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The 13 best developer and usability conferences in 2019

Often, the best way to get up to speed on new programming technology and design techniques is to attend a conference. These recommended UX and software developer events are a good place to start.

If you’re a developer, or someone who manages developers, this is not a good time to stick with the status quo. So much is happening! Developers—and those they work with, including designers and other user-interface professionals—have to stay up with AI and machine learningcloud-native and multicloud deployment issues, mobility techniques, keeping code secure, and so much more. New tools include powerful new features, and you need to learn how to use the latest developer technologies. Even the methodology for estimating programming projects is a field that changes rapidly.

Attending conferences, like the 13 I list here, are a great way to get smarter.

Wear comfortable shoes

In an era of ubiquitous online learning options, including YouTube, mobile apps, and other online instruction, the stubborn popularity of conferences may seem almost counterintuitive. But attending a conference is about more than learning the latest programming techniques:

  • As one software consultant told me, “Developers need people skills. If you’re coding in your man cave in sweatpants or back in some cubicle where you work and don’t interact much with people that means you don’t meet customers, you don’t meet the people you’re developing for. But when you do, it can transform your perception and approach.”
  • For people who work at large enterprises, conferences can be an opportunity to hear directly from and perhaps even meet your own company executives and project leads—people you might not ever talk to on a regular basis.
  • Conferences offer an opportunity to meet colleagues wrestling with problems like your own. You can exchange ideas on site and stay in touch later, creating a network or support system for future challenges (as well as job leads).

Yet dozens of technology conferences promise to help software developers create better software. It’s a lot to wade through, so I chose a handful that I believe are genuinely worth your time. Some are specific to a unique niche; others are meant to expand your mind. I didn’t try to touch on related subjects except in passing, such as conferences for security specialists or new team leads—we have other lists if you're among those folks.

So, with all this in mind, take a look at our list of the best developer and usability conferences for 2019, ordered by date, and make the most of the ones you choose to attend.

AWS re:Invent

Twitter: @AWSreinvent

Web: https://reinvent.awsevents.com

Dates: November 26-30, 2018 (the 2019 conference likely is in November in Las Vegas)

Location: Las Vegas

Cost: $1,799

The description is for the November 2018 AWS re:Invent conference. Details haven’t been announced for 2019, but there’s enough here to help you decide if you should pencil it into the schedule for next autumn.

AWS re:Invent is for anyone who develops for and uses Amazon Web Services. During the five-day event, expect keynotes from company executives, hands-on lab areas, in-depth presentations, and two-hour workshops and hackathons. Chalk talks and “builder sessions” give attendees the chance to interact with AWS experts who whiteboard through problems and solutions in small group settings.

AWS re:Invent features more than 2,000 breakout sessions on topics such as cloud architecture, continuous deployment, security and identity, large-scale migrations, and machine learning. It’s all very technical, with sessions to boost your proficiency in AWS services, including Amazon EC2, S3, RDS, Redshift, and Aurora.

FOSDEM

Twitter: @FOSDEM

Web: https://fosdem.org/2019

Date: February 2-3, 2019

Location: Brussels

Cost: Free

FOSDEM is a two-day event organized by volunteers to promote the use of free and open source software. For a free event, there’s a lot going on. The most recent conference, which attracted 8,000-plus attendees, had more than 450 speakers, 450 events, and 50 tracks. (Note: If open source is a particular interest of yours, read "The top 13 Linux and open source conferences in 2019.")

A key goal is to have free and open source software developers from around the world meet in “real life.” To that end, developer rooms, or devrooms, with network and Internet connectivity let teams showcase their projects and discuss, hack, and publicly present their latest directions. FOSDEM also features keynotes, main tracks, lightning talks, and certification exams.

DeveloperWeek

Twitter: @DeveloperWeek

Web: https://developerweek.com

Dates: February 20-24, 2019

Location: Oakland, CA

Cost: $35 for an Expo Pass to $1,999 for a DevExec World Pass

DeveloperWeek says it’s “the world’s largest developer expo and conference series,” and by that definition, it may well be right. DeveloperWeek is really an umbrella term for a series of events that includes a conference, an expo floor, a hackathon, an official hiring mixer, and mini-conferences on developer-specific topics such as artificial intelligence, JavaScript, and next-generation languages.

There’s plenty to keep you occupied. The 2019 DeveloperWeek Hackathon gives developers a chance to build applications from scratch in competition for $100,000 in cash and prizes. The DevEx World track is a little more high level, with plans to investigate the role of the development manager and developer executive, how it relates to product management and architecture decisions, and how the role of development manager is changing.

Check out the agenda for the next HPE Discover conference.

