Charles Harries

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Conference cost

I want to go to UX London, but I can't justify the cost of it.

Man, there is some money in tech. Developers command six-figure salaries and tech companies trade in hundreds of millions of dollars annually. Fortunes change, stars rise and fall (but mostly rise). And the brightest of those stars attend conferences.

Conferences are events of opportunity where the future of software development is written and where the scions of industry trade follows on Twitter. Web & design conferences—like UX London, coming up in June—are the events that I aspire to, if I intend to make a change in the world, however small, using only my computer and an enterprising spirit (& I do).

They're also very difficult for regular schlubs like me to attend, because of how expensive they are. UX London costs £1,250 for the 3-day event, which is like 4% of my take-home annual salary!

I'm led to believe that a lot of software developers don't buy their own tickets; instead, their employer pays for their attendance, and the developer returns with some bleeding-edge wisdom to practice during the nine-to-five. And the employers that have this sort of disposable income aren't, usually, SME agencies in the North East (which is probably why headline tech conferences are rarely held in Newcastle). The result is that conferences, from the outside, feel like a bit of a tech elite club, accessible to the masses only through videos posted after the event if the organisers are generous.

But maybe the high prices are totally justified: maybe margins here are razor thin and the value that canny conference attendees can extract from from a room of so many sharp minds is worth all of Smaug's bullion & then some. Maybe I'm just not good at turning my network into opportunity. (Maybe I don't have a network because I've only been to like 3 conferences!)

And at any rate, this whole "conferences are expensive" complaint isn't a universal rule: there are affordable conferences. Like Hey!'s All Day Hey in Leeds at the beginning of May, which was only ~£50 if you got an early bird ticket.

Let me finish by saying that I know that excluding folks isn't the intention here. I know for a fact that UX London is organised by smart, thoughtful people, assembling a diverse and talented pool of speakers, building a more inclusive, robust internet for all of us. I don't mean to single UX London out—they're just the most high-profile conference on my radar at the moment.

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