conferences

The Future of FUDCons

I believe we should radically change the concept of FUDCon.

(And if you think this post is looking pretty lengthy, the short version is this: ONE EVENT TO RULE THEM ALL.)

I’ve been to a number of conferences in the past few years since joining Fedora.  It’s a grab-bag of “types” – conferences like Southeast Linuxfest, SCALE, and LinuxFest Northwest, which tend to be free or almost-free, and tend to have more of a community feel; larger-scale, more commercially oriented conferences such as LinuxCon and OSCON; and conferences that are organized more around a singular group, project, or common interest — FUDCon is certainly an example, but also things like Community Leadership Summit (common interests/problems), and the OpenStack Design Summit & Conference.

In the latter example, particularly with project-focused conferences, the face-to-face time amongst project members is absolutely valuable.  It’s the place where contributors can get make decisions, do planning, and generally get things done, in a very high-bandwidth fashion. And I think “planning” is really one of the key attractors.  The OpenStack Summit, for example, is held right after release – and is the place to truly trot out ideas, gather around them, make a plan, and start breaking it down into how it will actually get done – over 3 or 4 days.  And it is not a place to “show what I did” – it is truly a “where am I going and how is the work going to get done and how does that intersect with other areas of the project” type of event.

I guess I know a thing or two about FUDCon planning; since organizing the FUDCon in Tempe, I’ve been helping out in some way or another with nearly every FUDCon. And thus, I’m going to present the following observations:

  • We tend to do a lot of “what I did” or “how this thing works” at FUDCons – and not a lot of planning.
  • Hackfests – which gather together specific contributor groups – tend to not always be well-organized, or focused around “let’s finish this thing we are working on.”
  • FUDCons are not scheduled at times which are obvious “planning points.” FUDCon Lawrence, for example, will be several months into the release cycle – not an incredibly amazing time for planning around F19.
  • We put some focus and effort into the U (users) at FUDCons – which, while valuable, does not require having dozens of contributors present, nor does it make the best usage of the face-to-face time that could be used for actual teamwork.
  • 4 FUDCons per year means that, as a worldwide community, we don’t get to get entire teams together.

The latter point is particularly interesting (and has given me a lot of heartburn).  While we tend to have more planning and hackfests at the North American and to some extent, the EMEA FUDCons, the extent of teamwork and planning done in APAC and LATAM tend to be gathered around regional ambassador leadership, and folks working on translations in that region.  Most of the project teams tend to be distributed globally; people want face to face time with their teams, and we simply can’t haul in everyone from everywhere in our current model.

I’m a true believer in planning and execution.  A lot of this probably comes from my work at Intel in strategic marketing — Intel is absolutely relentless in its planning cycle, but the focus on planning and setting goals is what drives innovation forward.  It encourages people to think big, and imaginatively; it helps to lay out a roadmap of milestones and tasks to a goalpost in the future.

And I think the model of bringing together a global community at an appropriate point in a release cycle to gather around planning and execution, rather than showing off what we did in the past and maybe working on things we already have in the works, is one that will drive Fedora forward.

What I would like to see is the following:

