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Flash and Flex Conference Price Comparison, 2009 Edition

As the New Year is upon us and we start to budget for conferences in 2009, it is time for the annual Flash conference price comparison post. This year the comparison is a little more in depth because it has more significance with the world's (and especially US) economy hitting some hard times. As a refresher, you can see my posts on this subject from 2007 and 2008.

I was prompted to start looking at conference prices for 2009 when I heard that Flash On The Beach Miami's Super Early Bird pricing has been extended through Christmas. John Davey, the conference organizer, sent me a short email stating, "I think everyone is worried about the economy, and although it is worrying me too, I think a show of 'giving back' will be appreciated." I agree, John. And, thanks!

So, without further delay, here is a breakdown of pricing comparing some of the 'major' Flash/Flex conferences:

FOTB
(Miami)
FlashForward FITC
(Toronto)
360|Flex
Super Early Bird First 100 tickets
Regular $299 n/a $458 USD $360
Student $149 $230
Flex Pass $449 $542
Early Bird Next 200 tickets
Regular $429 $899 $542 $480
Student $319 $271
Flex Pass $559 $625
Standard Last 100 tickets
Regular $499 $999 $625 $550
Student $249 $313
Flex Pass $629 $709
Door Price
Regular $599 $1099 $709
Student $299 $355
Flex Pass $719 $793

When looking at the table, you'll no doubt notice a few things right off. First, FlashForward continues to be the most expensive conference of the bunch at about a whopping 50% more expensive than FOTB or 306|Flex for the standard ticket price. I should mention that FlashForward has not posted their prices for 2009 and the table includes their 2008 pricing. Since the conference just changed hands last year (it was purchased by Beau Ambur of Metaliq) and they dropped the prices at that time, it is most likely safe to assume that they will keep the prices as-is this year.

Another item to consider is that with a new edition to be held in Miami, Flash on the Beach no longer requires international travel. My prior comparisons all had to take into account a flight to London and the very lopsided exchange rate for US Dollar to British Pound. With that no longer being necessary, FOTB is now even a better bargin for those of us in the States. Especially when you realize that all of the headlining speakers from the Brighton edition have also committed to speaking in Miami.

360|Flex has always had some of the lowest prices for a conference. They started out with all tickets priced at $360, but had since risen the price to $480. For their next conference they are taking a new approach of tiered pricing. As you can see above, the first 100 tickets are at the old $360 rate, the next 200 are at the standard $480 rate, and the last are at a premium rate of $550 (which is still about half of the cost of FlashForward).

Of course there is always the extra costs that go along with conferences like flight and hotel. Those certainly add to the cost, but for the most part are the same across the board (except in the case of international travel and/or exchange rates as mentioned previously), so I don't take those into consideration here.

What are your thoughts on the price of conferences in 2009? Am I missing any conferences that you would like to see added?

FlashForward SF 2008 Pricing Announced and Still Overly Expensive

Some readers may remember my previous post on the costs of conferences, specifically Flash on the Beach and 360|Flex compared to FlashForward. In short, FlashForward was more expensive... by a landslide... even when factoring in the cost of an international flight and 2:1 exchange rates.

However, when Lynda.com sold FlashForward to Beau Ambur and Metaliq a few months back, I was hoping things might be changing. Surely they wouldn't keep the cost of attendance so high, would they? I even had the thought that if the price got down to the $400 to $500 range, I would consider attending once again. So when I received an email today announcing FlashForward 2008 San Francisco festival nominations were open and providing a link to the pricing information, I was excited to see if changes had indeed been made.

Sadly, I was disappointed. Yes, the prices seem to have went down slightly. But the early bird price is still $899, and the cost goes all the way up to $1099 for at-the-door registration. I guess this year Flash on the Beach (for which I have already bought my 2008 pass) only wins by $464 instead of $664. That's progress, right?

Pricing Showdown: Flashforward vs Flash on the Beach

Every year I try to attend at least one large Flash conference, and today I was trying to decide which conference I wanted to attend this year: Flashforward or Flash on the Beach.

Both conferences will no doubt be worth attending -- last year's Flashforward was a great experience for me, and although I didn't attend, FOTB was touted as the best conference of the year in the Flash community. Both will have a very similar list of speakers and cover similar topics, offer plenty of time for networking, and undoubtedly offer the yearly recharge of interactive development passion. In fact, there are only two considerable differences: location and price. And when you are trying to convince your employer to pay, it all comes down to pricing.

