Tag Archives: conferences

Affordable Technology Conferences

Via Jared Fretwell:

I think I have an idea for one of your upcoming YouTube videos. As a young technology enthusiast, I started to think of more interactive ways to get involved with the world of technology. After watching some of your Gnomedex conference videos, I started to do more research on similar conferences to yours. One of the other leading conferences I came across was the Web 2.0 Summit. However, once I saw the price tag for attending one of these events, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to afford to attend any of these conferences off my wages working at Best Buy. So with that said, why do these conferences cost so much money to attend? I understand that the planners of the conference buy all kinds of goodies for the guests, but is that the main reason? I’m guess the rest goes to paying the guest speakers? How can a 19 year old like myself get around to attending one of these beneficial/expensive events? Are there more cost thoughtful ones I can look into? Till then, I’ll just stick to watching the recordings of all the keynotes on YouTube!

You know, having been a part of the conference production process, I can tell you that it’s extremely time consuming. What you experience at a typical event happens due to months of coordination and planning by several individuals and teams.

It costs money because… well, THINGS cost money.

You have to decide (for yourself) if the value that an event provides you is above and beyond what it would cost you to attend. However, simply “watching videos online” doesn’t do an event justice – you’re getting 10% of what a conference provides.

“Expensive” is relative.

Conferences are valuable not because of the content on stage, but the connections made with the crowd. You might argue that the same “feel” can be seen in a comment thread or two, but… well, a YouTube comment thread is about as valuable as a festering bowl of dog snot.

Free events are great, too – but with no cost filtering in place, you’ll often be rubbing shoulders with bozos instead of bingos; a few dollars often separate wheat from the chaff. “Free admission” is often shrugged off as something lacking value.

My suggestion for anybody serious about making a business in the world of technology is to get the f*** out of their house. You have to meet people in real life, you have to be seen on the scene. You also don’t want to be known as the person who only sees value in free (or comped) events – what would that say about you and your business practices?

Gnomedex: Getting Geeky with It

I guess Gnomedex is all about the geeks – and registration is now (officially, seriously this time) open for 8.0 this August. You can go directly to the order form or… wait a while before making a decision.

But we’re the kind of geeks who love to socialize (which is good, considering this is a conference that will be held well outside our own homes). I took feedback from my most vocal supporters and they pretty much told me that… all they want is “more tech.” So, if it doesn’t have anything to do with tech – it’s not allowed on stage. The geekier, the better. The shorter the presentation (is there a “too short?”), the better. The less echo chambery, the better. I think I’ve got the message. 🙂

We don’t just talk about doing – we talk to the “do”ers, and help those who want to “do,” too. So, as the schedule is concerned, I hope to fill it with scientists, bleeding edge thought leaders, and people who use technology to connect to the human spirit. I guess this makes the themes, in general:

  • An intersection between technology and community
  • Technology that transforms and extends the human experience
  • Social Media stories that inspire and empower
  • Conversations that become the stage: the backchannel is the frontchannel
  • The Science and Mathematics of our Real Lives

Do any of these resonate? I mean, they make sense to *ME* and how I’d like to build a schedule around. Are they “geeky” enough? I guess I define “geek” as anybody who is passionate about one thing or another, but in this case… we’re passionate about tech to the n’th degree.

The Twitter Effect: Don't Shoot the Messenger

Jason and I have been having fun back and forth with our respective live streams (and he’s a quick study, let me tell ya). My money would be on Jason to win because, well… he’s just a genius when it comes to building businesses and he has a solid team of people around him at all times. I have great people around me, but my on-site team consists of Ponzi and my two dogs – which beat Jason’s dogs in terms of fluffiness.

I do, however, wish to assert that Jason’s accuracy in respect to what happened at Gnomedex last year is a bit misdirected. I didn’t (and couldn’t) have full perspective on this until what happened with Sara Lacy at SXSW.

At Gnomedex 2007, Dave was merely a messenger for a percentage of the crowd, and while he may have delivered this message differently than anybody else would have… I don’t think he did anything inherently wrong. He’s passionate, he cares about you (and a LOT of people), and he attempted to bring the session back to where the audience’s expectations were meeting the message that was being delivered on-stage.

I suggested then, as I suggest now, that Twitter amplified and exacerbated the emotions of the crowd – making it easier for one negative comment to spring into two to spring into four, eight, sixteen, thirty-two, and so on. Indeed, if you followed some of the people who made negative comments about Jason’s presentation at the time it was happening… they came back around to Mahalo, checked out the Firefox extension, etc.

The exact same thing happened at SXSW, where the expectations of the crowd did not match what was happening on stage. The first person (name?) to say something that resonated with a good portion of the crowd wasn’t to blame for what a portion of the crowd was thinking. Positive or negative, Twitter fuels groupthink. People who watched this Zuckerberg “interview” didn’t find half as much controversy surrounding it as was indicated by the firestorm of digital outbursts that preceded its availability to the general Web.

