Pay to speak at DevCon?

I am blown away by the great program at Macromedia DevCon this year. The conference isn’t cheap, and is held at a rather expensive area in Florida – but I was still seriously working on getting there. Now I have changed my mind and will boycott the event, and I think you should too.

Why? Because Macromedia is treating their speakers for the event bad. And they are treating the Flash developer community equally bad in letting some of the speakers actually charge extra for attending their speech. Jakob Nielsen who not too long ago asked for the help of the Flash developer community for his research (and most likely got a lot of good help) has decided to charge $500 for the access to “his” research. I would love to know if Macromedia in this way has footed some of the expense of its research over on us. Turns out the research was for his upcoming book, and the $500 is for his own mini conference the day before the Macromedia Devcon (see Mike’s comments at the bottom of this post)

I am sure Jakob is paid nicely and gets a free ride and stay at the hotel. (Apperantly he doesn’t get any special treatment, could anyone confirm if he gets the same amount for his speech as everyone else? I kind of doubt he does..) And I wouldn’t expect anything less for any of the speakers. But for the “regular” speakers it appears that they will have to foot the bill for the travel to and hotel bill for attending the conference themselves. Taking the whole conference from an event for the speakers to make a little bit of money, to something they will actually have to pay to attend. Seems fair to you? Remember, Macromedia charges just over a thousand dollars per head for entrance to the conference. And still they can’t afford to compensate their speakers right.

I feel bad for the speakers. And I know that I wouldn’t have been interested in that kind of a deal myself. But it seems there are Flash developers with so much love for the Flash community that they will go really far to be able to be there – One such person is Chris MacGregor. Instead of feeling insulted and telling Macromedia to stuff the whole thing, he has decided to try to gather money himself to be able to attend the conference (alas, in reality pay to be a speaker at the conference). He has set up a special donation for this very purpose, and you can check out his plea on his site: Request for assistance…

Chris is the guy that wrote the white paper on Usability for Macromedia, and he has done a lot of great usability work for the Flash community and Macromedia. User Interface Engineering had this to say about him in their latest newsletter:

I’d have to say our interest really piqued last year. We’d been reading a lot about the great work that Chris MacGregor ( and other Flash developers had been doing to improve the usability of Flash-based implementations. We decided to conduct one of our most extensive research projects ever to examine the strengths of Flash.

I know Macromedia must be grateful for all the great work Chris has put into a field that they feel is important for the future of Flash, but still they are too cheap to be able to do the decent thing and pay for his ticket and hotel.

Macromedia, as a company you really owe it to the community to show more heart in these kind of circumstances. And you owe it to the people working their asses off to make sure that they at least are compensated fairly for their work. Keep this up, and you will loose a lot of the positive vibe that has been a trademark of the whole Flash extravaganza.

A little message to the Macromedia community people: You really need to kick some ass inside of Macromedia and make the company start showing appreciation for the work the people in the Flash community does for you. This latest news about how you treat your speakers at one of the more important community events really shows bad form. And I am sure it affects a lot more people than Chris.

Mike Chambers has given this information:

Actually, i just checked on this, and we are not paying jacob’s expenses. JDB, i would appreciate it if you corrected your post.

i am not really sure what jacbo nielsen has to do with this issue anyways. He is being treated just like the other speakers.

Also, someone posted on flazoom that you have to pay to go to his devcon session, that is also incorrect. He is holding his own mini one-day conference before devcon, but his devcon session is free to all attendees, just like the other sessions.

27 thoughts on “Pay to speak at DevCon?”

  1. Mr. Bergesen,

    I doubt Macromedia makes any money off a conference like this. Think about it, they run these conferences for marketing purposes, and the intention is to make the conference as cheap as possible to get the maximum number of folks to attend.

    In terms of money, if you haven’t noticed Macromedia lost several HUNDRED million dollars last year and had to fire many staff. Right now they are just breaking even, and hopefully they will make money in the future.

    They work very hard and produce great products. Give them a break.

  2. Sorry I have to agree with Jarle.

    Macromedia are insane how can they do this. I would (if I could) pay to fly from NZ to Florida to hear Chris McGregor speak….but NOT Jackob. Chris has more for me to learn anwyay.

