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 Monday, 01 February 2016

Starting from version 4.6.300 CSLA .NET is under the MIT license.

People may continue to use older versions of CSLA .NET under the previous license.

Upgrading to version 4.6.300 or higher means users accept the terms of the MIT license.

th02FJ73GY             csla win8_full

Monday, 01 February 2016 10:22:51 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer
 Sunday, 31 January 2016

On Sunday I tweeted a couple comparison tables with my personal observations between Windows Phone (Windows 10, Lumia 950) and iPhone (6s). I got some great feedback, primarily around some apps and features I didn’t know about when I put together the comparisons. If you saw all the twitter activity you’ll probably enjoy these updated charts that reflect everyone’s feedback.

I know, this sort of thing is often flame-bait. That’s not my intention. I’m trying to decide if I should keep my iPhone or not – and it isn’t an easy decision. Your decision criteria and weighting might be different from mine – I’m just sharing my observations in case others find them interesting or useful.

I compared the two operating systems/devices, and then the apps I use on each platform. I compare the OSes separate from the apps because in my view each OS sets the stage on which the apps run. I find that the two OSes are quite different, and some of the things I like/dislike about each OS flow through to every app. Given the base foundation of each OS/device, then I compare the apps I use, within the context I use them.

Starting with the OS comparison. I come at this as a longtime Windows Phone user (WP), who’s been running the Windows 10 mobile preview releases for a few months now. About three weeks ago I got an iPhone 6s, primarily because I’ve been complaining about the crappy apps on WP, and because iPhone users keep telling me their experience is magical – not just because of the apps, but because of the iPhone itself (which to me means the OS and device).

This isn’t in the table, but there are a lot of things I find entirely equal about both devices. They are light, fast, elegant, fun to hold, the buttons and screens feel and look good. There is no bad device here – I think this is a comparison between two wonderful pieces of engineering. But at the OS level, and a little bit at the device level, there are very real differences. Mostly what I’ve listed (and this shouldn’t be a surprise) are the things I’m really missing having switched to the iPhone (which I can’t say I find to be magical).

snip_20160131224802

Now I’m happy to admit that perhaps an iPhone user switching to a Lumia 950 would have a comparable list of things they find missing every time they go to use their phone. I’m not sure what that list would look like – the only must-have feature of the iPhone I have yet found is unlocking the device with a fingerprint – that’s awesome! Otherwise things are quite equal except all the stuff in this list that I really wish existed on the iPhone.

There are a couple iOS features I really dislike. The Back button/concept in the OS seems like a poorly designed late arrival – hard to reach with my right thumb (yes, I know I can double-tap the start button, then reach not-quite-as-far to the back buttons that may or may not be visible – but you can’t tell me that’s as nice as a single tap of the fixed-location back button on WP). And I expected a lot more from Siri – I always thought Cortana was playing catchup to Siri, but in reality Siri isn’t on the same playing field as Cortana in terms of being capable, helpful, or proactive.

I was also shocked to find that only WP lets me tell the OS to use different default maps and driving apps. I suppose this is a hold-over from Microsoft being forced to be more open about these things in the 1990’s, and Apple having somehow avoided being sued because they are too closed and propietary. I wouldn’t wish Microsoft’s legal experiences on Apple – but I really wish Apple would choose to open up for the benefit of their customers.

In terms of apps: I’m a power user of some apps, a casual user of others, and so my ratings on the apps might not match yours. You might care more about certain apps or features than me, and of course I didn’t rate apps I don’t use, because I don’t use or care about them. I put this comparison together for my purposes, and I’m just sharing it with all of you.

snip_20160131225238

I was actually surprised at how well WP fared when I put this table together. My gut feel was that all the WP apps sucked and all the iPhone apps were great. Turns out that nearly all the iPhone apps are great (other than suffering from some OS-created usability issues like poor and inconsistent Back button concepts). However, there are a lot more WP apps that are comparable to their iPhone counterparts than I expected.

Of course there are a bunch of apps that just aren’t on WP at all, and several that technically exist, but are incomplete compared to their iPhone equivalents. Shame on the companies who own/build those apps for not caring about their customers (or their software development craft) enough to create something decent. Seriously, some of those apps are so bad the companies really should be embarassed! And the ones that are totally missing: obviously those companies don’t really care about their customers at all.