  • One event per year.  Starting in North America, and possibly alternating with other regions. Starting in FY14 (that’s March 2013 – Feb. 2014, for those who don’t follow ambassador finances.)
  • Get people from other regions to that event. Not “one or two from other regions”; I’m talking about getting engaged contributors with concrete plans and/or demonstrated history of contributions face to face with their teammates. So that that team can get things done, contributors can be part of the planning, take ownership of tasks, and not feel like they’re leaving out a significant portion of their community.
  • Have it at an appropriate point in a release cycle, where we, as teams or subprojects or groups or whatever you want to call it, can take advantage of the length of time before us to think about what we can accomplish over the next 2 releases, plan out activities and tasks, etc.
  • Perhaps move barcamp to the end, and have pre-scheduled, well-organized, planning/team meetings at the beginning.  Yes, I know this is probably giving some of you fits. Here’s why:
    • Barcamp sessions tend to be more around “I want to share this cool thing” – which is sometimes an idea, but more often around “learn how to use this thing I already implemented.”
    • It would be an awesome time to actually share what teams are planning and have accomplished during their time together.
    • Y’all are beat by day three, which I think is part of why hackfests wane a bit on the last day. Oh, did I mention that I think we should move to a longer event? I’ll do that now.
  • More days together.   Possibly straddling a weekend to reduce the drain on everyone’s “days off work” time, maybe not.  But we’re already travelling – and the costs of airfare tend to be higher than the costs of hotel, particularly when hauling in people from all over the world – let’s make the best of the effort spent getting to the event and make it longer.
  • Consider sharing this event with other project communities – for multiple reasons:
    • Leveraging the buying power of more attendees
    • If we’re already planning something – why not let others benefit from some of the planning we’re doing, and offer their community a way to get together in a similar, planning/doing-focused fashion?
    • It’s a great way to cross-pollinate between upstream/downstream communities – though we’d probably want to make sure we’re not going to lose focus from participants.  (Much like when we have had a FUDCon run parallel to a large-scale more general community conference (that is not focused on planning, but more on how-to’s and usage – where people really want to learn about stuff, but also want to focus on the project in which they contribute.)
    • Attract more sponsorships because of a more diverse audience. Money is nice. It pays for food and things.
  • Make this event be focused on the “do-ers” – and not the users. I mentioned previously in this post that it does not make the best use of our face-to-face bandwidth, and I’m sticking to that — and moreover, I think that trying to plan a parallel “user track” just winds up taking people away from getting things done.   This is not a “we don’t care about the users” statement in any way, so don’t jump down my throat. But I think that mixing up the event tends to leave casual users/potential users/non-contributor users unsure about what to attend, and I haven’t seen any evidence on any large scale that users magically become contributors at a FUDCon.  And there is NO REASON IN THE UNIVERSE why we can’t come up with a type of event that costs significantly less to host, requires fewer numbers of contributors to attend, and is geared solely towards users/potential users/potential contributors, and can be made repeatable in many places. The fact that a FUDCon in Pune can draw in a crowd of 500+ shows that there is absolutely interest.

You’ll probably notice that I just used the word “event” a lot, where I might have used the word FUDCon previously.  (FUDCon, for those of you who have come this far without wondering what that acronym is, stands for Fedora Users and Developers Conference.)

I envision this to truly be an event of the do-ers – people who do things, get things done.  And I’ve mentioned before the funny thing about how the word “do” is right in the middle of the word Fedora.  A new type of event – with a renewed focus and purpose – particularly if it becomes more diverse than just us – needs a new name.

DoCon. :)

And to answer your burning question, because I can reeeeeeeeeeead your miiiiiiiiiiiiiinds: Why, yes! I am aware that this will cost a crapton more money. Bringing in contributors from other regions costs more than if we brought those contributors to a FUDCon in their region – and thus a DoCon, or whatever we might call it,  would cost more than the entire 4-FUDCons yearly budget combined.

Is the cost justifiable? I think it definitely is. Will we accomplish more at one worldwide DoCon than we could at 4 FUDCons? I believe we can. Do we have to start thinking about that now? YES.

We are getting to the mid-way point of F18; FUDCon in Lawrence will be mid-through 19.  I would expect that we would quite possibly initiate this at the beginning of F20. TWENTY, folks.  That is a lot of releases – where we have done truly groundbreaking, innovative work.

We have amazing, talented, engaged contributors in the Fedora Project.  And I believe that focusing on the future of Fedora at an event where we have gathered contributors from around the world – planning where we can go and what we can accomplish over the next 2-4 releases, scoping out tasks, executing to plan, and really, dreaming bigger – will lead us through our early 20′s to become greater than ever.

From the wayback machine: Tales from LinuxFest Northwest

(Note: things have been a bit hectic since attending this a while back. Teehee.)

