Why I might not come to CFCamp :-(

by kai on 10/09/2012

About 1 month ago, I posted about CFCamp in Germany. Along with praising the efforts of Michi Hnat, the main organiser of CFCamp, I also said that I was going to attend, present at CFCamp and run workshops during the event’s CFAcademy.

One might wonder why I’m now considering not going. Basically it comes down to a combination of two things:

  • The lack of bookings for CFAcademy workshops
  • My travel expenses to get myself to Europe

I like it when people are transparent about their decisions. So let me be as transparent as I can at this stage.

For me, being based in New Zealand, traveling to Europe can actually be quite expensive and time-consuming (one-way takes between 24-30 hours depending on one’s routing). It obviously depends on airline and travel class chosen, but the airfare alone to CFCamp and back to Australia (where I have to go after CFCamp to do some work onsite at a client’s office) would (if booked now) set me back around NZ$4,400 (this converts to ca. 2,800 Euro).

I hear you say: “Huuuh, WTF? I’ve seen return flights from Germany to New Zealand for 1000-1400 Euro!”. Yes, that’s actually correct. The price difference comes down to multiple things:

  • I’m not booking 6-12 months in advance
  • Travel direction – it does make a big difference where one starts a trip
  • My trip is not a simple return trip: NZ-Germany-AU
  • Chosen travel class: I don’t fly Economy on a 24+ hrs work trip

“Aaaaha – here we go! Kai is better than the rest of us and wants to be pampered in Business class!”. No, I actually fly Premium Economy and I’m happy to pay the price for it over Economy on various airlines. If you think a 38 inch seat pitch instead of 30/31 inch is pampering – fine. I’d describe it with necessary for me to survive a trip like that and actually being able to do something useful in the 4-5 days at my destination. It’s a different story if you stay at your destination for a month with lots of time to recover. But that’s just me. Besides that – booking an economy airfare of what I’d need would be between 1,900-2000 Euro by now anyway.

Anyway, the airfare alone is around 2,800 Euro. Knowing that CFCamp is kind of a community event, I wouldn’t expect the organisers to cover that cost (even though I have to say that Michi was great and offered to contribute to the cost through the CFCamp budget – which I was grateful for, but which at the same time I don’t really want to happen). If CFCamp was a big commercial event charging 1000 Euros for the two day conference, I might have a different opinion here. So – I’m happy to work to cover and subsidise my airfare – hence I offered multiple workshops at CFAcademy. I think the workshops are excellent offerings across the board (not only mine) and actually very, very reasonably priced (at 300 Euros + VAT for a 1/2 day session).

To actually being able to earn enough money to at least cover my airfare, I need some of my workshops to be booked. I think expecting to not lose money is quite reasonable, isn’t it? At this stage I have three people in my jQuery Mobile class, one in my training on regular expressions and another one in my Sencha Touch workshop. Sadly, that’s already on the better/successful side of things – people hardly seem to be booking workshops at all.

What’s easy to forget is that I’ve got other (ongoing) work as well. You know – the stuff you’d do otherwise during your day. So – if I decide to go, I need to earn actually even more from the workshops because they have to cover the airfare and what I’d otherwise make from ongoing development contracts.

To give you an idea: To break even with only the airfare, I need 6-7 people booking my full-day jQuery Mobile class. Or for that matter – any of the other classes (Sencha Touch would actually need more because it’s half-day only). This calculation doesn’t even include lost income from travel time (during which it’s kind of hard to do proper work) and it doesn’t include hotel and other small travel expenses like train, taxi, food etc.

What are my options here?

  1. I could just book and go regardless. Either suck up my financial loss or hope for the best ( = bookings take off all of a sudden).
  2. We can drag out the “go/no-go” decision further. That’s obviously limited as I’d want Michi to give people some certainty re what’s going on.
  3. I could just cancel the trip right here and right now.

If I was going to opt for 3, I wouldn’t have bothered writing such a long blog post. 1 is not going to happen either because I’m very committed to not going on big, expensive overseas conference speaking/community trips anymore (that are not associated with a holiday together with Diane along the way) without at least nearly breaking even. It’s a shame though because I’d love to go as I think CFCamp is going to be a very, very good event.

So, I guess it’s option 2 then for now. I struggle to understand the problem – CFCamp has apparently lots of registrations, but no one is willing to pay money for professional expert-led training? It can’t be my topics as such as the workshops are very weakly booked all across the board and mine are among the most booked ones.

Please, don’t treat this post as a complaint or rant. It’s not meant to be. If I end up not going – that’ll be perfectly fine with me as well as it means spending more time with my lovely wife in NZ. This is just kind of a last-ditch effort to drum up attendees – if there isn’t a stream of bookings for (my workshops at) CFAcademy very soon, I will have to unfortunately pull out of the whole event. It’s in your hand now, people!

Michael Hnat September 10, 2012 at 7:31 pm

From my side as organizer of the CFCamp, I would like to add some words.
I completely agree with you, Kai. From your side the CFCamp is not just around the corner. It’s on the other side of the world.
I also understand that some people can’t be away from their offices for a whole week. Especially if they’re coming to the CFCamp on monday and tuesday and have to wait until their training on friday.
What I don’t understand is the point of view to wait, which trainings are canceled a week before the CFCamp and then see if there are free places.
I think we have an interesting offer with the CFAcademy and it would be a pitty to cancel it 🙁
There are free places in all trainings available. The list can be found here: http://www.cfcamp.org/cfacademy.cfm

kai September 10, 2012 at 7:45 pm

Couldn’t agree more with you, Michi!

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