I’m not sure there’s ever been a conference at the Berkman Center that has received so much attention as BloggerCon has two months before it’s actually happening. It’s quite flattering in its way. And we’ve been delighted by the number of people who’ve signed up in the first few days of registration. Not all of the buzz has been positive, though, so I thought it might make sense to respond to some of it.
One track of commentary has been about the conference price ($500 for full-fare, $250 for academic fare). We’ve heard from a number of people whom we’d love to have here in Cambridge that they’d come to the event, but for the cost. That’s a very valid point, and we’re pleased that so many people have mentioned it directly. We’ll do something positive to address this problem, to be sure, and will announce it shortly. This conference, like everything we do at the Berkman Center, is not-for-profit. No one or no institution will make a dime on it, no matter how many people decide to come and to pay. That’s been the plan from the start and a pledge to everyone thinking of participating. Why do we need to charge for attendance at all? Well, almost exclusively so that we can pay for the coach-fare travel of speakers and their accommodation. It’s a reality of running a conference here. We recognize, clearly, though, that we want to have bloggers at this conference who can’t afford a $500 entrance fee – it would be a shame to do otherwise. We hear that and will do what we can to fix it.
Other forms of less-than-positive commentary: the Register, for instance, ran a story today that took a different tack. In addition to mentioning the cost of the conference, the author took aim at two Berkman fellows — Dave Winer and Jim Moore — as well as generally at the Berkman Center. Dave and Jim are well-respected for their work in various parts of this space and deserve better. The Center itself is a vibrant, ambitious place working on a broad range of issues related to the Internet, law, technology, society, developing countries, and occasionally, yes, political economy. Most of our work we offer free and clear to anyone who wants to participate in an event or series or use what we’ve done. I’d welcome any journalist to come visit us, see what we’re up to and to engage us on the merits. We’ve got a strong public spirit, and we’re certainly not out to fleece anyone. Dave and Jim, in particular, are leaders in this regard.