The Future of cfObjective.

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So, I don't do this very often, but, I was asked to share a message, and it is one I agree with, so I decided to pass it along. This comes from a member of our community - so please give it a few moments of your time.

Has cf.Objective() Outgrown Its Name?

Have you considered how cf.Objective() has changed over the years? When cf.Objective() started, it seemed targeted toward ColdFusion developers who were looking to improve their ColdFusion development skills. This was awesome, and it was exactly what the community needed at the time. cf.Objective() has always had content that reflected what the community needed at the time.

There was once a time when being a web developer meant that you could do your job with a very simple set of tools. For example, you could do virtually everything you needed to do with just HTML and ColdFusion, or HTML and PHP. But as with everything related to development, things became more complicated, and cf.Objective() has been there to help us through those changes with the content we needed at the time.

For almost 10 years, cf.Objective() has been adapting and expanding to meet the needs of the intermediate and advanced-level developers it attracts. When server-side frameworks were the new "big thing" in application development, cf.Objective() was there to provide us with the very best content related to those frameworks, many times from the framework authors themselves. When TDD was what people wanted to learn about, cf.Objective() retained the best in the business to deliver that content. Looking at the content history of cf.Objective(), it's clear that cf.Objective() has continually and reliably grown and expanded to bring web developers what they wanted and needed.

Then, in 2011, the reemergence of JavaScript began. And in 2012, cf.Objective() came back with an entire three-day track dedicated to JavaScript. It was cleverly named js.Objective(). The result is that cf.Objective() changed. Not in a bad way, but in a big way. JavaScript's return changed how we develop web applications, and cf.Objective() responded to that change.

Since 2012, JavaScript has changed the face of web development. Additionally, other tools have become essential parts of the developer toolbox. What was once a toolbox with two tools has now become a toolbox with dozens of tools. As we look back on the beginnings of our careers we can probably see that we accomplished most of our work with just ColdFusion and HTML, and a smattering of SQL. In contrast, if we look at the work we are doing now and the tools we are using now, we will see it has changed a lot. Consider this list:

  • Server-side Frameworks
  • Dependency Injection
  • Automation and Continuous Integration Tools (Jenkins, Cruise Control)
  • Task runners (ANT, Gradle, Grunt)
  • TDD/BDD tools (MXUnit, TestBox)
  • Other testing tools (Selenium, WebDriver, jMeter)
  • JavaScript Libraries (jQuery, Scriptaculous, MooTools)
  • JavaScript Frameworks (AngularJS, EmberJS, Backbone.js)
  • Extract-Transform-Load (ETL) tools
  • Security frameworks and best practices
  • Content Management Systems
  • Server-side integration with other platforms
  • Web Services (SOAP and REST)
  • CSS and Front-End Frameworks
  • Version Control
  • Virtual Machines
  • Cloud Computing
  • Mobile Development tools
  • ORM
  • Server Clustering and load balancing
  • NoSQL Databases
  • Command line tools
  • Platform Package managers
  • IDEs

Look at that list and ask yourself, how many of those tools and technologies do you now use? Has your toolbox grown greatly since you started development? How many of those tools did you learn about at cf.Objective()? How many do you only know about because of cf.Objective(). The number of tools that web developers need has changed drastically over the last 10 years. During that time, cf.Objective() has been there, every step of the way, delivering content relevant to what is going on in the web development world.

With these changes and cf.Objective()'s growth and expansion, have you noticed a trend in the ColdFusion content at cf.Objective()? Looking at the schedule from previous years, you see that there is still a lot of ColdFusion content, and it is still fantastic, unique ColdFusion content. But it is being displaced a bit by all of these other tools and technologies we want to learn about. That's OK, ColdFusion is probably not 100% of your job, so why should it be 100% of your conference? We do other things besides ColdFusion.