I have about a week to decide if I want to keep my iPhone. And I’m torn, because although I like Windows 10 much more than iOS, I also really like several of the iPhone apps that have yellow or red counterparts on WP.

Apparently I can’t have my cake and eat it too…

If you want to provide constructive feedback, like cool apps I’ve overlooked or ways to overcome what I percieve as limitations of the iPhone then please respond to @rockylhotka on twitter or on my public Facebook page.

Sunday, 31 January 2016 23:18:37 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer
 Friday, 22 January 2016

csla win8_compactI am strongly considering switching CSLA from its current open source (but one-off) license to a standard OSS license such as MS-PL.

I do not believe this will impact anyone except in a positive way.

The new license will grant at least as many rights to you as the current license. The primary difference is that the current license includes a clause restricting you from taking CSLA and repackaging it into a "CSLA competitor".

I think the odds of anyone doing that today are small, and I think the value to everyone of using a standard OSS license outweighs the minor protections my existing license provides me.

It is also important to understand that this new license will affect the version where I make the change and into the future. So there will be absolutely zero impact on any existing versions of CSLA - they will continue to be available under the existing license.

To get the new license people will need to upgrade to the new version of CSLA, and to avoid the new license people will just need to never upgrade to a newer version of CSLA.

If you have comments or feedback on this topic please visit this thread in the CSLA .NET forum: https://github.com/MarimerLLC/cslaforum/issues/122

Friday, 22 January 2016 10:10:26 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer
 Tuesday, 19 January 2016

ht-hero

I am excited to announce that there will be a codeathon for the Humanitarian Toolbox project in the Twin Cities the weekend of Feb 20.

We plan to work on the allReady project and a new project for Missing Children Minnesota, and possibly also the crisischeckin app if we get enough volunteers.

Of course that’s the primary reason for this blog post: we need volunteers for the codeathon!

I attended an HTBox codeathon in Redmond, WA a couple months ago and it was an amazing experience! I got to spend a couple days with some amazing developers and technologists, building software that literally makes the world a better place. The “make the world a better place” part is hard to quantify, but I think is very important. Beyond that yet, I learned a lot about building software in an agile manner where each sprint is (more or less) about 4 hours long, and where a lot of people are issuing concurrent pull requests into GitHub that need resolving. It was an intense and exciting microcosm of project work in a mobile, web, and .NET world.

In summary, what do you gain by volunteering?

  • Help build software that literally makes the world a better place
  • Work with a bunch of really smart, motivated people on some cool technology
  • Almost certainly learn a lot about agile, GitHub, mobile, web, and modern .NET
  • Free food Smile

Sounds wonderful doesn’t it?!?

What skills do we need?

  • JavaScript/TypeScript
  • Cordova
  • ASP .NET
  • Azure
  • UX and design
  • QA and testing

magenic-yammer

Do you need to be an expert? No, absolutely not, though we do expect you to have working knowledge in one or more of these areas.

What are the logistics you ask?

  • When: weekend of Feb 20 – specific times TBD, but it is likely we’ll start Friday evening, code Saturday, and part of Sunday
  • Where: Magenic office – 1600 Utica Av S, #800, St. Louis Park, MN 55416

If you want to volunteer (or have questions) please contact DaveSa@magenic.com

Tuesday, 19 January 2016 16:32:39 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer
 Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Some time ago I switched my EA Origin account to use two factor authentication (TFA) using an authenticator app. The authenticator app concept is a great one, much nicer than relying on SMS messages.

The thing is, if you then lose/reset/replace your phone you’ll find that you need to reconfigure the authenticator app for each of your online accounts, such as EA Origin. To do that you need the QR code to rescan (or some code you type in) to pair your phone with EA.

This is a bit of a trap, because to get the QR code you need to turn off TFA and then turn it back on. And you can’t turn off TFA without a pre-existing authenticator app to give you a login code. If you are like me, you don’t have a functioning authenticator app – that’s why you are trying to pair a new one.

What I learned today is that when you first pair your device so the authenticator app works, you also get a set of recovery codes. I’d seen these, but didn’t understand the purpose (it isn’t documented).

snip_20160113233444

It turns out that these are a set of one-time authenticator codes. Basically they are like codes that you get from the authenticator app, but they don’t expire until used – and each one can be used exactly one time.

If you keep these codes somewhere safe and accessible, you can use one to log into your account, then use another to turn off TFA. Then you can turn TFA back on, which will give you the QR code needed to pair your new phone’s authenticator app with EA Origin.

