There's been some crazy blogging going on for the last few weeks. I stumbled upon a few different blogs that are talking about the state of workshops in the photography community. I'll give the links below so you can take from it what you want.
My thoughts: research before you hit the buy button. I've been lucky and most of the workshops/seminars I've attended have been wonderful and well worth the money. But I know people who attended the same event as I did and didn't feel the same way. Make sure you know what level is being tough at these workshops, beginner, intermediate, advanced. Who is the person teaching, how long have they been in business, are they just a internet success or a real life success? Before I spend more than $100, I Google anything I want to buy, heck sometimes I Google a $20 purchase before I buy. Seminars and workshops are great opportunities to take your craft to a whole new level, network and make new friends. I think continuing education is key no matter if your are a photographer or in another field. But remember, it's what you put into it as well. I know someone who did nothing but complain after a workshop we both attended - well if that person didn't spend half the day not in the room and not talking to one of the sponsor reps that was there, they may have learned something!
If you're not sure about a service or product before you buy, a great resource is the PhotogVendors website. There's review from photographers on there both good and bad. Can't find information there, then check out the various free and paid forums, post a question to the member if they've attended and how they felt about their experience. Personally, I've decided to stay away from negative reviews of the products that I use. Why? Some have just been poor decisions on my end, I didn't think my wants and needs though and hit the buy button, that is not the vendor's fault, but mine. Also, I have yet to work with a company that put such a bad taste in my mouth that I would want to publicly slam them. Now if someone asked me about a specific experience, I would tell them why things did or didn't work out in my opinion.
Here's the links that got me started on this subject. I've read through a lot of the comments and I'm taking them all with a grain of salt. Some people are just out to sling mud at other photographers, which I don't agree with. But I think this is a great topic for everyone to be involved in, if you're speaking from the heart and for the right reasons.
Gary Fong: The Crowd Is Rioting
True Photo Talk - Truth in our Industry