Does EVERYTHING have to be about money??

Friday I got a comment on my post A little used tool of mine came in REALLY handy this summer!!
from Alan November himself. Imagine my ego to know that Alan November had read my blog and even taken the time to post! Here is his comment:

Alan November // Jul 27th 2007 at 7:19 am (edit)

Helllo Kathy,

I am thrilled that you were able to join our community in Boston from South Carolina. Now I have to rethink the BLC conference design to take advantage of how the new tools can connect to people around the world. It is a fun time.

It excited me to no end that I’d gotten this comment (so much so that I can forgive Alan for misspelling Cathy), as I had thoroughly enjoyed BLC this year through the kind efforts of the skypechatting going on during many sessions. David Jakes had sent out in his blog The Strength of Weak Ties and open invitation for anyone wanting to join in to skype him and he would add us. I took advantage of this opportunity since I could not go, and learned so much. I was not alone, as many (from within the conference and session to around the world) joined into this amazing new way to learn from the experts.

Well yesterday I find out something different, and it dismays me to no end. You see, I live in a state where funding for public education is TIGHT. Even though I have desired to go and asked each year (only to be told no), I do not think it is realistic to think that I’ll ever get to go. I only know of folks from the wealthier districts in South Carolina, like Lexington 5 and Greenville County who have sent folks. I read a lot of blogs through my reader, and frequently link out to those blogs to see if there are comments, especially I I feel it’s a popular topic (and the blog doesn’t seem to offer an rss for comments.) So yesterday, as I was reading up, I came to the folder in my Bloglines titled NECC Tags. I came across the post about Skyping called “Uber Blogging” which oddly enough mentioned me and my participation in BLC from my home here in South Carolina. Yes, I was flattered that I had gotten a mention in that blog, called Nexus. So tonight I pulled up that link again, but this time instead of linking to Nexus since I’d already read it, I went to the links that linked to it in Technorati. Here I found this blog named Educational Discourse, and the principal blogger (Kelly Christopherson) also talked about all the skypechatting and back channeling going on during BLC, and how it had forever changed the way folks want to enjoy presentations at conferences. Yes, I was in total agreement! And I was proud of the fact that I had already experienced this phenomenon and had already blogged about it in my own blog. I have now subscribed to Kelly’s feed (in a folder I’ve named school administrators who blog.)

But here is where the disappointment comes in. I linked to this blog simply because it had linked to Diane Hammond’s blog Nexus (the one that had mentioned me.) I wanted to check out the links as I was sure it had something to do with skypechatting or “uber-blogging” as Diane had aptly titled it. But what caught my eye was the lone comment by none other than Christian Long, a presenter from BLC, and an author of his own blog. He was also heavily involved in extending my learning at BLC through the skypechats. I’ll quote it here:

Christian Long
July 26th, 2007 at 4:06 pm

First, thank you for pushing on this idea. Echo your thoughts across the board.

Second, as a new papa who has video access to his kidddo in daycare each day, I am already preparing to be blacked-out once he arrives in a traditional school that considers ‘parent teacher nights’ to be the equal of ‘access’ that I have n0w. Whether regular or semi-regular podcasts (or something more or less dynamic), I’d like to think that by the time my kiddo goes to kindergarten it will be possible for me to regularly ‘attend’ his classes from a distance.

Third, and the same can be said of the classes ‘down the hall’ at the same school I’ll be teaching at this fall. So many wonderful conversations taking place in the same building, but I can’t be in all the classrooms at the same time. Mmm.

Fourth, Alan November’s BLC events will be available for a fee virtually starting next year. He announced that in Boston this summer. Plan on attending one way or another!

Cheers, Christian

Did anyone catch Christian’s fourth point?? Let me quote just that one again:

Fourth, Alan November’s BLC events will be available for a fee virtually starting next year. He announced that in Boston this summer. Plan on attending one way or another!

To say I am shocked and dismayed is an understatement. I even feel a little mad. You see, as I mentioned before, the rate (roughly $700) is high, and it does not include housing or travel. If I were to fund this my self, the trip would more than likely be well over $1000. It saddens me tremendously now to think that the opportunities I enjoyed this year at BLC (from right here in my own living room) will not be available next summer because for someone in charge, this will be transformed into a money making scheme. It really concerns me to know that this conference costs participants $700, and when you factor in that there were roughly 600-700 people there this year, well that’s a lot of money they made. In working with SCAET over the last 3 years, I realize it takes a lot of money to run a conference. And BLC brings in some really great presenters, like Mitch Resnick, Angela McFarlane, Tim Tyson, and Dr. Yong Zhao, which I’m sure come with a hefty price tag. Factor in some of the other amenities that have a cost, like free wireless, its location at the Boston Marriott Newton, breakfast and lunch daily, very nice evening events (this year’s conference included a trip to Boston Waterfront and a Harbor Dinner Cruise), and assorted activities daily for participants’ entire families. Yes, I’m sure this conference totals a whopper-sized bill.

