1993-03-06 - One last time Re: CFP Costs Too Much! (long)

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From: judic@sunnyside.com (Judi Clark)
To: tcmay@netcom.com
Message Hash: 63097d7ffbe844c4bca6557cfdc9c922cd2ec73f8fd02d6c47bdfa07befe84b0
Message ID: <199303061715.AA25795@snyside.sunnyside.com>
Reply To: N/A
UTC Datetime: 1993-03-06 17:16:38 UTC
Raw Date: Sat, 6 Mar 93 09:16:38 PST

Raw message

From: judic@sunnyside.com (Judi Clark)
Date: Sat, 6 Mar 93 09:16:38 PST
To: tcmay@netcom.com
Subject: One last time Re: CFP Costs Too Much! (long)
Message-ID: <199303061715.AA25795@snyside.sunnyside.com>
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain

Hi Tim

I wanted to take a minute to respond to your note about the cost of CFP'93.
There are several things that you a) don't know, and/or b) aren't taking
into account. Altho' my writing style is somewhat cut-throat (why I am not a 
writer), this is not a re-flame, but rather an informational piece.
As such, if you are still interested, I can discuss the conference costs
in more detail at a future date (like sometime after the conference?).

>Dave Deltorto is one of several people I know, including myself, who don't
>like the prices of the upcoming Computers, Freedom, and Privacy Conference:
>>.... I would also dearly like to attend CFP, but
>>I haven't yet found a way to do it without money (anyone who knows a way I
>>can volunteer my way in and help out please say so - I'll sweep up after,

Dave found a way to attend. He is a volunteer for the conference, and as
such, gets in free. There are over 20 such volunteers this year.

FYI, volunteers impact the costs of the conference in two ways: 

1) They help to keep staffing costs out of the budget
2) They aren't guaranteed lunches/banquets so as not to increase food costs.
Given that many paid registrants don't show up for one meal or another,
volunteers help "take up the slack" with the extra meals. :-)

optional info:
In addition, volunteers help to round out the attendance. As volunteer
coordinator, I have sought to fill as many volunteer positions with 
women and minorities as possible. Dave, as a hacker, is one such minority.
(I'm sure this method of choosing volunteers will vary with future confs.)

>In my opinion, $405 is way too much to pay for this conference. Science
>Fiction conventions routinely get the use of major hotels at a far lower
>per head price (from $40-$125 is typical). The BayCon convention takes over
>most of the public facilities in San Jose's Red Lion Inn (several
>ballrooms, many smaller rooms, and most of the public lobby areas), has
>about 500 attendees (same as CFP), and charges less than $100 for 4 days
>(and one-day memberships are typically around $30). And the "Hackers
>Conference" has kept its cost down to around $300, which includes two
>nights lodging and all meals (very sumptuous meals, too).

Conventions typically don't have 80 speakers, nor formal banquet functions.
Meals are certainly a BIG part of our costs. Speaker meals are part of costs.

Admittedly, if we were offering "a place to show things", we would be 
partly subsidized by booth space costs and other commercial ventures;
our costs would be less. CFP has traditionally ruled that commercial
booths are NOT a part of the program, and have declined offers to "buy"
space on our floor.

You mention that Hacker's keeps costs down to $300 for two nights. While
we don't include the cost of the night's lodging for a number of reasons,
we do include meals. Further, Hacker's attendees all pay equally. CFP
has 80 speakers which, while they do not receive pay for their part, do
receive all meals. Part of the cost in attending reflects what you're
coming to hear, in the settings that we have arranged (single-track
sessions, banquet speakers, etc.)

>Granted, CFP puts out a nice transcript of the talks--credit them $20 for

Thanks for credit for the transcripts, but the $20 isn't ours. The 
proceedings need to be transcribed word for word from the conference, 
edited, and made camera-ready before IEEE or ACM (or whoever publishes
it) get the $20 each. 

optional info:
IEEE published the first conference, and has not yet made back the cost
of printing their small run. Those transcripts are now online. What do 
you think their chances are now of making their costs back?

The transcripts also need to be re-edited/indexed for free online public 
distribution. Noone has offered to do any of this for free yet...

>Granted, a couple of meals are thrown in--credit them another $30 or so.

You haven't talked with hotels lately. Continental breakfasts typically
cost $5 per person, lunches are another $15 per person, and dinners $20.
Add an 18% service charge and 8.25% tax to that, and multiply by 3 days...

>What's left is still too much. Yes, a "register early" discount
>exists/existed, but inasmuch as there's a nonzero risk someone can't attend
>(and hence loses what they paid, or some fraction of it), counting such
>discounts is not really kosher. 

You're missing the point of the early registration. You apparently didn't
take into account that we printed brochures and paid for mailings to some
40,000 people plus thousands more in press. While two of us worked for
several months with no pay, we did incur many expenses. We bear the costs
of bringing this conference to you until we are reimbursed. As Jim Warren
will tell you, this is no small change. The first conference, with 400+ 
attendees, made $1000 in "profit", and was donated to CPSR, conf sponsors. 

>There are several possible reasons for the high fees: 
>1. Price insensitivity.

Wrong. We have a history of what this conference costs, and do all that
we can to keep costs down. For example, the conference chairman doesn't
get paid. As Organizing Coordinator, I might or might not, depending on
the conference outcome.

While the cost of this conference is minimal to a few of the attendees, it
is obviously a big factor to many. That's why we received over 100 requests
for scholarships this year, and why we were able to find separate funding 
for 40 full registrations (twice as many as last year!). We would like to 
have gotten more...

>2. "Everyone else is doing it." 

This is irrelevant. We are not doing anything because "Everyone else is
doing it." Rather, we are trying to do things that everyone else is NOT

>3. Subsidies of journalists.

Journalists are admitted free, but must pay for meals themselves.

Tim, I'm sorry to hear you won't be there for whatever reason.
Phiber's right, lots of the good stuff happens throughout the whole place.
And thanks, Fen, we try. (Hacker's is a different world. Would it be that
we could do some things more informally...)

I look forward to a fun, informative and project-generating conference.
  judi <judic@sunnyside.com>