The Future of KalX

When I first helped start the Kalamazoo X Conference way back in 2008, we wanted to do something different. We didn’t want a typical Day of .NET or Code Camp. We didn’t want to copy from others. We wanted to be unique. At some point in those early conversations, we settled on “soft skills” – all the things developers are bad at – interpersonal communication, design, and architecture.

In that first year, that’s exactly what we had, but instead of a multi-track conference, we decided on a one-day, single-track event. Because of the number of speakers we had that first year, the sessions were 20 minutes long. Twenty minutes to get on stage and get their message across.

It worked. People got the concept immediately. The format gave everyone who attended a shared experience they weren’t finding at other events. The non-tech nature of the talks gave developers things to think about that were outside the realm of their day-to-day work of writing code.

Through the years, the conference has morphed into something new, exciting, and different. The focus has turned to being a better human. The talks have become more personal, more intimate. Speakers open up about personal demons and how they conquered them. There are tears. Lots of tears, from the speakers, attendees, and from me.

The impact of the conference does not go unnoticed. I hear more and more about the positive influence it has had on people’s lives. People have changed jobs, sought help for hidden illnesses, made new friends, and improved their lives in untold ways because of what they’ve experienced at the conference.

When this whole thing started all those years ago, I never imagined I’d be invited on podcasts to talk about the conference, to talk about the vision and the impact it’s had on people….

My IndieDots podcast interview with Suzan Bond

In my recent post on the upcoming Kalamazoo X Conference, I made a couple vague statements about the future of the event:

I have some thoughts around what happens next, but I still have some thinking to do.

I have also hinted about it on twitter:

Since the early years, I’ve had many requests to bring the conference to other cities, or help others do something similar. Because I’ve been so focused on Kalamazoo, I’ve always rejected those because I wanted to keep it local. I never stopped others from copying, I just didn’t offer to help.

I have thought about this a LOT, and I believe what’s next for the conference is to move it from its roots in Kalamazoo. Why? To see how it plays in a different location. In all the years I’ve been running the conference, we’ve NEVER had the attendance numbers I think we could have. But here’s the thing…

People tell me all the time it’s the best conference they’ve ever attended.
People tell me they’d pay more to attend.
People tell me this is a unique conference.
People tell me it’s a conference they will never miss.
People write articles like this.
Friends and speakers travel the world and tell people about the conference.

I believe we can reach a wider audience, we’re just missing something.

  • Is it the location?
  • Is it the time of year?
  • Is it the cost?
  • Is it the speakers?
  • Is it what the speakers talk about?
  • Is it the cursing?
  • Is it the crying?
  • Is it me?

Of those things, I’m going to tweak one variable (possibly two) – location and time. The rest is non-negotiable.

Starting after Kalamazoo X’s 10th and final event in Kalamazoo, I will be actively looking at several cities throughout the United States to do test runs in. My plan is to select 3-4 and try them over the period of a couple years (so, probably twice a year, but not geographically close).

I’m not sure of the cities yet, although some close friends have given me some ideas.

So, Kalamazoo X 10 won’t be the last. It’ll just be the last in Kalamazoo.


Kalamazoo X Conference tickets have gone on sale! The conference is scheduled for April 21, 2018 in beautiful Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow the conference on Twitter and Facebook to keep up on announcements!

Interesting links of the week (11/06 – 11/12, 2017)

Interesting links of the week (11/06 – 11/12, 2017)

Here are some articles and blog posts I’ve run into over the last week that I found interesting.

Kalamazoo X Conference tickets have gone on sale! The conference is scheduled for April 21, 2018 in beautiful Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow the conference on Twitter and Facebook to keep up on announcements!

Technology

Non-Technology

Random

Interesting links of the week (10/30 – 11/05, 2017)

Interesting links of the week (10/30 – 11/05, 2017)

Here are some articles and blog posts I’ve run into over the last week that I found interesting.

Kalamazoo X Conference tickets have gone on sale! The conference is scheduled for April 21, 2018 in beautiful Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow the conference on Twitter and Facebook to keep up on announcements!

Technology

Non-Technology

Random

Interesting links of the week (10/22 – 10/29, 2017)

Interesting links of the week (10/22 – 10/29, 2017)

Here are some articles and blog posts I’ve run into over the last week that I found interesting.

Kalamazoo X Conference tickets have gone on sale! The conference is scheduled for April 21, 2018 in beautiful Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow the conference on Twitter and Facebook to keep up on announcements!

Technology

Non-Technology

Random

Interesting links of the week (10/16 – 10/21, 2017)

Interesting links of the week (10/16 – 10/21, 2017)

Here are some articles and blog posts I’ve run into over the last week that I found interesting.

Kalamazoo X Conference tickets have gone on sale! The conference is scheduled for April 21, 2018 in beautiful Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow the conference on Twitter and Facebook to keep up on announcements!

Technology

Non-Technology

Random

  • None

Kalamazoo X Conference 2018

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.”

“Have anxieties about crying in public? Attend and we’ll get through it together.

“Speakers really bear their souls at .”

“This year, as always, I am awed and humbled by the vulnerability present at . Thanks for making it okay to cry with y’all.”

== 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.

Did I mention there will be crying? Yea. Definitely from me, but also from a big chunk of the audience because THIS IS WHAT THE CONFERENCE IS!
So, it’s August 27th, 2018 and I have 7 of the 8 speakers selected (waiting on #8 to confirm). It’s going to be AMAZING.

Details:

Conference: April 21, 2018 at The Shaw Theater on WMU’s campus
Sponsorships open up on October 1, 2017.
Tickets go on sale on my 45th birthday (October 21, 2017)!
Speaker announcements coming this week!

Detroit.Code() is coming soon!

Detroit.Code() is coming soon!

On July 10-12, 2017, a new conference will be coming to Detroit!

Detroit.Code() is a professional conference for anyone involved with the creation of software. It’s an Amegala event, so you know you’re going to get the best mix of local, regional and national experts delivering TONS of sessions on the hottest technology, all for a reasonable price. This is the conference you’ve been waiting for. You’re going to love this!

I’ll be delivering two sessions:

Become a Remote Working Pro
Tuesday, July 11 from 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM

Leadership Journey: From Software Developer to Leader
Wednesday, July 12 from 1:00 PM – 2:00 PM

The event will be held at the Renaissance Center, and tickets are still available! Want to save some $$$ on your ticket? Use the discount code ‘Eaton10

I hope to see you there!

Updates: Fixed the dates because I’m obviously not bright enough to get the dates correct the first time.

Interesting links of the week (05/15 – 05/21)

Interesting links of the week (05/15 – 05/21)

In defense of being so goddamn happy all the timeWow…I didn’t intend to take a 3 month break, so let’s try this again. 🙂

Here are some articles and blog posts I’ve run into over the last week that I found interesting.

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Non-Technology

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Interesting links of the week (02/13 – 02/19)

Interesting links of the week (02/13 – 02/19)

Here are some articles and blog posts I’ve run into over the last week that I found interesting.

Technology

Non-Technology

Random

  • Nothing this week

 

Interesting links of the week (02/06 – 02/12)

Interesting links of the week (02/06 – 02/12)

Here are some articles and blog posts I’ve run into over the last week that I found interesting.

Technology

Non-Technology

Random