But I don’t think BLC will lose participants just because of the skypechatters who enjoyed the conference (some like me free, but only in the virtual sense) this year. This conference is way popular enough that the planners SHOULD NOT charge for what we did this year. For some reason after reading Christian’s comment yesterday, and then rereading Alan’s comment on my blog, I felt like I had done something wrong…like I had stolen something. Something that had felt so wonderful two weeks ago, suddenly felt dirty. Gee thanks for making me feel that way.

Well, all I can say is I’m sorry if I did something wrong. I am changing school districts this year, and once again I will ask for funding to attend BLC in 2008. I really don’t think the request will be funded, and so once again next summer I’ll be sitting at home wishing I was there and clamoring for blog posts, podcasts, and any other tidbits that may come from this conference. Someone correct me if I’m wrong. I really hate to think this change is going to take place because it’s just another way to make money. Oh well. Hopefully it will be considerably cheaper than the $700 it’s costing participants now, and will include perhaps an opportunity to see and hear the presenters, and not just get bread crumbs from the skypechatters.

If the planners are going to find a way to charge for even the “breadcrumbs” that go from this conference, then PLEASE, develop some kind of scholarship system so those of us in rural districts with tight budgets can apply and perhaps win a conference registration.

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9 Responses to “Does EVERYTHING have to be about money??”

  1.   Janice Stearns Says:

    I am very discouraged that BLC will not offer the content from their conference for free this year. Last year, they did offer their content after the conference on a podcast for free. It was wonderful! I was able to see Marco Torres as a keynote speaker with all the media included in a video podcast. There were other outstanding podcast episodes from the conference as well. I would venture to guess that the free content from last year was in part responsible for the increased attendance at the conference this year. (I read somewhere that the conference attendance jumped from 300 last year to 600 this year.) As you have said, I’m sure the conference cost a great deal of money to host, but it’s unfortunate that those of us who couldn’t attend can’t benefit from the learning more. Fortunately, it seems that some were allowed to podcast their presentations. Bob Sprankle posted recordings of Darren Kuropatwa and Dean Shareski’s sessions on his Bit by Bit podcast. I was looking forward to the podcasts from this conference hosted on the November learning podcast.
    I guess we are so used to people offering quality content for free, that when a business like Alan November’s seeks to charge for it, it seems unnatural. The same happened when his business began charging for the blogging service that at one time was free. I guess some people need to make a living at this, besides the money for consulting and keynotes. Sigh. I will have to say that Alan does do some things gratis. He offered a free half-day session for all our administrators and key leaders in our district last year. It was great! Some from that session of course attended the BLC conference. Hopefully, the charge for accessing the content will not be prohibitive. I would probably pay a small fee to see some quality content, but it would have to come out of my own pocket. Education and business just don’t mix well. We desire and seek out our learning for free.
    David Warlick is my hero. He offers his content and services for free. Donations to his Starbuck’s card can’t be enough to pay for what he offers for free to educators.

  2.   Jennifer W Says:

    What dismays me is that they are just not getting it…….

    And what they aren’t getting is the fact that they cannot put a price on virtual learning………

    I can tell you for certain that they cannot block skype calls in — they cannot block twitter — they cannot block blog posts — and they cannot block wikis —

    They can put a price tag perhaps on their provided content — but they cannot put a price tag on our received content.

    I think honestly that Alan November is perhaps kneejerking and will hopefully rethink this.

    If not, I feel a rebellion coming on — for when you start to block content (in this case putting a price tag on it) — we, will figure out a way to find a workaround.

    Thanks for the post — it was well written.


  3.   Jim Says:


    I think there is a huge misunderstanding. Alan talked about live streaming video to sites for virtual participation. To do this he will need to hire people and pay fees for the bandwidth for the video. That cost money and the fees he charges would cover his cost.

    His comment about charging a fee was not for the type of participation you took part in during the conference.

    Also, video and materials from BLC are posted.

    My humble comments,


  4.   Janice Stearns Says:

    Thanks for the clarification. I did misunderstand what was going to be offered. However, I only see one video from the conference so far, posted on youtube via the blog at Maybe more will be available soon.

  5.   technotuesday Says:

    I too am waiting for some of the videos. It was amazing to listen to Bob Sprankle’s session from BLC (almost verbatim NECC) again but this time view the slide share and READ the skypechat that was posted. Really racheted up my learning, even though I could almost say been there, done that, and could’ve skipped this podcast. Glad I didn’t.
    Jim, I do hope I am misunderstanding the intentions of the BLC conference. I look forward to seeing the videos too, though like Janice, I have yet to see anything posted except Sprankle’s material. I’m going to spend time today looking in YouTube for what Janice mentioned. And since you say the videos are available, then point me to them. I haven’t seen them at all. I definitely would spend some time with them, again, matching them up to the skypechats that have so generously been posted and shared.

