Monthly Archives: January 2018

What’s the deal with industry conferences (and their ticket prices)?

Ok, a real niche complaint today. But it’s one that really annoys me.

If you work in any kind of ‘industry’, you know about conferences. They’re these things where people go to do vague things like ‘learn’ and ‘network’. And broadly speaking, they’re a waste of everybody’s time.

The few that I’ve been to seem to mostly involve a mix of the following:

  • Companies bragging about how good they are and spending lots of money to produce presentations demonstrating this.
  • Software vendors talking generally about a business problem that their product just happens to be the perfection solution to.
  • Bald white guys with glasses who call themselves ‘thought leaders’ making extremely obvious observations about the industry.

Like I went to one about Social Media Customer Service (woo!). There were presentations on things like “Listening to your customer” as if that wasn’t incredibly obvious. I got to watch Zappos explain why they’re so good at customer service, as if it’s not incredibly easy to innovate in CS when you’re an online shoe company. And I was hassled by vendors trying to flog me platforms when they couldn’t actually answer questions about it because they were just sales people, not developers.

But maybe, just maybe, some people find them useful. If you like answering questions like this, then maybe they’re for you –


These conferences are also incredibly expensive.

These are the ticket prices for some event back in 2016 that I was looking at. General admission is £300. For contrast, tickets to Glastonbury 2017 were £238. In other words, the above conference thought it was more valuable than the world’s largest and greatest music festival. They thought their conference was literally bigger than Glastonbury, and a more valuable use of your time.

Why £300? Who in their right minds would pay that?

or is it just because they know everyone attending will be expensing the hell out of these tickets so they can charge whatever they want and this whole thing is just a racket

But imagine your company WASN’T paying you to attend this? Would you voluntarily decide to pay this amount to go and be bored in a hotel conference space for two days? Could you even afford it? And what a barrier to entry for young enterprise.

Of course, you have to pay the speakers at these things. Those folks who are being flown around the world to talk about why their email CRM resulted in a conversion rate blah blah who cares. But it’s still mad.

And the Early Bird bit really gets me angry. Save money by booking early. If the transparency of it all wasn’t clear enough already, this is the bit that really shines a lot on the whole practice. In the above example, the ‘super early bird’ is basically 2/3 of the price of the main ticket. This suggests to me that £200 is a fairer price for the conference than £300. They are willing to accept you paying £200 to attend, but they’d rather you paid £300. Those hotel conference rooms don’t pay for themselves!

“Early bird” is such a horrible, dripping sales-y term. You’re still not getting a good deal, even if you book early. Although the implication that a discounted ticket for this conference is a “worm” is an interesting one to consider.

IN CONCLUSION, this has been another angry rant from me. I leave you with this fascinating insight that will definitely enrich your life –

Review: Google Cardboard / Daydream

The future of reality is here! And it’s… virtual?

For a while now, everyone has been saying that VR is the next big thing. Or maybe AR is the next big thing. Or maybe AI is the next big thing. Or maybe AI AR VR is the next big thing. Who knows?

The latest Gartner Hype Cycle put VR in the Slope of Enlightenment, meaning it’s past the initial hype stage and is slowly becoming an established technology. That sounds about right to me.

The problem with VR is that to do it properly is super expensive. An HTC Vive will currently set you back a solid £600, and – worse still – you probably don’t have enough space in your rabbit hutch of a flat to actually set the thing up properly.

So when I decided to check out Virtual Reality, I didn’t go for the Vive, or the Oculus Rift, or the Playstation VR thing. I was interested in a product that Google were offering. A £15 VR headset made out of cardboard.

This is the Google Cardboard, and it’s like the cutest thing ever. Basically just two lenses in a cardboard case, it’s an entry-level solution to getting a foot onto the VR ladder. The actual VR magic is all done on your phone, hence the price point, and it actually works surprisingly well.

Using your phone, rather than a high-spec PC or console, does come with certain limitations though. You can’t do much in the way of shooting zombies in VR or playing that fun looking Rick and Morty VR game. The cardboard is much more about virtual experiences, so it’s great for VR Street View, 360 degree YouTube videos, and Paul McCartney.

It’s a great way to sample what all the fuss about VR is. And it’s incredible that you can check it out for as low as four or five pounds. All you need is a supported phone to run the thing, and off you go.

Which brings me to the other VR headset from Google: the Daydream.

I wasn’t going to get a Daydream initially, as I already had the Google Cardboard. But then I bought the original Google Pixel, which was marketed as a VR-ready phone and even came with a free Google Daydream (RRP £99). So yeah, of course I got one.

And it’s basically a more comfortable version of the Google Cardboard. It doesn’t do anything more really, other than a few quality of life tweaks. The headstrap is super useful to stop the damn thing falling off your head, the build quality is much better and prevents light from seeping in, and it’s generally more comfortable to wear for extended periods of time.

It also comes with a little controller accessory. This connects to your phone via Bluetooth and is used to point at things, select options on-screen, and so on. It’s a huge help and just makes navigating the menus so much easier. But feature-wise, it’s pretty much the same as the Cardboard. It still uses your phone for the actual VR, which by the way is a massive massive battery drainer and will make your phone feel hotter than the sun.

I don’t find myself using the Daydream that much at the moment. When I first got it, I often got it out to experience the novelty of VR. And if people come round, it’s a good talking point. There are also some good games you can play on it like the bomb defusing party game Keep Talking & Nobody Explodes. But there’s no must-have killer app. Yet.

SO, if you’re interested in VR but don’t wanna drop the big money, check out a Google Cardboard. The Daydream probably isn’t worth it at the £99 mark for what you get. Or if you’re ready to take the full plunge maybe go and buy a Vive or something and invite me round to come play it!