    This is another example for the crap way MM is treating the community. IF they are struggling for $$ then ditch the whole Dev/Des area, rip down half the crap on their site and support the sites that DO this for them? WHY pay for something when there are HUNDREDS of sites giving this content for FREE. I’m sure MM could do a better job supporting them.

    Sorry but I’m just sick of getting the shaft my MM. And this is just crazy … just crazy.

    Jarle you’ve my support I’ll put a not up on PNut’s thoughts sending people here…

  3. Jarle,

    I’ve spoken at all the Allaire/Macromedia conferences. I travel from Sydney, Australia to do so. Conferences typically only give the speaker a free ticket, an extra ribbon and maybe the odd pat on the back if you are lucky. You only get paid if your presence itself would sell tickets in its own right (perhaps Jakob Nielson believes this is so).

    We’re organising the conference in Sydney next year. And the budget is actually very tight, so we cannot afford to compensate speakers for travel and accommodation expenses.

    As for the boycott? Perhaps consider boycotting Mr Nielsen – I have never understood what all the fuss about this man is. But the conference itself? If I lived in the USA I wouldn’t hesitate to go. Be funny to find Jakob delivering a talk to a room of one or two people in a conference of 2,500.

  4. yah, that’s the same deal with flashforward as well i think. you’ve got to remember that the speakers get a lot of out of speaking as well. it’s all about *profile*.

  5. Jake, from my experience the profile/exposure of these conferences never turn into real profit. It might look good on your CV that you have spoken at many conferences, but it will not make you rich. UNLESS you are actually the one behind one of the successfully ones. Do the math, if they get 2500 people attending, each paying 1000 dollars, then you are talking about 2 and a half million dollars. Even in Florida, that should cover the conference expenses and a small little fee to the speakers. Hell that should even be enough to fly each and every speaker in on first class, and treat them to a nice hotel room on top.

    Jan, the fact is that the various communities offer Macromedia marketing and support that just can’t be bought for money. And lets be real here, the Flash community is tiny in size compared to the Dreamweaver community – and Macromedia has been lucky enough to get nice communities around their products. Isn’t it fair that they at least do a little in return for the hardest working people in each community? The people that is really sweating it out for them, doing lots of work for ZERO dollars? Even without this in mind, it only seems fair to me to compensate speakers so they at least have their cost covered… Just like you would compensate any other work in the REAL world.

    Geoff, I know for a fact that FlashForward has compensated their speakers for travel to the conference and covered the hotel bill. I am not sure if they have done that for every speaker – if they haven’t, then I think that is bad too. Another thing is that for the small conferences the speakers might find it in them to pay for the bill themselves out of love for the community and wanting to help out. Thats fair. But we aren’t talking about a minor-league player here. But a big bad ass company that should be able to dig up the money to at least cover the expenses of the speakers at their conference. I don’t mind doing free work for people I know are struggeling and aren’t making any money. But I get a real bad feeling when I do free work for people that makes a bundle off of me, and never return the favor. You see the difference?

  6. I agree that the policy (especially of charging extra) is bad form. However, as far as compensating speakers is concerned, I know of only a couple of conferences that do reimburse the speakers, but most don’t and still get huge responses for speaker proposals. I guess it’s just a supply and demand issue.

    From Macromedia’s perspective (I imagine), they feel they are giving the speakers compensation in the form of free admission to a $1000 event. I spoke at one conference that gave me free admission only to the day on which I was speaking. Talk about not treating speakers well!

    I do think $1000 is outrageous, even though I found last year’s UCON very valuable to me (and paid $1200 for registration!). I think it was valuable because it was the first time I had gone to such a conference. The best part for me was the birds-of-a-feather group, in which I met other Flash developers and discussed issues, though the sessions were pretty informative from the perspective of who is doing what.

    As a DevCon speaker this year, I have to say that it’s not all altruism, though I do get satisfaction from helping others in the community. On my business side, I am pushing an agenda of getting my name out there, applying good software design practices in Flash, and marketing a book coming out on the heels of DevCon. While all the speakers are not in this situation, there is a lot of business and business contacts to be made at the conference.

    Another beef with the current conference is the conference hotel. $265/night or so for the conference rate? Give me a break! I’m staying about 1/2 mile away for $70/night.

