mesh conference, Day 1

Sort of a non-BPM few days lately, what with BarCampTdot on the weekend and the mesh conference today and tomorrow.

mesh kicked off this morning with an interview with Om Malik. During the Q&A, an audience member referenced a quote that he heard many years ago: “When information is free, the only thing of value is point of view”. Om countered that the thing of value is context, not necessarily point of view. I can certainly identify with this, since (I assume) the reason that a lot of you read this blog is for the context in which I place information, and my viewpoints on the content, rather than just the content itself.

The next session was a presentation by, then interview with, Michael Geist, a U of Ottawa law professor and a brilliant speaker on web 2.0 and society, and on digital rights issues. Definintely my favourite part of the day so far (although the bar hasn’t opened yet).

Today has an unduly heavy focus on media — for some reason, all the media and society sessions are today, and all the marketing and business sessions tomorrow — although there’s some interesting ones such as the one on “Are Bloggers Journalists?” that I’m in right now.

I am left with the uncomfortable question of where all the money from this conference is going, considering that the organizers are not professional organizers and presumably weren’t in this to make money from it; they all have “regular jobs” of sorts. It cost $350 to attend for the two days (not worth the price, in my estimate, and not very web 2.0 in spirit), and with the large number of big-name sponsors, it’s not clear that they needed to charge attendees that much to provide what they are providing. I know that Gartner conferences and the like are far more expensive, but they’re in the business to make money on conferences, and this is more of a low-key participatory conference (not an unconference, but borrowing a few of the networking concepts).

I have to give mesh the credit, however, for indirectly inspiring BlogHerNorth: back in April, Elisa Camahort (of BlogHer) pondered why mesh couldn’t find more than 6 women to speak when there were 50 speaking slots available (subtitled “Another example of why BlogHer won’t be passe in my lifetime”). Kate Trgovac picked up the ball and asked if it was time for BlogHerNorth, I added some comments and started a conversation with her and a few others, and the ball was rolling. So, thanks to some men who excluded (however unconsciously) women from their conference speaking roster, we’re inspired to create BlogHerNorth.

3 thoughts on “mesh conference, Day 1

  1. Well, you’d think I’d be commenting to talk about BlogHerNorth (which I’m very thrilled about) but I’m actually commenting on the cost of putting on conferences.

    I had never put on an event before BlogHer last year, and it’s a little surprising how much even a modest affair costs to put on.

    Unless these things are donated somehow, you pay for internet access and adequate power and microphones and In-Focus machines and shipping and handling of materials etc. etc.

    But mostly it all comes down to food. If they fed you meals and break foods over those two days then it was probably expensive for them.

    (Usually if you go with a traditional meeting space they don’t even let you bring in outside, donated stuff, particularly food.)

    Another really critical factor is whether they not only comp speaker conference fees, but whether they also reimburse them for travel. That can be wicked expensive.

    Yes, I’d guess that $350 for two days probably covered their costs, but I wouldn’t guess by some huge profitable margin.

  2. I don’t think that these things are free, but there were a lot of sponsorships and donations for the food (and since MaRS was listed as a sponsor, probably the space as well), and many of the speakers were local. A couple of the speakers directly commented that they were not paid to speak, although I’m sure that some travel expenses for the out-of-towners were covered.

    Our aim for BlogHerNorth is to provide something of equivalent value for a lower cost than that, although I might be back here next year admitting how much I miscalculated.

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