Frequently asked questions
What’s all this?
!!Con (pronounced “bang bang con”) is a two-day conference of ten-minute talks about the joy, excitement, and surprise of computing that’s been held annually in New York since 2014. Due to massive demand, !!Con was expanded to the west coast of the US in 2019. We are so excited to bring !!Con West back in 2020, and it will be held in Santa Cruz, California, on the campus of UC Santa Cruz, on February 29th and March 1st.
Why did you bring !!Con to the west coast?
In our five years of organizing !!Con, we’ve learned that there’s a huge amount of demand for what we’re doing. This is a great problem to have, but it means that we’re constantly having to disappoint people. There’s only so much that our small team of volunteers can do.
The long-term solution to our inability to meet demand is for there to be a lot more conferences inspired by !!Con, in a lot more places, organized by a lot more people. A new generation of conference organizers will need to step up. In fact, that’s already happening – PromptConf, EnthusiastiCon, and StarCon are three examples of !!Con-inspired, independently organized events.
But the existence of all these great conferences hasn’t taken the pressure off !!Con. If anything, the demand for !!Con has only increased as more and more people experience the magic and fun of this conference format. In 2018, for instance, !!Con got nearly 300 talk proposals for only thirty talk slots. It’s clear that we need to expand, not only to better serve our existing audience, but also to better serve those who can’t easily travel to New York for the weekend.
How big an event will this be?
Last year, !!Con West was about 200 attendees, including around thirty speakers, and was a two-day single-track conference. We expect !!Con West 2020 to be about the same size.
How is !!Con West different from !!Con in NYC?
The west-coast version of !!Con is necessarily different from the east-coast version in certain ways. For starters, the !!Con West venue is very different from the middle of Manhattan or Brooklyn, where all the previous !!Cons have been held, and this has an impact on the conference experience. New York attendees regularly get to our venue on public transit, and wander out to restaurants for lunch while making it back in time for the afternoon talks; these are dramatically more difficult in Santa Cruz! On the other hand, in Santa Cruz, attendees can walk out of the building and three minutes later be strolling through a beautiful redwood forest.
We’ve made some changes to the logistics of !!Con when it seems like the right approach, but we feel that we’ve retained the important aspects of the original !!Con’s aesthetic, while enthusiastically embracing the physical and social geography of the west coast, Santa Cruz, and UC Santa Cruz.
Who’s responsible for !!Con West?
!!Con West is being organized by a team of volunteers – some of us were involved in !!Con West last year, some have organizing experience from !!Cons previous, and some of us are brand new this year. One of our goals in !!Con West is to incubate a new generation of conference organizers; if you’re interested in joining us in future years, please get in touch at the conference!
Additionally, !!Con West’s parent organization is the Exclamation Foundation, which provides logistical support that we share between !!Cons, including managing our bank accounts, and providing a legal entity that our sponsors can do business with. If you need to get in touch with Exclamation Foundation, you can send the Board of Directors some e-mail.
What is UC Santa Cruz’s involvement in !!Con West?
The Baskin School of Engineering at UC Santa Cruz contributed seed funding to help launch our inaugural !!Con West in 2019, and a couple members of the organizing team have a UCSC affiliation.
While the UCSC graduate student strike is going on, does attending the conference count as crossing the picket line?
We talked to some of the organizers of the graduate student strike – they have told us that “the strike organizing committee doesn’t consider !!Con West over the weekend to be crossing the picket line”. All the same, we hope that you’ll educate yourself about why the graduate students are striking, and if you can, donate to their strike fund. We have a Twitter thread with more on this, and we’ll have even more about it at the conference!!