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Tim Ferriss' RailsConf Keynote Bores Audience To Tears; Mass Walk Out

In Events, News

The evening keynote on the first full day of RailsConf 2009 was delivered by Tim Ferriss and David Heinemeier Hansson in a "fireside chat" interview format. Tim Ferriss is a productivity guru most famous for his book The 4 Hour Workweek which topped the New York Times bestseller list some time back.

I was expecting the keynote to be an active, charismatic affair. I'd read Tim's book in the past and while I didn't agree with it, he seemed an interesting, exciting guy so I was looking forward to it. But.. it's okay trying not to offend people, especially after the Porngate scandal of the last week, but boring people to death seems to be just as offensive. Some reactions:

And this is just a selection!

The stream of people leaving throughout the keynote was quite significant; something I've never seen before.

Most of the complaints I heard were not based around a dislike of Tim (people were asking me who he is; he's not well known to this audience) but by a boredom of the format and the content. It really was dull. Tim had no passion in his voice at all. A real shame from such an otherwise interesting guy.

Update! The keynote has already been found in video form. Only joking but it's about the same.

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15 Comment Responses to “Tim Ferriss' RailsConf Keynote Bores Audience To Tears; Mass Walk Out”

  1. #1
    Dr Nic Says:

    That's a hefty collection of tweets :)

  2. #2
    Peter Cooper Says:

    And there are some even nastier ones, believe it or not :)

  3. #3
    Peter Cooper Says:

    Oh, and there's a guy here who looks just like you - which is odd.

  4. #4
    John Schuly Says:

    Wow, Mark Percival and I walked into the back about 10 mins into the dang thing and now I am applauding our decision to bail. WTF? This will very likely be my last RailsConf. O'Reilly really blew this one and yet they still have 2 days left to top off my disappointment.

    In a word, craptaculous.

  5. #5
    jtimberman Says:

    I was one of the people I mentioned that left halfway through. I was hoping for an engaging discussion, but rehashing his book and talking about proper weightlifting techniques bored me to tears. The way Ferriss described his approaches was uninteresting.

    Plus being right after sessions without enough time for dinner didn't help.

  6. #6
    John Nunemaker Says:

    I actually enjoyed the talk. Just thought I would put that out there.

  7. #7
    Peter Cooper Says:

    BTW, just found out that his speaking fee is usually between $15k-$25k for the hour.

    I heard that speakers didn't get their accommodation free this year? If so, interesting choice of priorities right there.

  8. #8
    Jeremy Says:

    @Peter: O'Reilly conferences are always like that. Every time someone brings this up (that 95% of the reason people come to the conference are being compensated) they claim that no one's getting rich off the conf's, but obviously someone is, since money is coming in and apparently going somewhere.

  9. #9
    Jeremy Says:

    Are *not* being compensated, that is. English fail.

  10. #10
    Roland Says:

    Well, last year's RailsConf Europe wasn't that interesting, too. But expensive.

    I think a commerical conference provider, like O'Reilly, just has to earn some money. iirc the perl community switched to a fully community organized conference thing (YAPC) years ago because (as I heard) O'Reilly wasn't interested anymore (as O'Reilly is currently on a RailsConf Europe).

    As far as I can comment (just saw the awsome videos and slides) there are already other great events in the us (e.g. Mountain West)...

  11. #11
    Jonas Says:

    I really liked the talk, I think Tim Ferriss is very polarizing, either you really like him or really hate him. I listened to his audiobook on my long drive back home and really got a lot out of it. He also covered topics that were very interesting to me like his diet and weight loss stuff. I appreciate that other people hated the talk and obviously in mass, but it was my favorite keynote and wanted to voice that.

  12. #12
    Peter Cooper Says:

    Jonas: I've gone back and watched the keynote on and it's a lot better when watching online. I think the problem was not of the content so much, but the context. It was billed as a "keynote" not as an interview, and it came after a full 10 hour day of sessions, etc, and *before* everyone had had dinner. People were expecting something to grab their attention and pump them up, not a cosy hour long chat.

    So.. it seems to have been a problem of expectations and context, rather than the actual content which, on reflection, is not so bad.

  13. #13
    Ryan Leavengood Says:

    I did not attend Railsconf but I just watched the video and thought the talk was quite good. I was already a bit of a fan of Tim Ferriss though. Plus I can see how the format of the talk could be snooze-inducing after a long day at a conference.

    I also think despite David's professed interest in expanding Railsconf outside of the programming and Rails microcosm (as described at the beginning of this talk), most attendees are Rails programmers/geeks who become quite hyper-focused at such a conference: "This isn't about programming Rails? Bah, boring, I'm walking out."

  14. #14
    Peter Cooper Says:

    Ryan: To be fair though, I'm not sure a Q&A on computer programming would go down well at a productivity conference. It is a Rails conference, after all.

  15. #15
    Mark Karp Says:

    I watched the Tim Ferriss video and thought it was generally interesting, but the video that I found very boring was the Robert Martin "What Killed Smalltalk Could Kill Ruby, Too" talk...

    What did everyone else think?

    Maybe this is the reason O'Reilly is not broadcasting videos of all the sessions - they don't want people to find out that they aren't all terrific, and not attend the show!

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