Site sponsorships, conference speaking, and Fronteers

In the next two months three important changes will take place in my professional life. These changes have a common theme: they reduce the time I spend on unpaid jobs.

  1. is now sponsored by Microsoft, Google, and BlackBerry. The purpose is to grant me more time to do fundamental research without having to take on other jobs for money.
  2. Starting after the Fronteers 2012 conference on Thursday and Friday, I’ll take a break from the conference circuit for at least a year; possibly longer. I will be present at conferences I organise in Amsterdam, but I will not travel.
  3. I will step down as chairman and board member of Fronteers at the end of November. (Blogpost in Dutch.)

Why these changes? To be quite honest, I feel I’ve done enough free work for the web development community.

My research, my conference travel, and my Fronteers work were unpaid, and I feel the balance between paid and unpaid work has been lost for quite a while now. Just like everyone else I need money, but none of these activities were bringing in any, and they ate up far too much of my time.


When I decided I was doing too much work for free I actively started looking for research sponsors, and who better than the prime beneficiaries of my work: the browser vendors? Fortunately my quest succeeded thanks to Microsoft, Google, and BlackBerry, and I’ll try to get more browser vendors on board. I will have some more sponsor-related announcements to make later this week.

Since my site is now sponsored I will do research as usual. Rest assured that I will continue to document odd browser behaviour and point out errors and bugs in a few dozen implementations of this or that standard.

Even better, because I won’t have any conference- or Fronteers-related work, and because the sponsorship allows me to decline commercial jobs, I’ll likely have a lot of time for research this Autumn and Winter. And oh MAN am I looking forward to that!


At the end of November I will step down as chairman and board member of Fronteers — not the conference, but the Dutch association of front-end developers that curates the conference, and does a lot of other stuff besides. I will get back to Fronteers and its accomplishments in a separate blogpost.


Finally, the conferences. Don’t get me wrong, I like speaking about tricky technical web dev subjects, I like meeting friends, acquaintances, and strangers over a beer or two and talking shop, and I like the general mood and interaction during conferences and their parties. Not to mention the international web dev gossip scene.

What I don’t like is the travel, and the preparation time. Basically, if I travel to a conference, even if it’s only Wednesday to Saturday, I don’t get anything else done in that week. I’ve heard other speakers have the same problem, so I’m not alone in this.

A regular conference presence would require me to go on, I don’t know, four or five short trips in October and November, which means I’m out of the running for four or five weeks, which means I don’t stand a chance of doing anything useful in Autumn.

And remember: conference speaking is mostly unpaid work. I only ever made a profit on one trip, and that was my US tour back in April. And the profit was mostly nominal: it didn’t come close to paying a fair price for 2.5 weeks spent on the road.

Conference organisers pay for my flight and hotel, but usually not for my time. That’s fine; it’s the way front-end conferences work, and I’ve copied and defended the system myself, but it means four or five weeks without any income.

Even worse, this year I spent roughly 70% of my time on conferences. The majority of that time was for Mobilism, which does bring in money, but still I’m desperately looking for some time off from conference organising and speaking.

Conference schedule

That’s why I’m not accepting speaking engagements for now. Fronteers 2012, where I’m part of the organisation and a speaker, will be my last conference until Mobilism 2013 in May, where I’m also part of the organisation and a speaker.

That means seven blessed months without conferences of any kind. I’ll miss parts of the experience, but not the travel. Also, I’m hoping that putting myself on a strict no-conference diet will make me regain the sense of excitement and fun I used to have but am gradually losing.

And after Mobilism? I’m not sure yet, but currently my idea is not to speak until September 2013, and possibly even longer. The exact time at which I’ll resume my conference speaking depends on the plans Krijn, Stephen, and I have for our own conferences next year, and which aren’t ready yet. The worst case scenario is that I’ll also take Autumn 2013 off and will reappear at conferences near you only in Spring 2014.

This is the blog of Peter-Paul Koch, web developer, consultant, and trainer. You can also follow him on Twitter or Mastodon.
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