[Linux-aus] OSDC 2015 Wrap

Kathy Reid kathy at kathyreid.id.au
Wed May 11 14:26:18 AEST 2016

On behalf of the Linux Australia Council, we'd like to extend our thanks 
and appreciation to Tim, Morgan and all Team and Volunteers for OSDC 
2015. Thank you for bringing the OSDC conference under your wing and 
helping it to join the LA family.

LA would be delighted to hear from any team or group who would be 
interested in running OSDC in the future.

Kind regards,
Kathy Reid

On 11/05/16 13:41, Tim Serong wrote:
> Hi All,
> Our last remaining task for OSDC 2015 was to provide a conference report.
> If anyone has any questions, or if anything needs to be elaborated,
> please let me know.
> == In The Beginning ==
> There wasn't actually a bid process for OSDC 2015.  IIRC Arjen Lentz,
> Ben Dechrai and I had randomly chatted at OSDC 2011, 2012 and 2013 along
> the lines of "Hey, we've never done this in Hobart, we should do that
> some time".  Then at OSDC 2014 (which I couldn't make it to), Arjen and
> Ben wanted to announce where the next one would be, and asked if I'd be
> up for running it in Hobart in 2015.  I said "Yes", and we ran from there.
> Early on I had a long (1-2 hour) chat on the phone with Arjen to figure
> out what needed to happen (website, CFP, keynotes, venue, budget, etc.
> etc.)  This was very helpful.  I also got access to previous years' bits
> and pieces in the OSDClub DropBox.
> We ran OSDC 2015 as a Linux Australia subcommittee, consisting of:
> * Site lead: Tim Serong
> * Treasurer: Morgan Leigh
> * Web Site Guy: Scott Bragg
> * Community Representatives:
>    - Arjen Lentz
>    - Ben Dechrai
> Practically, this resulted in Morgan and I working together to do "all
> the event stuff" (venues, inviting keynotes, budgets, etc.). Scott got
> the web site up, and Arjen and Ben advised via an occasional call and
> various email discussions.
> The subcommittee was formalised with LA some time in April or May,
> although I'd already been in touch with Wrest Point (the Venue) in
> March, thanks to Chris Neugebauer having a contact there.
> The papers committee consisted of myself, Arjen Lentz and Lana Brindley.
>   Once we had talks accepted, I drafted the schedule then tweaked based
> on feedback from Arjen and Morgan.  We had three streams (two regular
> talk streams and a tutorial stream).  Talk slots were 40 minutes, plus a
> five minute changeover between back-to-back sessions.  I tried to group
> talks together, so we had a set of education talks in one room, for
> example.  There were a few blank slots in the schedule, so talks that
> were obviously going to be popular (e.g.: anything by Paul Fenwick) were
> put in the large room, against a blank slot in the other talk stream,
> and at the end of a segment, so if the concurrent tutorial finished
> early, attendees would be able to catch the (presumably) popular talk.
> Also it probably helps when the person doing the scheduling knows half
> the speakers personally, and has seen them speak before...
> == Venue ==
> * Wrest Point was good, but not cheap (like, say, a donated set of University
> rooms might have been)
> * Having a venue that also does catering for morning and afternoon tea,
> and lunch, is a big win.
> * Catering staff were notably good, and special dietary requests were
> handled well.
> * "We" (LA and Ryan Verner) had prior experience with Wrest Point as a
> venue for PyCon AU, so we knew roughly what to expect, and knew we could
> work with the in-house AV and WiFi.
> * "We" (Morgan and I) really wanted to do the dinner somewhere other
> than the main conference venue, to show off a bit more of Tasmania, and
> also to get everyone out of the venue for an evening. We bussed
> everyone to the Apple Shed in the Huon Valley for a buffet BBQ, on the
> first night of the conference (get everyone together socially earlier
> rather than later).
> == Dates ===
> * We were aiming for late October or early November.  The original quote
> from Wrest Point was for some time in the first two weeks of November,
> but we ended up running in the last week of October (27-29).  November
> was ultimately not viable, largely due to conflicts with my work
> * Someone emailed me to point out that weekdays are difficult for some
> attendees because they have to take time out of their work week to
> attend and some employers don't like that.  The example of PyCon AU
> running on a weekend was cited.  OTOH, some of us actually like our
> weekends, and conferences are work for us.  So...  No perfect answer here.
> * October 27-29 was the same week the OpenStack Summit was on.  That's
> not necessarily a huge *subject* overlap, but I reckon we'd have had at
> least 5 more people at OSDC if not for that conflict.
> * We also collided with OSCON Europe (which I somehow didn't even know
> was on), which probably cost us another 5+ delegates, notably including
> a few from Tasmania who got talks accepted at OSCON.
> * We couldn't go any earlier or later anyway, for various reasons.  Late
> October is good, it's just a shame there was so much other stuff on (in
> addition to the above, IIRC some gaming thing in Melbourne, some startup
> thing in Sydney, etc. -- I think we've hit "peak conference").
> == Accommodation ==
> * Wrest Point provided a block of rooms at a discounted rate, but being
> a conventional hotel, that's probably still too steep for some
> contingent of delegates (there were ~20 rooms taken by delegates)
> * The best we managed outside was a link to a wotif search of nearby
> accommodation.
> * Something (I still don't know what, exactly) apparently ate a lot of
> accommodation while the conference was on.
> == Sponsorship ==
> * Sponsors were tricky to come by.  Some of the usual suspects said no,
> but without saying why.  Some others went through a big "yep, we're
> interested; yep, just gotta talk to some stakeholders; please bear
> with us; sorry for the delay; oh, yeah, no, actually not this time, but
