An anecdote about Joel Spolksy at DevDays DC

October 27, 2009 📬 Get My Weekly Newsletter

I had signed up to volunteer at DC's DevDays, however My Company decided to be a local sponsor. Part of that involed us having some time for a 15-minute presentation during the lunch break. We were told that other sponsors would be doing something similar. I worked up a brief presentation on how we improve our development process with each iteration. I figured it would be of interest and not be too (obviously) self-promoting.

We get there and find out that not only are none of the other sponsors doing this, but we can't go at lunch, because Joel very-much wanted these things to be "optional" and, The State Theater being near almost nowhere to go have lunch, everyone would be stuck there and "forced" to watch our presentation. So, we'd be going after the entire conference was over.

I have no problem with this at all; it's his/their conference after all. But, we probably wouldn't have bothered if we had known this ahead of time. Nevertheless, I tweeted to the #DevDays hashtag (showing up on the big screen between speakers) and looked forward to it anyway. As a member of a crappy local band, I've played some gigs to no-one, so it's no big deal.

For most of the day the end of the schedule looked like:

  • 4:15 - JQuery
  • 5:30 - Goodbye!
  • (unspecified showcase for OPOWER (formerly Positive Energy))

Toward the end, Joel came by, introduced himself, and got my info so he could mention it in his closing remarks. We discussed some logistics and he was very polite, but obviously had a lot going on.

While Richard Worth was finishing up his JQuery talk, I head to the back. The stagehand gets me set up and Joel is about to go deliver the "goodbye and thanks" speech. Here is my mostly accurate transcription of our brief discussion:

  • Joel: OK, I'm gonna go out, say goodbye, and then I'll play a song that goes for about 4 minutes. After that, you can head out and start
  • Me: No problem, can you or someone cue me when the song is almost over? [you couldn't hear much back there and I didn't know the song]
  • Joel: My experience running these things is that people will start leaving pretty soon, so once it looks like everyone's left, you can head out there
  • Me: Um, ok [mostly amused at his comment and a bit nervious]
  • Joel: [slighly chuckling] We try to have a strict separation of Editorial and Advertorial content at these
  • Me: [not quite parsing the word "Advertorial" and also thinking about the hour-long demo on FogBugz]
As I said, it was all good, and a few people DID stick around, but I found the whole thing rather amusing in retrospect. And I think he actually paid attention to about half of my talk!