We're just under two months away from ZendCon 2010 but unfortunately, I'm not running the Unconference this time around. And to my knowledge there is no longer one planned. Why this happened is open to interpretation, but I suspect it's because I asked for compensation. No, I didn't ask for a gold watch, a new computer, or even stage time.
I asked for a booth in the exhibit hall. While I'd love to have the Blue Parabola crew run it, we don't have the time, availability, or interest in having one, so I came up with a different idea. Frank Stefan of S&S didn't get it the first time around, so he asked me about the goals, who would run it, etc. All fair questions and considerations, so I sent him this:
Since my company doesn't have a way of effectively using a booth, the goal of the community booth was to draw developers in and towards the user groups. Traditionally, we have PHP User Group leaders from Atlanta, Austin, Nashville, DC, San Francisco, Belgium, Brazil and a few other places. Giving developers a glimpse of the larger community and how they can interact with and grow as a part of it helps all of us.
I'm already a speaker at ZendCon this year so my flight and a couple nights of the hotel were covered, so I thought this was reasonable.
To be clear, my reasoning for this was simple. At the uncon the previous two years, one of the most successful sessions was a User Group Roundtable. In fact, there is such a demand for User Groups that we put together an impromptu User Group panel discussion at php|tek. I attribute that discussion as part of the reason for the flood of new User Groups that started this summer.
Now, before anyone asks or rumors get started, here is my compensation history:
In 2008, when I pitched my – now friend and colleague – Cal Evans on running the Uncon, I didn't ask for anything. In fact, I wrote him the pitch email as if I was applying for a job. It was high profile enough and on a bigger scale than I had tried, so it was a privilege to take a shot. In exchange for the effort, Cal offered me the one thing he could: a full conference pass. I financed my own flight, my own meals, and split a room with the highly esteemed Eli White. That unconference went so well, Mark de Visser – Zend CMO at the time – thanked me in the closing keynote. Wow.
In 2009, Eli White had taken over as Community Guy at Zend and they invited me back. (Correction: Eli just reminded me that *he* was the one that offered the flight, hotel, and pass when they invited me back. I happily agreed.) Remembering the work and costs involved, I asked for the flight, conference pass, and hotel to be covered. I still split a room with another speaker to bring the trip within his budget. Further, somewhere along the line, Eli managed to get me one of the giveaway Netbooks but that was completely unexpected.
Regardless, if they do an Unconference this year, I wish the ZendCon team the best. Some of the most interesting sessions and speakers the past couple years have “auditioned” in the Uncon first, so it's an incredibly powerful tool for all involved.