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105

105 JSJ JSConf and Organizing Conferences with Chris Williams


Panel

Discussion

01:11 – Chris Williams Introduction

08:00 – Measuring Success

  • Profit
  • Community Appreciation
  • Presentation

11:46 – Creating a New Conference from Scratch

21:43 – Cost & Budget

26:13 – Venues

35:15 – Feedback

37:36 – Planning an Outdoor/Woodsy Event

45:48 – Cost & Budget (cont’d)

56:52 – Sponsors

01:04:10 – Speakers

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TRANSCRIPT

CHUCK:  Yo, yo, yo, coming at you live. TIM:  Nailed it. [This episode is sponsored by Frontend Masters. They have a terrific lineup of live courses you can attend either online or in person. Their upcoming course is JavaScript to Node, which covers some advanced JavaScript topics and real-time web development with Node.js. You can also get recordings of their previous courses like JavaScript the Good Parts, AngularJS, CSS3 In-Depth, and Responsive Web Design. Get it all at FrontEndMasters.com.] [This episode is sponsored by Component One, makers of Wijmo. If you need stunning UI elements or awesome graphs and charts, then go to Wijmo.com and check them out.]  CHUCK:  Hey everybody and welcome to episode 105 of the JavaScript Jabber Show. This week on our panel, we have Tim Caswell. TIM:  Hello. CHUCK:  AJ O’Neal. AJ:  Yo, yo, yo, coming at you live from the dinosaur bones of Vernal, Utah. CHUCK:  Jamison Dance. JAMISON:  Hello, friends. CHUCK:  I’m Charles Max Wood from DevChat.TV. And we have a special guest this week, Chris Williams. CHRIS:  Hey everyone. I don’t know if I can really classify as special. How about just guest? CHUCK:  Okay. You want to tell us about yourself really quick? CHRIS:  Sure. So, I do a lot of different things. The main one that most people know me about is JS Conf. It’s a little conference that could, as it were. It started as an organic, crazy idea of mine to have a conference that treated JavaScript like a real language, and has grown over the years. It was the platform that PhoneGap and Appcelerator came into the scene. Node.js came onto the scene by way of JSConf. And a whole bunch of other JavaScript projects have taken root because of the event. We do things a lot differently than most other conferences. And that’s intentional for the most part. We’re trying to push boundaries, trying to do different models. And simultaneously, we also try to encourage other people to create their own events and their own voice and take that and give them as much knowledge and as much capability and as much effort and support as we possibly can to allow them to go forward and do that, hopefully creating enough voices and enough conferences that everybody can find something that fits them. CHUCK:  You left one thing off. CHRIS:  The JS logo? CHUCK:  You sell out wicked fast. CHRIS:  I sell out wicked fast. Not in the punk rock, hate you sell-out type thing. Well, maybe. People have their opinions. But yeah, we do sell out very fast. It’s something that we’ve actually tried. We’ve put a lot of time and effort every year into figuring out way that we can not have that problem. And yeah, as people in business side say, that’s a great problem to have. People who don’t get tickets say it’s the worst problem in the world. CHUCK:  Well, Apple figured it out, right? You hold a lottery and then nobody gets to go, he said bitterly. [Laughter] CHRIS:  I think some people get to go. They were just best friends. JAMISON:  Chris, I have a question for you. CHRIS:  Yeah. JAMISON:  What do you do? In my head, you’re just this traveling minstrel of JavaScript. You just fly all over the place and start up cool conferences. But is that your full-time job? CHRIS:  No, not at all actually. It’s like my fifth job, to be honest with you. So, I do Node.js consulting, trying to help businesses get their strategy together with Node.js, because I’ve built out a couple of companies at this point doing Node.js programming, including my most recent one which was a real-time senior safety monitoring system. Think about the 1990s “I fall and then I can’t get up,” but brought into the modern era with Wi-Fi based sensors, motion contact, push button, stuff of that nature, to allow people to live longer in their homes. And because of that, I have a bit of domain experience and expertise about Node that I try to share with companies and help them with their strategy for it. That’s the primetime, let’s call full-time job. I’m also a fantastic logistics and delivery boy for my wife’s floral design studio. She does wedding flowers. So, I’m very good at knowing a ranunculus from a tulip from a rose, which is an odd trait to have as a developer. And then the conferences are the backseat out of all of those. JAMISON:  That is really interesting, because they’re not [inaudible]. CHRIS:  At all overlapping. JAMISON:  Yeah. They’re not at all over-, well, mostly. CHRIS:  They’re competitive most times. JAMISON:  But also, do people who you deliver flowers to ask for your autograph because you started JSConf. [Laughter] CHRIS:  So, that’s only happened once. And it wasn’t delivering flowers. We were just out at dinner. And randomly, somebody just walked over and was, “You’re Chris Williams of JSConf.” And I’m like, “This is weird.” And Laura’s like, “You’re so nerd famous. It’s disgusting.” And I was like, “I’m not nerd famous though. Nobody really knows who I am.” The other thing I do that’s not really a job but sort of a thing is NodeBots. I’m trying to bring people to robotics that are software developers. AJ:  Yeah. CHRIS:  So, I’m involved in all these different things and slightly known in some of them, as it were. CHUCK:  Very cool. JAMISON:  So, you also started RobotsConf last year, right? CHRIS:  Yup. JAMISON:  I think that was the first. I’ve never been to a JSConf, but RobotsConf was the first of the JSConf family of conferences I’ve been to. And it was really great. CHRIS:  Thanks. Yeah, it was the first year we did it. It’s funny to do it versus other sorts of things. So, my wife and I, she helps out with the conferences as well, much like I help out with the floral design and delivery. So, we have this whole fleet of conferences that we’ve done. I actually have a wall that I’m looking at right now that has… she’s cut out all of the pictures, or not pictures, but the shirts and mounted them on the wall. And we’ve done everything from NoSQL conferences to Python conferences to JavaScript conferences, obviously. And then one of the things that we’ve noticed over the years, and partly it’s my skewed view of the world from being the author of node-serialport, but a lot of people are fearful and fretful and just disastrously afraid of hardware. Software developers will tell you that a nine-volt battery will cause them to erupt in flames. [Laughter] CHRIS:  And couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, it’s a lot of fun to lick them. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried that, but do it. It’s awesome. [Laughter] JAMISON:  Right. CHRIS:  And Remy Sharp who you probably know, big in the JavaScript domain, we gave him an Arduino and he was happy as could be. He was so worried he was going to burn out the LEDs, was going to overcharge the LEDs. And I’m like, “They’re less than a penny. They’re the thing you don’t have to worry about blowing up.” Blow up seven of them. Who cares? And it wasn’t until I heard myself say that, that I realized we need to create a comfortable, safe environment for software developers to become, or at least have the affordance and opportunity to become hardware developers. And so, we started things like NodeBots and NodeCopter. And this year at JSConf, we’re doing NodeRockets and NodeBoats, because what’s better than geeks in a pool with electricity? [Laughter] CHRIS:  But programmatic electricity in a pool with geeks. So, that evolved to this thing called RobotsConf which we do a popup makerspace and have ten soldering irons laid out and two laser cutters and more 3D printers than you’d ever want in a room. And then we let people just go and build. And we give them a survey of the world. And then we have domain experts nearby. And the neat thing about RobotsConf is it’s one of the few hard, challenging go build stuff that doesn’t cater to a single language. We had people there that were Ruby developers and Python developers and JavaScript developers and .NET developers. And that to me is the happy spot when we can all put down our swords and sabers and shields and say it’s not about language. It’s about changing the world. It’s about doing things. It’s about making life better. And that for me resonates in something that I want to try to keep going forward. CHUCK:  So, what in your opinion really makes a successful conference? It seems like the RobotsConf is a much less heavy organization and more just, “Okay, here’s how you do this kind of stuff. Now, go build,” whereas JSConf seems a little bit more structured. CHRIS:  It’s funny that you say that, because from the organization side, it almost feels the inverse of that. So, the definition of success of a conference, there are two different ways of looking at that. There’s the organizers’ view which most organizers