Monday, November 28, 2011

Tech conferences on the cheap

I like attending developer conferences. Developer-focused conferences bring a huge breadth of thought and concepts, an intoxicating  buffet of technology and learning that widen my knowledge beyond my current job's focus. Alas, technology-focused conferences have not brought the revolution in conference prices that technology has accomplished in other areas. That is, tech conferences remain very expensive. Including airfare and hotel accommodations, you could spend thousands of dollars for a single conference. I have been fortunate to have my employer pay for me to attend some developer conferences, but wouldn't it be nice if such conferences were cheaper in general?

This brings me to RIM's BlackBerry DevCon developer conferences. True, the conference itself is not unusual: lots of technical content plus parties, concerts and a price tag of a few hundred dollars. What I find interesting is what comes after the conference: the DevCon On-Demand website that lets you access the keynote and practically all conference session content. You get the transcript, streaming video/slides, streaming audio (synchronized with video and transcript) and source code. DevCon On-Demand is available not just to conference attendees but also to the entire public. Last year, RIM charged a mere $20 for a year's access to the US conference content. This year, they are charging … nothing.

BlackBerry development is a hobby for me, so I could never justify the cost -- airfare, hotel, registration and vacation time -- to attend something like DevCon. DevCon On-Demand is a great way for me to access the big ticket technical content without the big ticket cost. True, for some people the networking opportunities justify the cost of the real thing. But for geeks like me where the technical content is the primary draw, this is a great deal. Wouldn't it be great if other tech conferences followed this model?