A friend asks in his blog, will you go at CodeRage II? Yes, I will. I'll actually be presenting 4 talks (well, if I finish preparing them by tonight). But I don't want to talk about my talks here, I'll do in a further post, delving in some of the content as well. I saw a few blogs posts (including also this one by Hadi -- on which there is a reply by David I) and a long thread on non-tech that I really don't understand. I think my position is simple:

  • I'd love a real live conference in the US, but an online one is better than nothing
  • I don't think that making free conferences improves the quality of the experience, quite the opposite

Now if you want to understand more details, keep reading

Virtual vs. Real Conferences

I fully agree with all people who long for a new Live CodeGear Conference. Having attended 15 BorCon editions (few people can claim that!), I can say I miss the event a lot. I recently spoke with some of the people of CodeGear DevRel and they all share this feeling. However, a conference needs a budget (and not a small one, I guess) and it is up to the company management to give it green light. Seems there are hopes for 2008. I saw people claiming there will never be another face-to-face conference by CodeGear, I don't know where this information comes from.

Truly attending talks is only half of the conference experience, as mingling with other people, getting out for a drink, chatting in the halls is very relevant. Now, virtual chats can give a fraction of the feeling, but not quite the experience. Still, the chat area at the first CodeRage was quite nice. On the other hand traveling to attend a conference, as much as I like it, takes time out of your work and family. A virtual conference, even if at an odd time for us in Europe, let's you attend it while not stopping all your other activities. For example at CodeRage II I'll have all of the mornings free (unless I use them to catch up with sleep!).

There is another element. Not everyone can afford a real conference. People claiming that CodeRage II is too expensive should consider that for, say, someone in Europe attending BorCon was 1,500 USD registration plus 1,500 USD flight, plus 1,000 USD hotel, plus taxi/car/shuttles, plus food, which easily totals well over 4,000 USD. It is fair to say a fraction of the Delphi developers can afford this. Maybe the next face-to-face conference will have real-time streaming for people who cannot afford to attend, somewhat combining the benefit of both models.

Paid vs. Free Conference

Many people seem outraged because CodeRage II isn't free. Odd that this is the same people asking for a real conference, that used to cost between 1,000 and 1,500 USD. Many argue this is a marketing opportunity, so it should be free. However, CodeGear did quite a few real and virtual event to promote its products around the world. For me a conference is not a mainly marketing event. I hated BorCon the years it was marketing driven, as technical content was diminished and speaker could only cover key new features of the products. Delphi is being used in many ways the company never though about, and my talk on Domain Specific Languages (to mention an example) wont' have fit in a marketing driven conference. Conferences are a community building tool, more than a marketing one. Are a reward for loyal customers. They can be free, but don't have to be.

In particular, CodeRage II is free to anyone who bought a CodeGear product this year (more or less). For anyone else it is 150 USD (seems to be priced 120 Euros for us). That's for one week of sessions. Even not-for-profit user-group conferences charge about that amount for a couple of days. This is one week. It is dozens of presentations, even attending only 10 talks you are interested in, at 15 dollars each I find this a bargain! I prefer a conference with more quality, in which speaker get a limited compensation (and they do get one at CodeRage II, it was in the "call for papers"), and without too many people, as you get more chances of good quality chats that an overcrowded event. This is true also for the real conferences: the latest 800 attendees BorCon where nice and familiar compared to the 2,500 people events of the distant past...

I know it is an old saying... but when you give away something for free the perceived value is much lower than if you have to pay or are entitled a free pass on a specific condition. CodeRage II will see feweer attendees, but I think it will be a better conference. And don't tell me that a virtual conference doesn't cost anything to set up. The more people the more support emails, the more strained servers, the most confusing chats, the most hassle to set up everything. In case they'll do a face-to-face conference with online streaming I think this should not be free...

Is Microsoft giving away their conference content from free? Seems TechEd sessions will be available only for people who attended the conference. And Microsoft does have deep marketing pockets...

Speaking at Conferences

Another topic raises in the thread (and blog post done by speakers) is why would you speak at a conference. You can do it for the glory and achieve recognition, once or twice. You can do it for the money, but you need to be a very well known speaker and go to some of the very big events. You can do it for staying in the community, in a slightly prominent position. You can do it to promote your products (which this time for the first time is also my goal). I do it for a mix of all above. At most events (for example those around Europe), I'll go only once in a while if I don't get paid. "Travel and hotel" is nice, but you have many extras (taxis, travel to airport and parking there, food) and you don't get much work done (thus loosing money) for a few days.

Again, from time to time it is nice to see user groups, attend conferences, mingle with other developers, but I think professional speakers should be paid for their service. Speaking at the first CodeRage was for free. Speaking at CodeRage II is for money (even if a very limited amount for the effort it takes to prepare the presentations). Of course, speakers have more chances to get paid if the conference is for a fee. By the way I'll also give a full training session on dbExpress for CodeGear Training division one week after CodeRage (more information soon). Again, I'm doing this for money, although I'll be earning less than my average consulting fee. And people will have to pay to attend it, you know...


As I said at the beginning, I'll do whatever to attend the first "CodeGearCon" and will be happy to speak at it. Next summer in sunny California will be great to have an extra vacation attached to it! Still, I like these virtual events, and think they should be a professional level, even if this involves the attendees to pay. I have even booked a (free) partner booth at CodeRage II to promote my book, and I should give 4 talks. Well, if I stop writing on the blog and go back finishing my sessions... which are due today (well, tomorrow 9 am considering the time zone difference!)