First, let me be clear - the fee is there to help with the costs of the conference. It is not there to scam people coming to the conference, or to make money. If you don't want to pay the fee, then don't. Turn up, and you will not be turned away at the door. We want as many people as possible at GUADEC. If you don't want to pay the 225 or 150 rate, tell everyone in your company to pay 30. Then sponsor the conference to the tune of what you think is fair.
Let's be clear - the conference will not make money because of the fee. GUADEC loses money. Sponsorship is not enough to pay for the conference, and when you pay a registration fee, that the money will be going to pay for someone's bed, or travel expenses, or internet access, or facilities. The foundation will take a hit of a few thousand dollars/euros on the conference, as we did last year.
GUADEC has become a big conference. That's because there are so many supporters of the desktop, which is great. Starting with Dublin, there was an attempt to make GUADEC appeal more to businesses, because they would pay money to support the conference, and back then it was felt that hackers wouldn't. So GUADEC stayed free, and businesses and sponsorship covered most of the bills.
Last year, we spent more money getting people to GUADEC than ever before. GUADEC was also more expensive than ever before, because of its size and location. This year, it's looking like it will be just as expensive. We're bringing several speakers from Australia, Canada and the US. We're sponsoring travel for people who need it. And all that takes money.
Perhaps we do need to re-think GUADEC, take a smaller facility (or even a field), announce the thing late, stop having presentations altogether, make it free, and get closer to the way things were in Paris in the good old days I never saw.
At the very least, we need to decide whether we're a technical conference or outreach to local users and business. 3 days is too short to be all things to all men.
But it is unrealistic to expect that an event the size of GUADEC can be organised with little or no cost, or that the costs can be completely covered by sponsorship. A registration fee is reasonable, in my opinion. And 30 is not a huge amount.