Did you notice that in 2013 less than half of cf.Objective()'s content was directly related to ColdFusion? This is not to say that all of it couldn't have been related to the work we do, but less than half of it was ColdFusion-specific. That means that more than half of the content from cf.Objective() 2013 could relate to any kind of web development. In 2012 and 2014, the numbers were similar.

So for the last three years the trend is that cf.Objective() has adapted to the way the web is changing, and that adaptation has meant, while ColdFusion is still a huge part of the conference, it is not the only piece anymore. cf.Objective() should be appealing to a much wider audience. Why isn't it?

Is it the name? The tag line? For years it has been, cf.Objective(): The World's Only Enterprise ColdFusion Conference. While this may be true, cf.Objective() has become so much more. Yet, with that name and tagline, don't we have to wonder if anyone not in the ColdFusion community will even give the conference a chance?

If you are primarily a ColdFusion developer (whether or not you use many of the tools I listed above), ask yourself this, have you ever gone to look at the schedule for RubyConf or SpringOne? Have you ever considered going to the PHPWorld conference? The answer would be, probably not. Of course, this won't be true for everyone, so let's not dwell on semantics. The point is, how many non-ColdFusion developers are even considering cf.Objective(): The World's Only Enterprise ColdFusion Conference as a place where they can go to learn about what's new in JavaScript development? How many consider it as a conference to learn about what can be done with automation tools? How many would consider it as a place to learn about anything other than ColdFusion? Yet, we all know, that cf.Objective() is rife with sessions that could appeal to any kind of developer.

Additionally, how many non-ColdFusion community speakers will consider submitting topics to cf.Objective(): The World's Only Enterprise ColdFusion Conference? There have been a few over the years from outside of the community, but those were invited or encouraged from the cf.Objective() CAB. Wouldn't attracting speakers from outside of the cf.Objective() community help make the conference even better? Could bringing in fresh content from new speakers with new perspectives help breathe new life into the conference?

So has cf.Objective() outgrown its name? Would cf.Objective() appeal to a wider community of developers, as speakers and attendees, if it had a different name? A different tag line? What are your thoughts?

As I said in the beginning, I agree completely. I'd love to hear what you have to say, so please use the comments below to respond. Personally I think dev.Objective has a great ring to it. I'll gladly sell naming rights for the price of one good cookie.

Raymond Camden's Picture

About Raymond Camden

Raymond is a senior developer evangelist for Adobe. He focuses on document services, JavaScript, and enterprise cat demos. If you like this article, please consider visiting my Amazon Wishlist or donating via PayPal to show your support. You can even buy me a coffee!

Lafayette, LA https://www.raymondcamden.com

Archived Comments

Comment 1 by Carl Von Stetten posted on 9/30/2014 at 4:13 AM

I have not had the good fortune to attend cf.Objective() as it has been difficult to get out-of-state travel approved by my employer. I might have a bit easier time next year, though, especially if I were to submit a topic and have it actually selected. Changing the name wouldn't matter a whit to me personally, but I can where it would potentially widen the pool of people interested in attending. Of course I don't have the sentimental attachment to the name that many long-time attenders may have.

Comment 2 by Anonymous posted on 9/30/2014 at 8:17 AM

+1 for a name change.

I got into CF dev last year after years of doing "Everything Else" (tm), web-wise, and the only reason cf.objective was even on my radar was because my employer told me about it and also paid my way there. I pretty much focused on all of the non-CF topics while I was there, so it was pretty much a dev.objective conference to me.

Comment 3 by Adam Cameron posted on 9/30/2014 at 10:17 AM

Even as an erstwhile CFML dev, the non-CFML-oriented presentations held more interest for me. I have the technical wherewithal to teach myself the CFML stuff, whereas often I'm not even aware of the subject material on the other tracks.

I think the name CF.Objective() does indeed reduce the appeal of the conference beyond the scope of the existing CFML community, so an evolution of name would be a good marketing decision.

I think it's more web-oriented still than general "dev" so the suggested name might still need some thought.