SXSW

Twitter: @SXSW

Web: https://www.sxsw.com

Dates: March 8-17, 2019

Location: Austin, TX

Cost: Many badge types; a Platinum badge ($1,350 through December 7, 2018) provides access to everything including film, interactive, and music tracks

Discounts: Early bird; students and faculty accompanying three or more students; some company and organization discounts

SXSW isn’t a developer conference per se, and for many attendees, it’s a place to mingle and learn from creative types across film, art, and technology. But the reason it draws so many programmers is its coding and development track, which covers technological advancements for engineers and developers in an interactive, workshop format. That has made SXSW a favorite among tech startups aiming to get attention. This event is where Twitter was launched, for instance.

And while the tech focus justifies your attendance, SXSW is known for its film festival, music, and other entertainment options. So along with the learning and networking, be prepared to have fun. I won’t tell the boss.

Google I/O

Twitter: @googledevs

Web: https://events.google.com/io

Dates: May 2019 (most likely, based on past events)

Location: Mountain View, CA

Cost: $1,150 in 2018; 2019 TBD

Discount: Academic admission $375 in 2018; 2019 TBD

The annual three-day Google I/O “developer festival” has become a key gathering spot for developers interested in all things Google. You can hear directly from company executives about products and services the company plans to release. This includes new Android phones (from Google and partners), previews of new versions of Android and Chrome OS, Google Cloud, AI, search, developer tools, analytics, and much more. Plenty of developer-oriented gatherings are held on site as well.

Even if you aren’t using any Google-specific tools, their announcements are sure to affect your work. As a result, this event sells out fast; you have to apply to a ticket drawing, usually held several months before the event, for a chance to attend.

As I’ve witnessed firsthand, Google I/O has evolved—impressively—to a true developer event. The first few events highlighted hardware announcements such as new smartphones and Chromebooks. But Google I/O now has a more in-depth focus on developer topics and fewer glitzy product introductions designed to catch headlines.

Microsoft Build

Twitter: @MicrosoftBuild

Web: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/build

Dates: Based on previous events, expect it around May 2019

Location:  TBD (reportedly Seattle, where it was held in 2018)

Cost: TBD; $2,495 in 2018

Build, as people generally refer to this Microsoft conference, is the premier conference for Microsoft-centric developers. It covers the wide range of products in the software giant’s portfolio, including the latest version of Windows, Office 365, Azure Cloud, Dynamics 365, and SQL Server, as well as specific technologies including AI, IoT, and quantum computing. The tradition is for CEO Satya Nadella to kick things off in a keynote, followed by first looks at updates and new products. If you rely on Microsoft technology, this conference is an easy choice. You can expect in-depth sessions on developing for Windows, deployment and management issues, and techniques for using Microsoft’s Azure Cloud.

JAX DevOps

Twitter: @jaxdevops

Web: https://devops.jaxlondon.com/program/

Dates: May 14-17, 2019

Location: London

Cost: £1,199 (US$1,556)

Discounts: Group discounts, early bird

Billed as the conference for continuous delivery, microservices, Docker, and clouds, JAX DevOps is a hard-core developer conference with in-depth sessions on the latest technologies and methodologies for lean businesses. For example, the 2018 event included sessions like “Infrastructure as Code: Build Pipelines with Docker and Terraform,” “Building Geographically Distributed Microservices with Containers,” and “Beyond the ICO: How to Create Total Value with Blockchain.” This isn’t the conference you choose when you’re trying to design a development strategy; it’s where you head when you want to know how to implement it.

Apple Worldwide Developers Conference

Web: https://developer.apple.com/wwdc/

Date: 2019 TBD, but usually in June

Location: San Jose, CA

Cost: TBD; $1,599 in 2018

Discounts: Scholarships

The five-day event is the conference for Apple developers. You hear directly from Apple developer leads and other executives, who provide guidance on how to maximize your applications for the latest and future round of hardware—mobile and desktop—coming from the iconic Silicon Valley company. If you develop for Apple platforms, you don’t need a long description.

CEO Tim Cook usually kicks off the event with a keynote that is also streamed live to the public. Attendees can take advantage of hands-on labs and attend in-depth sessions on specific Apple products and developer issues. Typically when new hardware is announced, attendees are able to get access to the new products immediately.

Enterprise UX

Twitter: @EnterpriseUX

Web: https://rosenfeldmedia.com/eux2019

Date: June 3-5, 2019

Location: San Francisco

Cost: TBD; $1,725 in 2018

Discounts: Early bird

A gold star goes to this event for its laser focus on the thorny problem of creating great and consistent user interfaces for enterprise users. To quote the show organizers, “Enterprise UX problems are uniquely wicked ones, with overwhelming challenges of scale, complexity, and distributed decision-making, all intertwined with organizational behavior.”

