When asked why he no longer goes to Ruggeri’s, a restaurant in his native St. Louis, Baseball Hall-Of-Famer Yogi Berra replied “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”
Being crowded, Ruggeri’s obviously has lots of people there, just nobody from whatever community Yogi might have once been a part of, nobody he would have at one time expected to be there. The reason that nobody from Yogi’s community went there anymore, is that too many other people did.
When a place becomes too crowded, things like getting in, getting a table, getting service, etc, become more competative and thereby difficult. Some of the original regulars become crowded out and stop going, eventually the others stop too, “because nobody goes there anymore.”
Interestingly, the people that don’t go there anymore are usually part of the reason the place became crowded in the first place. Ruggeri’s was a place that Yogi Berra and other people he was close to used to work at, and frequent often. As Berra became one of the most famous people in America, his connection made Rugerri’s more famous, and thus more crowded.
All the new people crowding Ruggeri’s wanted to experience a part of Berra’s world, and as a result, Yogi stopped going, not because of any disrespect towards the people who came, but simply because the place could not function as as it used to for his community, on account of being too crowded.
Rugerri’s could no longer be what it once was, could no longer have the community it once had.
Now what does all this have to do with 28c3?
Well, through nothing short of my own incompetence when it comes to e-commerce, I failed to get a ticked to 28c3 for the 2nd straight year.
It was sold out. Seeing as I’m not the only regular attendee in this position, I suggested on Twitter that some tickets should be reserved for local hackers. This idea seemed insane to a few people, who chastised me that it was my own fault and not the fault of the organizers (even though I never blamed anyone) and that this was fair! Everyone had the same chances, and the only reason I did not have a ticket was because I was unable to “use a simple web form” in time!
While the system is certainly fair, in fairness, the last claim is not is not quite true, simply trying earlier is not really a guarantee, is it? Since the supply is limited, others could try even earlier still. It’s a race, and a race will always have winners and losers. Getting tickets for the congress is simply more competitive than it used to be, just like getting a table at Ruggeri’s.
What this means is that the composition of the community will change. I’ve been to going to the congress since I moved to Berlin, starting with 19c3, making me a relative newcomer in terms of the history of the congress, but none the less one of the regulars for the last 8 years. The biggest draw for me is not the talks or workshops, but the people. The community. No doubt many of those people will be there again this year.
Crowding-out doesn’t start with the most promenant members of the community. For instance Yogi Berra would never have had a problem getting a table at Ruggeri’s, he’d be given the red-carpet treatment no doubt. However the community that Berra had been a part of would not be there, it’s the periphery that gets crowded-out first.
Berra would be there, but the people he was familier with, the community he was there to be with, would not be. Berra did not stop going because it was too crowded, but rather because “nobody goes there anymore.”
Increased competition for tickets will do the same thing to the congress; the transience of attendees will increase and their inter-connectedness and social bonds will decrease. Not only that, but increased competition will also reduce diversity, since only the most motivated will have a chance to win the ticket race, thus the number of impulse attendees and those tagging along with friends out of curiosity, will likewise decrease. More and more, potential attendees outside the more typical will be squeezed out. Rather than having an organic composition, the attending body will become more homogenous.
Now, it’s not that the new visitors to the the congress are somehow less important or less interesting than the original regulars or other potential attendees, they most certainly are not. However, just like the increased competitiveness for access prevents the old community from continuing there, it likewise prevents any new community from forming, because community requires continuity, and increased competition for access prevents such continuity from being possible.
Yogi Berra’s preference was not made based on a comparison between the old community and a new community, but between being among friends and being among strangers. Also, It was not based on the quality of the restaurant. Ruggeri’s food didn’t get any worse, neither did the service, neither the did the quality of the people that came there. Yogi Berra stopped going because it was no longer a place with a real community, and that mattered more.
The congress risks going in the same direction, certainly the quality of the attendees will be great, the CCC always attracts interesting people. The quality of the talks and workshops is likely to be as good as any year. However, with regular attendees unable to attend, the community will begin to dilute, and slowly but surely after years of attrition, “nobody” will go there anymore, even if tickets are harder than ever to get.
In any case, since this is so long already, I’ll save my suggestions for what to do about this for next week. Please let me know yours! Fortunately, Stammtisch is not yet so crowded that regulars can not get in, and no tickets are required, so I’ll be at Cafe Buchhandlung tonight at 9pm as usual. All are welcome.
 I did end up getting a ticket last year from a friend who had one.