ClueCon 2021 Wrap-up

Thank you to everyone who attended ClueCon TGI2021, our first hybrid ClueCon! Whether you attended in person or online, we appreciate you joining us for this hybrid event experiment. This new format allowed for those attending online to interact with those in person and vice versa, which was a ClueCon first. If you have any feedback about your experience, you can fill out this quick survey to share it with us so we can make ClueCon even better next year. Though the format was a little different this year, ClueCon followed its traditional lineup of events throughout the week. Monday kicked off with the Coder Games, our annual hack-a-thon that includes several challenges for developers and non-developers alike. Attendees built boats, engineered bridges, and played trivia with virtual attendees to win an exciting array of prizes.
A beautiful boat styled as a chariot.
The presentations started on Tuesday after the release of FreeSWITCH v1.10.7! In FreeSWITCH founder Anthony Minessale’s keynote, he addressed how we made the hybrid event happen by using the video technology built over the years on the back of FreeSWITCH, and how we try to make life easier for developers, including the devotion to open source that fuels ClueCon each year. Videos of all the ClueCon presentations and workshops will be available soon – subscribe to the FreeSWITCH YouTube channel so you don’t miss out! The annual Gigabit Reception took place Tuesday evening as well, but this year, with a spooky twist! After a long day of presentations, attendees put on their Halloween costumes, grabbed their favorite drinks, sang karaoke, and played games. Virtual attendees were able to pop in and hang out with us in the lounge too!
Playing Rock Band at the Gigabit Reception.
Wednesday included more presentations, a Kamailio workshop led by Daniel-Constantin Mierla, some seriously Dangerous Demos, and a FreeSWITCH roundtable until the evening, when attendees participated in a poker tournament thanks to the sponsorship of Phil Gordon and Prompt.io. The week wrapped up on Thursday with a few more presentations, a HOMER workshop led by Lorenzo Mangani, and our Grand Prize giveaway of a custom engraved MacBook Pro.
Giving away the MacBook Pro
We want to give a warm thank you to all our sponsors and speakers who made ClueCon possible in what was a difficult and uncertain year. With social distancing measures in place, like our bigger venue with spaced out seating, and the option to attend online, we hoped to keep everyone comfortable and safe as we reconnected with the FreeSWITCH community. Overall, this ClueCon was a successful first hybrid event and we had a ton of fun getting back together in person at last. If you miss ClueCon like we do, or you’re suffering from moderate to severe FOMO, consider joining us October 17th-20th in 2022!

Sharon’s Top 12 Reasons to Come to ClueCon – Part 3

By Sharon White

Sharon White has been the main organizer of ClueCon for many years! This is a little behind the scenes look into ClueCon and all her favorite things about the conference.

Click here to learn more and register for ClueCon TGI2021!

4. The Gigabit Reception

Most conferences worth their salt have a reception – a chance for the attendees that make up the community to mingle. The Gigabit Reception is the annual party that happens on Tuesday evening during ClueCon. This is one of my favorite events. After a long day of absorbing the vast knowledge that the speakers will share, partaking in prize drawings (at least 3-4 each day!), stuffing yourself with a delicious Chicago lunch and visiting with our amazing sponsors, it’s always great to relax, listen to music, play video games, and unwind.

This year will be one of the most amazing receptions of all time. Equal to the Met Gala in grandeur, the who’s who of ClueCon and FreeSWITCH will dazzle you with their presence. With Halloween just around the corner, we even added a costume party to the event. There will be a little bit of something for everybody – board games, drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and more.

The most exciting parts of the Gigabit Reception are the Mario Kart tournament, karaoke, and Anthony Minessale’s annual guitar jam session. Whether you’re joining us in person or online this year, you can hang out with fellow community members, jam out, wear a costume, and have a blast at this highly-anticipated networking event!

3. Registration

The registration desk holds a special place in my heart. I first came to ClueCon to hang out with a friend, knowing nothing about open source telecom, and was asked to help out on the first day of the conference. It was love at first sight. The small area that was made up of a metric ton of cardboard boxes was transformed into the beautiful check-in setup that is the first impression for each attendee upon arrival.

Working at the registration desk is fast paced and busy those first couple days, but the best thing about it is meeting all of the attendees we will be spending time with that week, and revisiting with all of the attendees who come back year after year. ClueCon attendees are the glue that holds ClueCon together and they are the reason we have a conference every year. Without them there would be no ClueCon!