--
Adam

Comment 4 by Dan Fredericks posted on 9/30/2014 at 3:40 PM

I have not been able to attend ever, but each year the sessions, CF and non-cf have looked really great. I figured last year and why CF was down was because it was between releases, and I hope there are more newer sessions this year.
However, I do agree, it would be great to get more out of CF speakers to give a different perspective on other tech...if you read blogs from people like Sean Corfield, he goes to a lot of different conferences and gets a different perspective on JS, Design and other aspects of development. So, changing the name of cfObj without killing its mission would probably attract more speakers from outside the CF arena, and be good for everyone, and it might even bring back some of our former developer friends to speak about what they work on now...the Marc Echers, Sam Farmers, Sean Corfields and others...they have great skills that might help all of us broaden our toolbox.
This was a great note to put up Ray, it really should get our community and All your followers to think...it sure got me thinking...well written piece and well done posting.

Comment 5 by Miguel-F posted on 9/30/2014 at 4:13 PM

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand I see CF.Objective() as a possible launching point for people unfamiliar with ColdFusion. Somewhere they can learn about the power of the language. Something Adobe does not provide (i.e. marketing of ColdFusion). So in this regards I think CF.Objective() benefits the ColdFusion community. Obviously that is only true if there is still ColdFusion content during the conference. And, unfortunately, I agree with the sentiment that non-ColdFusion devs are probably not going to CF.Objective() anyway.

On the other hand I see that a name change would definitely benefit the conference itself. For the conference I think it makes sense to break away from the "CF" tag. I do believe this will open up the conference to a larger, more diverse, audience. So for the conference's sake, yes I agree a name change would be in order. I'm just sad to see another bit of the ColdFusion universe die off.

Comment 6 by Nando Breiter posted on 9/30/2014 at 5:00 PM

Changing the name would only be a minor step toward shifting the perception of the conference. The major part would be successfully promoting the conference outside of the cfml community. A name change would not transfer the reputation cf.Objective() has accrued over the years to a wider audience. And generally speaking, developers must be choosy regarding the conferences they can attend because of time and budget constraints.

There is the possibility that diluting the brand would reduce attendance levels, sending a signal the the CFML tribe that this conference isn't targeted to you anymore. New Coke is the famous example of this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wik...

Comment 7 by Chip posted on 9/30/2014 at 5:29 PM

I'd be a lot more supportive if there was some sort of nod to continuing to make it appeal to CF Developers - a dedicated CF Track, an 1 day focus on CF topics, something.

Following the end of Scotch on the Rocks, it's making things look very lean in the CF Conference World. As the author has said, there are a lot of other developer conferences out there - ones specific for each language. I would wager that most of them also focus on the toolbox that developers need, in addition to the core technology.

Lacking anything to keep the conference CF related - it look's like another sign I need to be migrating to another language, and should probably be going to one of their conferences.

Comment 8 by Boffer posted on 9/30/2014 at 7:03 PM

*@Nando*

>> Changing the name would only be a minor step toward shifting the perception of the
>> conference. The major part would be successfully promoting the conference outside of
>> the cfml community.

A valid point, and one that should be considered if the people at cf.Objective() decide to change the name.

*@Chip*

>> Following the end of Scotch on the Rocks, it's making things look very lean in the CF
>> Conference World.

Really? Did you think Scotch was a CF conference? You might want to look at last year's schedule.

And what about CFSummit? Did you forget that Adobe has their own CF-related conference? That's something that cfObjective() needs to compete with.

>> it look's like another sign I need to be migrating to another language

What looks like a sign you need to migrate? The suggestion that the name change? Has there been an announcement we missed? Are you really so sensitive that the suggestion of a name change would send you running from the platform? Did you hear already that there would not be "some sort of nod to continuing to make it appeal to CF Developers"?

There are, indeed, conference that are language specific. There are also many that are not. Both can be worthwhile and successful. Try not to be so doomy-gloomy.