of conferences, they view it as a success under I’d say about three different metrics. And for each organizer, one of the three or multiple of the three might apply to their independent, individual definition of success for the event. The one that’s obvious is making a profit or at least not going negative. So, that’s a metric. That’s an obvious metric. The second one is whether the community was appreciative or happy with the event. And then the third one is whether or not things from the event went forward and built on top of the things that were presented. And for me personally, I view it as a success on number two and number three. Number one is just a safety guard. I don’t want to lose money because no matter what anyone thinks that hasn’t run a conference, it’s very hard to balance the budget, to make sure that you don’t go in a hole. It’s almost impossible to do anything but wrong. So, that sort of thing for me is just a safety guard. But the other two are my personal definitions of success for the event. And then from the attendee, I try to envision an attendee as their definition of success being, I got more out of this event than I put into in terms of a ticket cost or time away from family. In part, a lot of our decisions with JSConf are directed by that. We encourage people to bring families or significant others and make them a part of the event, have them be a part of the community that’s present for the event. For RobotsConf, it’s actually a much easier definition, or manner for success and organization-wise, but not. It’s a different sort of thing. Managing the thousands of cats of making sure that you have enough servos for everyone to build with and the different parts for everyone to build with, and making sure that you’re not falling deep, deep into the hole of debt, is the worry point for that. Doing a conference where people could cut their thumbs off is always another concern. [Laughter] CHRIS:  Which RobotsConf, that was a legit concern. I had to explain to our venue in an anecdotal funny story we’re doing the preconference for RobotsConf. And they’re like, “So Chris, what are you throwing at us this time?” I said, “So, we’re going to have ten soldering irons. They go up to about 750 degrees Fahrenheit. They’re dripping metal onto other pieces. So, can you show me where the fire extinguishers are and can we have a couple extra put in the room?” And they’re like, “You know what? Sure. We’ll go buy you more fire extinguishers.” And then they’re like, “Anything else?” And I was like, “We have the laser cutter. So, they have to vent the fumes. So that way, we don’t kill anybody.” And they’re like, “Okay, this is yet another unique request.” And so, it’s been kind of fun. I think I’ve [inaudible] them for almost everything, which is why rockets and boats is going to be so interesting to see if they’d really say anything about it. The team that’s running NodeRockets, they’re getting the videos together and all for it. We’re going to be shooting devices up into the air between 500 and 700 feet in the air. And so, they come down with some pretty good g-forces. So, it’ll be a good time had by all. JAMISON:  I want to ask a little bit about, it seems like it’s almost a chicken and egg problem when you’re creating a new conference. So, JSConf by now, it’s an established name that lots of people want to go to and lots of people want to speak at. How do you create that from scratch? How do you make people excited to come to something brand new and excited to speak at something brand new? CHRIS:  Mind if I take that apart a little bit? JAMISON:  Sure. CHRIS:  So, the perception from attendees and from ticket buyers is that, bear in mind that conference organizers have a different perception. So, before diving into the how to do it, Laura and I, my wife and I, always fear that this year’s JSConf is going to be the year that nobody buys a ticket at all. Zero people will buy a ticket. It’s not until you open up the first ticket sales that you have any indication about that. And you build this event based off of last year. And last year may not be similar to this year. So, there’s always that worry. And I work with a lot of mentoring a lot of other conferences. And I try to teach them to hedge bets. So, if you went last year or set your contracts at the same amount that you set them for last year, venue spaces always let you go up but they’ll never let you go back down. And so, there’s a huge amount of upfront debt in conferences. A good case in point and speaking from experience, for JSConf this year, we had to lay down $220,000 contractually agreed to and paid as a deposit upfront with a guarantee of delivering something like $400,000 of just strict food and beverage and room night commits. Actually, with the room nights, it just spirals up in terms of total amount, because it’s $2,000-some odd room nights that we have to commit to. And if we don’t fill those up, that goes onto our shoulders. So, I have that fear every single time we do an event, and that sort of worry. So, I wanted to preface the next part with that information. To create an event, especially like the first JSConf, it’s a balance, a dance, as it were. And it was funny doing RobotsConf because you’d assume somebody who’s done events like JSConf wouldn’t have problems. But every new conference is a new conference. They all suffer from that first year problem. And at first you problem is that you want to make an amazing event to create and establish a name. But in order to make an amazing event, you have to have people show up. People don’t want to show up because they don’t know about the event or they are skeptical about the event. So, I’ve always pitched this idea of doing a faux first event where you just set up a website one year. You plan to do it the next year and you put up random pictures of people just having a blast. [Laughter] CHRIS:  And you encourage or incite some people to make comments like, “Oh my god. It was so great last year.” There was no last year. That’s one way of doing it. That’s fraudulent and tricky, but I’ve always… JAMISON:  The secret’s out though, now. I can’t do that anymore. CHRIS:  I’m fascinated with that idea. I think that would be great. JAMISON:  So, every event you start is the second annual whatever [laughs]. CHRIS:  Right. This is the second annual developer conference that you’ve not heard of before. So, all I can give you is anecdotal evidence from myself and from the groups that I’ve mentored. The first JSConf is probably the best anecdotal evidence for this. When we booked it, when I had the crazy idea, so I was out with my friend and we were looking at each other, I was like, “Hey we should go to a JavaScript conference.” And he was like, “Yeah!” And he is Ken Henderson. He eventually became our AV master for the conference. And so, we looked around on the internet and couldn’t find any JavaScript conferences. And let’s just say we weren’t in a proper state of mind and we decided we’re going to make our own. JAMISON:  [Laughs] CHRIS:  And we didn’t back out of it, which was probably a bad thing long-term. But I kept pushing forward with it and made a website and got it all. I found a venue. I was ready to go. I started reaching out to speakers, which then you’re building up a base of cost that goes along with this. And then I put it out on Hacker News and everyone hated it. And, “That’s a dumb idea,” and, “This is stupid,” so you start doubting it. But no, no, no, I’m going forward. And we were about 45 to 60 days out from the conference, had sold, I think it was closer to the 45 mark, and hadn’t but three tickets at all. And we were driving. My wife and I were driving down to Arlington to the venue to sign the final agreement with the venue. And when you sign that, you’re basically committing to them that you will provide them, one way or the other, some amount of revenue commitment. And when you do that, that’s like, “Oh goodness. Here goes my life savings if no one buys a ticket.” And with three tickets on the line, we had said, “You know what? Let’s not do this.” We were driving down the highway. Before we got in the car, we had fought a lot and said, “We’re not doing this. This is a dumb idea. I need to get our ass out of this. I’m going to mess up the family.” And so, before we get in the car I to save face, being completely transparent and honest, it was more to save face that, “Hey look, I made a mistake. We’ll mark it as sold out instead of marking it as failed conference event.” Marked it as sold out, got in the car, drove. It’s a 45-minute drive. In the distance from our house to the venue, the conference actually had a waiting list deep enough to sell out the actual event. And I learned a valuable principle about human nature that most sales people know already but most developers, myself included, had no idea. Nobody wants to go to a dance if nobody else is going to the dance. So, you have a bootstrapping problem of until somebody says that they’re going to be there, or more importantly until it seems like they can’t get to the dance because everybody’s there, and I mention dance because it’s very much like a high school mentality like prom. It’s a fear like, “Oh, I don’t want to be the only person who’s