I had the pleasure of attending LinuxFest Northwest, in Bellingham, Washington, April 28th and 29th.  This was my second year at the event, and the folks who put on this event continue to impress me with a great show.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m of the opinion that most of the regional, community-grown, Linux fests/cons/expos are just fantastic,  but all in their own individual ways. So here’s a quick wrap-up of what I find awesome about LFNW:

  • Location, location, location.  It’s beautiful up in Bellingham – and the event is held at Bellingham Technical College, which has plenty of rooms, a decently-sized (though increasingly packed with more people) area for booths, and a great outdoor area where they have grilled lunch each day. Despite being 2 hours north of Seattle, they still manage to draw a good-sized crowd, and it’s close enough to Portland and Vancouver (the Canada one, as well as the Washington one) to have people driving or taking the train from out of town. This year’s party was at the SPARK Museum of Electrical Invention, which in itself is worth checking out – absolutely fascinating exhibits there.
  • No keynotes.  Yes, I know some people like keynotes, and I do too, but at a two-day event it feels sometimes like… well, like you’re missing out on the chance to choose from 6 more sessions, more if they do morning and evening keynotes. People get to dig in to what they’re really interested in, which is cool.
  • Awesome booth attendance. Seriously, lots of great questions here – not a lot of drive-bys for free swag, but plenty of good, engaged conversation.  Which made the moment when someone came to the booth and I asked if they had a question, and they looked at me and said, “Oh, it’s a *technical* question,” as they nodded towards Jeff in the other half of the booth, as though I was, you know, somehow incapable of answering those Hard Questions…. well, forgiveable. :)
  • I never feel like it’s a giant sales pitch here – sure, there are vendors with booths, and lots of donations to the raffle, but you never feel like you’re bombarded with overwhelming advertisements for sponsors.

I gave a presentation on Fedora – a general “Who we are, what we do, what’s coming in F17″ presentation – which was well-received, albeit by a slightly small crowd.  Which tends to be the case when you present in one of the last slots on the second day, which is much more lightly attended.  The first day’s sessions were absolutely overflowing; several sessions I tried to attend were literally completely packed, to the point that they were not letting additional folks in due to fire code regulations.  LFNW, at least from my perspective, seems to have a more hands-on, and perhaps slightly more technical, audience, and the session lineup – voted on by the community – reflects that audience.

The booth turned out well this year, despite some last-minute wrangling; a huge thanks to Leslie Hawthorn for driving to someone’s house in Portland and grabbing the reportedly very stained Fedora tablecloth, which was temporarily separated from its event box, washing it, and overnighting it directly to Jeff’s hotel at LFNW (it was beautiful and pristinely clean!).  The famna folks also cobbled together some of the last bits of north american swag, including F16 media, stickers, balloons, pens, and a few XXXL shirts, and got it to the event.

Aside from that – in addition to meeting new people and talking to them about Fedora, it’s always good to get some facetime with other Fedora folks, and I again enjoyed meeting up with Jeff Sandys this year, who organized our booth presence.  Jesse Keating and Greg DeKoenigsberg were also in attendance, and I spent a lovely meal with them catching up on life/work/things, and lots of other good folks were around as well.

 

Attention, North American Ambassadors who have any substantial quantities of swag or media

If you are an Ambassador in North America, and you have any substantial quantity of swag or media, PLEASE, for the love of pi day, put your information in these tickets:

Media ticket: http://fedorahosted.org/famna/ticket/30

Swag ticket: http://fedorahosted.org/famna/ticket/29

Seriously: We have a ton of events coming up before F17 is out, and what seems to be a serious lack of media, and an unknown quantity of swag, aside from stickers.  This is making planning difficult. You don’t have to count one by one, but if you can make a rough guess and put it in the ticket VERY SOON, that would be super awesome, so that we can figure out how to plan accordingly for these various events.

Incidentally: FAMNA meetings are back to a weekly thing, if you haven’t been paying attention, and we have a handful of awesome new folks stepping up to wrangle events, and meetings seem to have a pulse again, which is awesome! We’re practically on the edge of the summer conference season already, so if you have an interest in owning an event as an Ambassador, please attend a meeting and speak up.