Also you should note, learning other languages and expanding your programming horizons does not mean abandoning what you know. I think that is something cfO has taught us over the years. You should absolutely be learning other languages and expanding what you know. You don't get as much of that at language specific conferences.

Comment 9 by Ripa Hauka posted on 9/30/2014 at 7:24 PM

What does it takes for CFML community be happy with cfObjective still having CFML contents? I have fear for them to be angry if "cf" not in the name.

I seems like American CFML community afraid to losing "CF" in conference wihtout looked at the contents to see if CFMLs are still being talked. If CFMLs are still in contents, and other things are still in contents too, then with new peoples come cfObjective will growing, no?

I seems more like in EU that less is about "CF" in conference name and more is about good contents and talks. If excellent conference can grows, then who loses? None!

Then more contents and maybe even more CFMLs contents too, and even more programmers can see how excellent is this technologies!

Comment 10 by Mark Drew posted on 9/30/2014 at 7:45 PM

A couple of years back I suggested that the name should change to web.Objective()

And then you can have different tracks. I think it's still a great conference (and saddened I couldn't attend this year) and the name change will increase the appeal and us CF'ers can live with the change of name.

Comment 11 by Andrew Dixon posted on 9/30/2014 at 8:09 PM

I attended cf.Objective for the first time this year and it was an excellent conference and I'm hoping to go back next year. As a long time CF developer I was attracted to the conference because of the name and association with CF, but I must admit that over the 3 days of the conference I think I only attended 1 or 2 CF related session. The range of other topics covering things I had either never heard of or never had the time to look into myself was just excellent and one of the things that made the conference worth attending.

I like Mark's suggestion of web.Objective as well, however I think if it loses it's association to CF completely then this could have other ramifications for the conference, like losing it's sponsorship from Adobe, Railo, Mura, etc... and the sessions, like the BOF sessions, that this brings with it, which would be a shame.

Comment 12 by Dana K posted on 9/30/2014 at 8:40 PM

Mark posted what I was going to say:

web.Objective() conference

cf.Objective() track
js.Objective() track

etc.

Comment 13 by Bob Clingan posted on 9/30/2014 at 10:18 PM

+1 for the name change. I think it makes sense. Something like this conference on the East Coast would be nice too... I guess NCDevCon is the closest thing I've seen to the DC area with similar content.

Comment 14 by Brian Swartzfager posted on 10/1/2014 at 5:14 AM

A name change and (as someone else mentioned already) promotion outside of the CF community would probably be beneficial.

Just need to make sure the CF developers who only sporadically pay attention to what's going on in the community can find the website under the new name.

To that end, call it "The Conference Formerly Known As cfObjective."

Just kidding. Mostly.

@Bob: We used to have a big CF conference in the DC are called CFUnited, and when that shut down we had RIACon for two years. The user groups behind those conferences have sort of moved on.

Comment 15 by Adam Cameron posted on 10/1/2014 at 10:32 AM

Hey Ray, I get this when I click on the unsub link in the emails that get sent out when ppl comment:

{quote}
Unsubscribe
You have not been unsubscribed from the thread. Please ensure you correctly copied the URL from the email.
{quote}

The URL in my case is http://www.raymondcamden.co.... I am not sure in what way that is malformed? But it's the URL you're sending me.

Anyway, can you pls unsub me from this thread; cheers.

--
Adam

Comment 16 by Kurt Bonnet posted on 10/1/2014 at 1:06 PM

I'd have to agree a name change would be good. I like the cf.Objective conference, it's done well at offering interesting and relevant topics beyond ColdFusion; and not being strongly tied to CF is probably a good thing for the longevity of the conference.

Comment 17 by Raymond Camden posted on 10/1/2014 at 2:14 PM

@Adam: I'll check into the bug *and* unsub you manually Sorry bout that.

