3 years of Meeting C++

published at 10.07.2015 17:12 by Jens Weller

Its now a little more then 3 years that I went public with the plans for a new C++ Conference. Today, Meeting C++ is much more, it has become a platform for C++ User Groups, but also a great source of C++ related news. I had no idea, how much my life would change, when I started to make serious plans for the very first Meeting C++ conference in May and June 2012. But from the beginning, I wanted it to be more then just a C++ conference, one of my key goals still is building a european network for C++, which today exists in its beginnings. Meeting C++ has grown quite a bid in the last 3 Years, from 150 to 337 in the last, and ~400 this year:

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The roots of the Meeting C++ conference lay in my local C++ User Group, which I founded together with a few enthusiasts in December 2011. Before this I used to organize local meetings for MeeGo, but as MeeGo failed, I decided to focus on C++. Attending C++Now in 2012, I spoke with many people about my plans to organize a European C++ Conference. The feedback, especially from the many European attendees was very good. So, the crazyness could start. As a matter of fact, a year later, in 2013, I presented about Community Work and C++ User Groups at C++Now with Jon Kalb, who during the questions said "Last year, I thought Jens was insane to start a C++ Conference from scratch". The success of Meeting C++ was one of the key enablers for the plans that lead to CppCon, another great C++ conference.

Meeting C++ - my job

When I started, I thought I could combine being a freelancer for C++ and organize Meeting C++. It turned out, that this combination does not play out very well. As the main organizer of the conference, I have certain times in the year where I'm not available, or just partly available. But most clients for freelancing, especially the consulting companies I used to work with, want you to be 100% available to their clients. On the other hand, I always enjoyed doing my community work, working with user groups, helping those things grow, and learning a bit more about the C++ Community in this way. So I began to realize, that Meeting C++ would become soon my main job. I gave several courses on C++ and Qt in 2013 and 2014, but made the decision, to focus fully on Meeting C++ for the coming years. Teaching requires a lot of passion, which I have, but also a lot of time to prepare materials and find clients. I decided that I'd rather spend this time on improving Meeting C++ and writing my own software to make my own job easier.

Last year at CppCon, I realized, that mainly my job was best described as being a C++ evangelist, as that covers all my main tasks, the conference, the user groups, the traveling to conferences, blogging and community work for user groups. Regarding the traveling, going to conferences has changed for me, now its part of my job. Last and this year, I will travel ~70 days, about 20 days is private, 50 for C++. Also I do visit C++ User Groups, mostly in Aachen, Berlin and Düsseldorf (my own). At C++ conference, I do know quite a lot of people to go and have chat with. I enjoy going to talks, but tend to be more in the front, especially keynotes, to be able to share photos of the slides and/or speaker. Some times this makes me choose talks based on the room, speaker and/or topic, ignoring my own personal interest.

Part of my job is still to write code, but its much less then it used to be. Also, writing has become an important part. Blog entries, News, Websites, Emails, and many other things need to be written. Also reading, if blog entries, emails or the C++ Proposals is often a task I do, to blog about it. Many committee members have thanked me for doing this, but also stated, that they usually don't read all of them. But I guess, they read with greater detail, the committee is very serious about C++ but also correct wording, like I learned when attending the library subgroup meeting this spring in cologne.

Another important part of my job is meeting and connecting people. I still remember when I got the first email from Herb Sutter in 2013, "Can I ask you a question?", since then, it is quite common to exchange every now and then emails with Herb and many others. Meeting many of my own C++ Idols in the last years, I like that all of them have stayed human, you actually can have great discussions and conversations about C++ and other things with. Herbs question was, if I wanted to also post things to isocpp.org, which I did, so I joined them as an editor, and post every now and then, as many others do today.

The other part of my job is often lonely. I work in my home office, and rarely see people during the day. I try to compensate by going out in the evening and hanging around in Hackerspaces. Yet, I am not as much affected by loneliness as many other people would be, there is always something to do.

What runs Meeting C++ today

Something triggered in me in late 2013, to spend a fair amount of time on writing my own tools to run the conference and today also parts of Meeting C++. The trigger was, that I was asked to pay for an csv import, to have my speakers and staff also in the tooling used for the registration, the same import was free in 2012. I already had thought about writing my own program for registration, since the solution used in 2012, did not run under Linux. So, I hacked together a simple registration program in 2013, which was the first tool actually written for Meeting C++. It didn't saved me lots of money, but with the ability to use it for the coming years, it was the best decision. So, in 2014 I started to write my own software stack for Meeting C++, in C++. And php, as the website is using this. But I'll focus on C++ for this post, PHP is only important for the voting and feedback tooling.

The program which helps me manage the conference, is actually a database front end written in Qt. Its not too complex, it helps me run the conference all year around, from the Call for Papers to sending the last email to all attendees: the final feedback. This program has one very odd feature: about 50% of the code, only runs once a year. Importing newly submitted talks, or the final voting results for example. Or the attendee list, or importing the students for the student program and so on. So part of my job as a software developer is, to be my own customer, tester, project manager and also keep my own company and a conference running.

But there is a second program, which also keeps Meeting C++ running, not the conference, but it is today responsible for some of the main parts of my job: my own RSS Reader. Which also reads ical, because, once I figured out how useful this tool was, I thought it also could collect the dates for the user group meetings. So, the FeedReader is now a central building block of my daily work. It reads over 150 C++ related feeds, fuels features like the weekly blog roll and the monthly overview on C++ User Group Meetings:

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Both programs are actively developed, and I plan to add more features, the latest feature I'm working on is the ability to import attendees and generate invoices for tickets automatically, I finally want to get rid of writing those by hand. Also, work on a third program might start soon, but I can't share details yet...

Looking ahead

So, the last 3 years have been a wild ride, but also fun. I do enjoy my job very much. That is one of the things I had to learn, planning far ahead. To find locations for Meeting C++ gets more and more challenging, and I often have to sign contracts 1-2 years ahead of time. The Meeting C++ network keeps growing, and it seems that the growth gets stronger over time, currently the reach of Meeting C++ in the social networks is almost 10k, together with the newsletter, Xing and Youtube its over 18k.

This years conference will be the biggest Meeting C++ ever, while the 100th ticket was sold at the beginning of September last year, its been the end of June this year, 2 month earlier. I hope to announce the first talks of the 4th track by next week, and expect this years Meeting C++ to be sold out again around mid October.