An anonymous reader writes: I'm a beginning programmer — I literally just started my programming career this September. So shat exactly is the role of tech conferences? I always assumed they were mostly for exhibitors to pitch me things, but then what's in it for me? Am I just going there to network, or am I learning new cutting-edge techniques and getting enlightened by awesome training sessions? Or is it just a fun way to get a free trip to Las Vegas?
And then what's in it for my employer, who's paying to send me there? If my boss has to approve the cost of attending a conference, what's going to make him say yes? I mean, do employers really get enough value from that extra conference-only information to justify sending off their employees for several days of non-productivity? (Don't they know all that networking could lead me to job offers from other companies?)
It's always been a little intimidating the way people talk about conferences, like everyone already knows all about them, and drops the conference's name into the conversations like you should already know what it is. I always assumed people just attended only conferences for their current programming language or platform — but is there more to it than that? What exactly is the big deal?