Now that I understand how these recovery codes work, I also know how to recover my other accounts (such as GitHub, Facebook, etc.) if the need were to arise.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016 23:37:51 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer
 Thursday, 10 December 2015

Starting with version 4.6.300 CSLA .NET supports ASP.NET 5 (.NET Core) and the CSLA-Core NuGet package includes a portable class library that targets .NET 4.6 and dnxcore50.

There does appear to be an issue with adding the NuGet package to an ASP.NET Class Library project. I assume this is due to the pre-release nature of the ASP.NET 5 tooling.

What happens is easy to replicate. Create an ASP.NET 5 web site project, then add a portable class library using the ASP.NET 5 template:

snip_20151210110307

Then add a NuGet reference to CSLA .NET 4.6.300 (currently also in pre-release):

snip_20151210110454

Then try to use features of CSLA – for example, altering the Class1 code like this:

using System;
using Csla;

namespace ClassLibrary1
{
   [Serializable]
    public class Class1 : BusinessBase<Class1>
   {
         public Class1()
         { }
   }
}

The project will not compile at this point even though one would expect that CSLA really has been referenced:

snip_20151210110903

After some experimenting I found what appears to be a solution. The project.json file must be manually edited so CSLA is listed as a dependency not only in the “net451” framework, but also in the “dotnet5.4” framework:

{
   "version": "1.0.0-*",
   "description": "ClassLibrary1 Class Library",
   "authors": [ "Rockford" ],
   "tags": [ "" ],
   "projectUrl": "",
   "licenseUrl": "",
   "frameworks": {
     "net451": {
       "dependencies": {
         "CSLA-Core": "4.6.300-Beta001"
       }
     },
     "dotnet5.4": {
       "dependencies": { 
         "Microsoft.CSharp": "4.0.1-beta-23516",
         "System.Collections": "4.0.11-beta-23516",
         "System.Linq": "4.0.1-beta-23516",
         "System.Runtime": "4.0.21-beta-23516",
         "System.Threading": "4.0.11-beta-23516"
       }
     },
     “dependencies” : {
         “CSLA-Core”: “4.6.300-Beta001”
     } 
   }
}

The solution/workaround is to move the “CSLA-Core”: “4.6.300-Beta001” dependency from the “net451” framework to a global dependencies section.

With this change the project will now build.

Thursday, 10 December 2015 11:31:33 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer
 Wednesday, 09 December 2015

LVSPK25

It is time to register for VS Live or Modern Apps Live (register for either and get access to both!) in Las Vegas, March 7-11, 2016.

(I had to really concentrate to type 2016 – a whole new year already!!)

This is going to be a great set of conferences, co-located at Bally’s right as exciting new things like .NET Core and ASP.NET 5 are coming available.

Register with this link and save $500 off the standard price.

Visual Studio Live! includes content across the spectrum of mobile, Windows, web, and services development, with a healthy dose of ALM, TFS, and other cool tools.

Modern Apps Live! provides a unique conference experience, walking through every aspect of modern app development for iOS, Android, single-page web apps, and Windows, with an Azure-based backend, discussions about managing distributed teams, continuous integration, building code for testability, and wrapping up with great content around data analytics. If you want the end-to-end story on how to successfully build a modern cross-platform app this is the conference for you.

I look forward to seeing you in Las Vegas!

Wednesday, 09 December 2015 14:02:47 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer
 Wednesday, 02 December 2015

I think this article about Apple's attempt to transform the iPad into a laptop - and contrasting it to Microsoft's Surface-based attempt to transform a laptop into a tablet - is quite good.

Personally I'm a strong advocate for the hybrid device scenario, having spent the last few years entirely in Surface-land. Starting with the Surface Pro 3 (SP3) I have been quite happy with that choice. The SP1 and SP2 widescreen concept was interesting, but impractical for doing real work like editing documents or running Visual Studio. The SP3 and now SP4 screen sizes are very practical (especially the Surface Pro 4 - what a beautiful screen!!).

The idea that Apple would create some sort of hybrid was a foregone conclusion from my perspective - once I'd become hooked on using a Surface instead of an old-fashioned laptop.

When I'm sitting in a cramped airplane seat, or relaxing on the couch in front of the TV I want a tablet - one with all my stuff on it.

