RIP CFUnited

The folks at CFUnited, the only major ColdFusion conference we have, announced today that this year's event, being held next month, will be the last. Citing the economy, they have extended the early bird pricing for the last shebang until July 15th, and state that it will go out with a bang. I will now shamelessly borrow the history of the conference from its Wikipedia article (which will likely be deleted before long anyway – and since I wrote 99% of it, why rewrite it? :-P)

CFUnited first debuted in Bethesda on June 26, 1999 as a free one day conference hosted by TeraTech and the Maryland Coldfusion Users Group called “DCCFUC'99 ColdFusion User Conference”. The conference hosted over 500 attendees. With the success of that conference, and a subsequent user group meeting held by TeraTech in May 2000, TeraTech decided to make the conference an annual event. The second conference, renamed CFun, began July 29, 2000, was expanded to a two day format and added a game event modeled on Who Wants to be a Millionaire that awarded the winner a copy of ColdFusion Server Enterprise Edition, valued at $5000. As in the previous year, the conference was free and was held in the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda.  TeraTech expected 750 attendees.  The following year, the conference name changed to 2001: A CF Odyssey.

For the 2002 event, the conference returned to using the name CFUN. The two-day event had a registration fee of $249, with an early registration discount offered, and moved to a hotel venue in Rockville. It was the first to feature Ben Forta as a keynote speaker. With the switch from a free to a paid conference occurring the year before, attendance dropped severely. Though it was sold out, only 300 attending the 2002 event. CFUN-03 moved to Gaithersburg, Maryland, expanded to include 24 speakers, and introduced more formalized topic tracks to the event, with four concurrent sessions offered at a time, one from each track.

Attendance continued to grow, and in 2005 the conference took on its current name of CFUnited to reflect its larger size. Now a three-day conference with 64 sessions and costing $849, the conference saw nearly 900 attendees. In 2009, TeraTech's conferencing organization arm became a separate division in the company called Stellr. The conference was moved to August, the venue shifted slightly to Leesburg, Virginia, and it was expanded to a four-day conference, with sessions from the first three days with the most popular ones repeated on Saturday, and included a choice of over half a dozen day long classes the day before the conference. The conference had 600 attendees, the costs increased to $1149 (not including the class), and had approximately 60 speakers.

As for my own history with CFUnited, my first time visiting was at CFUN-03. It was good, though clearly still rough around the edges. I learned some stuff, and enjoyed it enough that I went back the next year. A coworker who went with me to 03 hadn't enjoyed it quite as much, and declined to go again. 04 was also good, but by then it was all about ColdFusion MX and I was stlil on CF 5, so I learned less. The following year, as I was still on CF 5, I didn't go. While I kinda knew it was still on-going, I kinda forgot about going after that. Too busy, too expensive, too much of a pain to deal with my pets.  Last year, however, partially reenthused about ColdFusion by doing training courses and having someone else in my office with an interest in doing more than just the same old same old, I found that CFUnited had grown into a true conference and was the definitive ColdFusion developer's annual event. I wanted to go as did aforementioned coworker. We begged, we pleaded, we did scholarship apps, and we got to go. It was seriously awesome! I've gushed here before about how much we learned and how we came back with so many ideas, so much new energy and love of ColdFusion, etc etc etc. It was a real paradigm shift for our group and ourselves as developers.

I even submitted to be a speaker (though wasn't chosen). So hearing that this year, when we can't go due to time constraints (two major projects already running behind) and lack of funding, really sucks. This is the only major ColdFusion conference we have. Yes, I know about cf.Objective(), which bills itself as the only “enterprise” CF conference, but it is still back around where CFUN 04 was in terms of size and options. It is getting bigger and I presume better, but it isn't near to what CFUnited 2009 was (at least to me) and if CFUnited couldn't make it with all the Adobe support and all the sponsors it had, not sure if cf.Objective() will fare much better with far less sponsorship and promotion. The only other one I knew of, The Other Dreamweaver Conference, bit the dust after the 2008 event. Of course, there is Adobe Max, but it isn't ColdFusion focused and CF isn't even a good major portion as Adobe focuses more on the graphics stuff there. It is was too insanely expensive for most folks to afford.

At CFUnited 2009, it was repeatedly proclaimed that ColdFusion is not dead. The community is growing, it is in demand, etc etc etc. More articles, talks, etc have emphasized that throughout this year. If we can't even keep our biggest and best conference going, though, just how much do we expect people to really believe it?  Will be keeping my fingers crossed that Adobe or some other large sponsor will realize the tangible need for CFUnited for the ColdFusion community and give it an infusion of cash to help keep it going, but will not be holding my breath.

CFUnited Banner