there,” or, “Oh, I don’t want to go because the cool kids aren’t there.” Whatever mentality it is, it’s present in basic human nature. So, by flipping it to sold out, everyone thought that they couldn’t get a ticket, so they wanted a ticket naturally, which is the most painful thing I believe in starting a conference. I deal with this when I’m helping, mentoring new events. We dealt with it with RobotsConf. We dealt with it with the first JSConf. It’s a common problem of how do you start that energy. And so, for groups that I mentor, depending upon their time schedules, I’ll recommend that they mark themselves as sold out. There is not benefit to necessarily leaving the tickets open unless you’re over what I’ll call financial hump. If you’re over the financial hump, you can just let things run its course. And that hump being where your expected income matched with the scale of the event should equal at least zero, ideally a dollar or two if not more. I don’t care so much about more. I care that anybody who takes that risk, takes that leap to start a community event, that they don’t end up with a bag of just horrible amount of debt because they tried to do something for the community. Python, with the PSF actually, has something similar. But because they’re a foundation they accept funds and then they can divvy those funds out. All I have because I’m just me is time and mentorship. So, I provide that out to everybody. And if I had money, I would try to wash the debt away for any group that takes the risk and does it, because for me as a community event, the community should support it. Unfortunately, in JavaScript land we’re not that organized as a community. But we should. I think it’s every three months there’s a new call for a foundation, whether it be a Node Foundation or a JavaScript Foundation or some foundation. And there are pluses and minuses, but I would just like to see people who take a risk not necessarily be stuck with all that risk at the end if nobody shows up type thing. Does that answer your question, or did I ramble completely off tangent? JAMISON:  No, that gives a lot of interesting things to think about. But you would say the main point is you need to create an impression that people are already going. Is that a good tl;dr? CHRIS:  That’s a good statement, yeah. Yup. Tl;dr is make it appear, whether it’s truthful or not, that a lot of people are going. That helps get people to go, human nature. The other one, if I may throw out another piece, is to ensure that your message, your reason for coming, is well articulated. This is a thing that we learned with JSConf, is as we’ve gone further down the path and we rely more on word of mouth about the event, in the first couple of years articulation of what this event is and why somebody should pay for a ticket is vital. If you can craft that in, I think it’s under eight words, you have something that sticks in their brain. We learned that again with RobotsConf where it’s this crazy concept we’re going to bring software developers. So, it sounds like it should have a huge market, right? We’re now catering to all software developers. But because it’s all, nobody thinks, “It’s me.” And that forces them to reevaluate, is it me that should go? Or is it someone else? I’m unsure. And so, it wasn’t until we got to the final message point that we got to that we understood that this was the problem. And the final message we got to was, “Arrive a developer, leave a maker.” And that message just resonated. And once we nailed that message, things went a lot smoother for that event. And it’s that short, almost sales pitchy, almost elevator pitch that if you were building a startup you’d need anyways. But for a conference having that nailed is one of the fundamental core pieces. So, those would be the two that I’d give as main tips. JAMISON:  That’s really interesting. TIM:  So, I have a question. I’ve always wanted to do a local conference but I am just terrified at the time commitment. How small could you make it or how much time outside of the money would it be to do a conference? I’m in the middle of nowhere. How could that even work out? CHRIS:  So, there are easy ways to balance that cost. I’ve done CapitolJS, which was a Washington, D.C. focused attempt to reduce the cost. We just recently finished up JSFest. Michael did out in San Francisco which was approaching free. So, in terms of making it accessible in terms of cost, it’s very easy to do. But you have to be very strict and regimental on your budget. That also applies for the other side where you make the event cost a lot and you spend it back into them. You have to watch the budget. I’m very regimental about spreadsheets and tracking very last little income/expense. And with the income, with the percentage take from the ticket vendor, or the percentage take from the credit card processor. And so, getting a realistic estimate and budget of it is vital to both of those scenarios. Specifically to yours, it realistically just takes passion. And I recommend getting a mentor if it’s the first time doing it. and the mentor thing, any JSConf organizer around the world is always willing and able barring external forces, childbirth or work or stuff of that nature, to help out with those sorts of things as best as they can. And that includes all of our regional events, too. It’s sort of an ethos that we’ve tried to give out. And I actually learned this and so I started it in the beginning, learned this at SEED Conference which was in Chicago, I want to say ’08, 2008, maybe 2007. Jason Fried of 37signals was onstage and he was talking about how what you want you do is not be the greatest chef in the world, because a great chef can only create events of his own hands or her own hands. They become bound to the creations that they make. And for that reason, they have no lasting long-term benefit. Be Betty Crocker. Make cookbooks and give them away. Give the knowledge set away to people and you can build an empire. Now, this was more on how to build a massive business. And part of that for me took root of I don’t want to be the only conference organizer. I want to be the person who helped a hundred other people make conferences in their own voice. And so, that ethos has permeated through. So, I would definitely say direct your question. Find somebody who’s done it before and ask them for help. They should be willing to help you. And if they aren’t, come talk to me. And in terms of setting up the regional, Tim you’re a big enough name. You should be able to pull a good amount of audience. Just if you want to stand up there and do a comedy routine, I do not suggest doing a comedy routine. [Laughter] CHRIS:  Let’s just say I’ve been there. That doesn’t work out well. But you can stand up there and just talk for a bit and then get that first year under the belt. And then make a decision about whether or not that’s something to continue with. TIM:  So, the biggest thing I’ve done is a lot of meetups in Silicon Valley. When I first moved to Palo Alto from East Texas, I was at the Sencha office. I’m like, “Hey, let’s do a Node meetup.” This was summer 2010. Node was brand new. And 50 people showed up including Doug Crockford. And I was like, “Wow. That’s crazy.” But I was at the right place and it was a hot topic. So, I think that’s why it was so easy. CHRIS:  That’s a huge benefit. I wouldn’t rest my laurels on. I don’t know if I used that statement correctly, but we’re going to go with it. Yeah, that’s hard. But it’s also easy to do. So, JavaScript’s hot right now. It’s easy to start up a JavaScript event assuming that you are in that domain. For me personally, I like to push the edges and push the boundaries of that. So, most of my anecdotal experience comes from that exact thing of pushing the boundaries. If you’re bringing it to an area, one, we do have a great community that’s very supportive. So, I’d say go with it. If you’re down for it, go with it. But reach out. Don’t be afraid to reach out to people. You don’t have to do it all yourself. I think there’s a line from Frozen in there that I want to start singing right now. [Laughter] JAMISON:  We can auto-tune it if your voice isn’t that great. CHRIS:  Please don’t slam the door. [Chuckles] JAMISON:  [inaudible] CHRIS:  No one else? Yeah [chuckles]. AJ:  I got it. It just, the laugh came late. CHRIS:  Oh, I know it. I [inaudible] singing anymore. [Chuckles] CHUCK:  So, I have a question that’s related to some of the stuff you talked about, specifically with the venue. You do it on Amelia Island. It’s at a resort. Some other conferences I’ve been to they’ve been at little conference venues or the conference here is at the Salt Lake City Library. I’m really curious as to what the difference you think there is between doing something at a large venue versus doing something at a smaller venue. CHRIS:  Okay. That question has a lot of parts to it. The main thing for me in the way that a conference is done is generally speaking, the curator or the curation team’s idea. If you want to just create a conference, that’s easy enough to do. If you want to create something that has its own idea or its own ethos, that’s a different realm. I’ll target the second one. So, we started out at a small venue. 