Conference business models
Thursday, April 26, 2007 by Dave Winer.
I think I'm one of the people who Jim Forbes was on a first-name basis with when I used to run a software company in the valley, and he was a reporter for various tech pubs.
As I read this rambling and interesting blog post, I started to get the idea that Jim was talking about me, and as it progressed I was sure, but he didn't actually say my name.
I don't have anything to hide, either about my involvement with the TechCrunch 20 conference (I'm not being paid for my services, and so far my only involvement has been to say that I am involved) or in the back-channel discussion with the Wired reporter. The only part that hasn't been disclosed is a little advice I offered, on background, but if he wants to disclose it I don't mind. (Maybe I'll dig it up tomorrow and run it as a post.)
I certainly never said anything, publicly or privately to call into question Jim's integrity, nor do I believe there is any cause to, but I do have a problem with conferences that showcase technology, charge people to attend and charge people whose products are demoed. I'm sure, based on knowing JIm for many years, that he never did anything unethical. And Demo, the show that he worked on, is better than a lot of shows, they tell everyone that the participants are paying, in other words, they disclose.
But I've paid to go to conferences where I was sure I was watching ads. Boy did that feel slimy.
People I used to admire did it. That felt worse than slimy, that felt like betrayal.
I know the pressures people operate under, I ran four conferences myself, and never took money for a speaking slot. But it's common practice in the tech industry. And I'm glad that Jason and Mike are going to make an issue of it, because it will put pressure on other conferences to clean up their act. There will be a lot more disclosing in the future, and maybe some conferences will have to find a new business model to keep people coming.
Anyway, it's late, I'm listening to old live Dead music as I write this on my new stereo that I love (a Mac) that's also got an outliner and a browser on it. I'm so glad I lived to see all this convergence. I've smoked a lot of cigarettes with Jim, and maybe a few other things, many years ago when we and the industry we're part of were much younger. I love the guy, and if I said anything that hurt him, it was inadvertent, but I'm sorry nonetheless.