I originally assumed, like most Americans would considering the strength of the British Pound to the Dollar, that a trip to Brighton for FOTB would be considerably more costly. But, as it turns out, it is $664 _cheaper_ to attend FOTB in the UK then it is to attend Flashforward in Boston. This amazed me, and I'm writing this post in hopes that Flashforward (and Lynda.com, the producers) will take notice at the discrepancy.

I calculated the $664 difference by factoring in the only sure costs in each location -- the conference pass, airfare, and hotel accommodations. Here is the breakdown:

Flashforward
Conference Pass: $1099
Airfare (Portland to Boston, continental.com): $600
Hotel (Conference Rate): $249/night x 5 = $1245
Total: $2944

Flash on the Beach
Conference Pass: $400
Airfare (Portland to London, continental.com): $880
Hotel (Hotels.com): $200/night x 5 = $1000
Total: $2280

$2944 - $2280 = $664

Now, obviously this isn't scientific as there are still costs like taxi fares, meals, incidentals and entertainment, but these costs would generally be the same no matter which conference you attend. I realize that the Dollar to British Pound conversion rate would skew things a bit due to the locations of the two conferences, but even if that skew was equal to $664, it still costs me the same to attend FOTB and get a free vacation to the UK.

FOTB can produce a conference equal to Flashforward's and still price their passes at less than half. Same speakers, same topics, similar community, and half the price. With conferences like FITC, Flashbelt and 360Flex all pricing themselves _way_ below Flashforward, and OSFlash offering conferences online for free, how long can they continue to charge $1100 to just get in the door?

[Update: The official FOTB blog has just picked up this post. See you at the conference next month!]

Comcast Interactive Media Labs

It seems like "labs" sites are all the rage these days. Adobe has their popular labs site, and even firms like Big Spaceship have started a labs site. I just found out today that Comcast has been running their Comcast Interactive Media Labs since late 2005 without much fanfare.

The thing that surprised me most was that a lot of the cool interactive projects coming out of Comcast were developed and/or started in their media lab. For example, The Fan 3.0 was launched and won People's Choice at FlashForward 2006 in Austin.

Keep tabs on the cool happenings at Comcast here (http://labs.comcast.net). And if you have a Comcast internet account, be sure to sign in and take advantage of the awesome interactive offerings.

What happened to Wallop?

At FlashForward 2006 in Austin Wallop was all the rage. They threw an awesome kickoff party, were looking for all the Flash developers they could to help build 'widgets' for their platform, and everyone was blogging about how cool it was of an idea.

In the past few months I hadn't heard a word about Wallop. I was wondering what happened, and today I saw a blog post from Ryan Stewart entitled "Signs of life at Wallop". It helps to explain the lack of communication coming out of Wallop/Microsoft (where it was founded -- surprising, I know, considering it is developed fully in Flash).

But, I'm interested to hear if anyone is still using, or better yet developing for, Wallop. It looks like they may be re-developing in Flex and I'm sure with all the hoopla around Flex these days that they'll pick up some interest there.

Check out Ryan's post here:
http://blogs.zdnet.com/Stewart/?p=262

Steve Jobs on Simplicity in the Experience

Finally, Jobs was asked if he was worried about Microsoft's upcoming media player (Zune) and its "community" features:

In a word, no. I've seen the demonstrations on the Internet about how you can find another person using a Zune and give them a song they can play three times. It takes forever. By the time you've gone through all that, the girl's got up and left! You're much better off to take one of your earbuds out and put it in her ear. Then you're connected with about two feet of headphone cable.

---

In a time when most corporations are effectively reducing the memorable experiences in our lives, Apple and Steve Jobs are thinking about enhancing those experiences. Brendan Dawes gave a great talk about this at FlashForward 06 in Austin, and ever since then I have been thinking more and more about where all of those daily experiences in my life have gone.

For instance, I am in the process of ripping all of my CDs to MP3 and storing them on a large external hard drive. For almost every CD I pickup I am reminded of an event that took place while I was listening to it, such as a warming up for a particular basketball game in college. Once I rip them into iTunes as a digital format, I'm not reminded of that experience nearly as often.

This idea goes even further because not only is this having an effect on me, but it is spreading to the population on a fairly grand scale. Keeping with the music theme, think about iPods and how many people now walk around with their ear buds in listening to music and thereby creating this lack of interpersonal interaction.

Kudos to Steve Jobs and Brendan Dawes for their efforts to bring the experiences back to our daily lives.

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