My take on all the SW stuff (as a persona non grata) is that I could just show up in Austin during the festivities and have a blast without a conference ticket. I know most of the cool kids, why spend 200 bucks to get vendor assaulted?
I was actually thinking about this. I usually got more value from the after events then I did from the conference.
I went last year not knowing if I'd get in just to do the after parties, but got welcomed in so did the full conference. But having been many times, the after events alone are worth the trip to Austin during the conference.
And remember, the "after" events start TWO days before the official conference. Things like the East Siders event, the Salt Lick event, the Scale boat and others are often (but not always) outside of the conference start and stop dates and times. Plus there are loads of Spicehead meetups. So if are looking for ways to make it valuable, you can easily spend six days there and get loads of value and never go into the conference.
But honestly, once you are getting the flight, hotels, etc. just spend $99 and eat your other meals with everyone else.
I immediately asked to go next year...our President said he wants to make it a regular thing, but wants to "see how things are" closer to the next one...regardless, I'll take it as PTO...I'm going back...