135 people the space could hold. And we repeated it there for the next year. And so, we started out very small. And then the next year after that, we got that, “Hey let’s make it big” bug. And we purposely kept JSConf constrained which is why it sells out. It sells out now because we don’t want to create a 1000-person JavaScript conference. We don’t want to create a 2000-person JavaScript conference, because there are too many complexities that prevent me from creating the feeling and atmosphere that I want. We do things differently than most conferences, like I said. So, we do round tables in our lecture space where every other large conference in the world does reception style or theater style seating. For those of you that don’t know the lingo, it’s round tables and you have ten people around a table. And then there’s another round table, much like you would have at a wedding. And theater or classroom is what you’d see at a standard lecture or a meetup if you sit down where it’s just rows of chairs. We did this in the beginning because we couldn’t afford to have the eating space separate from the conference space. So, it was an accidental thing. I call it emergent design in hindsight. But in the beginning it wasn’t as articulated and crafted as I lead on for it to believe now. What ends up happening is much like with the wedding. You’re forced to communicate with people because there’s an awkward silence, especially in between speakers where you’re looking at somebody and you’re just like, “Okay, I should talk to this person.” And that really affords people to converse with one another. That creates a small event feel, because then you get to know those ten people really well, versus a reception or theater seating which are almost discouraging at all times to talk from anyone. The person to your left, you don’t have to look at them. You can look straight ahead. The person to your right, same thing. The person in front of you, you’re just looking at the back of their head anyway, so it doesn’t matter. And the person behind you is looking at the back of yours. So, there’s no real encouragement to actually make that first awkward stab at, “Hey, my name is.” And I’d say there’s a more metaphysical discussion about that. Here is a big event where big event means that you are a, you feel like a number. And here’s a small event where everything about the event makes you feel like you’re at a small, intimate event. And that may be despite or disconnected to the actual number of attendees. So, we’ve always tried to keep or retain that focus on creating intimate experiences. Historically, and we have this odd graph and timeline through history, which would be a thing that I would love to discuss at some point, that JSConf when it started focused on a certain form of intimate gatherings. And that being lectures, amazing lectures during the day with the round seating, the track B that allows anyone to get up and speak, a curated hallway conf, and then in the evening we had a big party and everyone could just let loose and let their guard down a bit and have a good time. That’s a way of doing it. And a lot of conferences that we’ve helped mentor are still doing that, and that’s great. There’s nothing negative against that model. But what we’ve realized at some point, and this going to the coming about Amelia Island, is that caters to a segment of the audience, the broader audience, the broader community. We wanted to help create something new with our last event that we’re continuing forward with that keeps that intimate focus but also affords a broader, more inclusive segment of the audience. And I say that being fully open and honest, that events where there’s high party value to low other value, or where there’s high party value not in a distinguished or against other values segment, those can be off-putting to people who don’t or cannot or should not imbibe in beverages, whether it’s an explicit negative against them which rarely happens. But there’s always the implicit of, “I can’t enjoy this. Other people are,” or, “I chose or do not want to enjoy this,” of that nature. And so, we wanted to create something that if you want to do that, that’s fine. If you don’t, that’s fine. And so what we did is we shifted the entire event around family. And this had a lot to do with our own situation. We were having my now one-year-old right about this, actually at the beginning of March. And so, with a very much pregnant wife and already having a two-year-old running around the house causing trouble, we decided that we were going to kill JSConf or at least take a sabbatical off. And we go down to Amelia Island for Christmas every year, the Christmas time. And my wife’s parents have a condo there. And so, we’re just sitting at the beach and we’re like, “You know what? Nobody’s taken this and made it a family resort vacation thing.” People make fun of or poke at conferences because they’re a geek vacation. Okay. I can see that. But what if we actually made it a true geek family vacation? What if we gave people the chance to build a lasting community outside of, taking it even a step further? We always encouraged S.O.’s to come, but there wasn’t a great chance to really get to know that whole S.O. and kids and family unless you were on the S.O. track. So, why don’t we bring everyone together and switch out “parties” for family style dinners, big family style dinners where everyone can gather and everyone can meet each other. So, S.O.’s or significant others, they can join in and be there and you get to learn the whole knowledge set and the whole experience of the other person, because let’s be honest, most of us aren’t islands. We’re not isolated individuals in the world walking just by ourselves. We are the product of our experiences, of our relationships, of our friends, of our family. And it’d be great to have an event where that was a core component. And so, for last year we did that. And we also added a new thing that because we’re making it a bigger event, we wanted a way to retain that intimacy. In a lecture space, you don’t have to be feeling small. There’s no real way aside from the tables and just by a physical nature of being small to get around bigness in a lecture space. What you can do and what we did was we added a choose-your-own adventure day where you get broken up into small groups of basically no bigger than 10 to 20 for your large tours. And you get to go with a group of people who have similar interests and go do stuff. So, we offer kayak tours and Segway tours and building robots all day and flying copters, and the boats and rockets I spoke about before, going golfing, hanging out on the beach, going to the pool. And we encourage you to get to know each other versus forcing you to follow a stream. And it realistically has turned out very nicely. I have to admit, being fully honest about it, last year was the first year I felt satisfied and fulfilled by JSConf, which is an odd thing to say as the organizer. But it had every element that I want in an event and felt, to me, perfectly correct. And that said, I still thought of ways that we could make it better. But it had that feeling that at the end felt cathartic and complete. And so, we took that and made RobotsConf. And RobotsConf felt even more so that. So, I’ve got a feeling I’m on a right path with this. And hopefully, by doing these events, it helps create new events that will go further on from there. CHUCK:  That is so cool. It really just hits everything that I feel like I miss when I go to the traditional conferences. CHRIS:  It’s funny that you say that, because I looked at the feedback. There was a certain point where a certain bit of feedback came out and a lot of my fellow conference organizers took that feedback as negative and fought against it. I took it as negative and internalized it and had a lot of dark moments about it. But at some point, if you can take feedback, whether it’s negative or positive, and discern or distill out what the person is trying to say, stripping away the sentiment out of it but keeping the core components, you can change or at least adapt to that feedback and sometimes make the event or make the everything, whether you’re doing software or products or you’re doing hardware products or you’re doing events or anything, if you can listen to and tune into your feedback, it actually becomes a great vehicle to make change and make things better. It’s just figuring out how to discern what the core issue is and then listening, being willing to listen and adapt to it. So, the feedback that you just gave, I hear that a lot from people that come to JSConf from the last year. A lot of people don’t go to conferences because they feel like it’s just parties all the time and lackluster talks. I didn’t go to conferences that much before because I hated the fact that every single talk on the stage I could watch on YouTube for free. So, what am I here for? And that’s why, this jumps track, but JSConf, we pick speakers based off of people who haven’t been heard, who haven’t had stage time. And so, because of that, one: we’re always at the forefront of the next thing, hopefully. We also have some that don’t work out. That’s perfectly fine. That’s the nature. And