Why we won’t pay to play at conferences

One unedifying result of having been asked to speak on open source search at various events and conferences over the last few years is the discovery that not all events are equal – some genuinely wish to create a programme of interesting talks of value to the audience, and some simply wish to sell as much sponsorship as possible to those who would like to present. Some of the larger analyst firms are guilty of this behaviour – their Summits and Forums are often packed with talks by big-budget solution providers (and their industry sector reports similarly reflect the fact that if you pay, you play). At Flax we don’t have much budget for sponsorship so we’re often excluded, even though the talks we give are seldom if ever pushing any particular solution – a benefit of the open source model is that even if you hear about it from us you can still go and download and use the software yourself without paying us or anyone else a penny.

Luckily there are events that don’t work like this – the excellent Search Solutions day run in late Autumn by the British Computer Society and of course Enterprise Search Europe (disclaimer: I’m on the programme committee for the latter). My view is this means we get a higher quality set of talks, presenters who know and can discuss their subject rather than just reading out the company-approved Powerpoint deck, and attendees can see a wider range of views and options.

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