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Why paid registration for workshop presenters?

Why paid registration for workshop presenters?

This post was written by Sutton

Dear workshop presenters

Firstly… we’re super excited to be welcoming you all to Dar es Salaam this August… it’s going to be amazing!!

I’d like to explain why we made the choice not to offer free tickets to workshop presenters.

When we were putting together the workshop program, we were overwhelmed by the quality and quantity of submissions received by the call. We received 73 submissions and accepted 27. This was incredibly difficult as we wanted to widen the scope of content within the workshop program (aka… not have the same as last year) and balance new presenters with established ones. Everything was a compromise to establish this program, but on balance I believe (and I hope you as the community will agree), that we got the balance right.

We have the stated aim in our proposal and since that we want to use FOSS4G in Dar es Salaam to widen participation of many under-represented groups within our community – as a global community, we need to be as diverse as the world. Part of the economic impetus within the DLOC is to widen access and participation – this means working out how to achieve that. Bluntly, if we want to have a conference with the same content and people, we shouldn’t be holding this in Dar es Salaam.

As many, (but not all), workshop presenters are from companies sponsoring their travel to FOSS4G (offering workshops that directly relate to services offered by their employer), the drive to widen participation, with previous conferences not offering free workshop tickets (Nottingham in 2013 for example) and no stated promise to offer free tickets for presenters, I led my committee and we resolved to not provide free tickets to presenters.

However, potentially this is wrong – and I’d like to stress as a volunteer(and unpaid!) conference chair/organiser, we’re capable of getting things wrong… but we/I want to ensure that it’s put right.

In effect, there is no profit from the workshop tickets, effectively, this pays for the conference venue and the food and drink for the workshop days. The cost of this is roughly $75. We’re charging $75 – this is cheaper than previous workshops! To offer a free ticket to workshop presenters, we would have charged $100 and reclaimed the cost of the workshop presenter ticket from there. We charged as low as we could, because we recognised that for some attending FOSS4G, $25 can be a very large difference… but for others… not at all (hence the donation button for the Travel Grant Programme!). But, to widen participation, we need to be as inclusive as possible and that means making hard choices.

We’re being inclusive by raising the number of Travel Grant Programme (TGP) attendees from 10 in Boston to 51 for Dar. As the DLOC, we’ve booked the YMCA for our TGP attendees – this means that the TGP this year can support micro-grants, paying $250 to support the bus travel, food, and drink of a community member in Uganda that ordinarily would not be able to get to the conference in theory on their doorstep – because of this, every little helps, saving $100 here, $300 there etc. This may sound like hyperbole, but it’s a direct and concrete way that FOSS4G is widening access, in both economically disadvantaged and gendered situations.

Ultimately: If you are a workshop presenter at FOSS4G this year and are unable to get your ticket/want a free ticket, please get in touch with me – we’ll sort you out and make it right. If this has given the impression that we are taking advantage of our workshop presenters – it is not the intention, nor the case and we’re sorry.

Going forward, I’d recommend there be a further discussion within the conference selection process on whether workshop presenters, keynotes etc are given free passes and clarify whether it should be one way or the other – but that is not for me or my committee to decide! It’s 70 days to go to the best FOSS4G yet… and we’ve got a conference to put on!

Thanks to all of you who make this community great 🙂


Mark (FOSS4G2018 Conference Chair)