I do that because I don’t want to go to a conference where I’m hearing Douglas Crockford get up and give the same speech that he’s given every single time he’s been up on stage. He just revved ‘IE 6 must die’ to ‘IE 7 must die’. And that’s the only slide change. And so, I’m not a huge fan of that. There is a huge market for that. It’s just I try to fix things that for me seem to be the things that would cause me not to go to an event. TIM:  I’ve had this idea for a while. I don’t remember when I had it, about a woodsy conference. And I was wondering if we could just discuss it briefly here to [life]. CHRIS:  [Chuckles] I chuckle because Charles had mentioned Ruby DCamp, of all events. So, describe to me woodsy event. TIM:  So, the goal is to be family-oriented but also be very nature-oriented and be in Arkansas. That is one of the explicit goals. CHRIS:  Okay. TIM:  Which brings a whole slew of logistics issues, particularly travel. CHRIS:  Yup. TIM:  There’s Dallas. That’s a six-hour drive from where I want to be. And there’s Little Rock, which isn’t terribly hard to get to. CHRIS:  Yeah. TIM:  So, the idea was I want the conference in the Washita or Ozarks, somewhere very remote. And there are some nice venues out there that probably don’t cost a fortune. And I was thinking for the conference, we could start in Little Rock and have a bus with Wi-Fi that we do stuff on the bus while we’re doing the four-hour drive, whatever it is. And then when we get there, there are materials to set up camp and set up infrastructure. And we can do our own internal networking. And then basically, it’s just a workshop of how to build your own self-sustainable network, learning how the internet works, learning how software has very few boundaries. And we just have fun in the woods being geeks. And then we tear down, clean up the whole place, and drive back. I’m terrified of the logistics. CHRIS:  A completely legit concern. You have NodeConf. You’ve been to NodeConf, so that’s at Walker Creek Ranch. The logistics on that would be less crazy than the logistics you’re describing. One, for the distance. It’s not as far away from San Francisco, or at least an international airport as Little Rock, Ozarks are. So, you’ll have that. That’ll be a huge thing. Something to, or a piece to take note out of that was the distance in a bus begets a whole bunch of, let’s just say unsightly vomiting problems because of carsickness. Funconf, which was put on by Paul Campbell and Eamon Leonard, their first one was on a bus. And there were problems with the bus transport. And it’s just a thing, a logistics thing. That in the woods, nature thing, Ruby DCamp, Evan Light, he runs that. He and I came up with the idea originally and I pushed him to go further than just a camp like an unconf to actually be a camp like in the woods. And he has it in, I think it’s Manassas, or Prince William County Park. And so, it’s very similar in nature to your you pitch a tent, you have to do all the infrastructure pieces. And it’s a good thing, but it can be very stressful. In the moment, it’s beautiful. But the logistics leading up to it can be problematic. You’ll also have to worry about things that most other conferences won’t, like snake bites, splintered bones, people getting poison ivy, toilet paper. TIM:  Right. CHRIS:  Sometimes that is actually eased by the fact that people can go find a piece of forest and do business. But that’s a logistical thing that you’d have to cater to and make sure that you accommodate. TIM:  Right. CHRIS:  It’s a good idea. It would require you being very diligent on doing it. And I say that because I had a similar but different idea. I wanted to move JSConf back to my alma mater, Virginia Tech, and hold it down in Blacksburg. But the closest airport to Blacksburg, Virginia is five hours away. And so, they’d have to be bussed down. And it’s mountain road. So, it’s a long, long mountain bus ride down 81 which has a lot of trucks, a lot of wind shear, all this stuff. But I was like, “No, no. Let’s do that.” Get everyone down there. They have the Internet2 drop down there, because it’s a technical school. It’s a beautiful mountain-scape. We’ll go hiking. AJ:  Yes, it is. CHRIS:  We’ll go backpacking. We’ll go whitewater rafting. That’s a great idea. Let’s go whitewater rafting down the gully river. And then you go and you ask your insurance company because you have to, as a business, have insurance for these sorts of things. How much insurance would I need to take, let’s say 300 or 400 geeks into the woods? And they’re going to go, “You can’t pay us enough to do that.” And so, you may be able to work with one to get a 10 to 20 million dollar insurance policy, which is the bare minimum that as a conference organizer I would say you should look at for that sort of thing, because while it would be great to think that everyone who shows up would never sue somebody for tripping and falling down the mountain, you can’t especially in your situation Tim where you have kids, you don’t want to put their existence on the line because of your conference. So, you need to have that insurance basis on it. So, I’d contend that your hardest thing out of the entire thing is getting the business insurance to protect you if something, god forbid, ever happens. TIM:  Right. CHRIS:  And that’s something that most people do not account for, because they’re like, “What, what? I don’t need business insurance for this. Let’s go to the woods!” TIM:  What if it’s small? What if it’s tiny? Like 20, 50 people. CHRIS:  One, you still need the insurance and then you just need to scope it appropriately for that. TIM:  Okay. CHRIS:  I’m not saying don’t do it. I’m just saying I’ve thought of it but I haven’t done it, for better, for worse. CHUCK:  I’ve had similar ideas sans camping I guess. Southern Utah has some really beautiful areas. And I thought it might be fun to do something like that around Zion National Park or Arches National Park where there’s a town reasonably close to it. But it’s still four, five, six hours from Salt Lake City’s airport and probably the same from Las Vegas. So, you would still have the bus ride at the beginning, unless people wanted to rent a car and go down themselves. Yeah, I’m still trying to figure out what the logistics would look like for something like that, because it still has that transportation problem. CHRIS:  Yeah. We’ve talked about doing a JSConf in, just to throw out ideas, let’s see. We’ve thought about doing one in Tennessee, but you run into a similar sort of problem. Tennessee has beautiful, what are the forests down there called? CHUCK:  Everglades? CHRIS:  No, Everglades is down in Florida. CHUCK:  Oh. CHRIS:  Tennessee has a Burnt Mountains or something like that. I don’t know what the name is off the top of my head. But it’s the same thing. The transportation becomes the bottleneck. With Amelia, it’s also a bottleneck unless you can afford a private jet to land on the small little airport that’s there. But we did buses back and forth. And luckily, it’s only a 45-minute turn. That is, one length of the turn. So, to get from an airport to plantation, it’s about 45 minutes. And so, it’s not arduous but it’s still a significantly long ride. And you probably have to wrap that into the pricing, either just to amortize the cost over everybody. So that way, it’s one thing that they don’t have to think about. Because developers, despite being very smart people, do not consider logistics. Not really a normal thing. We get this sometimes. We’re like, “How do I get from the airport to the hotel?” Well, you should, since you’re coming in three weeks beforehand, you should rent a car. “Well, why isn’t it provided?” “Because it just isn’t. How are we going to know that you were coming in three weeks ahead?” And so, you’d have to, I’d make the contention that you’d have to solve that. So, an example of one that I know that worked was Funconf II which was held at Lismore Castle, which is I think two to three hours south of Dublin. And everyone flew into Dublin. And they weren’t told where they were going. And so, everyone queued up for breakfast together. And you had to be there for the breakfast. And it was a wonderful breakfast. It was one of the best breakfasts I’ve had in my life. And then it was a surprise that you went on a bus and then were taken from the bus down to a castle. They also did that with Funconf III, the final, where it was a bus onto a train onto helicopters. So, in terms of logistics, it’s doable. It’s as crazy as you want it to be doable. But you just have to be prepared to take on those logistics. JAMISON:  I want to totally change directions, wildly different directions [chuckles]. CHRIS:  Dangerous. JAMISON:  Yeah. So, I want to talk about some of the financial parts of it, because I feel like there’s lots of information out there about how to, not lots but it’s easier to find information on how to create a feeling than on how to pay for stuff and how much things cost and what you pay for and things like that. So, you already mentioned the fact that you dropped $200,000 in a deposit for the hotel. And that was an order of magnitude more money than I thought was even the whole budget for the conference. [Chuckles] TIM:  And the