I had a geek dinner last night and a slice of a conversation kind of got persisted in my mind. So when I resumed my OS this morning, it was automatically deserialized. It was a chunk of the conversation I had with Carl Franklin and it was about the future of conferences. Carl voiced his convincement that the future is online. People stay home or in their offices—Carl said—pay a fair amount of money, and get the content they expect.
How much money? It doesn’t have to be necessarily little money; it doesn’t have, at the same time, a lot of money. Just the right amount money measured mostly against the quality and added value of the content they get.
I’m not saying that in some sort of near or remote future technical content should be paid as you like. I’m not certainly thinking of a donation model. I’m just wondering how much a typical conference fee is burdened with “extra” costs such as infrastructure, wireless, hotels, food, travel.
I did quite a few small tiny events myself and we constantly managed to keep costs as low as possible: no food, no CD, no bag, no accommodation, just great content. And small margins, enough to pay the day of the (very) few people involved. Clearly, it is a too extreme scenario to be replicated on a larger scale. A lot cost airline may propose you pay for the toilet, food, newspapers, drinks, water, but they can certainly not ask you pay an extra for the pilot J.
Are online conferences a concrete, starting-up business today? No.
The technology is not ready yet. As Carl pointed out, this is going to happen in a future maybe only a couple of years away. LiveMeeting and similar technologies are today totally insufficient and obsolete. We need stunningly beautiful and realistic graphics, bandwidth, ad-hoc software. But it can happen. And probably it will. Look at Xbox games; look at HD video technology; look at VOIP progress. It seems like we have all the pieces as single entities; someone will certainly merge them together quite soon.
Awaiting for that, don’t forget to stay tuned on next “traditional” conferences. As far as I’m concerned, DevConnections in Las Vegas, and BASTA in Frankfurt, Germany. But the first of all, is Microsoft DevDays in Sofia, Bulgaria, 16-17 April.