A few reminders on FUDCon Blacksburg.

Hi-ho everyone, Reminder Girl here! (Hmm, that just doesn’t seem to have the same ring to it as when Kermit does it.)

I’d just like to take a few moments to give everyone some friendly information about FUDCon Blacksburg, while it’s on my mind (read: because I will be in meetings for the next 4 hours of my life, and one of those meetings is the FUDCon meeting):

  • FUDCon: Blacksburg information is available on the wiki for your perusal.  If you haven’t taken a look yet, now is a great time.
  • If you haven’t pre-registered, you should do so.
  • If you need to book a hotel room, that block of rooms is currently available for reservation.
  • If you are planning on requesting assistance for travelling to FUDCon, the subsidy request trac is currently open.  We will be having the first subsidy meeting on November 9th to discuss / grant subsidies.
  • FUDCon Blacksburg planning meetings are Wednesdays (as in, TODAY), at Noon Eastern, 9:00am Pacific.  We meet in #fedora-meeting on IRC on irc.freenode.net.  Your participation is welcomed, and there are plenty of things to help out with.  INCLUDING TODAY. Hint hint! :)

Talking about Fedora in awesome places.

Events, cons, fests… whatever you want to call them, they’re everywhere, and as we all know, summertime is a great time to have one. (Unless it’s in Phoenix, which is a much more awesome place in the wintertime, and I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about, and YES, for the love of god, there WILL BE DEFINITIVE NEWS on that front very, very soon. Trust me, you will hear it, loud and clear.)

In mid-June, I had the pleasure of attending SouthEast LinuxFest, and getting to hang out with friends like spevack, stickster, sparks, ianweller, ke4qqq, VileGent, threethirty, jzbbethlynn (WOOT FOR GRATUITOUS LINKING), not to mention all my new buddies I picked up.   What was really awesome was the HUGE Fedora presence we had – Max giving a great evening keynote speech, and stickster, ianweller, Dan Walsh, Michael DeHaan, and, yes, my sig0, all presenting – not to mention a great afternoon of hacking on the Docs join wiki, and a lovely FAD on Sunday where we got the opportunity to talk to a number of new contributors, talk about Truths and Myths in Fedora (stickster, where is the napkin o’notes?), and submit some buggy little bugs with the help of newfound friends.  I’d also like to mention that ke4qqq (despite being uncapture-able on film) and his crew put on a hell of a show and I’m not just saying that to kiss up for drink tickets for next year’s event.

It’s always great to hear what people are doing in Fedora; whether it’s Ian talking about Datanommer, or seeing Max talk not just about Fedora but even more about community in general, seeing and hearing people speak passionately and in-depth about what they are doing is not only informational, but also inspiring.  I, for one, would love to see more Fedora friends talking about their projects, views, groups, whatever floats their boat, at these types of events.

And, oh yes, EVENTS COMING, WE HAZ.

Ohio LinuxFest is coming up, September 10 – 12, in Columbus, Ohio.  One of the biggest of its kind.  And you should go. But more importantly: YOU SHOULD CONSIDER SPEAKING.  The Call for Presenters ends, inconveniently timed for my overdue blogpost, on July 7. (That’s right, kids, TOMORROW.)  Stormy Peters and Christopher “Monty” Montgomery will be keynoting, and it’s sure to be an excellent time; additionally, it’s an audience that is very welcoming of first-time speakers, so for those of you who want to get your feet wet, this could be the place to do it.  (Also: Yours Truly is submitting a proposal, so, um, should I be accepted, I expect moral support as I haven’t actually spoken in public since, oh, 2001.  But I’m realllllly entertaining. And informative! Promise.)  I’m hoping to see a plethora (I love that word) of Fedora friends talking about Really Cool Stuff, so please, submit your Fedora, non-Fedora, project, hobby, whatever! for submission.  By Tomorrow Night.  Did I mention that 1300 people turned out last year? It’s just that good.