It wasn’t Dave’s fault – it just wasn’t. Expectations were off, and if anybody’s to blame in this thing – it’s me, and nobody else. I didn’t set expectations properly, and for that I apologize. Inevitably, these things happen – from Scoble’s wonderfully suspiring impromptu announcement at the tail end of Derek’s webcast, to the public admission that someone who was to speak to open information wound up asserting that he believed in UFOs.

Handling 350+ special interest groups simultaneously when they have a direct line to the rest of the world is a completely new challenge. Oh, I love every single one of those special interests (including the ones who label me “ha-ha-serious” publicly). I’m guessing that Gnomedex seats will fill up quickly this year – and Twitter will be all the vehicle it needs to sell out.

Speaking of, Ponzi tells me that August 20 – 23 are looking like the best dates for us. I know it’s getting kinda late, but we’re doing our best over here (and we wear several hats to keep our costs low). Stuart Maxwell will be helping us again, too – thank goodness. Stay tuned, and I would like to pre-apologize for any outbursts that may occur this year. 🙂

In all seriousness, again – to both Dave and Jason, I’m sorry.

Women at Tech Conferences: Mythbusting

So, uh… for the past few years, we haven’t announced any Gnomedex speakers before opening conference registration to the world – largely because we’ve always taken special care to craft our content around the registered audience. Some might argue that we’re putting the cart before the horse with this approach.

With our limited amount of resources, we have to spend our time crafting content that our registrants hope to see – not what our POTENTIAL audience might want to see. I never really saw speaker selection as male vs. female, but I have been giving special consideration to females who I believe have been making a difference in this digital world of ours (directly in the tech industry or otherwise).

I’m not sure whether this was an oversight or a blatant omission, but Gnomedex didn’t make Kottke’s list of Gender diversity at web conferences. Maybe we’re not considered a “web” conference? Granted, our numbers wouldn’t have likely fared any better than the others, although I can tell you a few things about last year’s construct:

  • Susan Mernit’s discussion was something I don’t think our audience was expecting – but (I thought) turned out to be a welcomed change of pace. Even my mom was compelled to comment (and yes, my mom and dad are Gnomedex staples).
  • Halley Suitt’s discussion was compelling, insightful, focused, and extremely interactive.
  • Tara Hunt’s discussion with Chris Messina helped bring a different energy to the room (not just because of their “couple” dynamic). If I had my way, more couples would be up on stage.
  • Identity Woman’s discussion was completely impromptu – as she was informally voted on stage by the Gnomedex audience!!! Jeez, doesn’t that say enough about the open nature of our conference?
  • Beth Goza was pumped and prepared to proselytize the world with her mad Second Life skillz. She’s been a Gnomedex fan since Gnomedex II – and one of my favorite geeks, period.
  • Our conference leadership team is 50% male and 50% female: Ponzi and myself.

What’s more, I had invited at least *FOUR* other notable women to participate (last year) who either declined, never responded, or couldn’t do it because of scheduling conflicts. It’s not like I didn’t try, people – really. And before everybody starts crying foul, let me give you a couple more statistics:

  • Gnomedex 7.0 is already 1/3 sold out.
  • 95% of Gnomedex 7.0 registrants are male.

And considering we have yet to announce a single speaker for this event, you tell *US* how we’re supposed to move forward. Even if I had 50/50 gender representation, the audience is already skewed heavily male – despite the fact that everybody has an equal opportunity to attend. Even with 25/25/25/25 (male, female, white, non-white) on stage, there’s no guarantee of having equal percentages in the audience.

AGAIN, the opinions of registered Gnomedex attendees hold infinitely more weight with us than those who have (a) not signed up for Gnomedex, or (b) won’t sign up for Gnomedex, no matter what.

Oh, hell… I almost forgot:

  • The only person to register and attend all seven Gnomedex conferences is female (Christine Juhnke). She’s not a blogger, she’s not a developer, she doesn’t live in Silicon Valley, she’s not a technophile, she’s not a VC, and she doesn’t live her life on “Web 2.0” anything.

Gnomedex, by the way, continues to attract influencers before they become influencers – male and female.

Gnomedex Registrations are Open, BTW…

Not sure if many of you caught the non-announcement, but I opened the registration process for Gnomedex last week. We’re kinda already 1/3 sold out, I think – so I figured I’d better say something pretty public about it before too long. Here you go: no press release, just a single blog post that will likely get buried by the other important news of the day. You have until August to make up your mind – but we’re probably going to sell out again (although, not as quickly as TED 2017 will). John from Feedia has been beeifng up Gnomedex.com for your perusal – and Ponzi and I have decided to put the sponsorship prospectus online this year. Sorry the site’s URLs aren’t SEO friendly, but I’m not a Joomla expert by any stretch of the imagination. I am, however, an expert in making videos that are more entertaining than watching paint dry:

Okay, so maybe watching paint dry is a tad more exciting, but… this is the best I can do for now. C’mon! Don’t tell me I’m the only guy who as experienced conference bag overload!?