msvrtan's blog

WebCamp Zagreb 2015 Why I left

Another WebCamp Zagreb conference is behind us, 4th one. And most importantly (for me), first one without me at the helm. Lot of people were surprised when I told them I wasn’t organising it this year and I wanted to finally write about what happened.

When Senko Rasic and I started WebCamp Zagreb in 2012, we were hoping to gather around 100 people for a 1 day (Saturday) small conf venue. Just follow the yearly stats here:

WebCamp Zagreb 2012:

  • 230 visitors
  • 1 day conference
  • budget: 1050 EUR with 150EURs to spare (going towards next conf)
  • 5 organizers
  • 0 volunteers
  • 24 speakers
  • 2 months of preparation

WebCamp Zagreb 2013:

  • 600 visitors
  • 1 day conference
  • budget: 5500EUR with loss of 200EUR
  • 8 organizers
  • 15 volunteers
  • 24 speakers
  • 4.5 months of preparation

WebCamp Zagreb 2014:

  • 800 visitors
  • 2 day conference
  • all talks in English
  • budget: 24.000 EUR with 3500EUR to spare (going towards next conf)
  • 5 core organizers
  • 10 organisers (without core)
  • 19 volunteers
  • 37 speakers
  • 7 months of preparation

The conference grew every year, not only in attendance but in complexity, from 1 to 2 day conf, from Croatian as main language to only English talks organising it became harder and harder. This year I wasn’t able to dedicate myself and with a really strong core team it felt the best that I step out and let core team organise this one without me. Without me completely.

There were several reasons for this decision to take place. First and most important one was me being unable to give 100% this year. With all the ideas and plans, organisation had to start in January (9 months before the conference) to avoid some of the problems we had last year. With my personal and professional life going beserk in last few years, starting a nine month long project was a big no no. I just needed to focus on other things and try to get them in order. Second one, stepping not only from the helm but from the core team all together was the hardest one. I’m a hard person to work with and I always looked upon my projects as my children, if I didn’t step out all together I felt I would compromise team dynamics that the new team had to build, especially with the need to onboard new team members in places we were (s)lacking before.

OK, so how did it go? Awesome. They decided to move from a “free-to-attend” model to paid tickets, whick is a really hard step to do. Moving from a model where you sell 300-400 tickets in an hour to selling tickets up to 24h before the conference can be demotivating. And fearful that you will have to fill the budget gap from your own pocket, for a conference you are volunteering to make happen. A move I wanted to do before but didn’t have balls to do it. Kudos! For years, I kept sponsorship packages prices very low (undervalued) to remove problems of onboarding sponsors (something we did not have time or people to do). They had to raise sponsorship packages prices to be able to cover for a lot of additional costs and bring the conference to new level: paying for speaker accommodations, professional video recording, HD projectors, better audio equipment, sponsor booths, drinkup (wasn’t sponsored this year), catered lunch instead of pizzas: while not being core thing for a conference to have this is something that had to be done. And feedback I got from everyone was good: everybody was amazed with all the improvements organisers were able to bring.

It was a hard and long road for them and I have nothing but RESPECT to core team!

As a former WebCamp organiser and an active community member, I feel proud and happy that WebCamp Zagreb is continuing to happen and even grow without me there, a breaking point lot of community projects do not even survive.

Does this mean I will stop organising developer events? No. Well probably not. I really missed organising WebCamp Zagreb this year and I do have some other ideas to try out.

Newer >>