  6.   Ewan McIntosh Says:

    A *huge* misunderstanding, I fear.

    Streaming is expensive. That means having physically larger pipes (i.e. digging up concrete), camera people, sound people and technical help. Charging for it is, at the moment, the only possible way to pay the way. The charge could be met through sponsorship, but that’s entirely Alan’s choice as a businessman – he’s been doing this long enough to know whether there’s a market for it.

    I’ll be honest – I think Alan really DOES get it and he is keen to have more the the free Skyping in, backchannelling, blogging and so on.

    If you want a quality audio video feed, that can be viewed live and in HD quality, live so that you can interact on the Skypechats *as if you were there* then there is a disproportionate price tag, such is the nature of that technology at the moment. But, in return, you get an “almost there” experience.

  7.   technotuesday Says:

    Ewan you are probably correct and mine is probably just a knee-jerk reaction. I just pray that if the conference goes to live streaming for attendees form afar to participate as you have described, it is not cost prohibitive for me like the conference registration/travel/lodging is at this time. Even though I moan about the price (afterall my salary is based on Southeastern average for teachers, which is not exactly stellar) I would probably be first in line to shell out the dough. Hey I know! Why don’t you and other major consultants sponsor my scholarship for next year?? : )

  8.   kwhobbes Says:

    Cathy, as you have said, it would not be possible to stop people from skyping in and listening. However, as Ewan and Jim both mention, to have “live” access, there will be a cost. However, I cannot see that it will be any where near what the conference costs and will probably depend on how many sessions you want to “attend”. Although I would take the skyped in version of the conference, I’d like the option to attend virtually for a SMALL fee. I know I could see them after but part of draw is to partake of the events while they are happening. That is what is great about a conference – being there.

  9.   Christian Long Says:

    You certainly do NOT need yet another comment reading “huge misunderstanding”, and it is becoming more obvious that it is not the initial reaction that matters but the synthesized understanding that comes from getting feedback over time.

    Since I was lucky enough to be included in your post above, I wanted to add some clarification for what it is worth:

    1. My original point in letting you know that ‘attendance’ at BLC 08 will not require being in Boston, but can done virtually is thanks to Alan thinking of possibilities to increase attendance…not as a ‘money-making scheme’. Hey, he is a consultant/speaker and business guy, so he has to pay for his offerings/events, but his intention is pretty straight forward. You can attend on a wide array of platforms in ‘formal’ ways through his offerings.
    2. The informal offerings — such as Skypecasts that David Jakes and others provided so that you and I could interact without being in the same room — will still undoubtedly occur; probably better tools available to facilitate the ‘free’ version next year, too.
    3. If Alan (and team) blocked the on-the-fly versions (like the Skypecasts) in 08 to protect his bottom line, I’d say that something vital was lost in the mix. I think the best ‘quality’ videos, etc., will be available via paid offerings through his partners who will help underwrite and guarantee server load, etc.. But the ‘in process’ elements (like Skypecast) will most likely still be available for anyone.
    4. BTW, many of us — like me — use personal funds when my school/employer won’t pay for my conferences…when I see it as a can’t-pass-up moment for my larger career. Even as a presenter, I paid out of my own pocket for the travel/hotel side of things, while Alan’s team was kind enough to forgo the conference fees itself. I never once felt held-back because someone else was not willing to pay for something I wanted to attend; I simply saw it as a life and professional investment. The goal is to not just attend a great conference (by any means necessary) but to offer a presentation yourself. Sometimes this waives the conference tix fees; sometimes you actually get paid. And when you aren’t there F2F, we are all blessed in this day and age to even have virtual options. Beginning to complain because someone wants to pay for their efforts and to get paid in return has little value in the larger world of ideas/events. Instead, we need to adore the gold-rush of virtual opportunities and info-share we do have.
    5. If you can’t join ‘em, build your own. Why don’t you create your own conference…just as Alan did 8 years ago…and see what happens? He had something like 50 people the first year, and probably not from around the world. This year he doubled his participants from last year alone, so it wasn’t too long ago that he was probably just barely breaking even. This year and beyond? He’ll probably do better, but not as a guarantee. But again, he had a vision 8 years ago (or before)…and he built it on his terms. How about your vision: conference planner and presenter?

    Cheers to you for pushing on the potential issue…and also for learning in transparent terms. And so pleased that the virtual connections of BLC allowed the 2 of us to cross paths on many fronts. Good day to be alive and teach!

    Cheers, Christian


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