One of the most important things about running a successful conference is the suitability of the venue. This year YAPC::Asia was held at the Tokyo Institute of Technology. I believe that this was the best venue that has been used for a Japanese YAPC::Asia – and not just because it’s within walking distance of my apartment!
The venue was easy to get to as it was beside a train station. I always prefer conference venues that can be reached by public transport. I don’t drive and I have had to use taxis in America to get to conferences that were held in hotels that weren’t close to anything. Last year at YAPC::NA I didn’t get to see any of Houston as the venue was outside the city and it wasn’t obvious how to get to anywhere without calling for a taxi. I understand that at the American YAPCs it’s important to have access to University Halls for cheap accommodation and that this restricts where a conference can be held. This doesn’t seem to be an option in Tokyo nor does it seem to be a requirement. As Tokyo has such an amazing public transport system YAPC attendees can stay in most parts of the city and given that so many of them come from Tokyo they probably just go home in the evenings.
Registration took place outside the main auditorium. This area was big enough to allow registration without blocking entry to the room. The auditorium comfortably held the full conference. It was a tiered room which I always like as I’m small and find it hard to see over hundreds of people in a room that isn’t tiered. Each chair had a small table though most people weren’t using these. I used mine as I needed somewhere better than my lap to balance my laptop when I was typing up the talks. The only problem that I can think of was that the seats were quite close together and I don’t know how comfortable they would have been if you had been quite large.
The other rooms were smaller but seemed adequate for the number of people going to them. The DeNA room did appear very packed at one point but not uncomfortably so. Additional chairs were brought in and more space could have been made by laying the room out without tables.
The venue was close to a variety of restaurants and coffee shops providing options if you didn’t want to eat the lunch provided. The beautiful weather probably also helped. The rooms for the talks were in three separate buildings and I don’t know what it would have been like to move between these in torrential rain – though umbrellas were provided in the conference bag. But as the weather was beautiful it was possible to sit under the trees and eat lunch in the sun. And the walk between buildings was really pleasant.
The conference dinner was also held at the venue. This did cause a problem as it couldn’t hold all the attendees. I’m not sure, however, if there is anywhere suitable in Tokyo to host a dinner for 500 people. In the end 300 people got to attend based on a variety of criteria such as how far you had travelled to get to the conference. I didn’t hear anyone complain about this but then given my limited Japanese this isn’t really surprising.
I suppose I should say something about the wifi. This was difficult to use and even though I have a Macbook I wasn’t able to set this up myself. Some of this was because the instructions were in Japanese and some of it was because of the security required by the university. It also didn’t appear to support the number of people trying to use it in the main auditorium. When I finally got connected on the first morning, after both Marty and Emerson had played around with my computer, I wasn’t able to stay connected for long. I needed to be connected as I wanted to help with transcribing and eventually the problem was fixed by asking people who didn’t need to be connected to log out. I didn’t have any problems using this on the second day of the conference.