food? JAMISON:  Yeah. So, can you lay out as much, I know  some of it might be private or whatever, but as much as you can, can you lay out how much things cost and what you pay for? CHRIS:  Yeah, absolutely. JAMISON:  The financial side of the conference. CHRIS:  So, part of this discussion is there, you see groups doing transparency reports of now, and I love those. I wish I could do them. But due to items in my contracts with venues in the United States, they can explicitly request you by way of contract to not expose data. JAMISON:  Sure. CHRIS:  And they do that because if I’m hosting an event at venue space A and you hosted one there and I can go back and reference that, then I have a leg up on negotiation. And I could say, “Well, you gave that person that amount. I demand that as well.” And a tip with this as well, just because I’m on that, everything in event space is negotiable unless you’re in a union-controlled state. I don’t know what the inverse of right to work state is, but a state where unions are allowed. And no knock on unions. I’m not saying anything bad about unions. I’m not saying anything about it. I’m just making a statement that there are states that have it and don’t. The states that don’t have it, it’s much easier to negotiate the pricing. And we do a couple of different strategies for that. So, let me [inaudible] the strategies for that to later. Let me give you some insight into the cost structures. For an event the size of JSConf, you’re looking at approaching a million dollars in expense. That comes out of speaker rooms. So, for us we have 22 speakers roughly. And we only cover speaker rooms and travel for our speakers. And we do that just as a, “Thank you very much for coming to the event. We’ll let you stay at the event the whole time.” And so, because of that we have to pay for four nights in the hotel. And so, the hotel, that number is public so I can give that number, that’s $220.80 with tax and resort fee included in it. So, you multiply that by 22 by the four nights and you’re at 88 some odd nights. And that can easily jump up to $20,000-$30,000 just right there. On top of that, you have travel, which generally speaking your skew towards international versus domestic and how early or late they book the travel is deterministic on how much that’s going to cost. So, for us we generally are between 12 to 20 thousand, just on getting speakers to the actual event. And in my mind, that’s not what I call a lost cost. I love paying for my speakers. I have grievances with some of the recent discussion about it. And it’s odd grievances. We can go into that later. JAMISON:  I was going to ask about that. CHRIS:  Oh, do you want to ask a question? JAMISON:  Oh no, not a specific one. CHRIS:  Okay. We can talk about it later. And hopefully, you’ll forget about it. [Laughter] CHRIS:  So, that’s a cost. And just getting the speakers and the trainers and all that, that we have at our event, what you might call the stage presence on the event, that takes up about 7% of our budget. And the food is realistically where the mainstay of it is. And now bear in mind with the recent model on JSConf, the food when I say that, it is inclusive of the evening dinners that we provide full meals. And we provide full meals for vegans and special preparation, those sorts of things they do. Some they cost more. But most conferences just roll that into the total cost. Also, every beverage costs money. Every gallon of coffee costs money. I think we went through 400 gallons of coffee for the event. And so, food and beverage for something like JSConf, I got to give you an estimated round-y number will hit something to the effect of over half a million dollars. So, percentage-wise about 70% of our income goes directly to food and beverage. And that’s a tremendous amount. And this is not uncommon for events. Almost all of the cost in a conference is the food cost, because what they do with the venue is they’ll give you the room for free but you’re paying for that food cost on top and over the top of the actual raw material cost. So that just gets rolled up into there. And that also includes the staff and everything else. It’s funny. This year we offered a significant other meal ticket for families that wanted to eat with the attendee at the conference. And we had some people complain about the cost. And I have to break it down for them like, “I hate to tell you this, but every single meal, any meal, breakfast, lunch, dinner, is ridiculous in terms of cost at a venue.” So, just to give you an estimated number on that, it’s about $75 per person to eat lunch at a venue. JAMISON:  Whoa. CHRIS:  Bear in mind, that is giving a nice meal. I sort of pride myself on providing great food at a conference. So, it’s not sandwiches. CHUCK:  No boxed lunches? CHRIS:  No boxed lunches. I’m not a fan of boxed lunches. Nothing against it, but not a fan of it for my personal events. So, when they get upset, I’m like, “Look. I’d love to give it to you cheaper. I really would. Trust me, because then I would be getting my meals cheaper and I can lower the total cost of the conference down.” We offer it as an opportunity. But the venue comes at us if they see people eating off a menu that aren’t there. And then we get that as a tail-end cost. So, we had to make the price that it is as it is just to give a context for it. JAMISON:  So, what I hear you saying is… CHRIS:  Don’t run conferences. [Laughter] JAMISON:  Don’t run expensive conferences, right? JSConf is totally an experience and we’ve spent a lot of time talking about it. It seems like that’s about the most difficult way you could possibly put on a conference. CHRIS:  I contend it’s the opposite, actually. Not necessarily in disagreement. I would make the contention that the ends of the spectrum are your hardest to do. The, I’m trying to create a highly accessible low-cost event is sometimes harder than creating a high-cost event. Now, when I say high-cost bear in mind, the cost of a large production event like an O’Reilly event is 2x that of a JSConf. JAMISON:  Oh, sure. CHRIS:  Not a knock, but it’s like we view the world of community events almost in complete disconnect and disregard to the other realm of events that are out there. So, I say that because if I run a low-cost, I set that cost structure upfront. TXJS is a great example of this. They wanted to create a regional low-cost event. They set their price thinking that they had all the budget enumerated. Unless you know exactly everything upfront, the low-cost aspect of it, it forces you to be very diligent on every last thing. So, if you forget gratuity in there, you’re in trouble, versus a potentially higher cost event where you can, not really rob Peter to pay Paul type thing, but what we do is we don’t book an event until it’s sponsored and thus has the money to cover it. Or, it’s external and have at any moment the ability to cut it. And so, we provide the base level as part of the ticket price. And then other indulgences or affordances, Segway, kayak, stuff of that nature, are covered by the sponsors. So, every last little bit of the conference is covered in some sort of a risk assessment way. I’m very much avoider of risk but a very much taker of educated and calculated risk. So, TXJS lost their, I wouldn’t say lost their shirt on the first year, but definitely did not make it such that it was worth the time and effort to do it because they were a lower cost event. And lower cost does not equate to lower quality. It’s a very high-quality event. So, the next year they made it a little bit higher with a bit of my encouragement. And so, it’s easier if you have that fluidity to do it. Also, the other thing to take account of in that is the higher cost event, you generally cut out a group of people that may not have an understanding of the production involvement in the event. And I say that because there are lower, are regional events or small events, you see this with meetups or pizza events where people just pay $10. In their mind, they think that $10 covers everything. It couldn’t be farther from the truth. But they believe that because they put in $10 that they’re entitled to the world and a half. And so, you see a lot of anger and, “Why wasn’t this done?” and the, “Why did I get a boxed sandwich?” “Well, you get a boxed sandwich because it was a $10 event.” And what’s “nice” with JSConf is that the price sort of sets the expectation that you’re going to be taken care of. And we don’t get a lot of people who want even more that is well beyond our ability to provide them. JAMISON:  That is some fascinating insight. CHRIS:  Said differently, there are a lot of people who get stuff for free that complain about it. [Chuckles] CHRIS:  There’s less amount of people who have to put some skin into the game that complain about it. JAMISON:  Sure. CHRIS:  Because they have an investment, be it financial or time, they’re more inclined to have to or in turn want to like it more, versus focus on the negatives. JAMISON:  Sure. That’s a thing from products in general, too. Free users are generally your highest support cost, too. So, it’s interesting you see the same reflection in conferences. CHRIS:  Yeah. CHUCK:  Can I ask another question? Because you mentioned