FUDCon

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.

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.

Best wishes to our friends at FUDCon: Kuala Lumpur.

It continues to delight me to see the investments in our APAC region FUDCons pay off in terms of attendance.  Much like FUDCon: Pune late last year, Kuala Lumpur’s attendance — at more than 400 registrants — is just huge, and is a testament not only to the desire to learn about free and open source software in the region, but also to the excellent planning capabilities of the local FUDCon team in Kuala Lumpur.

I’m sad that I can’t be in attendance at this event, but one of the amazing things about FUDCon is that they are truly designed to be shared with the worldwide Fedora community.  I know we are all looking forward to seeing your blog posts throughout the event and social media interactions, and I’m particularly excited by the enthusiasm I have seen for some real time projects, such as the crowd-sourced FUDCon book.  And don’t forget about the #fedora-fudcon channel on IRC – it’s not just a great place to interact with folks onsite, but those of us who are at home as well.

Christoph Wickert, awesome as always, is giving the keynote talk this morning — I am sure that he will have incredibly interesting and inspiring things to say, and I know that the wisdom of his Fedora experiences will be shared with you not just during his talk, but throughout the course of the weekend – and many others of you will do the same as well. FUDCon, in many ways, is truly about sharing – sharing our experiences, our knowledge, our future plans, and a few drinks – be they beer or tea or otherwise – and I hope that everyone makes the best of their shared time together in Kuala Lumpur.  There is a large audience present — let’s be sure to send them home with some great knowledge about free and open source software, a good feeling from a positive experience, and the invitation to come and participate in the Fedora Project if they have never done so before.

Give your hosts a round of applause.  They deserve it!

My best to everyone there.  I hope you all have a lovely time. :)

FUDCon Day I don’t even know what, but Awesome Nonetheless: FEEL THE CLOUD

Today was Day 2 of FUDCon, but much of the activity this morning is the type that might normally happen on Day 1: Barcamp Pitches, FPL speech, BarCamp sessions, and Group Photo.

Everything went relatively smoothly (HOORAY PLANNING), with me giving a brief and hopefully not idiotic-sounding rundown of the day’s agenda, schedule, and reminders.  I then passed off to Spot to give an explanation of What Is a Barcamp?, so that folks who have not been to an unconference-style conference could know what to expect.  The long line soon formed, and plenty of people pitched their talks as quickly as possible.  After pitching, they exited the door at the back of the auditorium, handing off their pitch to Spot for taping and attaching to the wall, and re-entering in the other rear auditorium exit.

After everyone gave their pitches, the line for barcamp voting began, which is usually (and was again) the longest part of the process. Thomas Cameron was kind enough to act as line motivator, reminding people to not take all week, and we managed to get finished with voting with just enough time for Jared‘s FPL speech. While the speech went on, a few of us taped up the barcamp grid, counted up votes, and started arranging the schedule by vote popularity, avoiding conflicts of interest, etc. With 6 rooms and 5 time slots, 30 sessions seems like a lot, but proved to have a lot of things going on simultaneously, but in the end I think we managed to please everyone but a few people. Which is pretty much the story of life anyway, right? :)

Anyway, I have no idea how it happened, but magically, a lot of Cloud talks got conveniently aligned all in a row. (And I didn’t bump up the numbers, honest, there’s just interest, though I think Raspberry Pi wound up getting the largest number of votes.)  I popped into Mo Morsi‘s Aeolus talk for a bit this morning, and this afternoon John Mark Walker and Jeff Darcy  presented on Gluster, David Nalley gave a talk and demo on CloudStack, followed by Russell Bryant and an awesome local (to Blacksburg) Rackspace employee giving a presentation on OpenStack. Mike McGrath is now presenting on OpenShift, which I’m sure will be great.

FUDPub starts at 7pm, a bit of a break after the last session is over, and at 11pm we’ll be meeting in the lobby to play some POKER. Looking forward to the rest of the day and evening, whooping some butt in a variety of games of skill or luck, and helping Spot get through the evening of FUDPub :D

Welcome to FUDCon! Your forecast is cloudy… err… FREAKING COLD but awesome

Well, it’s windy, snowing, my ears are cold, but the good news is that most people have managed to make it (save for the few of you stuck at ORD, who I’ll see later this morning!). Sadly, this means I can’t do any ridiculous puns about TEH CLOUD this morning, but I’m sure you’ll get your fill of cloud all weekend long. :)

Hopefully by now most of you have managed to figure out at least what time we’re starting today by looking at the schedule on the FUDCon:Blacksburg wiki page, but for those who haven’t (and there’s no time like the present!) — we’re starting at 9am on the second floor of McBryde Hall. (Obligatory link to map information is right here.) I’m sure we’ll have a good contigent of people walking over there this morning, though if you’re lucky, you can probably catch a ride with someone and not freeze your patootie off.

For those not here at FUDCon, you can still follow the fun on IRC on irc.freenode.net in #fedora-fudcon, as well as probably other channels specific to individual teams.  I’m sure lots of other people will be blogging about their ongoings on planet.fedoraproject.org as well.

