Overpriced Developer Conferences

Yesterday I attended and spoke at the Sourc{ conference in southern London. I did it completely free of charge, because I’d only had one other conference under my belt and have been wanting to get some more experience.

I enjoyed being able to hang out with Remy Sharp, Paul Davis and my new best buddy, Kat Thompson. I even meet a new friend who does some fantastic Sencha work, Fredric Berling. However I was very. very disappointed in the conference itself.

First of all, even though the conference had some major sponsors, like O’Reilly and Sencha, they still priced their tickets at a whopping £799 – which is a whole lot more than most people can afford. I’m a huge proponent against expensive conferences, as I feel that the point of these conferences in the first place is to get the community together to learn and meet each other. Hard to do that when the only people who can afford it are the people who already know everything you’d need to know about the presented topics. What about the high schoolers, college students and newbies to our industry?

Moving on, even though I didn’t pay for my ticket since I was a speaker, I expected to have my socks knocked off for a conference that could charge that amount. Ive attended several Barcamp Nashvilles that were free, and Aral Balkan’s Update Conference that was around £300, and both provided not only a fantastic conference with great speakers, but a great show as well. Talking about development and design and sitting around all day can get a bit boring, so it’s to a conference’s credit when they can provide some much needed entertainment, as Aral did last year.

However, nothing about this conference said it was worth £799 per ticket. Heck, I would’ve been hard pressed to pay anything at all (or even really come) for this conference. I hate talking bad about someone who takes their time to set up these things, and also invites me on as a speaker, but I feel like something needs to be said, as it was such a terrible experience (as me and a few other speakers thought about just leaving before our talks even came up).

These conference would’ve been great for every conference maker to go to – as it was a great example of what not to do. Here are several major issues I felt really ruined the experience:

  • There was absolutely no guidance at all. Speakers were not announced, no one was there to help us figure out where we should go, breaks were not announced, nothing. People generally walked around with no guidance at all and had to figure out what to do on their own. Where were the people planning this thing? We even heard one angry person yelling because he was trying to figure out who was in charge and no one was around.
  • There was also no guidance for the speakers. Emails from multiple speakers to the organisers went unanswered, and we weren’t told what to do upon arriving or where to go. We just had to guess. Especially questions about paying for travel expenses. We didn’t even get the normal speaker goody bag. Hmmm.
  • The major sponsor was Sencha – and guess what the majority of talks were centred around? Yep, Sencha. This conference should’ve just been labeled as Sencha based instead of mobile based.
  • There was no preparation involved. No real decoration or set up of the area or the stage. It look like they just waited until the day of before setup and preparation.
  • Now for the speakers. I’m hesitant to comment on this at all, because this was my first alone talk ever and I’m pretty sure it bombed a bit – after all, somehow my “hour” long mobile talk ended in 20 minutes. However, the speakers were pretty amateur and boring (most likely myself included). I think Remy was the only professional among us. For £799, I’d think they’d have spent more time vetting speakers and at least getting some more pros to talk. Or perhaps it was just the fact that none of us was given any help, guidance, or really any rules that ruined us. Oh boy.

The next conference of the day is Future of Web Design. I believe these tickets are well above £1000. Ridiculous. Who, exactly, are their target audience? Not the web world. Or just people with employers daft enough to pay that amount? I know they have several major sponsors as well and it reminds me of the paid iPhone apps that still serve up ads. You can only have one or the other – not both.

I’d like to hear from the people who actually came (Paul, Kat, Remy, Fredric?) and what they thought. Was the money worth it? How could’ve been improved? Am I just being too harsh?