TL;DR: Kalamazoo X 2018 will be the last. It's a conference for the heart, not the head. There WILL be cursing and crying.
For the last few years, with the help of some friends, I've run a small conference in Kalamazoo, MI called the Kalamazoo X Conference.
2018 will mark our 10th and final event in Kalamazoo.
Ten years is a long time to do anything, and I feel like the 10th is a good time to end. I have some thoughts around what happens next, but I still have some thinking to do.
For the 10th, we've rewritten our "what is X" statement. We did this because last year we received feedback that people showed up thinking it was one thing and instead got punched in the face by what it REALLY is.
We've always said it was a "soft skills" conference, and I suppose at one time that was true. We've had sessions on design, communication and leadership and those fit firmly within the bucket of "soft skills", but things have changed.
The Kalamazoo X Conference is a conference more for the heart than the head. Passion, humor and tears. It’s the amazing power of Story and Storytelling in communications between humans. It’s a place to think, collaborate, create and be uncomfortable.
A few years ago, Elizabeth Barron gave a talk called "Stop drinking spoiled milk". That talk was the first that really started going deep. She cursed, she cried, she told a story. It was amazing. I believe that talk gave other speakers permission to start going deep because since then, the talks have been getting more personal. I mean, just look at the session list from 2017!
I personally invite each and every speaker and never tell them what I'm looking for. I've only asked that they fit within the general framework of the conference - no tech talks, keep them "soft". I tell them I'm looking for keynote quality talks from keynote quality speakers. :-)
This recipe has led to some amazing feedback:
“#kalx12 is like an All Star team of speakers. Every single one would have been the best talk at every other conference.”
“I’ve discovered @kalamazoox is a hidden gem. Today was like a braver, more profane set of dev-oriented TED talks. Lots of passion and humor.”
“In a time where organizers are censoring speakers and their content, @mjeaton and @kalamazoox is a bastion of freedom. He is a luminary.”
“@mjeaton @kalamazoox believes in the open exchange of ideas, however uncomfortable, and trusts humans to think, collaborate and create.”
"Speakers really bear their souls at
"This year, as always, I am awed and humbled by the vulnerability present at
#kalx17. Thanks for making it okay to cry with y'all."
#kalx17 == Intense First time. Wasn't expecting this level of emotion."
Oh yea, I don't censor speakers, because honestly, I don't give a fuck what they say. :-) I've always told them, "read the audience. if you think you can pull off saying 'fuck', do it. If not, don't."
Here's an excerpt from this year's email invitation:
Every session at Kalamazoo X is a keynote because that's what I look for in my speakers - people who can get up and deliver a keynote quality talk. People who are willing to open up, go deep, get intimate with the audience. Fuck technical talks - we need more talks about how we can be better human beings.
I don't ever tell speakers what I want them to talk about because I don't really care. All I ask is that they bring love and passion to their time in front of the audience.