PodCamp Boston to charge $50 for admission

Chris Brogan writes a long blog post explaining why the next PodCamp Boston will require a $50 registration fee.Unfortunately, this is only the biggest in a long line of “unconferences” that are turning from a community-driven, open access event into a closed, money-making conference. Here is my response which I posted as a comment to his blog.

Well, this certainly puts the stake in the whole “unconference” philosophy. Once again we see how something great is eventually turned into a money-making enterprise that serves the few instead of the many. I have been fighting this same battle with nearly every tech event here in LA.So $35K for an unconference? This is absolutely ridiculous. No one says there has to be breakfast, coffee, snacks, lunch, dinner, free beer at an unconference. We are there to converse and learn. If the price of these items to so onerous, simply don’t provide them. Ask people to bring something to share, bring water, etc. That fact is, we have come to see an unconference as a big party, with all the associated accoutrement and the price keeps going up. Give us space, intelligent people and a few borrowed projectors and we will have a conference. The rest is absolutely superfluous.Maybe if we turned it into less of a party, fewer people would flake out on it, since fewer people would sign up to begin with. Size is the curse of an unconference and Boston PodCamp clearly proves that. Strip it to the bare, and useful, parts and a PodCamp will shine. Overload it with fees, food and flakes and it dies, crushed under its own weight. 

Follow the great on-going discussion here

4 thoughts on “PodCamp Boston to charge $50 for admission

  1. Hi Douglas-

    Here’s what I responded at [chrisbrogan.com]:

    Douglas – moneymaking? We have an open ledger. It’s absolutely NOT money making. We’re raising well over 2/3 of the money from sponsors within our community who want to talk to engaged people. $50 has nothing to do with the money. It has everything to do with making sure people have an excellent facility, with great opportunities to collaborate, in a setting that we think will work out nicely. The venue, as displayed in the open ledger (a requirement of PodCamps), is the lion’s share of the cost.

    COULD we do it somewhere free or really cheap? Yep. But again, people aren’t footing that bill. Our sponsors and community are.

    $50 is a commitment to attend.

  2. And where does anyone think the money is going???? It’s all going into the event, not into trying to enrich anyone.

    Speaking as someone who has organized many podcamps to date, the volunteer hours put in to each one are enormous and are done for the love of the community. yet fewer and fewer podcamps will occur if the community is big on complaining but short on actual action and doing the work required to put them together.

    The community can be very quick to critique, but very short on volunteering to make events happen. If you want community and you want free, then you have to make it happen. All events are not free, even if there is no admission charge.

    I think Podcamp Boston is trying to get people to invest in the community and to act as co-sponsors of the event, and I think that will show which attendees think podcamp is worth their time and money, and which take it for granted.

  3. One of the stated reasons for the charge is the number of no-shows who register but do not attend. As I commented on the original post, why punish everyone for the error of the few.

    Also, if people do not step up to do an event for free then this is an indication that the event is not appreciated and should simply cease. Adding money into the mix does nothing to change this. You should either do PodCamp for the love of it (and the tremendous benefit you get as an organizer) or simply close it down.

    That, to me, is the ultimate decision to be made, Otherwise you are simply turning a PodCamp into a business and should recognize that fact.


  4. It would be one thing if all of the attendees at Podcamp were only college students- but after looking at the age of the average attendee , it’s someone considerably older. The average attendee is between 26-45. The myth that Podcamp is all poor starving college students just isn’t the case.

    I think you propose a black and white world where things are free or not, profit or or non profit, and there’s nothing in between. Reality is very different- just look at what the employees of non-profit organizations like the Red Cross, or even your local church get paid to do the work they do. Even in the most charitable organizations, the purest 501 (c) (3)’s, you still pay the chaplin, or church secretary, or nurse at the Red Cross blood bank, or some of the administrative people running the soup kitchen, even if volunteers help make these organizations run as well, week to week.

    This is not to say that Podcamp is a religion or anything else- it’s just getting you to acknowledge, hopefully, that there is a world where non-profit and paying people to administer an event and make it happen exist. (which is NOT the case for Podcamp Boston 3- the administrators are still doing it on a volunteer basis).

    There’s an infinite amount of gray here, and making a Podcamp easier to run does not turn it into a business bent on squeezing every last cent out of attendees. That is simply a ridiculous assertion. I can see where you might fear that happening, but why not look at Podcamp Boston 3 as an experiment to see if this model works for Podcamp, just like every podcamp to date has tweeked the model a bit to suit the individual community need(s)? We’ll see if it flies or if it fails, and then we’ll have the answer as to whether a low cost conference is worth the price of admission.

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