4th German Anti Spam Summit

I have been very busy in the last weeks with my “other job” as a consultant for email systems and anti spam systems design etc. And in that function I was at the 4th German Anti Spam Summit yesterday. And I want to write about it a little bit.

The one-day one-track conference had about 150 attendees, smaller than in the last years, with a smaller exhibition area also. While smaller in many cases translates to less interesting it can also mean more comfortable in a way. You could actually stand around and chat without people jostling you around or having so many booths and talks to go to and so many people you want to talk to that you are totally overwhelmed. So I think the atmosphere was good and I enjoyed myself. I spent most of my time talking to people though and didn’t go to many of the talks. From the program and what I heard from other attendees it was a bit heavy on the sponsored talk side and a bit light on the independant advice sort of talk.

One complaint that I heard (which I hear at almost any event) was that the talks were not right for his or her taste. But this is the eternal problem with a conference that attracts different kinds of audience at the same time. There were many technical people but also marketing and management people. Hard to bring them together into one event and get something for everybody. On the other hand I find the mix to be very interesting and stimulating. Less so in the talks but more because of the people you meet over a coffee. Not only beeing around your own type of people means a chance to open your horizon. But if you came to the conference only to meet your peers you might miss that that opportunity. I try to come to any event with the open mindset of “lets see what is going to happen” and less with the mindset of “I want to learn x, y, and z at this event”. So while some people would have liked a stronger focus I was mostly happy with the mix. And many people come back every year, so others probably feel the same.
The event was free of charge, but there was a registration required. But, contrary to all other conferences I have been to, you had to pay cash on the spot for coffee, other beverages, and food. I understand that this makes it easier and cheaper for the organizers, but there are good reasons not to do this. It means you have to get your money out several times a day, standing in line to wait for a waitress to take your money, etc. And then they couldn’t give the right change and the people from overseas might not have the right kind of money. And you have to think whether it is worth to spend two euros for a coffee or nearly six for a tiny bowl of soup at lunch. It is just very distracting to not be able to just grab a bottle of water when you are talking to somebody but to actually turn away, buy a bottle and come back. Also at lunch time many people left the building and went to get cheaper food somewhere else. I am sure this not only messed up the calculations of the caterer, it also means many people you might have wanted to talk to weren’t at the conference for an hour or so. Meeting people is one of the most important aspects of any conference and any minute this can be done is precious. I suspect most people who went outside for lunch went in a group with those they knew (and maybe see every day) anyway. Had they stayed at the conference location they could have used this time more productively by talking to new people. So I think it would be better to to charge an entrance fee and then have the food and coffee included in the price. Moneywise it wouldn’t make a huge difference because the average amount of money people spend on the food would look like peanuts if it was a conference fee.

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