I just got back from Edgeconf 3 in London, England, and I am blown away by how good the event was. If you are looking for a web conference that is incredible value for money, look no further.
The main difference of Edgeconf is its format. Whilst you had a stellar line-up of experts, the conference is not a series of talks or even several tracks in parallel. Instead, it is a series of panels with curated Q&A in the style of Question Time on BBC. Questions are submitted by the audience before the conference using Google Moderator and expert moderator triage and collate the questions. Members from the audience read out the questions to the panel and the moderator then picks experts to answer them. Audience members also can show their intent to ask a question or offer extra information.
In essence: the whole conference is about getting questions answered, not about presenting. This means that there is a massive amount of information available in a very short amount of time and there is no chance to grand-stand or advocate solutions without proof.
The main workload of the conference is covered by the moderators. It is up to them to not only triage the questions but also keep the discussion lively and keep it entertaining.
All the moderators met the day before the event and spent half a day going through all the submitted questions and whittle them down to seven per panel. Each person answering a question has 30 seconds to a minute to answer and there is strict time-keeping.
The whole event was streamed live on YouTube and the recordings are available on Youtube/Google+.
During the panels, the audience can interact live using the Onslyde system. You can agree or disagree with a topic and request to speak or ask a question. All this information is logged and can be played in sync with the video recording later on. Onslyde also creates analytics reports showing sentiment analysis and more. Other conferences like HTML5DevConf, Velocity and OsCon also started using this system.
Another big thing about Edgeconf is that any of the extra income from tickets and sponsorship (in this case around £10,000) get donated to a good cause. At the end of the conference the organisers showed a full disclosure of expenditure. The cause this time was Codeclub, a charity teaching kids coding.
I am very proud to have been one of the moderators this time and run the accessibility panel (a detailed post on this comes later).
I have to thank the organisers and everyone involved for a great event. I learned a lot during the day and I am happy to be involved again in September.