Here’s the other secret about Zap Your PRAM: it wasn’t difficult to organize and didn’t cost a lot of money.
I suspect that when we total the bills for beer and food and T-shirts and airfares and hotel rooms, silverorange and I will each end up kicking in about $1500. That’s $3000 in expenses to house, entertain and feed 35 people for 3 days. I think a class of grade 4 students could handle that funding burden.
So, note to bureaucrats: next time an eager group comes to you with a $300,000 funding request to host a conference, point them back at this post and ask them to explain themselves.
Now, to be honest, Zap Your PRAM wasn’t a lavish conference. Speakers picked up other speakers at the airport. We carpooled to the Saturday night dinner down the road. We didn’t have organza bags embroidered with images of Anne to give to attendees. We asked our speakers to speak for free. We asked a lot of our speakers to fly themselves here on their own dime. But nobody complained.
If we had gone a more traditional route, and sought funding from government and corporate sponsors, the degree of soul destruction we would have had to endure while prostrating ourselves would have eliminated the benefits of any largese such funds would have allowed.
As to the organizational work: the conference was conceived in a series of hour-long meetings in places like the Formosa Tea House. It gestated inside the silverorange intranet. And then it just appeared.
If you leave out tasks like “picking up the keg” and “stringing ethernet cable through the trees” and “rearranging the chairs,” I would hazard a guess that there were less than 2 or 3 hours of “work” that went into arranging the conference, along with an additional couple of dozen hours of “hanging out” and perhaps a dozen more spent on things like answering email and lining up speakers.
The conference had no employees, no volunteers, no organizing committee, no bank account, no formal meetings (i.e. with uncomfortable chairs, white boards, and agendas that nobody really wanted to go to in the first place). We had a website, a weblog, four organizers, and a collection of eager, helpful and enthusiastic friends, family, and colleagues.
Already others have started to think about doing Zap-like things themselves. Please, do it! It’s easy, it’s fun, and you’ll be glad you did.