So what have I been up to? :) FUN THINGS, of course. Ian Weller, Dennis Gilmore, and I arrived on Wednesday afternoon.  I got my car and hauled us out to Blacksburg, which is about an hour drive from the Roanoke Regional Airport. Had some dinner, and then gathered in the lobby waiting for the few people arriving on Wednesday, including Jared and Tatica (who wound up not getting in until very late Wednesday/early Thursday), and I also got to meet Jon Masters, who I hadn’t yet ever had the pleasure of meeting.  Peter Robinson also got in that evening, so there was plenty of ARM talk to be had, though the extent of my contribution there was something along the lines of, “Hey, I have ARMs… I wave them around a lot and try to get people’s attention…” :)

Thursday morning saw me doing some work on the other projects I work on outside of Fedora in my hotel room, and then around noon we started seeing more people come in. Spot arrived with a vanful of Boston RHT folks he flew in with, and then I went back with him to the airport to retrieve many more folks, including cwickert, kanarip, jforbes, tflink, gholms, inode0, nirik, and about … 4 more people I’m forgetting because it’s super early right now and I’m still working on drinking my tea (but I can assure you that I love you guys nonetheless). Although it does not have the same ring to it as The Spevan, the SpotBus was still awesome, and there’s nothing that makes me more smiley than getting to see lots of Fedora people travelling together that I haven’t seen for a while and getting to have some great laughs and productive conversation in.

By the end of last night, a ton of people were here, and we have even more arriving this morning and this afternoon. I’m looking forward to seeing all of you here, we’re going to have a great time and get lots of Things Done :)

I’m hoping to attend some Cloudy Stuff today, as well as go to the Fedora Board meeting numero uno, and the Implementing the Spins Process in Trac session, which is an area that I think could use some srs luv. What is everyone else planning on doing today?

Doing a Workshop or Hackfest? READ ME TO GET SCHEDULED!

Planning on running a workshop or hackfest at FUDCon this weekend? If you are, do you know what time you’re doing it?

Chances are, you probably don’t.  Right now, the schedule for Friday and Sunday, the primary days for Workshops and Hackfests, is lookin’ pretty darned empty. But I do see a giant list of planned hackfests and workshops (and by the way, if you’re planning on one and haven’t listed it yet in the hackfests/workshops area of the wiki, you should probably do that!), which means we need to all come together and start planning WHEN all of these things are going to be.

Let me be very clear here:

IF YOU ARE PLANNING A WORKSHOP OR HACKFEST, YOU NEED TO WRITE IT INTO THE SCHEDULE YOURSELF.

And the sooner, the better; the trusty Ian Weller and I get into Blacksburg tomorrow (Wednesday), and I’d like to be able to get the schedule finalized as much as possible before evening on Thursday, so that people know where to go and what to do on Friday. The last thing we want to do is waste Ian’s last pre-21-years-old FUDCon screwing around for 8 hours trying to do it for everyone waste time when we get started on Friday morning running around not knowing where we should be — FUDCons are a huge investment of time (and money!) for everyone involved, so let’s make the most of the time we have together.

Please note: Don’t write your proposed BarCamp session into the calendar, as we’ll schedule those during BarCamp.

If you’re not sure when, or worried you’ll conflict with others, ping the people you think will be likely attendees at your session and just make sure it’s a kosher time. The schedule will never be conflict free, but we can do our best.

EC2 Access for FUDCon Cloudy Things, get it here! (Or read about it anyway.)

During my beauty sleep last night (2 hours: check!) it occurred to me that it might be helpful to have access to EC2 for any cloud-related things that come up, or just in case of general need for extra horsies, etc. So, that’s precisely what I’m going to do: Set up some temporary access for folks during FUDCon!

There are a few things I think this might be helpful for:

  • If you’re attending a session on BoxGrinder and you want to learn how to roll your own Fedora on EC2.
  • If you’re inspired to work on the Cloud Guide on a docs session, or maybe want to learn how to test EC2 for each release during Test Days.
  • In case you’re attending a hackfest on getting Fedora into the EC2/S3 .. repo.. area… or something… so that when you are yum-installing/updating/etc. you can get it insanely fast from what would essentially be a local mirror in EC2-land. And you want to help test to see if it works! (Note: Did you see that? That was my technical knowledge dropping off of a cliff.  I hope you can come to that hackfest and help out!) Maybe I’ll be more explicit about this plot in a future blog post in the next few days.

I’ll be setting up access using the awesome instructions written by Garrett Holmstrom to create accounts. IAM is actually pretty darned cool, and more importantly, EVEN I have utilized it and haven’t actually broken anything. The nice part is that you can limit how long the instances are alive, which is precisely what I’ll be doing — enabling them for this Thursday – next Tuesday (Jan. 12-16).

Anyway, if you want a temporary account for the FUDCon time period, drop me a line (rbergero@fedoraproject, plz).  I’ll set up accounts Wednesday night, and it would be super awesome helpful to me if you email me BEFORE IT IS AN EMERGENCY, preferably before FUDCon actually starts, so that I can hook you up without having to vanish in the middle of FUDCon fun.

<insert my sweet, smiling face here, topped by a Cloudy Hat that I really, really do have>

Speaking of Cloudy Things and access, if you’re planning on learning at all about OpenShift during FUDCon, and I have received confirmation that there will be Shifty Things a’Happenin’, you might think about signing up for that before you arrive, so you’re SUPER READY to get going on it. :)