    So the bottom line for me, as a speaker, is that I’m not happy about not being compensated with expenses, though I know getting access to the conference is worth something to me, both personally and professionally. I think that if it were all personal, I would not have offered to speak in the first place.


  7. >This is another example for the crap way MM is treating the community.

    sorry, but i have to respond to this. This comment is completly wrong. I can understand why you are upset about the devcon policy, but saying that Macromedia treats the community like crap is completly offbase.

    We spend a tremendous amount of resources on the community. We have dedicated community managers who are very active in the community. We work with individual developers and community sites all of the time. However, some of this stuff is behind the scene stuff that you do not see.

    As far as the DesDev center, it is an incredible resource. It has tons of high quality information, some of it not availiable anywhere else. We spend a very large amount of resources making sure content on there is fresh, and reflects the requests from the community and our readers.

    mike chambers

    [email protected]

  8. jdb,

    macromedia has absolutely nothing to do with jacob nielsen’s upcoming book on flash (which he requested examples of flash applications for).

    mike chambers

    [email protected]

  9. I am glad you’ve pumped up the volume on this topic. It took some guts for Chris to post his help call. I think it is pretty irrelevent frankly whether or not MM makes a huge profit or not on this year,or whether they expect to turn a profit at this conference. They are holding it anyway and a valuable member of the developer community has been honest about his immediate predicament. Give the guy a abreak and do everyone a favor. Send him a ticket and a hotel booking.

    The economy really sucks this year. But the breakthoughs are wonderful [Summer of MX for example]. Things will pick up. This is a time when Greed and self-interest needs moer than ever to be replaced by community sharing and support.

    Individuals and big comanies are all having to cope with hard times. The difference is that companies have the daily cashflow and should do everything they can to aid and reward the handful of superclass developeres out there.

    Jakob Nielsen and Don Norman have both been massively overhyped. They are smart and articulate with a history of some valuable perceptions. imo Nielsen still really does not get it when it comes to Flash. Now that MM have placated him a little, they would be strategically and ethically wise to allocate resources away from him and his thinking towards the heart of developer community. Clearly that is an esetnail part of their eral-worldR&D as well as source of their best applications.

    ./Jason Cunliffe

  10. It’s sad when FlashKit who had its little conference two weeks ago a total of 250 people could afford to fly in all its speakers and pay for their hotel rooms.

    FlashKit is a small fry compared to MM. Don’t get me wrong Mike, I love MM but someone has made a grave error inviting JN, “Mr. flash is 98% bad and everything that is wrong with the web today”

    and treating him like a king. I mean Chris has been around for a long time and has shown his loyalty to MM and the community. The other guy is an enemy of the state!! Jacob Bin Ladin.

    Hmmm…. “What would Wal-Mart do” in this situation? I think they would do a “roll back” and re evaluate its decision. Were talking what $1000 bucks at most to drag Chris to FL from TX and put him up in a room for three days???

    We can listen to Jacob bin Ladin find fault in anything he looks at or… We could listen and be inspired to make a site usable by listening to Chris talk about Wal-Mart or what ever other metaphor he wants to use.

    I don’t know about you but I find the value in Chris and his approach. Ditch JBL and pay for Chris and several others with the money you save from ditching the enemy. Just my Honest Humble Opinion.

    I don’t think the top people at MM or those on the Flash team made this decision, and infact I would imagine the person who made the mistake of not brining Chris to FL either has no clue of what Chris has done for MM or the Community. Its my hope that that is the case. I know the people like Mike etc. on the Flash team and know the passion for the people in the community. I would only hope that someone can help Chris out as I know its been a bad year for him.

    Regards, Bill

  11. It’s amazing that as a demonstration of the MX communication server macromedia has offered to help the speakers by doing some of the talks….’live on the web’

    It’d be a great technology demo.

  12. Mike, thanks for pointing that out to me. Still I think its outragous to allow Jakob to charge extra for his speech at DevCon, where he no doubt will be offering information gathered through the help of the Flash community

    And Mike, please do what you can inside of Macromedia to make them turn around on the hotel and travel cost issue. Its really something that Macromedia NEED to do to show at least some appreciation for the hard work people like Chris has put in.