you set your base ticket price to cover the base cost of the conference then you get sponsors to cover other stuff. What’s the best way to go about organizing things for sponsors and how do you set things up so that they’re giving you enough money to cover that stuff? CHRIS:  That’s a great question. So, sponsors. So, I have a budget spreadsheet and I have that as a template. That’s going to be my pick at the end, is my own budget spreadsheet. CHUCK:  I was going to ask if you could share it, but thank you. CHRIS:  Yes, I can share it. It actually is great to give out because it helps people realize. And it’s got rough estimated costs. And I give it to everyone who I mentor. And I’m like, “Just stick to the spreadsheet.” This gives you the baseline cost as things go up or they go down. You can see how things are. And so, with that I attach sponsorships to stuff that will provide an immediate identification by an attendee that, “Wow, this is awesome.” And because of that, they get the ROI or return on investment of the sponsorship. Now, I fight with new sponsors because their expectation is, “I’m going to give you money. I’m never going to see that. I’m going to have to send a booth. I’m going to have to send four people. And they’re going to have to fight. And ideally, the only thing I really get out of it is maybe a couple of leads from the people. Probably not, but I’ll definitely get an expense report from them. And I’ll probably get a roster of the people who attended the event.” Most sponsors go into events thinking they’re going to get a list at the end with email addresses and data about every user, or every attendee. We explicitly do not do that ever. And we explicitly keep that separate. We make sure that our sponsors do not send people that aren’t technical people. While it’s great for recruiting, we encourage them to send technical people who can speak to the other technical people there, make a friendship, and by way of that friendship create a recruiting aspect opportunity. So, said differently, if we all hung out and talk and we love having a conversation with each other and I’m looking to hire somebody and I’ve already met you and basically vetted you and you’re a good person, “Hey why don’t you come work with us? We do some really cool stuff.” As part of that, I was talking about how great the company is and sharing my experiences and it encourages you to come work. It works a thousand times better than sending a recruiter who doesn’t know any tech, speaks about the company only, and gives a real stand-offish almost feel to it, and doesn’t build a friendship first and a recruiting opportunity second. That’s one of the returns on investments. And then for everything else, we do one of the parties or dinners is associated and given credit to a sponsor. And those are our highest sponsorship levels. And we do that based off of previous years’ work and also the budget that we use as a template. And we build from there to get the estimated cost. Once we have the estimated cost, we average it across, in this case say three for our top sponsors. And that sets roughly the price point for the sponsorship. It may be higher. It may be lower. We leave a little bit of a slush buffer every year to handle those sorts of things. And that’s something that we always set. And that handles the, “Oh my goodness, we did not expect to have to buy 70-foot x 30-foot tents because it’s going to be the middle of hurricane season,” or anything like that. So, we leave that space capable and we set that based off of the number of sponsors, based off of the number of events. And so, with JSConf we have tiers. We have platinum, which is the dinners and those sorts of things. Gold, which is basically the Thursdays events, which give great one-on-one time and great brand identity and great brand exposure. And then a silver level, which are interesting accoutrements to the overall event, whether it be like a coffee sponsorship with the Espresso Bar or other things that liken to a company’s presence or their own company ethos. They can then bring in and make accordance. And it really helps them shine as who they are or maybe want to be perceived. JAMISON:  Man, there’s so much good stuff in there. I was writing in chat that… CHRIS:  [Chuckles] JAMISON:  …every three sentences I type wow in big letters. [Chuckles] JAMISON:  But I don’t want to just interject randomly while you’re talking. CHRIS:  Oh, go ahead. CHUCK:  Wooow. JAMISON:  Yeah, there you go. CHRIS:  [Laughs] TIM:  Wow. JAMISON:  Tim, what were you going to say? TIM:  So, I’ve been to a lot of conferences. I average about ten a year. I’ve been trying to cut it back. And looking at last year’s budget, I was surprised that JSConf was the most expensive domestic conference. The only ones that cost more are where I had to buy international tickets for me and my family. But it surprised me, because it didn’t feel expensive. The experience I had there, I felt like that was one of the better deals. So Chris, you’re doing something right. CHRIS:  Well, thanks. That’s actually… So, if I may go from that, the thing that I always focus on when I have my budget up and if you look at it you’ll see, there’s a value per person mark. And what that is, is you take the total cost, take the total people, and then you come out from that number the amount of money spent per person. And if that number is significantly higher than the cost of the ticket, it should feel that way, because in essence you’re dumping all the money right back to the person. And it can be higher because you also have to account for sponsorship income, which is a much higher rate. We’ve always done an event where that number is higher. And as part of a personal thing, I’m going to continue that trend. And that has had the derivative effect, for better or for worse, of having that feeling where if you look at it, it may cost you a lot. But the value that you’re getting for it is significantly worthwhile. So, thank you. Thank you, Tim. I appreciate that. It’s very rare to get compliments about conferences. It’s funny. It’s partly a personality thing. You focus on the negative because you want to improve. You want that person to be happy. You’re bummed they’re let down or whatever, whatever the issue is. It’s a thing I’ve wrestled with many, many times, is focusing on the negative feedback and missing the positive. But there are a lot of people who may have never run an event that come out and try to tell you exactly how that event should have been run or what you did wrong. And they don’t know the context or the story or the backlog that happened with that. And so, it’s very awesome and very appreciated not just by me but I’d say by any conference organizer to hear things like that. So, thank you, Tim. I definitely appreciate that. TIM:  No problem. CHUCK:  I hate to wind this down, but we’ve been talking for an hour and fifteen minutes. So, I’m going to start heading that way unless there’s something obvious we’ve missed. TIM:  I think we’re good. Those were the main topics I wanted to cover. It’s been really good. AJ:  This was amazing. CHUCK:  Yeah. I think I got a lot of my questions answered, too. CHRIS:  Somebody wanted a speaker question. I don’t know if you want an answer to that. That’s the only one that I know that I heard that I deferred and if I’m lucky, I’ll defer it even further. JAMISON:  I’ll let you decide whether you want to take the bullet or not. CHUCK:  Paying speakers. Wasn’t that what it was about? CHRIS:  Similar to that. Here’s the way I’ll phrase it. I’ll make it short, sweet, and to the point. If a conference is providing for a speaker, that speaker should, I’d say, understand that the exchange rate on that is that they should be assisting in the conference. And while giving a great speech is the de facto stance of, “Well, I’m going to give the best speech ever,” sometimes it’s worthwhile being honest with yourself and saying, “You know what? I might not actually be the greatest speaker in the world.” And I might want to assist in, let’s say things like the promotion of the event, or let’s say some of the production aspects of the event. I personally love speakers and will think the world of the speaker, for speakers who, especially on the newer events, that go out of their way to help promote the event. It costs basically nothing to say, “Oh my god, I’m speaking at blah, blah, blah and I’m so stoked for it.” And very few speakers do that. It’s almost just passé like, “Yeah, I’ve got to go to this thing and do that thing.” And that to me, as an organizer, makes me less inclined to do anything more for a speaker than just give them a microphone and say, “Here. Here’s your opportunity to mess things up.” And I’d make the contention, for better or for worse, that most developers are not very articulate. We don’t get to go to public speaking classes. Most of us don’t take the time and opportunity to go out and better that skill. And because of that, and because we’re not professional speakers, I personally as a speaker would not rest on my laurels of the speaking. Most events that I speak at, which is very rare, but the ones I do I always help with ticket registration. Sometimes I do the whole AV stack. Sometimes I help