in USENIX

Conferences are for the elite, part 2

On May 23 last year I wrote about how the pricing of conferences puts them beyond the reach of many qualified individuals who could benefit from them. I took some heat for this on the SAGE-members mailing list.

Without trying to gloat, I’d like to point out that my concerns have been touched on by a number of the candidates in the upcoming USENIX elections. I quote:

Although the economy has been slowly recovering after the hi-tech implosion, with some signs of life in the computer industry, USENIX continues to face a host of challenges. Companies are still extremely conservative with travel budgets, a trend which continues to threaten attendance levels at USENIX’s upcoming conferences. — Theodore Ts’o, Candidate for Treasurer

Over the past several years, attendance at some of our flagship conferences has dropped, and the financial picture is not as strong as it could be. Some of this can be attributed to economic woes, but the Association must still look carefully at its meetings to see how to make them as useful to our constituencies as possible. — Brian Noble, Candidate for Director

USENIX is primarily a conference organisation. This is both our strength and our weakness. I believe USENIX must grow beyond our present focus on conferences and beyond our present membership base (whilst always continuing to support this most important part of our purpose). — Geoff Halprin, Candidate for Director

Today a lot of people in the Free and Open Source movement are not paid by their employers to develop software. At a recent Linux conference, fully half of the attendees paid their registration and travel fees themselves. Employers who do fund their people to attend want to know how much better they will be able to do their job after attending our conference/training sessions. USENIX has to reduce the cost of the conferences, so that we can continue to help spread the knowledge about software design. — Jon “maddog” Hall, Candidate for Director

I’m glad that USENIX is finally waking up to the fact that the high conference fees keep the conference attendees limited to those from large, research-oriented corporations or universities, and that this is to the detriment of the organization. I’m particularly thrilled by maddog’s enlightened remarks about how conferences must cut costs in order to reach the maximum number of people. (You can read his statement here.)

All of the candidates this year appear to be exceptionally well-qualified for the positions they are seeking. I wish them all the best of luck.