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.

Name Content selection For profit Tickets Food Scaling model
FOSDEM/ Brussels open CfP, decision by organisers Nope - 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 organisers In 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
Froscon open CfP, decision by organisers Nope - again hosted by a university, organised by a couple of students and volunteers Tickets are cheap - in the 5 Euro range Food 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 Chemnitz open 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 Congress open CfP, decision by organisers + committee yes for four days slightly less than 100,- Euro on sale in the venue as well as around move to different location
Chaos Camp open CfP, decision by organisers + committee yes 100 < prize < 500,- range for whole week including camping ground on sale at the location not needed so far
Berlin Buzzwords open CfP, decision by volunteers yes more than 300,- Euros in early bird included in the price affiliated workshops
ApacheCon open CfP, decision by volunteers yes in EU >200,-, in US usually >1k$ included in price affiliated meetups
Lucene Revolution open CfP, decision by organisers more or less, mainly PR for organiser >500,- included in price not needed so far
GoTo Con invitation only yes >500,- range included in price turn 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
Strata open CfP, decision made by committee - final decision by organisers yes in the >500 Euro range included in price split 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.