktoberfest, we’ll continue to be excited to show up and learn!