Next up: Utah Open Source Conference, aka, UTOSC. Motto: “It’s better when it’s free*.” (I encourage everyone looking for a good laugh who also has a good sense of humor to visit the website to find out what the * refers to.)  Their Call for Papers (even though I’m pretty sure you don’t have to WRITE a paper, although, I could be wrong here) ends on July 15. In addition to being in the superior, 4-corners area of the US, this event is guaranteed to be awesome because Clint Savage, one of our trusty shipping clerks excellent regional Ambassador mentors, is part of setting this up.

I’d also like to take a moment to give a shout out to the Ottawa Linux Symposium, which REALLY DOES have papers. (Yours Truly is reportedly an editor of said papers, and will be doing this ALL WEEK LONG.)  While the CFP is long since past, the event is imminent, running July 13-16.  If you’re in the Northeast corner of the US, this is a great event to drive to (not free, though, so bring your wallet, or Register Now!) – I recommend checking out the list of presenters to see what piques your interest.

Feeling more southernly? And I mean Really South – as in south of the equator? FUDCon LATAM is coming up in Santiago, Chile, July 15-17.  Get your quarterly dose of International Fedora Goodness.  Also, rumor has it that a certain new FPL is making his first appearance at this event, making it more awesome, if that is possible.

And really: These are great opportunities for YOU, yes, YOU to go out and speak about something you are truly passionate about. If speaking isn’t your gig –  these are still great events to meet some fellow Friends, learn some new things, and show the world what a great community we have in Fedora.  Not to mention meeting new friends, and getting them to want to be part of the Fedora community too.

Marketing slides on the fly.

A quick update:

I’m hanging out with several of the fine Fedora folks, as well as many other awesome people, at the Southeast Linuxfest in fabulous Spartanburg, South Carolina.  Managed to catch the wiki czar Ian Weller‘s very interesting presentation this afternoon, discussing some of the lifting he’s doing to gather more statistics about the Fedora project – from distro downloads and connections, to wiki activity, all the way to future goals of understanding commits, bugzillas, and mailing list activity – all soon to be captured in one location.  The best part about his summer project, aside from the truly awesome name (Datanommer. Om nom nom. I eat data!) is that this is not just an enhancement to Fedora infrastructure and a way for our community to know more about our own activity – but he’s going to turn this into an open source project, so that other communities can take what he’s doing and start using the tools to assess the contributions of their own community members.  Also caught Jono Bacon’s morning keynote, although it was at 8am, which is really 5am in the time zone where I normally reside… combined with the fact that I went to bed at 3am local time….. well, you get the picture. 8am keynotes should be outlawed. Seriously.

So – what did I do between 9am and 1pm, you might ask? Well – I received a task request to put together a brief slide deck to talk about Fedora which would feed in a loop in session rooms, during transitions between speakers. So I, miraculously, somehow, threw something together.  But: bonus!  Max sat down and talked to me and said, “Wow! Now we have that presentation set that Ambassadors can use on laptops as booths all done!”  Ohh….. yessss… of course.  I definitely had that in mind….. no, no, I didn’t, so I have to thank Max for actually reminding me of that other thing I wanted to do at some point.

Oh, yes. You wanted to check out the slide deck? Voilà! Check it out.  I haven’t actually had a chance to post this on the marketing or ambassadors mailing lists – or post them to the Fedora Marketing wiki page – but that will be coming soon. (If I don’t do it, please kick me and remind me.  Gently, though. Gently.)  And keep in mind these were done in a short time – by all means, please provide feedback.  If it’s ugly, if it could be more informative – whatever. I’m all ears. Really.

(Please note: If you’re looking at these slides and you’re thinking they’re not as beautiful as they could possible be – you should probably check to see if you have the mgopen-modata-fonts package installed.  Using these fonts gives it the nice, clean Fedora look and feel.)

All in all – having a lovely time.  More updates as the weekend goes on!