Michael , Rob and “Mark”: http://evans.blogware.com/blog/_archives/2006/2/21/1775451.html are putting together the next big thing in Toronto. It’s a grassroots conference aimed at bringing together the Toronto (and Canadian) community with thought leaders in the participatory web culture (read/write web, web 2.0, call it what you want).
Our goal for this conference is to put on a quality (read top notch keynotes included, plus catered meals) two day conference with a grassroots feel. It will be a paid conference and include panels and workshops as well as the keynotes, and we'll have some bargain basement pricing for 50 or so students.
Scoble and Jeff Jarvis both posted about “rise of unconferences and why they don’t scale” in late January 06. I’ve been thinking about this a lot. Jess and I have been talking about the plan for CanUX 2006 and how to build a successful conference. Scoble and Jeff Jarvis hit it on the head. We’ve never run a huge conference, but just running TUS and CanUX I’ve learned it’s possible to put these conferences on inexpensively, but a huge challenge (TUS was about 50 people in May 2003 and CanUX was 50 people September 2005). There is a question of the economics of running a conference. Organizations like SIGCHI put on a big conference every year, and some years the conference makes money, other years it doesn’t. There are a lot of factors that determine the potential for success, see Rob Jacob’s SIGCHI 2005 and
SIGCHI 2006 budget discussions (it’s also scary to realize that CHI is a $2.5M/year event to run, that’s a huge undertaking).
As many of you know, our financial history over the last few years has consisted of several very fat years followed by several very lean years, roughly corresponding to the boom and bust of the tech economy. Our finances are mainly driven by our conferences. While we keep our membership income and expenses roughly in balance, conference planning is much riskier because we must commit many of the expenses long before we know what the corresponding income will be. This tends to amplify the swings between lean and fat years for us.
This is going to be an exciting time for Toronto. I hope that we can figure out a way to put on a world-class event , and keep the costs from sky-rocketing!