About intellectual monopolies in Tech Conferences

Conference Hall


With the recent social movements asking for support of the causes of the Black Lives Matter (archive), a handful of my close friends asked me for how can help to the cause.

I have an idea on how you can help as a techie non-black PoC1.

The problem

You can call it cognitive bias, but I’ve notice persons sending the same proposal at multiple conferences around the world, and I want to be perfectly clear: there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

The real problem comes when those same persons are accepted to all (or most) of the conferences where they send the proposal. Every year. That’s how I realize the above, others has no problem disclosing in social media how lucky and blessed they are.

What’s wrong with that? You ask. They deserve it, you say. It’s meritocracy working as expected, you may add.

Please, bear with me while we dig on this apparently not issue.

Intellectual monopolies

I get y’all deserve to be recognized around the world about how good you are. I understand how important is for your résumé: more conferences means a better curriculum that may be equal to better salary at some point in the future. Right?

I get it.

What people seems to misunderstand is how bad it is for all others in the given micro-universe of community, framework, tool or language for those conferences.

When you are accepted to multiple conferences using the same paper, you are contributing to, having not better phrase: “Intellectual monopolies”.

The spots for speakers are scarce resources, if that given conference is a popular one, then the chances to be accepted are reduced along. What happen when you are accepted on multiple ones and you are also agree to take all of them? Turns out someone else will be deprived of that opportunity. That someone is, probably a person who also need to be heard, or local, or why not?, part of a minority.

You may never know.

The idea

I know it sounds crazy, but here it is:

If you were selected as speaker to more than one conference, choose the best one for you2 and kindly reject the others, making clear why.3

That’s all.

If you know someone who fits on the description of monopolies on tech conferences, then send this writing to them.

What’s the relation with BLM or minorities?

I’m glad you ask. Didn’t you? Oh! Sorry, I’m going to write it anyway.

If you are reading this, maybe someone though you are part of those who are always accepted to be speaker at multiple venues on a given year, and guess what? Yes, the chances that you are a well-known white male celebrity of whatever community tend to be closer to 1.0. Sorry again.

Should you feel guilty about it? No!

But as any other inequality on the world you are also part of the beneficiaries of a closed circle who doesn’t accept others to be included. You have the power to change it.

Use your well-know voice to be heard. Tell the organizers you rather use the time you were about to use in the conference to help minorities to be in the place you are. They may know a handful of persons who were close, but not ready to be the speaker on the conference you are about to give up for a good cause.

For organizers, you can also do something. A lot, actually:


I’m probably asking too much, but I have to speak my mind in something I think is not fair the communities in general, and for minorities in particular. Our industry is plagued with all kind of unfairness, but somehow people don’t realise this particular one do exist.

You may or may not be agree with me, but I rather take the risk of being hated for this than wait for the “next time” to talk about.

– Esparta


Image header: “DrupalCon Prague 2013”, by Access Advertising. License: Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

  1. Person of Color ↩︎

  2. Preferably one who do video recording your future talk. ↩︎

  3. Of course, if you were already selected, don’t send new ones with the same paper/proposal, please. ↩︎