And when I'm trying to actually compose an email, write a document, or do some coding, I want a laptop - one with all my stuff on it.

Interestingly enough, "my stuff" is the same at all times. I want access to all my stuff whenever and wherever I am.

I use OneDrive to store all my documents, music, photos, etc. All my files are on my desktop, Surface, and in the cloud – so they are available anywhere and everywhere. And that would be true on a Mac and iPad too (though probably not offline on the iPad, so not accessible on an airplane?).

Another big reason my stuff is always available is because of the way Windows 10 roams everything - all my app/browser/desktop settings sync across my devices. And that could maybe be done between a Mac and iPad I would guess - with some effort to address the mismatch between Mac and iPad apps that do similar things, but aren’t the same apps.

But on Windows 10 I am using the same apps on my desktop and Surface (and often my phone). So there's no mismatch, they are literally the same.

Maybe not everyone values this consistency like I do - but I want my same browser with my same favorites/shortcuts/etc. on every device I use. And I want my news reader (NextGen Reader) and Reddit  (Readit) and weather and twitter (Tweetium) and Facebook apps to know what I've done and what I like without having to tell every device the same stuff over and over.

So yeah, I'm a big fan of the hybrid model - and I hope Apple is reasonably successful at it, if for no other reason that competition will drive Microsoft to keep making Win10 and Surface better and better so I love it more and more :)

Wednesday, 02 December 2015 13:16:16 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer

I have had my new Surface Pro 4 for a few days now (I waited to get the i7 model) and I’m liking it quite a lot. I really liked my SP3, and the SP4 is better yet.

My one primary disappointment is with the dock. I got the new Surface dock and tried to connect it to my two external monitors using brand new mini-DisplayPort-to-DVI cables but the displays were just all messed up – one or the other would come on but not both, and everything was very unstable.

Searching around the Internet I found this: https://www.reddit.com/r/Surface/comments/3s655j/surface_pro_4_dock_cannot_drive_a_dvi_monitor/

In summary, the Surface dock can’t power DVI or HDMI outputs directly. I assume it can power VGA directly, but I don’t know – maybe not?

This makes the dock pretty useless for many (most?) of us who don’t have monitors that have DisplayPort ports. I’ve never owned such a monitor and I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen one in a store or anything. So I assume that most of us don’t have such a thing.

WP_20151201_16_05_46_ProIn my case I was “fortunate” in that I’d already bought a powered DisplayPort hub to get the dual monitor scenario working from my Surface 3 dock, so that’s what I’m using to get my monitors to work. The DP hub I’m using is from StarTech and seems to work quite nicely.

The fact that it works remains quite disappointing though. The Surface dock looks like it would be useful, but in practice I think for most of us it doesn’t do what any reasonable person would expect – which is to say that the two DP ports are not what they seem.

So if you are considering buying the Surface dock I’d suggest that you also budget an extra US$100 or so to buy a DP hub and appropriate DP-to-DVI (or HDMI) cables.

Wednesday, 02 December 2015 10:49:22 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer
 Friday, 13 November 2015

Yesterday I got involved in a twitter discussion about the need for more women speakers (and attendees for that matter) at tech conferences. Of course twitter isn’t a good venue for discussing complex issues, and so I thought I’d put some of my thoughts into a blog post.

I identify as an ally for women in tech. I’m a technologist, but not a woman, so I can only express my views from being adjacent to the actual problem space. As such it is quite possible that my views are naïve in some ways, and if so I’ll beg forgiveness in advance (and welcome constructive feedback!).

I’m also a long-time co-chair for Visual Studio Live! and am the chair for Modern Apps Live!, and have spoken at hundreds of events around the world over the past couple decades. As a result I do have some perspective on how conferences work, the economics behind them, and the work involved in soliciting and selecting content for conferences.

To start with, I absolutely think that we need more women in technology, and (from my personal perspective) in software development. Nearly half the brainpower, creativity, and talent in the US is effectively untapped and that’s simply unconscionable.

One way to help get (and retain) more women involved in technology is to have women be visible as leaders in our industry. Not just business leaders like Marissa Mayer, but actual technologists who are visible within our communities.

As an aside, business leadership is great, but doesn’t translate to credibility in the minds of most technologists. I think one of our challenges in this space is that a lot of women feel pushed out of technology and into tangential careers such as project management, business analysis, sales, or pure business. That might be good for them as individuals (if they love that other career more than technology), but it doesn’t help the lack of women in technology.