When you get off the elevator, you will immediately be surrounded by fellow community members, and have the chance to mingle at the meet and greet at registration. This year we will also have color-coded lanyards you can use to indicate your comfort level for social distancing practices. And of course, there will be plenty of masks and hand sanitizer available to keep everyone safe and healthy.

2. Meet the Creators of FreeSWITCH and the Founders of Cluecon

Anthony Minessale, Brian West, and Michael Jerris are the brilliant minds behind the FreeSWITCH open source project. I have grown very fond of these three. They saw a need in the world, and they set out to fill that need – while making it free to everyone. This mission that led to the creation of FreeSWITCH will always be at the heart of ClueCon.

The three of them met a few years before the first ClueCon, and it was the first ClueCon that would lead to the founding of FreeSWITCH itself. Unlike today’s videoconferencing-centric world, back then humans were drawn to meeting in person. In 2005, they hosted the very first ClueCon, and instead of a well-organized tech conference, it was more like inviting 50 friends to get together. Located at the Best Western near the airport in Chicago, it was not nearly as lavish as it is today. The traditional nightly activities were the same, although the parties included kegs they could not finish (but hey, bonus beer during the conference the next morning… I don’t know if it was a good idea. But I’m sure it was fun.)

Come to ClueCon and meet the founders! When you do, ask them about the SWAT team at the first ClueCon. Stories galore!

Brian West, Michael Jerris, and Anthony Minessale

1. A chance to see my Binders in person… You never even realized this was missing from your life.

I can go on for hours about all the details that go into planning a ClueCon. From all the logistical organizing with the hotel, to minutiae like labeling the raffle tickets, to drafting schedule after schedule, the almighty binder contains all the information we need to survive the week. Over the years we have learned that not all hotels have the immense capacity for internet that we need; that not all hotels can produce the audio and video levels that we need; that during a global pandemic it is important to have a great virtual platform to use to integrate those who can’t be with us in person. So we have used our own technology and resources to accomplish all of this and more.

These endless details cannot be kept in any one person’s head, so I have about 20 lovely binders that keep all of ClueCon safe in the hands of all the organizers. These binders are my brain and without them I dont think ClueCon would be as successful as it is. Yes, I said it: the binders are the single most important aspect of running a great conference. They help run the conference like a well-oiled machine.

I might have said it before about attendees… but binders are the glue holding ClueCon together.

Sharon’s Top 12 Reasons to Come to ClueCon – Part 2

By Sharon White

Sharon White has been the main organizer of ClueCon for many years! This is a little behind the scenes look into ClueCon and all her favorite things about the conference.

Click here to learn more and register for ClueCon TGI2021!

8. Raffle Tickets

Who doesn’t like giveaways? For ClueCon, raffle tickets are the primary way that we give away prizes. Every single attendee receives a certain number of raffle tickets dependent upon when they signed up for ClueCon. Sign up early and you receive 20 raffle tickets per day. Sign up right before ClueCon and you receive one raffle ticket per day. But no matter when you sign up, you still have a chance to win some really cool stuff.

At most conferences those tiny tickets can represent a parting prize of a dinner for two at a great local restaurant, $500 cash, or a trip to Hawaii. For ClueCon, the annual grand prize is a custom engraved MacBook Pro. Similar to our t-shirts, we put time and effort into giving our attendees something one-of-a-kind and truly special. Based on the year’s theme of ClueCon, the Macbook is intricately engraved with the conference design. This makes it a unique item you can only get at ClueCon.

The Macbook, 2015

Though there is only one MacBook to win, there are many other prizes. In the past we have given out hundreds of SIP phones, wireless chargers, and even a desktop arcade game. There are at least 8 giveaways every day – and dozens of winners.

Register now you could be one of them!

7. Hotel Life

Everyone at one point in their lives has to stay at a hotel. To me, this is really fun and adventurous. Walking in symbolizes the beginning of a week that I have been working towards for the better part of a year. For the next week this hotel is my home away from home. This year, ClueCon is taking place at the InterContinental Hotel on the Magnificent Mile, right in the middle of downtown Chicago.

Immediately the whirlwind of setting up for ClueCon begins at check-in. I have to work with the whole team to make sure all of our equipment gets to the hotel in one piece, choreograph about 50 people that have poured their lives into setting up ClueCon, organize the conference rooms, and become acquainted with the hotel staff all on the Sunday before the conference. The thrill of ClueCon is in the air right when I first walk in… Then I get to work. By the end of the conference I have an entire family that I will not see again until next year.