lay out chairs and clean up afterwards, go around picking up trash, making sure that everyone knows about the event. I wish more people would do that. So, if I can make a plea to anyone listening, if you’re invited to speak somewhere please, please, please help out the organizer in whatever fashion you can. JAMISON:  Cool. That was interesting and positive. I thought you were going to trash on somebody from how reluctant you were to talk about it. But it makes a lot of sense. CHRIS:  It’s just a touchy subject. JAMISON:  Sure. CHRIS:  It can easily sound like an organizer complaining about the speakers. It shouldn’t. I’d hope not, in part because being staff at a conference is possibly the greatest experience in the world. But it’s something that I’m always hesitant to talk about because people have a way of not necessarily understanding context and run with it type thing. JAMISON:  Sure. That makes sense. You were trying to guard against the drive-by quotes that end up on some gossip-y TMZ website. CHRIS:  Could be. [Chuckles] CHRIS:  That’s a way of putting it. It’s also, there’s an argument to be made. I sit in an odd space. A lot of the speaker comments are directed to mass events that charge for the videos of the speaker after, once they’re done and do not cover speaker travel and accommodations. I don’t agree with that world. The other side is they cover the speaker travel and sometimes the speakers don’t deliver. And so, how do I as a person sit between the two and say I agree with this part over here and not that part over there without causing damage to the one side and/or the other simultaneously. So, for the most part I always stay quiet in that discussion because I don’t want to be involved in causing damage on either side by trying to do good for both sides. JAMISON:  Well, we’ll keep this out little secret. CHRIS:  Okay. It’s just only going out to the entire public, yeah. CHUCK:  That’s right. We only have a few thousand listeners. So, great. Well, we should probably have you come back on some time and do another episode on speaking at conferences, because it would be interesting to have somebody who we all feel is a great speaker and then have somebody who is a conference organizer and get both ends of the spectrum. CHRIS:  Yeah. It sounds great. I’d love to. It was a great conversation. Thank you very much. CHUCK:  Thank you. Well, let’s get into the picks. AJ, do you have some picks? AJ:  One. There’s this game that’s an ASCII-based adventure game called Untrusted. And it’s like this Tron universe type deal where you’re a professor who gets trapped in the computer and you need to get out. But all the levels are coded in such a way that you can’t win. Well, in the first level you pick up a computer item and then another screen appears beside the ASCII adventure game that is some source code and a menu system. And so, what you actually get to do is edit portions of the source code of that level in order to make it possible for you to complete the level. So, it was the most engaging game I’ve played in quite some time. There’s fun stuff from… there’s just little puzzles that you solve from things like rewriting a barrier so that it appears below you rather than above you, which hopefully that’s not too much of a giveaway, all the way to the final boss, which is actually fairly, well, maybe difficult. It took me a little bit of thinking to figure out. But just different things. It was fun and you don’t have to do it the way that they want you to do it. If you see a vulnerability in the code that you can exploit to make the thing what you need it to be, then you just do that and you win that level. So, it was fun. And then the other thing I’ll include is just a list. For people that are doing user groups and conferences and that kind of thing, I have a screen recorder system that’s a list of components you can buy off of Amazon that is significantly cheaper than the professional systems that are thousands of dollars. We’re talking, this thing, I think you put it together for less than $500. And then you can do direct screen recording instead of just recording what’s on the projector. You don’t have to worry about the speaker or preinstalling software or anything like that. It plugs in just like they plug into the projector. And somebody’s just got to hit the record button afterwards. So, I’ll include that link, too. CHUCK:  Okay. Jamison, what are your picks? JAMISON:  I have two picks. They’re both talks from a recent conference that was in downtown Salt Lake City a couple of weeks ago, MountainWest JS. And they’re very different talks. One is called ‘A GIF Odyssey’ and it’s this fantastical journey through a sort of useless but really interesting subject about how to do cool things with GIFs in the browser. Then the other one is about ‘Browser Package Management’, which is very utilitarian and solid useful information. But they’re both incredibly well-done. Very different spectrums, but both worth watching. So, those are up on Confreaks today. CHUCK:  Awesome. It was. It was such a great conference. JAMISON:  Yup. CHUCK:  Tim, what are your picks? TIM:  First off all, I’m going to pick the Forge library, which is basically a JavaScript implementation of TLS. And if you’ve done any crypto, you know how crazy hard that is. And I’m using it heavily for a current client project I’m working on that needs a lot of RSA and signatures and encryption and all in pure JavaScript. And this library is saving me a ton of time. They seem to be the only JavaScript shop in the world that employs TLS experts who actually can just implement it for fun. So, that library’s awesome if you want to do any public key crypto in your JS libraries. The other one I don’t have a link, but just in light of politics and a lot of stuff that happens on the internet, I would just remind everyone to be nice and remember that other people have different perspectives and different opinions. And I’m always learning from the opinions of others and their perspectives. And I hope that people value my perspective. And yeah, just we need to be nice and understanding of others. JAMISON:  You just brought the whole internet in for a big hug. TIM:  There we go. CHUCK:  Yeah, very nice. Alright, I’ll jump in with a couple of picks. I did this on Ruby Rogues. I’m going to do it on here, too. I do record other shows. It’s funny, I talk to people and we’ll be talking about JavaScript Jabber and then I’ll mention one of the shows and they’re like, “You do more?” JAMISON:  Traitor. CHUCK:  So, I’m just going to share. Ruby Rogues is about Ruby programming and much more. It’s like this show where we talk about a lot of topics that are general programming topics and we also talk about JavaScript topics. Ruby Rogues is the same thing for Ruby. iPhreaks is the same thing for iOS programming. And then The Freelancers’ Show is fairly focused on freelancing and running a small business. So, if you’re interested in any of those, then go check them out. And they are at RubyRogues.com, iPhreaksShow.com, and FreelancersShow.com. And if you misspell them, they will still take you to the right place. But we’ll also have links in the show notes. Chris, what are your picks? CHRIS:  I pick anything that allows people to go out and do building of robots. I pick all the robots in the world. If you’re in, since this is JavaScript-focused, NodeBots.io. It’s the go-to curation space for NodeBot events, including NodeBots Day which is coming up July 27th, 7/27. Go out and build stuff. Do real world stuff. Blow a couple of LEDs. Pop a couple of resistors. It’s fun. It’s worthwhile. I can tell you from all the experience that I have with RobotsConf, with going out at US STEM Foundation events, going out into high schools and teaching kids about quadcopters and 3D printers, that is such an amazing and exciting realm. You will be completely fulfilled. It’s a cathartic experience where you get to actually enjoy doing stuff again and almost a childlike giddiness in it. So, while RadioShack may be heading towards bankruptcy, go to your local RadioShack or Adafruit.com or SparkFun.com or Pololu.com, whatever the one you love, and buy yourself a starter kit and just mess around with it. If you do JavaScript side stuff, go look at Johnny-Five. It makes robotics super easy. I know you guys had a show I think two shows ago, with Raquel. Go back and listen to that one. And go build something. That’s all I got. CHUCK:  Awesome. Alright, well thanks for coming. And thanks for sharing all of your experience with us. Really, really appreciate it. It was a lot of fun to talk about. CHRIS:  Thank you very much. It was a wonderful time, thanks. CHUCK:  Alright. Well, we’ll wrap up the show. We’ll catch you all next week. And thank you for listening. [Hosting and bandwidth provided by the Blue Box Group. Check them out at BlueBox.net.]  [Bandwidth for this segment is provided by CacheFly, the world’s fastest CDN. Deliver your content fast with CacheFly. Visit CacheFly.com to learn more.] [Do you wish you could be part of the discussion on JavaScript Jabber? Do you have a burning question for one of our guests? Now, you can join the action at our membership forum. 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