Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Part 17: Finances (PyCon 2008 Chairman's Report)

PyCon is a community conference run by volunteers, and is underwritten by the Python Software Foundation (a non-profit public charity). The PSF wants PyCon to be an accessible, affordable conference. To that end, every year PyCon is budgeted to operate at a (small) loss. But (almost) every year we have had more attendees and more sponsorship than the year before, and PyCon has always come out in the black. We're still receiving invoices and paying bills for PyCon 2008, and won't know the final results for a while yet.

Any proceeds go into the PSF's general funds and are used for the good of the community. For example, in recent years, the PSF has sponsored other conferences and events: EuroPython, PyCon UK, PyCon Italia, Jornada Python en Santa Fe (Argentina), and more.

Corporate Rate

PyCon introduced a new, higher "corporate" registration rate (the old "regular" rate was renamed to "hobbyist"), and I was pleasantly surprised by how many attendees chose the higher rate. This enabled us to be even more generous than we had planned with financial aid, among other efforts. Even at the higher rate, PyCon is a bargain.

Speakers Must Also Pay?

Some have asked why PyCon doesn't give all speakers free registration.

The consensus so far has been that in order to keep PyCon affordable for all, everyone should support the conference by paying their own way. There have been a few exceptions to this rule. Free registration was offered to invited keynote speakers and organizers. Not many took the offer, although those paying their own way were encouraged to take free registration.

We had financial assistance available, especially to speakers. The Call for Conference Talk Proposals specifically mentions financial aid. We granted all requests from speakers to waive registration.

When PyCon had 300-400 attendees, we couldn't afford to give free registration to 60 or more speakers. They represented a significant fraction of the attendance and PyCon's revenue. Now, with 1000+ attendees, free registration for speakers would be much easier to accept. But should it be automatic? I think we should continue to require speakers to ask individually. However, the wording in the CFP should be changed to make it clear that for speakers, waiving registration is easy.

You can lend your voice to this debate (among others).


Ted Pollari said...

After reading the section of free registrations for speakers, I wanted to chime in here, not only as an organizer and as the financial aid coordinator for 2008, but also as someone who originally lobbied hard to give speakers free registration...

And then I wrote probably altogether too much for a comment (or, well, too much, period.) So, I decided to make it a real blog post of it's own...

a random John said...

I'm opposed to free registration for speakers (despite the fact that it would have saved my company $800 this year) because it will provide a financial incentive to propose a talk. This will result in more proposals to sift through and perhaps lower quality proposals. The current system seems to not be broken. No need to mess with it.

Jeff Rush said...

For the existing speaker system, I am against giving speakers free registration.

However, we are talking about changing the system quite significantly, placing new demands on the speakers. I believe that those demands must come with benefits as well, or there will be some backlash.

Those demands are, briefly: must release your talk, must come to a green room to pre-test your laptop prior to your talk, must sit on the front row through all talks of your session, must make your slides available in advance, must attend a speaker training session, must pass a test on speaking skills, must have a history of speaking at local usergroups, must skip subsequent talks to lead an openspace session immediately after your talk.

With increased responsibilities must come additional privileges, or people resent them.

David Goodger said...

Replying to Jeff Rush's comment:

Note that the demands listed (all the "musts") are under discussion only, and have not been decided. I doubt that all (or even most) will be adopted.

The final point is well taken though: "With increased responsibilities must come additional privileges, or people resent them."

a random John said...

Is there even a concept of a session? If so I missed it while running from room to room to find testing talks. I'll also note that the pyglet talk was at the same time as the multi-touch talk.

As far as I could tell there were no sessions or tracks.

Unless there are actual tracks next year I can't possibly see the benefit of making someone sit on the front row during a prior talk unless you're simply worried about them not showing up on time. I did see that happen during the 3rd talk in room 4 on saturday...

Jeff Rush said...

random john, a PyCon session is simply the set of talks between breaks, not necessarily related to a topic but may be. The terms "session" and "track" seem to have diverse meanings to people. Tracks are topic groupings, sessions are time groupings.

The idea of having a speaker there at the beginning is that the 5-min between talks within a session isn't enough time for a speaker to get there from a talk in a different room, have the room chair find him in the crowd, get him to sign a release form, get his laptop connected and tested and start on time. It's not to "have all the experts present" for a topic.

BTW, it is very difficult to arrange the talks to minimize conflicts, especially because few people have knowledge across all the various topics. In your example, not many know that the multitouch display relies upon pyglet for its graphics. Topic specialists are VERY welcome to get involved in talk scheduling to reduce these problems.

a random John said...

5 minutes is plenty of time if you sit at the back and leave about when the Q&A starts. My brother sat on the front row of my talk and gave his own talk immediately afterwards in the hall that was furthest away without being late in the slightest. It is simply a matter of not stopping to talk to people.

Unless you're going to give speakers some choice at to what the session preceeding theirs will be I think it is a bad policy to require someone attending the conference to attend a talk they might have no interest in. Just make sure that they are at the back of the room before the previous talk ends.