Comment 18 by Bret posted on 10/1/2014 at 4:35 PM

I like the idea proposed by Mark Drew and others:
web.Objective() conference
cf.Objective() track
js.Objective() track

Whatever is done, can we get a reduction on the cost. I am sure it can be argued that it is worth every penny, but poor developers like myself can't afford to make the journey.

Comment 19 by Steve Withington posted on 10/1/2014 at 5:26 PM

Thanks for putting this out there, Ray. I also agree with the message, and believe it contains some valid points.

As for the name, personally, I feel web.Objective() is a bit limiting, as many of us work on projects other than just for the "web." I like "dev," as in dev.Objective(), in that it encompasses web developers, software developers, application developers, front-end developers, back-end developers, JavaScript developers, and many others.

Comment 20 by Lonnie O&aposNeal posted on 10/1/2014 at 6:47 PM

I personally like dev.Objective() but I could go for something along the lines of net.Objective(). This would cover everything and everybody.

Comment 21 by Dan Fredericks posted on 10/2/2014 at 7:54 PM

Brian and Bob...it is a shame that CFUnited and RiaCon ended, but from talking to the guys that run NCDEVCON, it is a hard thing to put on each year and takes lots of time. By the way, NCDEVCON is possibly the best conference around for the money, many tracks and had lot of CF this year, and only a few hours away.
if you are not looking to go too far south, just putting out a plug, we have the NOVACFUG group in Tysons Corner VA and via Adobe Connect: http://www.meetup.com/nvcfug/

Back to the original topic, this has been a great read, thanks Ray for posting it...Adobe CF Summit, is by Adobe about CF, but most of the other conferences, cfO or ncdevcon, riacon, are more that just CF. So, changing the name, will not, or should not change how they have structured the conference, it might bring in others from the area that don't know it has sessions on JS, or Design.

Very interesting read...

Comment 22 by dbuck posted on 10/3/2014 at 12:33 AM

I'm not clear on what the goal of changing the name is. Is it to attract more non-CF devs to the CF platform, or just to this particular conference? If it's the former, then I think the name change could backfire. Increasing the proportion of non-CF devs in attendance will probably accelerate the trend toward less CF content, which, if anything, will increase the rate at which current CF devs are losing interest in the platform.

If cf.Objective is going to continue moving toward less CF content and more everything else, then I don't really care what it's named, or how large an audience it attracts. Without the CF, it's just another web dev conference. If that's what you want it to be, then obviously you would support removing "cf" from the name.

Comment 23 by Sharon posted on 10/3/2014 at 2:27 AM

Fact is, changing the name is a risk. The CFO audience has been loyal, if not exactly growing. The sponsorships are obvious and also pretty loyal. CF gave the conference a focus and now we may become lost in a crowd.

Upsides? Bigger potential audience. A chance to create a conference that truly excites us, built on a firm foundation of community.

This conference, so much more than others I've attended has always felt like a logical extension of the community. And if you look at the community today, we've all grown. Most of us at least dabble in other technologies. Some of us left CF entirely. Then again, CFO has always been about pushing us out of our comfort zone, hasn't it?

As an aside, I found it interesting to look back on session topics over time:
2007
https://web.archive.org/web...
2010
https://web.archive.org/web...
2011
https://web.archive.org/web...
2013
http://2013.cfobjective.com...
2014
http://2014.cfobjective.com...

Comment 24 by Sean Corfield posted on 10/9/2014 at 5:03 AM

Just back from vacation so I thought I'd pitch in. Disclaimer: I'm part of the cf.Objective() Steering Committee and have been, with only a couple of short breaks, ever since it got started.

Web development has changed and is continuing to change. CFML developers generally need to know a lot more than just CFML to build modern web apps these days.

cf.Objective() has already recognized that by adding a js.Objective() track and expanding the front-end / mobile content offered at the conference.

