FUDCon, cerveza, playa, baño!

The four words I need to know to get by in Valencia, Venezuela, for the 2012 FUDCon in LATAM while being an english speaker. (The fifth word may be “poker,” we shall see tonight.) I’ve had a lovely time here thus far, though the internets have been somewhat unkind to me :) I’d go on and on about how lovely it is here, and how good it is to see everyone, but you all know that stuff anyway (all true!) so I’ll skip right ahead to the meat of this post:

FUDCon here is distinctly different from from how it works in North America, and even EMEA to some extent; I haven’t had the pleasure of attending a FUDCon in the APAC region yet, but I suspect it is somewhat similar.  Lots of people showing up to learn about Fedora; there are maybe 30 or so people here from various parts of South America who are Fedora contributors, all of whom contribute in varying parts of the Fedora Project, in different capacities.  Lots of sharing of knowledge – from the use of different applications, robotics hacking, graphic design, becoming a contributor.

We did get the opportunity today to have two solid chunks of time to gather the regional ambassadors and spend some time making plans around a few things, though we did see a few folks shuffle in and out to give presentations.  It comes down to a few things, and they’re things that I’d like to be seeing ambassadors in all regions think more about.

One of the items is planning for the next year to 1.5 years. First off: the budget for each fiscal year (our money year runs from March 1 – February 28) gets set around the December/January time-frame, maybe into February a bit.  So knowing what the needs are when that time comes helps us to get the money we need to continue to do outreach, FUDCons, etc.   The things I’m talking about planning, at least in this particular situation, are specific events where we’d like a Fedora presence.  There are a few things we need to know:

  • Event name/type of conference
  • When, where, how many attendees, does it have a booth fee
  • How many people needed to staff at a minimum; how much it will cost to get people there if they need sponsorship

The “we” here is the Ambassadors from the LATAM region – finding this out for each country, making sure that there is coverage, and then prioritizing what to go to. If there are events where we want to have a bigger presence, figure out what the plan is around that.  Figuring out what the needs will be for swag at the event.

The second major issue for ambassadors here is really logistics of shipping; some countries can’t ship to others, customs is a nightmare, and items need to be printed in various languages.  We talked today about the possibilities of just possibly having a hired person specializing in shipping, or outsourcing to a logistics company who can package and drop ship things as needed, having FADs where we can put together packages and bring them home, as well as simply coordinating what countries are best for production and shipping, finding out who their friendly neighbors are, and making sure there are volunteers to wrangle ordering, payment, shipping, etc.

LATAM has spent very small amounts of money in the past; part of this is cultural tendency, part of it is simply difficulty of payment (some places don’t have paypal, we can’t directly pay in some places, etc), some of it is simply lack of coordination, or someone saying, by God, GO FORTH AND DO THINGS, the money is there. So to those of you in LATAM, please: Make plans. Think big. Let’s think about where we can go, where we can reach the most people, in this region of the world where people are incredibly interested in open source and the opportunities it can provide them.

The logistics piece is going to take a number of people to investigate; planning out the event “wish list” for the next year or so should take less time, and I suggested that September 28 (about a month from now) be the goal date for having a complete list of events that could possibly be attended over the next year to year-and-a-half.  Alejandro Perez has a wiki page already for coordinating this, and a number of people volunteered to help push in weekly meetings and to work with other ambassadors in their more immediate regions to try and coordinate this list.  Remember: it’s a “wish list” – once the LATAM ambassadors have that as a starting point, it’s easier to narrow down the priorities, so don’t be afraid to throw your favorite event on the list.  From there, it’s easier to start thinking about swag needs, and when and where things are needed, which helps from the view of ordering things like media, shirts, stickers, and the like.  Which will put us at a good point come December, right as the budget planning for next year starts.  This is also when the planned EMEA FAD in Rheinfelden will be – a fair amount of that FAD is centered around planning the next year+ of events, swag, etc. I’m hoping that we’ll be in way better shape as far as planning and knowing our target budget for next year than we ever have been by this point.

