The Unofficial Guide to devLink

Having just returned from devLink, this post is part reflection, part advice for next year's attendees. There is plenty more to be said, so please chime in with a comment if you can share something that shouldn't "stay in Chattanooga". When I first heard devLink was being held in Chattanooga, I was pretty excited. I've been to Chattanooga several times, and it's a fun little city. Things have changed since my last visit, mostly for the better. Downtown Chattanooga is a town built for visitors, so bring an appetite and stay an extra day. The Conference Bring an open mind and a willingness to learn. This is one of the best gatherings of community speakers you can find, and the topics are wide ranging. Plan to take notes, make new friends, and be busy. It's a good idea to make use of an iPad or smartphone to follow people in Twitter as you meet them, so you can see what everyone is up to. devLink also had its schedule in Event Board, which runs on these devices. Travelling to Chattanooga Chattanooga is located in a part of Tennessee sometimes described as "the middle of nowhere". There is a small airport in Chattanooga, which most of us flew into. If you want a larger airport, Nashville and Atlanta are both about a 2.5 hour drive away. The Mercury Cab Service runs from Chattanooga to the Atlanta airport on request. Hotels have free shuttles from the Chattanooga airport, and there are cabs waiting at the airport. Lodging Many of the attendees stayed at the Chattanooga Choo Choo and this was the site of most of the hijinks. However, the hotel is in need of being remodeled (to be generous), and I don't think many attendees will stay there next year. Unless you see "newly remodeled", consider a different hotel. The Internet connectivity at the Choo Choo was such an epic failure it will remain the butt of speaker jokes for quite some time. There is a Marriott attached to the convention center; stay there if you like the convenience. The URL is http://www.marriott.com/hotels/travel/chadt-chattanooga-marriott-at-the-convention-center/. Any hotel chain with a rewards program is present in town, so you can accumulate your nights as needed. Getting around Downtown Chattanooga is a fairly compact place, and is easy to walk. There are also free electric buses which run every few minutes around town. The route extends from the Choo Choo to the Aquarium, and either covers or gets you close to pretty much wherever you want to be. If you need to know anything, ask a shuttle driver, they know the town well. Taxis are easy, you can find them at the airport. Even if you don't need one right then, get a card from a driver so you can call them when you do need one, since they don't usually circle town empty. Coffee [edited 2011-08-26 to correct the Starbucks presence] There is a Starbucks attached to the Sheraton a few blocks north of the convention center, and most hotels have a coffee shop of sorts (the convention center Marriott brews Starbucks but is not a Starbucks). There are also several local coffee shops to frequent. [/end edit] Eating I'm not kidding about the eating. Dave Giard's photos of devLink feature Kevin Griffin and a ginormous porterhouse (at Big River Grille), just as an example. There are a lot of good local restaurants serving a variety of foods. The two microbreweries (Big River Grille and Terminal Brewhouse) have outstanding beers as well as great food. The devLink VIP party this year was at Blue Orleans, a cajun restaurant. Porkers BBQ is a local barbecue place of note. We ate a tremendous amount of meat, and then ordered seconds, plus had breakfast twice more. Porkers is a block or two walk from the Choo Choo, and a few minutes ride on the shuttle from the convention center. Broad Street, near the aquarium, is filled with local restaurants worthy of your business. Entertaining Families devLink is one of those conventions where the family can come too, since there is plenty in town for the kids. In fact, they may have more fun than you do. The Tennessee Aquarium is a beautiful aquarium, showing the transition from headwater streams to the major rivers, and the architecture is really nice. Near the aquarium is the Creative Discovery Museum, the aquarium's IMAX theater showing nature themed movies, the river walk and the Chattanooga Lookouts minor league baseball club. Close by are Lookout Mountain, Ruby Falls, whitewater rafting on the Ocoee River, and several golf courses (we played Moccasin Bend). Every Friday all summer is the Nightfall Concert Series, with food and beer available from trailers. We saw a great concert by Michael "Iron Man" Burks. It was an outstanding way to end devLink. [edited 2011-08-26] If you have kids who like trains, the Choo Choo has a number of rooms in converted train cars, which seemed to thrill the little kids we saw staying in them. [/end edit] Parties Outside of the three organized social events, other parties spring up randomly all over town. Watch Twitter, then just go on down and participate. The layout of the building at the Choo Choo was very amenable to late night pool gatherings. One of the nights grew from a handful of people to close to 40. That got noisy, so security sent everyone out. We all went to a room, hung out some more, and for four hearty souls, it lasted literally overnight. When you see people tweeting about a spontaneous gathering, that's your invite. They want you there as much as you want to be there, to go join the fun. How to dress DevLink is casual, so shorts and t-shirts are good; you'll accumulate several new T-shirts, too. The meeting rooms were cold, as usual for these events, and the days outside were hot. It's not a bad idea to bring a llong sleeve shirt or light jacket to throw on in during the sessions. You'll get a swag bag, so you can carry a bunch of stuff like everyone else. I hope that helps, thanks for reading (and contributing a comment if you do)!

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