Saturday, March 29, 2008

Pay-for-Play Is Counterproductive for Event Attendees

Software industry events, like the Open Source Business Conference (OSBC), just completed in San Francisco, should have a prominent warning sign posted on the event’s hotel doors, keynote stage, and website just like those appearing on cigarettes and liquor packaging. The warning should read: “Warning: Paid Content.”

Gentle reader: If you unknowingly sit through a keynote at OSBC there is no risk of physical injury, cancer or other serious illnesses. The risk is feeling a sense of boredom, knowing you are wasting your time and exposing yourself to undisclosed agendas and unadulterated self-promotional material, delivered, with shocking frequency, by underprepared speakers. This could lead to disappointment and sometimes angry blog posts. Nothing more.

Is OSBC the best the business side of the industry can offer? Is networking the primary reason why someone should attend an event? Is this the way we ought to expand the open source industry?

While the stated purpose of OSBC is to bring together senior business people “to collaborate on business models, strategies and profitability for open source use” much was lost in the implementation.

Specifically the content at the OSBC was off target. And pay-for-play was the major cause for the content being recycled, self-promotional and bereft of vision.

InfoWorld is largely responsible for this pay-to-play problem. The quality of OSBC content is their responsibility after all.

To be sure, some of the content at OSBC was terrific. Larry Augustin’s smoothing open source purchases and Raven Zachary’s panel on converting the OSS lead funnel were super-valuable because they were practical and attentive to audience needs. Both Larry and Raven balked when I complimented them. Their sessions were fraught with risk because the content was based on both contemporaneous operational knowledge and audience participation.

Hopefully next year we will have an OSBC that helps expand business, technology adoption and the industry all at once. This, I have to admit, is wishful thinking.


Tim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim said...

Pay-for-pay (sic) is terminal as a business model for industry events. The open source community should have seen this sooner than (probably the majority of) the attendees.

We've chatted about this in the past: most of the media from the '80s and '90s are going away; online communities will displace them, and events like OSBC will be conceived, topics debated and selected, speakers vetter / voted upon -- all within an event forum or online moshpit in the future.

The live event itself will not require the sponsorship end -- the community will have designed an event they are happy to pay to attend.

Tim Dempsey
Best to all at Black Duck!

Doug Levin said...

Tim - Thanks for catching the typo and the comment. Right on man!