A letter to Modern Frontends


The below is a letter I sent earlier this week to the organiser of Modern Frontends, a conference I attended in London. I am publishing it to stand in solidarity with those who have also raised concerns.

Dear Gen,

I wanted to write to thank you for the invitation to speak at Modern Frontends and also raise some concerns I have.

For a start, let me say how much I enjoyed myself. The speakers were great! What an amazing speakers’ dinner on a floating hotel. And I loved meeting people from the tech community in London.

You and I had a few moments to chat, particularly when you were feeling embattled because of comments on Twitter, and I’m sure you’ve seen these posts as they went up:

I would say their summary of the facts on the ground is fair.

I can imagine how disappointed you must feel that the conference didn’t turn out the way you had dreamed. You staked your reputation on a big event of 3000+ attendees and some amazing speakers.

On top of feeling short-handed, with a bereaved team member out of action, I would guess it then felt like being punched below the belt when tweets started coming in about the missing livestream, the low attendance, the low-quality catering, or the sponsors who felt they had been missold an event.

But I hope we can agree that taking responsibility is part of what leadership means. I don’t know if you would value hearing my advice, but if so, I’d recommend:

  1. Make an apology. Acknowledge what people know to be true. And do so without excuses. This should be to attendees, speakers and sponsors - and publicly, not via email.
  2. May I suggest, if possible, you publicly offer to compensate speakers who paid their way personally? I was wrong to ignore this red flag in advance and am convinced that this is the right default behaviour, with some few exceptions. You paid part of my costs to attend, for which I’m grateful, and I would happily donate that to help anyone who is in financial trouble.
  3. And finally, consider refunding sponsors some part of their fee as a recognition of the fact that this was not what they signed on for.

I hope things can be resolved and wish you the best for the future.