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Web Summit 2019 - Review

kgx

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Firstly, a huge thanks to @Gummibeer for reassigning his free ticket to me. I owe you a beer.

Here's a quick review of Web Summit 2019 from the point of view of a developer.

Where to stay?

Lisbon has a fairly good metro station, so best to use metro rather than taxis. You get a 50% discount on metro with your Web Summit registration. Don't stay in Alameda or any station closer to Altice Arena. On day 2, I noticed most people in Alameda couldn't board the train around 9:30am as it was full already. Stay in Saldanha or further away (I was in Marques de Pombal and took me around 20 minutes).​

This is a really big event. And just like major sports events, you will find signs in stations pointing to Web Summit which makes things easy.

Day 1 - Opening Night
  • Register and collect your passes at the airport. Took me less than 5 minutes. Collect your metro card at the airport also.
  • Leave your bags in the hotel. Despite the fact they said backpacks were allowed, the Police decided not to allow backpacks on opening night. In fact, water bottles weren't allowed on opening night also. This will save you additional queuing for the bag drop
  • From the station, it took me 2 hours before I managed to finally get a seat. This involved being redirected to bag drop, then going through a security. Despite the size of the arena, everyone goes through the same entrance which slows things down
  • 70,000 attendees but only 20,000 capacity for the main arena. Get there early or you'll have it to watch it on big screen outside. The arena was full by 6:40pm.




Conference Days
  • Better organised. Queuing times are roughly 30 minutes. Backpacks and empty water bottles are allowed
  • Bag queues are almost non-existent
  • Once inside, it takes 20 minutes to walk end to end. Make use of their app and plan your schedule. I spent a few minutes every day for a week to add as many things that interested me to my schedule even if it was overlapping. That way, on the day I can decide to skip something or go to another event just because it was closer or I knew I could catch up with their online videos
  • That said, some talks are better experienced inside the Arena itself. Regardless of whether you agree with a speaker's opinions or not, the atmosphere inside the Arena is very cool. Highlights for me were Edward Snowden and Boston Dynamics where their Spot robot walked down the aisle and even let the public get up close 😃
  • Certain workshops (AWS for instance) is first come, first served. You may want to start queuing 30 minutes earlier. Also, you can't really attend 2 consecutive workshops - everyone needs to vacate when a workshop ends (which is fair I think)

Night Summit
  • Even if you are travelling alone, make an effort to go the night summit. As (introverted) developers, some of us find it a little hard to socialise in such large environments but it's definitely one of the highlights.
    • Day 1 was inside the Arena compound and while it was nice, it felt difficult to socialise.
    • Day 2 was in town (Pink Street) and had a massive foosball table which really helped to get conversations started. The street is open to public but certain venues were exclusive to us.
    • Day 3 was at LX Factory - a massive warehouse rave. Outside the warehouse are several pubs - it's a like a small town in itself. So you don't have to party if you didn't want to. I didn't see many people here who were travelling solo though. By now it seems like most people found someone to go with. LX Factory was quite fantastic, and personally I would have gone alone just to check it out. It is worth visiting even if you're not planning to party hard.
    • I also attended a RSVP-only event from Plaid before LX Factory. Small events like these are better for socialising and as a warm-up to the night summit afterwards. The general vibe here was much nicer and slightly easier to socialise
Final Day

A lot of people decided to take their suitcases to Arena as it would be on the way to the airport. Do not make this mistake. Even around 10:30am, there were 500+ people in the queue for bag drop. You would be better off going back to the hotel. Or look around, it may be possible some shops offer luggage storage.​
Summary

So to summarise - was it worth going? Yes, definitely. The quality of the talks is great (yes, you can view them online for free) and it's good just for some inspiration or networking. I had someone contact me for networking (via their app which let's you search by tags), and it turned out to be a very good meeting. Is it worh €1,500? I honestly don't think so. Try to get free tickets, or get your company to pay. Right now, the super early bird tickets are 2 for €950.​

Feel to ask me any questions :)

Once again, thanks @Gummibeer.
 

Gummibeer

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In 2017 we staid in Hotel Florida and go by bus - was also only 20min or so. And even going by foot/bike is easy because I've noticed that Lisbon looks big on the map but feels so small if you walk.^^

Yes, the opening night and arena don't match the size of the event. But that's only valid for opening nite, the other days it's fine.

Yes, the night summits are the best! And for them I would say only those are worth the money. You will "never"/"no where" find this much people to talk about tech - but you have to do! 😉 My favorite was also the LX factory, I've also met the most people there.
And the workshops & talks are a very good bonus. I've also enjoyed the startup booths (which change daily) because they are great to find new startups (haha), see new technology and possibilities, talk with the owners/founders and get a look inside.
For me the worth of the conference stays and falls with your willing and ability to talk to/with others. If you feel comfortable to just talk to someone else in the conference area, a restaurant, your hotel or a night summit - the conference will be its price a hundred times. This means only a little sleep during this time (night summit until 1/2am or longer and conference starts at 9am 😂 ).

And I'm happy that you enjoyed the event and posted your summary! 💙

And my last recommendation for next year: arrive at sunday and stay til friday. You will fall in love with the city itself!
 
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kgx

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Great write up @kgx! Looks incredible. Huge crowd! What was your favourite bit?

Thanks so much @Gummibeer for offering that out. 😄
My single favourite moment was when I saw Spot walking down the Arena:

Like many others, I have been following Boston Dynamics for many years, and that was so exciting.

The Opening Night is also great - it gets you pumped for the event. And I agree with Gummibear, you need to make the most of your day/night there. I felt I ended up choosing the wrong talks/workshops on Wednesday and wasted a few hours.

The other good thing about LX Factory is that the music isn't unnecessary loud. You are still able to talk to people which was really good.

One thing I wish they did was show me which of my contacts from LinkedIn are at Web Summit. I accidentally found out that one of my mates actually had a booth at Web Summit!
 
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