Ambassadors worldwide have always done an excellent job of being responsible with the budget, carefully weighing the value of what we spend against the return on that money, ensuring that those attending events are contributing event reports and blog posts. But I have noticed that towards the end of the year – when we are getting lower on the amount in the bucket, we tend to slow down spending – mostly because of concern about “I don’t know what other people are planning” – and I know that in EMEA and NA, I have seen people say things like, “We’ve already spent plenty, and LATAM and APAC have hardly spent, but we don’t know what they have coming, either.”  So planning – not just in LATAM, but really, in all the regions – is one thing that can absolutely help each of these groups to know what is expected in terms of spending, and helps us to be more confident about decisions towards the end of the year; ideally, spending all the money is where we want to be at, so that we don’t wind up with a lower budget in the next year.

I do want folks in all the regions to start thinking bigger – and thinking outside their normal event types.  We’ve predominantly been attending traditional linux conferences, either of the community/homegrown type, or bigger-budget events.  But I think there is definitely value in getting Ambassadors – and even non-Ambassadors who are contributing in other areas of the project who want to share their domain knowledge (and honestly, I really do consider contributors, in any area of the project, who share with others to be Ambassadors, regardless of the formalities) – to events that are more specific to interests, roles, etc.  There are Ruby conferences, Python conferences, cloud conferences, etc. – and I’d like to see us think about how we can get some of our Ambassadors and/or people who specialize in an area where there is a conference (ie: get a python person to PyCon), to that conference.  Get them in a Fedora shirt. Encourage them to submit a proposal to present. If they want to be learning at the conference, and not necessarily sitting at a booth, make sure they can get at least a small package of media and stickers to be a walking booth, to some extent – so they can spread the brand and media and knowledge at least in presentations they attend, when they meet others.  Hopefully as we start seeing people do more planning for events in the future – we’ll see some diversity in these new areas, and maybe we’ll find that those places are just as good of locations to find new users or contributors, and possibly even better.

It seems to me – with my former program manager on – that thinking about the budget, and event and swag planning, is something that we could definitely be doing on a yearly (every other release) basis, to be coordinated with the time period when the budget gets set.  (That’s not a hint, Jaroslav, it’s just me thinking out loud and wondering if that would help Ambassadors. I promise.)

I look forward to seeing what the folks in LATAM come up with over the next month, and am hopeful that these kinds of efforts will enable them to do a wider variety of events in the future – and I definitely hope that other regions (I’m looking at you, APAC Ambassadors!) start thinking about doing similar planning; I encourage everyone to take a look at Alejandro’s wiki page as he shares that information, and see if something similar will work for you.

One comment

  1. Hi Robyn,

    First of all, I want to thank the Fedora project for giving the opportunity to be hoster Venezuela this year for conferences. I agree with you, in LATAM how to organize events is very different than it does in other parts of the world, that perhaps the amount of Free Software events is done in an organized but informally (like FLISoL or Software Freedom Day). Particularly, since 1999 Venezuela has been experimenting with events oriented Software and Free Knowledge (LinuxWeek 99 ‘, World Forum of Free Knowledge, National Congress of Free Software, MiniDebConf’s, among others), some have managed at corporate and other a less formal, always trying to be in pretty organized.

    I’ve been fortunate to be able to attend and participate in international events, and I think the comparative FUDCon Valencia 2012 was successful!, A very cool and highly technical. I was accompanying a light form the Orga-team and practically showed the failures that went off the hands of them. Unfortunately Venezuela does not have a good Internet connection and that greatly affects foreigners attending events. I think based at the José Antonio Páez University has been the best place was made events nationwide software / Free Knowledge, unfortunately for us it was massive assistance because many students are in recess and have strict working hours, looking like an influx of people on Saturday.

    Again, thank you very much: by transmitirno knowledge, for his patience, for trying to understand the humor Venezuelan, for tolerating poor Internet connections, by our mishandling of English language, for all the mistakes made, for believing in us. Thank you very much!

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