Dave Winer has a good point about why most conferences suck:
...if you want to have a truly useful conference that everyone gets something out of, structure it so that everyone has something to do at all times. Hopefully things that involve other people or the venue, if not, what's the point of going somewhere to do this stuff?
He's had a lot of interesting things to say recently, such as about Google ("...one thing they don't have in huge supply at Google is humility [...] the number one law of software, of course is Murphy's Law. And one of the big things it teaches is humility...") and how technology companies use the word open ("...they just serve someone's interest without thinking about the users' interest (at best) or counter to the users' interest (at worst)...").
Winer has been around the industry a long time. He's a controversial guy within it, but I think his experience has given him some wisdom about it too.