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…

A Year of 2 ClueCons: What 2021 holds for your favorite developers’ conference 

You read that right. 2021 will be a year unlike any other, a year of TWO ClueCons. Here’s what to expect if you plan on attending both!

2020 was more successful than we could have imagined. ClueCon Deconstructed was our first ever virtual version of ClueCon. Despite all the challenges 2020 brought us, our community showed up and made it a ClueCon to remember.

2021 is almost as uncertain as last year. Just like everyone else, we don’t really know what will be possible when it comes to in-person events. But because of the insanely positive response from our community, we decided to host a mini version of ClueCon next month, February 16th and 17th: ClueCon TGI2021! This shortened version of the conference will mainly focus on the essentials of a typical ClueCon, workshops and presentations brought to you by brilliant industry experts. We’ve squeezed in a little networking time as well! You can expect that both days will alternate between presentations and open source workshops, with built-in breaks throughout the conference, and networking events at the end of the day.

If you’re excited about the Coder Games, we have news for you: even though ClueCon TGI2021 won’t include the usual hack-a-thon, we will be unveiling the challenges and you’ll be able to sign up to participate later in August. The challenges can be completed month by month. The sooner you get started, the better.

The full version of ClueCon will take place the first week of August as it usually does. We are optimistic that it could be in-person in Chicago, but like the rest of the world looking forward to what 2021 holds, we just don’t know yet. What we can tell you is that you can expect a full version of ClueCon online, no matter what happens. If the COVID situation is not safe, we will have the entire event online as we did last year with ClueCon Deconstructed. But even if we are able to host an in-person event, it will be a hybrid conference – that is, we will be hosting it online at the same time. We know that even as things get better this year, it’s likely that many members of our community simply won’t be able to travel yet, and we want you to know that you won’t be missing out. No matter what corner of the world you call home, you’ll be able to attend both ClueCons this year.

ClueCon TGI2021 will be an entirely FREE, online event. We hope to see you there!

Register Now! 

Workshop Lineup

Speaker Lineup