  13. >I am sure Jakob is paid nicely and gets a free ride and stay at the hotel.

    Actually, i just checked on this, and we are not paying jacob’s expenses. JDB, i would appreciate it if you corrected your post.

    i am not really sure what jacbo nielsen has to do with this issue anyways. He is being treated just like the other speakers.

    Also, someone posted on flazoom that you have to pay to go to his devcon session, that is also incorrect. He is holding his own mini one-day conference before devcon, but his devcon session is free to all attendees, just like the other sessions.

    mike chambers

    [email protected]

  14. “Shocking and suprising!”

    FlashForward is a much smaller scale conference and their speakers are treated well, accomodation, tickets and flights are payed for.

    Im sure MM can spare a bob or two for one person who has done alot for the Flash Community, show some gratitude for all his hard work, he needs that now.

  15. Mike,

    If its true what your saying about Jacob Bin Ladin not getting a free ride then I understand MMs stance. I was under the impression that JBL was getting a free ride.

    Should have checked with the source before I opened my mouth.

    Still get rid of JBL :) regards, Bill

  16. MM owes a lot to the community and this is just shameful :/

    Inviting top, highly-respected community leaders to speak to a conference that will generate further exposure and profit for MM and its products, and then ask them to pay for the privilege?

    I am sure many managers and company execs will be happy to pay for DevCon, just for the privilege of spending a day with self-proclaimed guru J.Nielsen but without the community and the likes of Chris at al, this wouldn’t be a conference worth attending and paying for. It really makes me wonder who MM is targeting with this event and who they are trying to ‘sell’ Flash to ?

    Dont take the community for granted !


    //oS Moderator

    [email protected]

  17. Sorry Mike but I have to reply to this

    We spend a tremendous amount of resources on the community. We have dedicated community managers who are very active in the community. We work with individual developers and community sites all of the time. However, some of this stuff is behind the scene stuff that you do not see.

    I run a community site with over 1 million hits a month. I have tried and tried and tried to get Macromedia to talk to me, YOU included. Now I know your all busy and understand that – but you don’t even say NO go away. ALL I see is Macromedia setting up their own site in oposition to ours, OR supporting the “IN” boys group only.

    Now in Macromedia’s defence… Bill mentioned that FK paied their speakers flights and accomodation – actually FK didn’t Internet.Com did, and they’ve just a little more $$ than MM from my understandings. However I had to fight to get FK to pay my flights and they wouldn’t cover my accom (as you know Bill!)

    I still think that Speakers should be paied to speak and have their costs covered. After all it’s the SPEAKERS we go to hear and with out them there are no conferences.

  18. Re: boycotting the DevCon conference

    Please do not boycott the conference. I am working hard and asking for donation so that I can present my talk, which I have been hard at work on. If no one shows up at the conference two things will happen. First, I’ll be speaking three time to an empty room, and that is going to suck. Second, I’ll probably get ‘the evil eye’ from other speakers for this boycott thing.

    I’d like to make it clear that Macromedia is not at fault for my situation. I should have paid more attention to the speaker invite in the first place. I appreciate all the donations that have been coming in (up to $225 in less than 36 hours) but dogging Macromedia is a bit misplaced. They’ve done a great job bringing this conference together, and I want no part of a boycott (so I’d better see you there Jarle!).

    Jarle, I really appreciate your support. More than you know my friend. I can not tell you how thankful I am to the support of the Flash deveoper community. If I can make it to the conference then it will be a testament to the support of every Flash developer who has ever read a tutorial or downloaded an open source FLA. And frankly, the developers are the people that I publish for. Thanks.


  19. OK,

    For real for a sec about Jakob. I want to know what the hell he has done for Flash from a useability standpoint? Seriously? Is it just me, or is his site the worst piece of crap to use ever?

    Get this guy out of the mix. Boycott him.

    Why do we tolerate this guy?

    He is a joke.

    All of us knew what Flash was lacking in the past, never needed him to tell us.


    as an aside,

    Even with the Advent of UI Components,

    I have seen MORE bad Flash design than ever before using UIComponents, proving that it is the fault of the designer not the tool.

    Do not pay to see that little weasel. Boycott his seminar.