For technologists some of the most visible people in the industry are public speakers at conferences and similar events. Many regular speakers are (as my wife puts it) “famous in geek-land”, and as such are a type of role model for others in the industry. So it is a logical thought progression to think that one way to encourage more women to get involved in software development is to get more women to be regular, recognized speakers at conferences.

In the twitter discussion I referenced at the start of this post the premise of the original post was addressing some of the primary barriers to women attending or speaking at industry events.

snip_20151113125613

Some of this is (imo) gender-neutral. As a professional (or at least semi-professional) speaker I expect events to cover my travel costs and provide a stipend or speaker fee. I provide a valuable professional service, and as such I expect reasonable compensation. That should be true regardless of anyone’s gender.

The childcare point might at first seem a bit odd to people who haven’t been paying attention to these issues. But it is a primary challenge when talking about getting women to attend or speak at events. For better or worse, in the US it is still assumed to be the mother’s responsibility to manage childcare for any kids – whether we’re talking single mothers or a married couple.

To be clear, this isn’t a universal truth – there are women who have a spouse/partner willing to assume childcare responsibilities while they are at an industry event – but like it or not there are a lot of women who don’t have that support, or who are single mothers without that option.

On the surface it seems obvious to lump “childcare” into the “travel cost” category – put the burden of such cost entirely on the speaker-who-is-a-parent. I do think though, that this cost tends to fall mostly on women, and that it absolutely contributes to the lack of women in technology and at conferences. There’s value to conferences in having more diversity – more talented people available as speakers. And there’s value to our industry as a whole to tapping into all the underutilized brainpower of women would otherwise be engaged in the field. As a result, perhaps there’s some way to translate the value to the industry and conferences into schemes that help absorb some of the costs or complexities involved in childcare for the kids of speakers.

No matter how you look at it, at the end of the day this is ultimately a matter of economics for the event organizer and the speaker: it costs X to go speak at an event, so as a professional I should expect Y from the conference organizer.

Before going further I think it is important to consider a couple things about events in our industry, and also the broader motivations of many (most?) of the regular speakers that I’ve interacted with over the past couple decades.

At least in the Microsoft software development event space there are some broad categories of events, each with their own economic model.

  1. Local/regional community events – user groups, code camps – which are generally free to attendees and which generally provide no direct compensation to speakers because they have no budget
  2. Local/regional commercial events – Heartland Developer Conference, That Conference, etc. – which are organized by a someone as part of a commercial or marketing venture (even if their intent is to support the community, their venture itself involves charging attendees and paying expenses, or indirectly making money by marketing the event under their company name)
  3. Large independent industry events – VS Live, Dev Intersections – which are organized by someone as a commercial venture where attendees pay to attend
  4. Microsoft direct industry events – Ignite, Build – where Microsoft organizes events and charge attendees to attend, and where Microsoft also largely controls the content with the intent of delivering the “official” marketing message around their products and services

There are outliers that don’t fit these categories and grey areas between them, but these are very common models.

Next I think it is important to consider the value a speaker gains from speaking. Different speakers put different weight toward these items, but they all should be considered part of the package.

  1. Travel expenses covered – should it cost money for the speaker to get themselves there to speak?
  2. Speaker stipend or fee – should the speaker be compensated for their work?
  3. Travel to cool places – sometimes events are in interesting/fun places around the world and the speaker might perceive value in such travel
  4. Speaker community – regular speakers on a circuit often become good friends, and only see each other at events, and some speakers perceive value in the opportunity to see their friends in person from time to time
  5. “Do good” – some speakers get a great deal of personal satisfaction by helping their colleagues be better technologists – altruism is a real thing
  6. Publicity/fame – translates to marketing value for the speaker and/or their employer – I’m talking about passive marketing here – speakers generate publicity by speaking, that’s just reality, and that publicity often helps them sell books, drive traffic to their blogs, get leads for subsequent training/consulting work, etc. This only happens (as a general rule) if the speaker provides great high-quality content without any overt marketing or product message – conference organizers and attendees love this stuff!!
  7. Direct marketing opportunity – usually this occurs because the speaker (or their employer) spent a metric ton of money to be a high-level sponsor of the event and thus basically bought a speaking slot – and in this scenario one would assume the speaker (or their employer) is making it worth the speaker’s time/effort to deliver their content. In many cases this is frowned upon by attendees, but sometimes this is the point of speaking – and in the case of first-party events like Ignite/Build the content is often quite good even as it is structured to fit within the overall marketing message of the event

Now here’s where it gets interesting because individual speakers weigh these benefits differently, and conference organizers do as well. I don’t know that it is possible to generalize the intersection between value to the speaker and what’s offered by various events. Instead I’ll relate some of my personal decisions from my experiences.

