XTech was fun; most of the talks were informative, I met many interesting new people, and it was great to see my colleagues from the Mozilla Corporation and my Amsterdam friends again. But I can’t shake the nagging feeling I got when I looked around in the “Browser Technology” track room, where the Mozilla crew spent most of their time, and found that it contained on average 50 people, the vast majority of whom were being paid to be there.
I can see why that might be. XTech is not cheap. A full registration for the conference only (no tutorials) is £935, and if you want to stay at the conference hotel, it’s another £834, even if you skip the £24 breakfasts. A cheaper, albeit less convenient hotel nearby might still be £300. £1235 is a lot for anyone who is on their own dime. I’m not the only person who has noticed this.
I actually felt quite guilty staying at the Kras. Despite having the usual “protect the environment” notices in the bathrooms, they changed the towels every day, left the lights on all afternoon after cleaning the place, and replaced bars of soap after five seconds use. In the conference area, water glasses were replaced regularly, and I must have used three plates at every lunch because it became too much effort trying to defend them from being cleared away by over-eager waiters. And I couldn’t bring myself to spend £24 on breakfast, even when it’s not my money. If I go back to Amsterdam, I’m definitely staying somewhere else.
Of course, this is a free market. The XTech organisers charge what people are willing to pay (although I noticed there were fewer people and exhibitors than last year, when it was in the Rai). But it can’t be denied that the price is exclusive. The European Mozilla community is large and thriving, but the only representatives it had there were people who have a corporate sponsor – Axel, Gandalf and me.
XTech is the main European Mozilla conference of the year, the one to which the Corporation sends everyone from San Francisco. Given the lack of European community members, it’s almost as if we are trying to make sure that the two halves never meet! In contrast, many of the European community come to FOSDEM, but we had (I think) only two America-based Corporation people there this year.
So why have we, the Mozilla organisation, chosen XTech? This is a genuine question – it could be that important people we need to meet and talk to (perhaps from the W3C) don’t come to anything else. It could be that it’s a convenient time of year. It could be that the content of the other talks is unusually good. But I confess I can’t see the reason.
If there isn’t a good one, I assert that XTech is the wrong conference for us. Actually, I think that FOSDEM is also the wrong one, but for different reasons – there is so much other cool stuff going on there that I sometimes feel trapped in the Mozilla room. We need to find something that is browser-focussed, but cheaper and more accessible to our community.
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