I was given the opportunity to attend DebConf in Portland this year, and I must say that it took me entirely by surprise (as a first-time attendee).
Most conferences have several strong talk tracks and you end up spending a lot of time sitting in talks wondering when they’ll be over. At DebConf, there’s an entirely different dynamic, with a strong focus on what they like to call “the hallway track” (which this year has taken place a lot in the hacklabs, too). Everyone here wants to either talk about building cool stuff, or sit down and actually build some cool stuff. A large number of the talks are just launchpads for informal Q+As or actual hack sessions.
By coming, I’ve learned a lot about the Debian community and how it operates as a whole, and managed to meet a lot of very interesting and cool people (not to mention getting a bunch of them to sign my GPG key, which is also nice).
Hopefully I’ll be able to attend more DebConfs in the future, because I’ve had a great time!