PyCon 2013 things I didn’t do


I didn’t claim my “swag bag”. I wasn’t even tempted. I don’t need another meh coffee mug or pen. I don’t need a small stack of paper brochures I’ll only discard.

It’s time for conferences to retire the swag bag!

This anachronism should have perished years ago. Anything I want to discover, I can discover on the web 1000x faster than I can in a swag bag. You expect me to flip through the paper collateral? If I’m interested in web-based analytics, Python IDEs, or “live chat” technology for web pages, I’ll search online. I know the swag bag is a tiny and unrepresentative subset of my options. If you’re expecting me to think, “Ooo, I’ll use their product, they’re in my swag bag!” your model of how brains work (well, my brain, anyway, but then again mine’s the archetype) is wrong.

Back in the day, you looked forward to finding the latest copies of software, or interesting trial/demo/crippleware, in a swag bag. Trial copies of Visual Studio, or a Linux distribution, or the like. Or, going way back, new products that you never heard of. None of that is true anymore.

I know swag bag material helps sell sponsor slots, and that’s how conferences defray costs. But they’re still nigh useless, and bad for the environment. It’s a matter of time before vendors wise up to how little return they get on their swag dollar. Conferences should move now to kill this ancient custom!

Every attendee received a Raspberry Pi, Model B unit. Very cool! I didn’t have any interest, so I didn’t claim mine. All the unclaimed units are being donated to charities and schools, so my Raspberry Pi will go to some worthy cause somewhere. I hope some girl or boy is inspired by it.

I wanted to take in some evening events, but except for the first night, my control rods went in around 6:30 pm and I chilled instead. On the plus side, I got lots of sleep and woke up refreshed each morning. In fact, I noticed myself dragging less on the conference’s last day than I normally do at this point in a conference. Getting good sleep is good. Who woulda thunk it?

3 comments
  1. Nitin Reddy Katkam said:

    The giveaways are so you can display a brand name with pride. Imagine going to work in a Microsoft-branded T-shirt. They get to build a sense of community among attendees, and perhaps a greater loyalty toward the brand.

    Of course, if there was some new player handing out coffee mugs with their name on it, it doesn’t make as much sense. You wouldn’t find a programmer wearing a T-shirt reading Reykjavik Info Fort Security Consulting and Computers, except maybe on the day after the conference or if everything else is in the laundry bin.

    • John said:

      I suppose… I’m not keen on displaying brand names on my clothing, a.k.a. being a free walking billboard. :-)

      • Nitin Reddy Katkam said:

        If it weren’t for the charity, you should’ve picked up the Raspberry Pi. These little gadgets are fun to set up and fiddle with.

        On the flip side, they are a black hole for productivity. Whenever I get a new tablet or e-reader, there go a few dozen hours that I’m never going to get back. I justify the time spent by thinking about the lower carbon footprint – if I’d been using my laptop, it would have been more Watts spent.

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