Having it be "primarily a CFML conference" and having "CF" in the name do act as a barrier to attracting more attendees and more diverse speakers. CFML-specific content has dropped to around half (in 2013 - it was actually higher in 2014) and that's a reflection of what topics are submitted - and popular enough in voting to be accepted. Most CFML developers want more than "just CFML".

Scotch on the Rocks ended up with no CFML content because the folks it attracts submitted talks on other topics and because public voting favored non-CFML content. But it's never had CF in its name so it was easier to attract non-CFML devs (and speakers).

CFinNC became NCDevCon and it has expanded its appeal, while retaining a loyal CFML following.

Changing cf.Objective() to dev.Objective(), for example, while keeping as much CFML content as the talk submissions and voting process show is desired, would make it easier to attract non-CFML devs and non-CFML speakers (and, yes, possibly bringing back some of the "old favorites" who no longer do CFML dev). So, yes, such a name change would directly benefit the conference organization.

But a thriving conference organization makes it easier to continue offering CFML content to those who want it, alongside all the other content that has a broader appeal.

Comment 25 by andy matthews posted on 10/9/2014 at 7:15 AM

I've attended 6 cf.Objectives() and have been proud to speak at 5 of them. I'd love to continue attending but I don't really write CF these days. A name change could go a long way towards making this conference more interesting to people outside of the CF community.

Comment 26 by Charlie Arehart posted on 10/20/2014 at 2:54 PM

A name change and focus shift makes sense, sure. I'd argue that as long as a CF track is kept, it would allow for those who prefer to focus on CF (all or in part) to still be served. And who knows: perhaps some who'd attend for the other stuff might perhaps consider attending a CF topic if it was somehow generically interesting.

I think all this (as well as the slowing in CF user groups) is just reflective of the maturing of the language and the community. Some may see it as reflecting the demise and/or death of CF (thankfully no one has said that here), but I think that would be overstating things.

As has been made plain in the original post and from others here, most CFers do have their hand in other things (and should), and while cf.o has tried to cater to their growth outside the CF walls (even cajoled and led them to other things in their rich array of sessions), it's a reasonable next step to broaden things.

And of course we have the CF Summit which will also reasonably remain CF-focused, as well as the other traditionally CF-oriented conferences with varying levels of CF/CFML content.

But I do hope that a CF-specific track would be kept at cf.o, rather than losing topics in a sea of other possible ones. One could even argue benefit for the cf-oriented attendees, by having them having one track, so that they may tend to see the chosen CF-oriented talks whereas now there are often many and they may miss ones for all the choice. Of course, they'd still have the other tracks to choose from. :-)

As others have pointed out, it may be somewhat a challenge with respect to any hope to make the conference bigger and reach more people (outside of CF), but that's natural to any new conference (and this would be "new" in that sense). The folks behind the conference, and the core of speakers, would certainly form a great base, and while there may be some dwindling of "primarily CF attendees" perhaps that would be balanced by a growth in "primarily non-CF attendees".

Seems like a smart strategy which could pay dividends down the road, without any real harm to the core CF orientation (until such time that it may naturally no longer have enough to even warrant its own track). That could be some time, so plenty of time it seems to see how things would shake out.

Whatever is decided, I wish the best for all involved.

Comment 27 by Sean Corfield posted on 10/20/2014 at 7:57 PM

To your point about a cf-specific track, Charlie, in 2013 about half the content at cf.Objective() was CF-specific and in 2014 it was slightly higher, so it would be more than one track's worth of content in 2015 (assuming that we continue to receive that level of CF-specific submissions and people vote for them in the Engage app!).

However, I think clearly tagging sessions as better technology-specific vs technology-neutral is a good idea. We've had requests in the past to clearly tag the "level" of talks as well and/or list prerequisite knowledge more clearly. All good suggestions for the future.

Comment 28 by Charlie Arehart posted on 10/20/2014 at 8:00 PM

@Sean, oh sure. I should have "at least one track". :-)