I generally won’t speak without some compensation. John Scalzi says it quite well. Mostly I expect that compensation to be in the form of a speaker fee, over and above travel expenses. To be honest, it is a rare thing that my speaker fees amounted to “real money”, at least by comparison to my salary or a typical consulting fee. Anyone who thinks they are doing to speak at tech conferences as a money-making career are generally delusional.

I do know a couple people who do make their living speaking, but they get paid by some company like Microsoft to do high-end presentations to decision makers (AKA CxO level people with big budgets), and if they speak at a more normal tech event it is as the highly paid keynote speaker. Yes, there’s a big difference in compensation between keynote speakers and regular session speakers at commercial events. And it is important to recognize that these are highly experienced speakers, not people just getting started in their careers as technologists or presenters.

I have spoken at some events because it was in the interest of Magenic to do so – so my compensation was from my employer rather than from the conference organizer. And I’ve spoken at some events because it was in the interest of Microsoft to do so – so my compensation came from a patron/sponsor rather than from the conference organizer.

I’ve also spoken at some events where all they covered was travel expenses without any actual speaker compensation. When I’ve done this it was because I had ulterior motives for getting to the event or the location of the event. As a result, I’ve been to some pretty cool places around the world. Basically I got free access to somewhere I’d have otherwise needed to pay my own way.

In all cases I try to deliver high quality content tailored to the audience. And in all cases my hope is that people will find the content, and my delivery, interesting and enjoyable enough that they’ll consider further action, such as:

  1. Giving me good speaker reviews (so I get more speaking opportunities)
  2. Reading my blog (where I have ads that generate revenue)
  3. Buying my books (where I make money)
  4. Hiring Magenic to do some consulting (which benefits my employer, and thus me)

Like writing technical books, speaking at technical conferences is best viewed (imo) as one piece of a broader set of activities – all of which generate some amount of revenue, and the totality of which, taken together, amounts to a decent living.

To bring all this back to women speaking at conferences, I strongly suspect these same motivations apply regardless of gender. My female friends/colleagues who speak in the same circuits as me get the same compensation as I do, and the fact that they’ve been speaking for many years implies (to me) that they are getting value beyond the speaker fees. They are mostly consultants or business owners or authors too, so as in my case I’m sure most of the value of speaking is to generate reputation that translates into business leads, book sales, etc.

I’d like to set up a straw-man for the purposes of discussion. Dangerous, but I think valuable as long as we all remember that these are educated guesses in terms of numbers. Also, I’m going to focus primarily on commercial events, not community/local events where most people speak for “love of community” – a euphemism for free.

Let’s assume the event pays $500/talk at a commercial event. A made-up value, but not entirely out of line in my experience. And most events that fly speakers in try to have each speaker deliver 2-3 talks.

It isn’t cost-effective for anyone to have a speaker deliver just one talk, and there’s risk to the event itself if a speaker delivers 4+ talks (suppose they get sick, or just don’t show up, or it turns out they really suck as a speaker).

This means most speakers will bring in around $1000 for speaking at a commercial event.

Next consider the cost of a speaker flying to an event.

  • Flight: $350
  • Hotel: $200/night x 2 nights: $400
  • Parking/taxi/etc: $250

These are made-up values, but probably pretty realistic for a frugal traveler: total cost of $1000. Some events pay more or less of a stipend, and some do/don’t cover flights or hotel or …  Again, generalizations are hard because everyone seems to do their own thing. But the overall cost structure is probably accurate at around $1k per speaker.

If the speaker pays their own travel and gives two talks they break even. If the event covers some/all of the travel cost then the speaker actually gets to pocket some money as direct compensation.

I’m not a lawyer or tax person, but everyone should also consider (at least in the US) that speaking is a job, and if you are doing it on your own then it is your business and that means you can deduct expenses from your taxes. This probably doesn’t apply if your employer is paying for you and they keep any speaker fees – but if you as a speaker are paying your way and accepting the compensation, then you are running a business and can deduct those expenses – thus reducing their effective cost by some percentage.