To that end, Enterprise UX is not designed as a training seminar covering basic user experience skills. Rather, its focus is on how UX is practiced in enterprise organizations, with enterprise storytelling sessions and visual sketch notes. Past sessions included “Integrated Data Thinking,” “Communicating the ROI of UX Within a Large Enterprise and Out on the Streets,” and “Cleaning Up Our Mess: Digital Governance for Designers.”

Velocity

Twitter: @velocityconf

Web: https://conferences.oreilly.com/velocity/vl-ca

Date: June 10-13, 2019

Location: San Jose, CA

Cost: TBD; from $1,895 to $3,695 in 2018

Discounts: Early bird, alumni, company teams, government, academic instructors, full-time students, and nonprofits

The O'Reilly Velocity Conference covers a wide range of topics of interest to systems engineers, software developers, and DevOps teams. (It’s also colocated with the Software Architecture conference.) With no specific vendor focus, Velocity prides itself as a program that cuts across vendors, technologies, and frameworks—which is why it also is mentioned in so many of our conference roundups. Velocity’s program includes real-world examples of best practices for building, deploying, and running complex distributed applications and systems. Expect thought-provoking sessions, such as “How Do We Solve the World’s Spreadsheet Problem?” “Biomimicry Opportunities Inspired by Nature's Software and Wetware,” and “Data-Driven Reliability.”

O’Reilly Open Source Convention (OSCON)

Twitter: @OSCON

Web: https://conferences.oreilly.com/oscon/oscon-or

Date: July 15-18, 2019

Location: Portland, Oregon

Cost: TBD; from $1,795 to $3,895 in 2018

Discounts: Early bird, alumni, company teams, government, academic instructors, full-time students, and nonprofits

OSCON has long been considered one of the best open source conferences, with a program that covers a wide range of innovative open source projects and the opportunity to network with leaders in the open source community. Conference tracks cover significant software development areas such as edge computing, emerging languages, and critical real-world business problems.

One recent addition was the OSCON Business Summit for technical business leaders, strategists, and executives. That summit promises to take your developer expertise to the next level, with high-level case studies on the most promising and successful developments in open source for the enterprise. These sessions should be of interest even if you aren’t currently involved in open source development. The 2018 summit included such sessions as “Changing a 160-plus-year-old company with open source” and “How to develop, deploy, and operate services at Reddit scale.”

OSCON gets a gold star for being a showcase of open source innovation and accomplishment as well as examples of best practices and projects that are changing all kinds of businesses.

DevOps World / Jenkins World

Twitter: @devopsworldconf

Web: https://www.cloudbees.com/devops-world/san-francisco

Dates and locations: August 12-15, 2019, San Francisco; December 1-5, Lisbon, Portugal

Cost: $1,199, with extra cost for two-day preshow training sessions

Discounts: Federal and nonprofit employees

It’s two, two, two conferences in the same location: two full days of training workshops and two full days of conference sessions. CloudBees is a vendor offering CI/CD (continuous integration, continuous delivery) services via the CloudBees Suite, CloudBees DevOptics, and CloudBees CodeShip. The company also offers the commercial version of Jenkins, the popular open source automation server. The combined event does its best to serve both audiences (with, presumably a hope of high overlap), including a deep dive into DevOps-related topics like microservices, Kubernetes, cloud and hybrid cloud service integration, as well as tips for using Jenkins. If you want detailed instruction, the 2018 event had 30 training sessions plus 125 more regular conference sessions.

As a reporter covering this conference in the past few years, I can attest that there is a lot of networking and buzz among attendees. Every time, I see developers and DevOps people who clearly are jazzed to maximize their time.

ApacheCon North America

Twitter: @ApacheCon

Web: https://apachecon.com

Date: September 2019

Location: Las Vegas

Cost: TBD; $800 in 2018

Discounts: Academic and early bird 

One of the early open source success stories, the Apache web server is the most widely used web server software. ApacheCon is the premier gathering place to learn about Apache projects in the field, find out about what’s coming, and contribute or team up on projects of interest. As a taste from last year: “Logs and metric collection in Apache CloudStack,” “Routing CDN traffic at scale using Apache Tomcat,” and “The anatomy of a secure Java web application using Apache Fortress.”

The conference brings together developers from more than 100 countries, covering a diverse set of 350-plus projects. This should be an especially celebratory event with important speakers from the Apache community as it marks the 20th anniversary of the Apache Software Foundation.

Did we leave out any can’t-miss developer conferences? Tell us about it on Twitter at @enterprisenxt.

This article/content was written by the individual writer identified and does not necessarily reflect the view of Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company.