Why I will not be speaking at ReactiveConf

Pling! goes my phone. It’s 6am on a Saturday morning. I sit up on the edge of my bed and look at my notifications. It’s a message from ReactiveConf.

Hello Jani :) Just a smaill [sic] reminder, don’t forget to spread the word about your [Lightning Talk], there are 2 more weeks to go! ⭐️

I groan and go back to bed. I’ve had enough.

TL;DR: The conference organisers seem to care more about using speakers and community members for free content marketing, than actually providing quality content.

#ReactiveConf Lightning Talks

I went to ReactiveConf last year. I had a great time, meeting old friends and making new ones. When, 6 months ago, they announced an open call for lightning talks for this year’s conference, I knew I wanted to speak there.

This is how the open call works: Submit a talk proposal as a GitHub gist, and hashtag it with #ReactiveConf. Others can then vote for your talk by starring the gist, and the top 10 submissions are awarded talks slots.

Oh, and don’t forget to advertise your #ReactiveConf talk on your social media to make sure you get accepted!

Oh, and only the top 3 submissions get a free ticket to the conference!

Ok, fine. I’m game. Let’s do this.


Cut to a few months later. It’s June, the voting period is ending, and I’m happy to discover my talk is among the top 3 talks.

Pling! goes my phone, the first of many times the conference organisers reach out to me.

I just wanted to remind you to keep promoting your ReactiveConf Lightning Talk on Twitter. We are still waiting for more people to submit their talks and the deadline will be postponed, so there’s still time to get stars on your Gist.

Oh, bummer. Well, I really want to speak there, so let me tweet about it.

By July, my talk is the most starred one.


just a quick update — we’ve extended the Lightning Talks deadline to August 31, as not many people have submitted yet. It means you still have time to promote your talk.

Oh, whatever.

Despite my waning interest in promoting the talk, by the time the voting ends I’m still in the top 3 submissions, and I start planning my travel to Bratislava.

Pling! It’s early September now, a week after the voting has ended.

As we are really happy about your enthusiasm for getting voices, we had decided to give you more space to earn more stars :)) So the deadline is prolonged until 30th of September!

I hadn’t looked at my ranking since I believed the voting had ended, but it turns out that in the days after, people have kept voting, and I’ve slid to 4th place. But not to worry! I can always go do some more #ReactiveConf tweets to earn my place, right?

No thank you

I find it distasteful to begin with, that most of the lightning speakers are required to pay for their ticket to speak at the conference. As speakers we commit to spend an enormous amount of time and effort preparing, rehearsing and delivering quality content, free of charge, for the benefit of the conference. I will certainly not pay hundreds of euros for the privilege. But hey, I don’t want to judge: As long as I don’t have to pay, I’ll let others make that decision for themselves.

But this is where I draw the line in the sand. By requiring speakers to promote their talks, and then moving the goal post time after time (for a total of 6 months now), they’re making the speakers part of their ham-fisted content marketing effort, which includes others dubious stunts such as spamming high-profile community members to become their “ambassadors”, to bringing literal superhero impersonators to the conference like it’s a 10 year old’s birthday party.

It’s not really that hard a job. Treat speakers with respect, because they are working hard, for free, to make your event great. And if you need to postpone deadlines or tweak the program, we’ll understand — but don’t treat us like children and try to disguise your marketing ploys as a fun game.

So, no thank you. I don’t think I’ll be promoting my #ReactiveConf talk any more. At some point, repeatedly begging for attention makes the speaker and the entire enterprise look ridiculous.

Instead, I’m withdrawing from the contest. I want to thank the 150 odd people who starred my gist. I hope none of you will be too sorely disappointed — I’m sure you’ll survive — but if you want to see my talk, I’ll be giving it at London Halfstack conference in November, instead.

Peace out. ✌