"No, I won't pay for that conference. I don't see any value there, and I'd rather you not lose productivity here."
The first time I asked a supervisor for permission to attend a community WordCamp, things didn't go so well. I ended up taking vacation time so I could attend anyway, and convinced another organization in the community to help pay my way. My boss at the time couldn't justify spending $300 on airfare, booking a hotel, and giving me a day off to attend ... a $25 conference.
WordCamps are well-known for being inexpensive events. They specifically target members of the local WordPress community and keep costs low (through sponsorships) so anyone can attend.
As a result, the pool of regular speakers is somewhat smaller than other industries since there's no chance the conference itself can afford to bring in sponsors from out of town.
Most of the WordPress developers I know have come up through the ranks of open source. They're self-taught, worked hard as freelancers, and eventually landed a career or partnership with a larger organization. Occasionally, I see someone "graduate" from WordPress to an organization rooted in more "traditional" software development.
Believe me or not, but there's a very clear separation between WordPress and every other software community out there.
I did things the other way around, though. I started in a more traditional role working with .Net development at first one, then another, then a third software firm. I also had the opportunity to attend a few conferences in that space, both as an attendee and as a speaker.
As an attendee, I was faced with ticket prices from $300 to $1300 for a 1-2 day conference. Speakers were world class, the venues were professional convention centers, and the after parties included raffles for not one but up to ten brand new ThinkPad laptops.
One conference even awarded every single attendee a new Xbox 360 so they could use the new software and development tools Microsoft had presented during one of the lunch breaks.
The biggest thing I've seen at a WordCamp: individual sponsors giving away an iPad.
WordPress Comes of Age
Early in my career, when I explained that I wrote networking software in .Net, they were impressed. When I mentioned my Azure-hosted networks, they asked for details and my card. When I made recommendations about network security, they listened.
When I tell people today I work with WordPress, they smile, nod, and give me a patronizing "hmm." Worse, a few people comment about how their teenage nephew/daughter/neighbor "does that too."
Firstly, we're software developers. Our time isn't cheap. If you have a billable rate of $200[ref]If you aren't charging this much for your time, please smack yourself now and consider raising your prices.[/ref] then this is 3-4 hours of billable work. Yes, that's billable labor with fruit you can't apply to the mortgage, but it's a significant investment in your business and in the industry of WordPress itself.
Will everyone be able to afford this? No.
Will the higher price make the conference more meaningful to those who attend? Absolutely.
When you spend $25-40 on a WordCamp, it's easy to write off a few sessions for the sake of networking. The number of times I've skipped a session here or there to engage in longer conversations with other attendees is staggering. The number of times I've seen others stop paying attention at a (cheap) WordCamp to blog, hack, or play World of Warcraft out of boredom is equally staggering.
LoopConf's higher prices mean WordPress is:
- Finally coming of age in an already-established industry of professional software tools
- Forcing potential attendees to truly invest in the conference, their contribution to that conference, and the gains the expect to get from the conference
LoopConf will be expensive. It's also exactly what we need in the WordPress community right now.