Re: GUADEC registration fee

On 5/05/2004 2:22 AM, Mikael Hallendal wrote:

On tis, 2004-04-20 at 10:10 +0800, James Henstridge wrote:

I've helped organise a similar conference in the past ( where this was the primary reason for the registration fees. We were charging AU$550 for a professional registration, which is quite similar to the fee set by the guadec organisers.

I think Guadec is (or at least should be) very different from (haven't been there though, just heard about it).
They are different in scope, but there are a lot of similarities:

   * organised by the community rather than a trade show company (like
     LWCE is, for instance)
   * moves to a different location each year with different organising
     committees (while still being run under the umbrella of the same
     non-profit organisation).
   * aims to break even rather than make a profit.  The idea is to
     provide the best possible conference for the attendees while not
     sending the organisers bankrupt.
   * aimed at the developers and interested users rather than being a
     corporate trade show.

Given the similarities, it is worth looking at some of the things that have helped make sustainable.

To me Guadec is a meeting to get together and discuss the future
development of GNOME. It's also (probably more important) a place to get
together, share a few beers and get to know the persons behind the IRC
nicks and email addresses.
LCA fills a similar role for the Australian free software community (it isn't just a kernel conference). I think you'll find most technical conferences are like this after the talks.

I can understand a fee if we can't get enough money to make it go break
even but it has to be clear that this is the reason for the fee and not
a way to milk the corporations of money.
A conference has two ways to make money: sponsorship and registration fees. When organisers take money from a sponsor, they'll generally want something in return (for registrants it will be a good conference, for sponsors it will be advertising and/or good will).

All the previous Guadecs have been primarily funded by sponsorship (donations and grants have helped a bit, but they aren't really something you can rely on in the long run). The problem with this is that it places a lot of power in the hands of the sponsors -- the loss of a sponsor might kill off the conference.

However if the organisers know that they will be getting a certain amount of money from registrations, they are in a much better position to bargain with the sponsor. If they lose the sponsor, it'll probably just require scaling back the conference a bit.

It's also worth noting that the proposed fees are quite small compared to those of other commercial conferences where you might pay that much for half a day of the conf. By running the conference at a cooperative venue (most universities are happy to provide rooms for free to such conferences in exchange for being listed as a sponsor) and not trying to make a large profit, it is possible to keep the fees low.

I really hope that this doesn't make companies such as Novell/Ximian or
Red Hat to not send all of there GNOME hackers just because it'll cost
too much.
When you factor in the cost of an international airfare and accommodation, it looks very small. It is true that the full fee might act as a deterrent for students and locals, where the conference fee isn't a small part of a much larger cost, which is why the lower rate is also available.

Many conferences also throw in a small number of free conference registrations into the sponsorship packages, so that sponsors don't feel like they are paying twice. I don't know if this has been done this year, but it might be worth considering for the year after.

So in short, what are we paying for?
A sustainable conference. Granted we don't know whether this model will work for Guadec, but the only way to find out is by trying.

It is worth noting that LCA manages to pay the airfares and accommodation for most of the speakers each year, including a fair number of international ones. Unless something has changed, the Gnome Foundation/Guadec isn't really in a position to do this for too many people.

When you tell people that X number of extra professional registrations means that one more international speaker can be brought in, they are usually pretty happy with what they are paying for (and "X" should be a lot smaller for Guadec compared to LCA since it is held in Europe rather than the middle of nowhere).


Email: james daa com au

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