  20. That’s not good at all…

    Maybe MM should start investing not only in softwares but in people as well…

    Their future is at stake here and that is serious..

    (so much for a know-nothing like me.hehe)

  21. This would be a lot more shocking if Macromedia had EVER paid for their speakers. What some of the folks here see as dissing the community is just what’s been going on all along. I spoke at the 1997 UCON. The only thing I got was free admission to the show. One speaker I know barely made it into the lunch hall (they paid for conferee lunches that year) with a ribbon proclaiming “SPEAKER” hanging from his badge.

    I still applied to speak at this year’s conference.

  22. Jacob Nielsen.. “renowned Web usability guru”.. that’s almost funny… from circa.. 1990? I often wonder how people like this manage to exist. Someone, somewhere, at some time, for some god forsaken reason.. validated this guy’s archaic ways of thought and now we’ve got books full of his outdated, narrow minded, limited use information and him preaching this garbage as gospel to the corporate corpses of America.

    It almost angers me that this hogwash is treated as factual information, when in actuality, it is nothing more than the opinion of an outdated person with no creative talent and limited understanding of our *current* technology and how it has progressed. If we were to all subscribe to this belief, we’d still be listening to the weekly radio show and placing phone calls through “Elma” at the local switchboard.

    The Internet is changing. Lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way.. we’re tired of the mindless babble from you artifacts of yesteryear.

    Has anyone freaking looked at Jacob’s own site? go.. please do it: .. and then ask yourself why he’ll even be at the conference.

    I’ll tell you why. He was badmouthing Flash.

    So, rather than fight him, MM has padded his pockets under the guise of “partnering with him” to improve Flash usability. It’s all right here..

    It’s becoming more and more about the money folks. Happens to the best of them I guess. I hope MM doesn’t lose sight of the dream… the dream *we’ve* all helped them realize… not Jacob.


  23. I think it is o.k. that speakers pay to attend. That way you hear from a speaker that is not biased one way or the other and can really speak his/her mind without the influence of a corporate entity. I think it forces speakers to think about what is more relevant today than ever and that is money. There are so many people out there without a job today. A speaker gets access to networking, projects, etc. and advertising for themselves at the expense of a conference cost. I would think that they would be grateful for the opportunity to speak. Don’t complain to your mom and dad that they make more than you do and then ask them to pay your bills. Take care of yourself and appreciate the opportunity when someone gives it to you.

  24. I’m shocked to hear this. As someone who regularly speaks at many developer conferences in the Windows space, I can’t believe that folks in the Flash community are treated this badly.

    Conferences make money. That’s one of the main reasons why they exist. A conference that charges $1000 / head for (5 days?) can more than break even, they turn a profit. And this is in the case of conferences that COVER speaker travel expenses AND pay an honorarium per talk.

    Speakers are an important element of the community; they are typically the “mavens” that spread the technology gospel. Abusing folks that hold that kind of leverage within the community is a sure sign of a company that doesn’t care about how they are perceived within their community.

  25. Any developer or designer that thinks they have nothing to learn from Jakob is completely missing the point. His attempt at character assasination for Flash is deplorable and was incredibly short-sighted. However, the core ideas in his past research are still valid. Perhaps his conclusions are not current, but the concepts that he started looking for should be at the heart of most interactivity design, from toaster ovens to web portals.

    Jakob’s major mistake was voicing an opinion before becoming educated about the subject, and then failing to qualify his statement. Of course, he also presumed that Flash was going to die just like animated e-mail gifs and blinking backgrounds. He simply lacked the ability to look beyond his nose.

    Companies pay big money to people who can’t see past thier own noses. It’s called being conservative, and it certainly has a place in business. Flash and other multimedia proponents (including myself), tend to forget there are others who are happy with what currently exists, and what has worked in the past.

    Is Jakob the alpha and omega of design and communication? Not on your life. He and the body of his work are simply one chapter in a book that is constantly being rewritten, revised, and redoubled. And please don’t slam his site; it’s called ‘’, not ‘’, ‘’, or even ‘’ (though there have been MANY votes for this last one). Insulting his site is like criticising Henry Ford for not producing a formula 1 race car alongside the Model T.

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