The greatest part of hotel life is surrounding myself with the best people to help me through the week. And for that week, the hotel is home for all of us! Hotel life and city life are one in the same – iconic Chicago restaurants surround the area, and the shops of Michigan Avenue are right around the corner. The InterContinental sits at the intersection of famous landmarks and destinations like Cloud Gate and Navy Pier. This year ClueCon will take over 3 floors of the historic hotel, including the sprawling grand ballroom and the medieval-themed King Arthur’s Court.

6. Speakers 

We get many speakers signing up to share their newest innovations or demo their latest projects. And sometimes they might pull something strange to grab your attention…

ClueCon is a conference for developers by developers and to that end it is vitally important that we have the right speakers. When ClueCon speakers submit their talks, the FreeSWITCH founders hand-select the best of the best to share their ideas. This year, there will be a combination of speakers in person at the hotel in Chicago and online! Now that we’ve done two online conferences, we know that it’s still going to be awesome, and a crazy unique hybrid experience.

The presentations are a huge part of what make ClueCon so memorable. There is always a ton to learn about various updates in the world of open source and telecom, and there are so many passionate, knowledgeable leaders who have plenty to teach. These speakers hang around later to answer any questions, chat, and network! You never know what you might learn about, or who will steal the show with a unique demo…

5. Networking

I have worked at retail establishments, banks, even a flower shop, completely different jobs that gave me work experience with all kinds of people. I didn’t really get how well a conference allows you to get to know others. Up until ClueCon the only conferences I had been to were Star Trek conventions and ComicCon’s. While meeting new people at those conferences was fun and exciting, networking at ClueCon has inspired major changes in the tech industry that have an impact on the world. In fact, the first ClueCon led to the founding of FreeSWITCH…

Not to mention, ClueCon has the coolest networking events, like the annual Gigabit Reception. This reception includes not only great hors d’oeuvres and drinks, but the highly-anticipated jam session, and, as always, ClueCon karaoke.

Anthony Minessale at the annual Jam Session.

One of my first ClueCon’s, I was manning the registration desk and I started watching two of our attendees meet and bond in seconds, something that could lead to collaborating to bring new technologies to the forefront by combining their knowledge and intellect. I remember thinking “They meet here, at ClueCon, and maybe a few years down the line we will be introduced to a product that was birthed right here in front of the registration desk.”  Who knows? Maybe that collaboration will help to make the world a better place. Don’t get me wrong, Star Trek conventions are amazing, but who can compete with the innovation that comes from developers getting together at ClueCon?

To be continued…

Chad Phillips – Apartment Lines

Chad has been involved in the FreeSWITCH community since 2008, with heavy emphasis in Verto/WebRTC integration, and advanced call workflows via Lua scripting. He’s contributed heavily to open source projects over the years, and is an advocate for the power of sharing technology in community.

Dovid Bender – Flat Planet Phone

Dovid has been working for Flat Planet phone for the last 16+ years as employee #2. Over time he has helped bring the company from several servers to multiple POP’s around the world including France, New York, Cyprus, and Israel. Dovid’s major skill set is in telephony, networking, and troubleshooting. A big part of what he does is solving customers issues be it bugs, faulty networks etc.

Flavio Goncalves – voip.school

Flavio considers himself a geek, entrepreneur and surfer, not necessarily in this order. With surf he learned a lesson, practice does not always lead to perfection!

He has 30 years of experience in IT and 20 in Real Time Communications. He’s the author of the books, Asterisk Configuration Guide and Building Telephony Systems with OpenSIPS.

He founded several companies related to Voice over IP, VOffice a systems integrator, SipPulse a Softswitch Dev house, voip.school and WeHostVoIP, an easy to use PaaS company.

Tim Panton – pi.pe gmbh

Tim has written a cleanroom webRTC implementation for small IoT cameras and contributes to the WebRTC standards efforts at the IETF and W3C. He had one patch accepted in freeswitch, which Anthm completely rewrote so it worked.

Mojtaba Esfandiari.S – NasimTelecom

Mojtaba Esfandiari.S. has a master’s Degree in Information Technology of Ferduwsi University of Mashhad in Iran in 2015. He worked in IP-PBX laboratory in FUM for some research projects. He is a
VoIP consultant and software engineer that focused on SIP service solutions for operators and carriers, and works as R&D manager. He has 13 years of experience in developing software switches.