So, the board spent quite a bit of time discussing GUADEC, and specifically the registration fee, this week.
We were more or less in agreement that the registration fee was badly handled from a communication perspective. We didn't communicate as well as we could have before the fact. So here's a "set the record straight" type post which will hopefully clear up some of the major misgivings about GUADEC's registration process this year.
- Why isn't GUADEC free? After all, we're the people making GNOME happen.
- Quite simply, if GUADEC were free, the foundation would lose money on it (lots). There are a couple of people in the process of getting figures together to show where money goes in GUADEC, and where money comes from. But taking last year as an example, we appear to have made a small surplus on GUADEC, which then got spent elsewhere (on things like the Boston summit), whereas we would have lost over €10K if there had been no registration.
- OK - I can live with a registration fee. Why do I have to go through Paypal?
- A group had been working for some time on getting a system online that we could use to accept payments of this kind. And that fell through. I don't know the details. But I know that Fernando San Martin Woerner can in to save the day, and in only 2 days got an OSCommerce front-end for the registration site up & running. Unfortunately, on that notice, the only payment method we could manage for online payments was paypal. But you can make payments through that system without creating a paypal account, so we thought this would be OK.
- Tim Ney has worked out a way to handle special requests. Please mail email@example.com for details of how to pay directly to the foundation account by wire transfer. If you can pay via paypal, we prefer that. Things are getting hectic right now, so if we can avoid adding administrative workflow, that would be better.
- How can I register without paying, though? I want to ask for an exemption, but I want you to know I'm coming
- In the original page, this was quite hidden away. You had to create an account in the registration page, then click "My GUADEC account", and on that page click "Change my GUADEC details". We've changed that to "Apply for registration, travel or housing subsidy". Hopefully that makes things clearer. I addition, we have added this page to the account creation process so that you can ask for a subsidy while creating your account.
- I want to pay on arrival. Can I do that?
- We don't currently have a way to handle cash in Stuttgart. Tim's working on it, and this might be an option.
- And what if I turn up without paying?
- Anything included in the registration pack, you won't get. But you won't be turned away. We have a fee to help with the costs of the conference, not to reduce attendance. We want all GNOME hackers there, and that includes you.
- Why not call the registration fee an optional donation then?
- A donation and a registration fee are fiscally two different things. It's a semantic difference which is important to some. In addition, we don't consider the registration fee optional. We don't think it's too much to expect people coming to the conference to contribute 30 to the costs. But if you disagree, we're not going to turn you away.
- €30? But I'm a professional... shouldn't I be paying €150?
- Here's the thing... If you're coming on your own, as a GNOME supporter, and you're paying out of your own pocket, you pay €30 (not including VAT). If your company is paying for you to come, then advisory board members and bwcon members get preferential rates - €150 instead of €225. If your company is paying for your registration, and they're not a member of either of those, then you pay €225 per person. To top all this off, if these fee levels are dissuading you from sending as many people as you would otherwise send, then we want to hear about it (at firstname.lastname@example.org) and work something out. The fees are not there to keep people away, they are there to help with the costs of the conference.
Update: For two particular use-cases, there have been some options added to the check-out process on the registration site.
For people who have paid through paypal, but did not click the "return to vendor site" link, and thus have not received a confirmation from us of their booking, they can now register, go to the check-out page, and click the "Reorder, only if you has already paid at paypal." checkbox.
For people who wish to enter their registration details without paying, and pay through another channel, click the "Save registration information without going to Paypal" check-box. In both cases, your registration information is saved, you will receive an acknowledgement mail, and you can pay later (or register after requesting a subsidy without paying at all).