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Arnie Rowland

Discussion of issues related to SQL Server, the MSDN SQL Support Forums, the complex interplay between Developers and SQL Server Administrators, and our sometimes futile attempts to have a 'normal' life.

Paying for Free

It seems like there is a widespread malaise in the country these days. Everyone's clamoring to cut taxes -but no one wants to have their neighborhood school closed, or fear bridges collapsing underneath them, or damage their automobiles while driving over deteriorating streets and roads. They expect Fire and Police personnel to magically appear when needed. The list can go on and on. Folks want and expect so many things to be available, yet they don't want to pay for them. They don't care if someone else has to pay more, they just want to pay less.

In the computer technology field, there is an excellent array of 'free' professional activities. User Groups, Code Camps, and SQLSaturdays are just a few opportunities often provided where you can pick up information about upcoming technology changes, gather a few tips and tricks, network with others, and even find a job. These events are made possible with the generosity AND self-interest of Vendors –companies that want the opportunity to put their message in front of the audience. In exchange for their money, these Vendor/Sponsors get exposure for their products and company message. Their logos may be on signs, they provide printed material, they offer raffle items, and they even send their personnel to be on hand to talk with attendees. They are trying to be noticed. They are trying to have the opportunity to put their product or message before a receptive audience for consideration.

To me, it seems like such a simple bargain. I go to the event and consume whatever learning / skill / networking opportunities that fit my interests. I have rarely left an event thinking that it was a waste of time -I always gain from being there. In exchange, I listen to a few sales pitches, see a few new products, pick up some literature, and even expect to receive an email or two. It's not too burdensome. If the vendor's products and my needs are out of sync, then I ask to be removed from their mail lists. I get a great free opportunity, and the vendor gets the opportunity to show me their product.

In my experience, Vendors that sponsor technology events are reputable and ethical. If, upon receiving their after-event email, I ask to be removed from their mail list, they readily do so. And on occasion I have actually discovered that I really do wish to continue contact with a particular vendor.

As a 'free' event organizer, I am personally dismayed about how many folks, when registering for the event, automatically 'opt out' from receiving after-event email contact from the event sponsors. It seems like they just can't be bothered to receive an email from a Sponsor, and then, after receiving that after-event email, make an educated decision about remaining in contact with the sponsor.

That just seems so wrong!

Life is about balance. Everything has a cost. It's not sustainable to always expect and never be willing to pay. If you are going to accept the opportunity to improve your knowledge, skills, and professional network (and I truly hope that you are) -be willing to play the game and pay the Piper. It's not only fair, but it will help ensure that in the future, similar opportunities are available for you. If everyone opts out, one day the sponsors will all opt out too. Then we all lose.

Support FREE events, give yourself and Sponsors a chance.

Am I wrong here? What are your thoughts?


(Originally published at

Published Monday, September 26, 2011 1:45 PM by ArnieRowland
Filed under: ,



Chris said:

Nope!  You are ABSOLUTELY correct!  I have not attended as many free events, as I should have/would have liked to, but I can tell you that the last 2 SQLSaturdays that I have attended were MORE than worth it!  There are world-class presenters, authors, sponsors and SQL compadres...ALL for FREE!

September 27, 2011 7:47 AM

RickHeiges said:

Absolutely correct!  This is why when someone schedules an event at PASS that overlaps the Expo Hall Reception, I kindly remind them that the vendors are there to get as much traffic as possible during that time when there are no competing events (like Chapter or BoF Lunches) and attendees enjoy food and drink to socialize with New Friends.  Heck, you might even win something.  Support the Vendors because they support Community events.

September 27, 2011 5:14 PM

Rich said:

Great article. The quote "It's not sustainable to always expect and never be willing to pay." resonates with me for many projects I work on. I've not really thought about it from a tech event perspective and am guilty of "opting out" although this is force of habit rather than a conscious attempt to get something for nothing. I'll certainly be a bit more considered in my approach in future.


September 28, 2011 4:16 AM

h.tobisch said:


That's about human relations in general.

September 28, 2011 5:03 AM

David Wright said:

No. The sponsors get their opportunity to sell at the event, and if I'm interested in a product I'll give them my email address. I'm grateful to the sponsor's contribution to the event, but the number of email addresses they get from the registration process isn't going to affect the sponsor's commitment to the event.

But it sure will affect mine - I still get unsolicited email to addresses I haven't used for ten years, despite heavy use of the 'unsubscribe' option. I guard my current email address like I guard my home address and my phone number. If a sponsor wants to send to send direct to me, they need to persuade me.

September 28, 2011 7:10 AM

Bill Ross said:

I knew somebody that worked very diligently in a shared space, planting a good deal of flowers, weeding, cultivating... but after a while, no one had ever expressed a single word of gratitude, so it was deemed unprofitable work and discontinued. The last Sql Saturday I attended, many people talked over one of the volunteers when they were speaking. I thought, "How discouraging that must have been for him!" There is no such thing as free lunch, so we should all be sure that "free" events are appropriately appreciated... the volunteers, organizers and the sponsors. All want to know it is rewarding, appreciated and in general, worth doing.

September 28, 2011 9:29 AM

Rob said:

Once you stray from technology you lose any credibility with me.  If I want to discuss someones political leanings I'll ask them.  For the record, we do pay taxes and the money is squandered just like the audience you may have in the future.

September 28, 2011 10:04 AM

JTK said:

Allowing vendor contact is one thing, but guarding email addresses is critical.  Once your email address gets on a mailing list, it NEVER stops receiving SPAM.  Sorry -- I will be glad to evaluate vendors on their merits, but I will hang onto my email and phone number, thank you very much.

September 28, 2011 10:23 AM

SJB said:

Mixed response from me - for vendors I trust and whose product I'm personally interested in (even if my company can't afford it TODAY), I'm willing to give out my email address.  For events hosted by multiple vendors, I guard my email address, because too many times some third-party gets the email address and/or it is sold to many, and then I get spammed with things I have no interest in, and no time to read the emails.

Reputable vendors are a joy; the dis-reputable make it harder for the rest by mucking up my inbox.  Rules to divert the spam emails help, but I've noticed those vendors periodically change the sender name to evade my rules.  You'd think they'd learn from their mistake, but they pursue it instead.

If you are a good vendor with a product I can use, I'll gladly hand you my email address, and ask for your help convincing those with the purse strings to purchase your product.

September 30, 2011 7:53 PM
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