Some thoughts on a conf taxonomy

2012-09-16 12:53 More posts about conferences General
One common way for open source developers to meet face-to-face is to attend conferences relevant to their subject of interest. A common way to have one near you if there ain't none yet is to go and organise one yourself. The most obvious stuff to resolve for that task:

  • Most likely there will be some financial transactions involved - sponsors wanting to support you, attendees paying for their tickets, you paying for the venue and for food.
  • Someone will have to choose which speakers to invite.
  • How to scale if there are more speakers and attendees than you can reasonably welcome yourself.

So far I've come across a multitude of ways to deal with these two issues alone. Some encountered at events with >200 attendees are listed below. Feel free to add your context.

NameContent selectionFor profitTicketsFoodScaling model
FOSDEM/ Brusselsopen CfP, decision by organisersNope - it's hosted by a university, organised by a couple of students and an incredible multitude of volunteers.Access is completely free though attendees are being asked to support the conference with a donation.Food is on sale through the organisersIn addition to two main tracks there's a multitude of independently but affiliated and co-located so-called dev rooms that are completely community organised e.g. for Debian, Java, Embedded, KDE and others
Frosconopen CfP, decision by organisersNope - again hosted by a university, organised by a couple of students and volunteersTickets are cheap - in the 5 Euro rangeFood is on-sale at the event.There are workshops and related events that are community organised. Those are starting to get more visible in the main program as well.
Linux Tage Chemnitzopen CfP, decision by organisers + committee.Nope - hosted by TU Chemnitz with huge local support.Cheap - in the 5 Euro range.On sale at the event (soup and related stuff).Stable number of attendees so far.
Chaos Communication Congressopen CfP, decision by organisers + committeeyesfor four days slightly less than 100,- Euroon sale in the venue as well as aroundmove to different location
Chaos Campopen CfP, decision by organisers + committeeyes100 < prize < 500,- range for whole week including camping groundon sale at the locationnot needed so far
Berlin Buzzwordsopen CfP, decision by volunteersyesmore than 300,- Euros in early birdincluded in the priceaffiliated workshops
ApacheConopen CfP, decision by volunteersyesin EU >200,-, in US usually >1k$included in priceaffiliated meetups
Lucene Revolutionopen CfP, decision by organisersmore or less, mainly PR for organiser>500,-included in pricenot needed so far
GoTo Coninvitation onlyyes>500,- rangeincluded in priceturn the "one location" only conference into a series that moves across Europe with the help of some locals that are interested in having the event
Strataopen CfP, decision made by committee - final decision by organisersyesin the >500 Euro rangeincluded in pricesplit in different locations, organisers remain the same still

From the above table to me it seems that most conferences differ in whether they are fully non profit solely for the sake of education. In contrast to that there are events that are for profit (as in support the organisers financially), or some kind of self-marketing where profit is indirect in terms of more contracts signed. They also differ in whether submissions are open or invited talks only. In addition there are those that have paid talks (usually clearly marked as such) or accept talks through the submission form only. In terms of cost one model is to go extremely low-cost with no money paid for venue or food vs. those that include catering in the ticket price.

Me personally I have a strong preference to events that feature an open CfP - mainly because talks tend to be more diverse and - given a strong program committee - also of decent quality as only the best make it through. In addition the events tend to be less formal when fully community organised - over time regulars among speakers, attendees and exhibition participants tend to know each other generating a rather friendly athmosphere.