As I implied earlier, if this were 100% about direct compensation for speaking at conferences nobody would ever speak at conferences. From a purely personal economic perspective it is far, far, far better to spend a week billing at consulting rates than to pretend you are “making money” by speaking at a conference. The real value of speaking at conferences is almost entirely in the indirect value – the consulting/training leads it generates, the books it sells, the traffic it drives to your blog, etc.

snip_20151113220705Regardless, now consider adding cost for childcare. I don’t know exactly what that costs, though I do know the cost varies greatly by region in the US. According to a quick search apparently it is around $50/day on average, but that’s probably if you have a long-term contract. Drop-off services for a day I would guess cost more – so $100/day per child?

I’m assuming the children are coming with the parent, so this childcare would be somewhere local to the conference. Conferences are usually at hotels, sometimes at convention centers. Rarely near where I’d expect to find a childcare facility, so there’d be the need for a rental car or Uber or something to get to/from the childcare facility. I’m thinking rental car might be cheapest, since there’d be at least two round-trips per day. Between a rental car and typical hotel parking fees let’s call this $100/day.

Finally, because the children are coming with the parent there’s the added airfare. Airfare is tricky, but sticking with my earlier $350 guess the cost is $350 per child.

For one child where the parent gives all their talks on one day this is around $550. For two children it is $1000.

This is a major burden for a parental would-be speaker to assume – no wonder it is hard to get women to speak (or attend) conferences!

One solution, for a parent who has a spouse/partner, is for their partner to take care of the child(ren). I’ve been extremely fortunate in my career because my spouse did exactly that (thank you honey!). Sadly the reality is that this isn’t a common scenario for most mothers – their partners generally can’t or won’t assume role of caretaker at this level. It is also the case that (at least in the US) there are a lot of single mothers who don’t have the option at all, because there’s no spouse/partner available at all.

Another solution is that there’s some way to offset this cost in whole or part. The obvious thought is that event organizers can just provide childcare, or absorb the costs associated with childcare.

Non-commercial events may have alternatives, because they usually don’t have the budget to pay anything to start with, but instead often live and die based on corporate sponsorships. I’m left wondering if code camp organizers (for example) couldn’t solicit sponsorship from local childcare chains in their area? Perhaps set up a “kids corner” on a Saturday so speakers (and attendees?) could drop off their kids for a while – at the event – with supervised/insured and donated childcare. The value proposition for the childcare company seems clear: good marketing to a group of parents that make good money and need childcare.

I feel reasonably safe in suggesting that the organizers of commercial events are unlikely to absorb the cost outright, because their purpose behind running the events is to make money. In the twitter thread someone mentioned that one way to offset the cost would be to reduce food/beverage service for attendees. Another way would be to increase the cost of the conference for attendees.

fwiw: having watched a conference basically drive itself into the ground by providing crappy food/entertainment for attendees I don’t think cutting that part of the conference experience is a viable long-term strategy – people won’t pay the going conference rates to attend a conference with crappy food and/or no coffee/snacks between sessions.

In the end though, I think there may be two obvious/primary paths for women to enter the speaking circuits.

One is by working for one of the larger companies that put on first party events. Basically we’re talking about Microsoft, Apple, Google, and other companies that put on events and many/all of the speakers are their employees. Within that context speakers are compensated (and childcare is covered) under that company’s employment policies. The good news is that there’s increasing pressure on those companies for equality of pay and to enable diversity in their employee bases.

That said, I’m unaware of companies that pay for parents to bring their kids along with on trips or cover their childcare while on the road. Perhaps this should become a thing?

A second is to do what most of us have done: start by speaking at local events (and/or write a book), build up enough of a reputation as a speaker to get speaking slots at regional events, and then get selected as a speaker at larger industry events.

As I mentioned earlier, perhaps for non-commercial events the idea is to get sponsorships from childcare companies. For commercial events perhaps the event organizers need to pay all speakers more, or even come up with some mechanism by which they are able to help offset the costs of some barriers to becoming a speaker, such as the costs of childcare?

This is where the rubber meets the road, and I don’t personally have a clear answer. I’d love to hear ideas on how to help offset the costs of being a parent and a speaker at the same time.

Friday, 13 November 2015 22:31:00 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00)  #    Disclaimer
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