> please get in touch next year" (and of course that process went across
> many weeks).
> * The sponsorship prospectus (standard packages and pricing) was largely
> based on the OSDC 2014 prospectus, which I assume was based on 2013,
> and...  You get the idea.  It may have worked out better had we reduced
> the pricing for the various packages across the board, and added more
> smaller options (taking a leaf out of PyCon AU's book).
> == Symposion ==
> * We used Symposion for the conference web site, partly because it was
> easier to get running than Zookeepr, and partly to kick the tyres
> because Chris was looking at using it for LCA 2017.
> * It worked well, with a few kinks (not sure if these are universal, or
> just the branch we were using):
>    * Various items in the admin backend (like, user accounts) show up as
> something illegible (a GUID) as opposed to something useful (a name,
> title or email address).  This makes some admin tasks slightly irritating.
>    * When reviewing talk submissions, when a reviewer submits a
> +1/+0/-0/-1, but *doesn't* also provide a comment, it seems to accept
> the review, but actually silently records nothing, i.e. a review comment
> is always required, but there's no error message if nothing was entered.
>    * Scheduling gets kinda fiddly, the UI is just cumbersome and time
> consuming to tweak.  It might even be easier to just keep the schedule
> in a text file and repeatedly import it as you tweak it, rather than
> trying to edit it via Symposion.
>    * If a speaker edits a talk after it's accepted, this will *not*
> automatically be reflected on the web site.  The admin will get an
> email, then has to manually make the changes to the published talk (this
> is apparently a feature to avoid the risk of having accepted speakers
> troll the conference by putting dodgy shit in their talks after
> acceptance - but seriously, who does that?!?)
> == CFP ==
> * This possibly happened later that might have been optimal, but we
> ended overlapping slightly with the linux.conf.au 2016 CFP, which meant
> we could do a bit of cross promotion.
> * Whoever first said "CFPs can never open too early" was right.
> == Promotion ==
> * I think we did a very good job on Twitter.
> * I posted variously to LinkedIn, which got a least a little notice.
> * Facebook got some use (Scott was posting there).
> * Google+ was pretty much useless AFAICT.
> * CFP, various announcements went to linux-aus, taslug, luv-main
> and OSDC lists (because I'm on those lists).
> * Others reposted elsewhere (e.g.: OSIA web site).
> * The OSDC mailing lists apparently weren't mentioned anywhere on the
> 2014 web site, and weren't mentioned on the 2015 site until relatively
> late after I realised this omission, so we might have missed some people
> there.
> * I posted to as many meetup.com groups as I could find that seemed
> relevant in Tasmania, Victoria and NSW.  This is more or less a complete
> PITA (find relevant meetup group, copy & paste message to organiser
> asking them to pass on your message to the group, hope you don't hit too
> many to reach a spam limit, ...)
> * I also emailed the CFP a dozen or so contacts in various states, who
> hopefully passed it on to relevant local groups (wordpress and drupal
> groups, hackerspaces, LUGs, etc.)
> * One person queried "Do I have to be a developer to attend?"  Of course
> not!  But it is right there in the name, so, something to watch out for
> or clarify in future.
> == Ticket Sales ==
> * A rollercoaster where you never know what is going to happen until it
> happens (although the graph was vaguely the same shape as in 2014 - a
> spike at early bird, then nothing, then random ups and downs, then a
> minor flurry at the end).
> * We kept a *really* close eye on this, and ensured the conference venue
> and dinner venue were up to date with projected numbers as the weeks
> went by.  This actually worked well - watch it like a hawk, keep
> everyone informed, update the budget spreadsheet daily, and there'll be
> no surprises.
> * We rounded up to the nearest ~10, which meant we weren't short of
> food, and were able to accommodate one or two late people gratis (a
> volunteer, an attendee's partner), without being stretched.  At the same
> time, this didn't detrimentally affect the budget.
> * Final numbers were about 80 for the conference proper (including
> speakers) and ~85 for the dinner (a few +1s).  Yup, it was a small
> conference, but more on that later.  I will note here that about half
> the attendees attended gratis due to being speakers or volunteers.  We
> did finish in the black, but it would have been a lot blacker if we'd
> had even only another 20 paying attendees.
> == Videos ==
> * We only managed to get enough sponsorship to cover video production at
> the last minute (about a month out).
> * I'd been in touch with Ryan Verner earlier about the possibility of
> doing video, so thankfully he was able to get the time to make it
> happen, even on relatively late notice.
> * Morgan and I both see video as significantly important; they leave a
> legacy for future conferences, and provide value for those who could not
> attend (and also a perk for sponsors whose logos appear).
> == Fundraising ==
> * As other LA conferences have done, we did some fundraising for a worthy
> cause, in this case for the Refugee Legal Service (Tas).  Morgan
> spruiked this with great passion, and we were able to raise a total of
> $2,890.80 thanks to the conference delegates, including two
> significantly large donors.
> == Media Coverage ==
> * Due to some miracle, I was contacted by a journalist from The Advocate
> (a paper in NW Tas) who wanted to do a story on the conference.  She
> interviewed myself and Richard Tubb (one of our keynotes, also a
> Tasmanian) by phone during the conference, Morgan took a photo for her,
> and we wound up in the paper:
>    https://twitter.com/richardtubb/status/659107606871412736
> For the record, I *did* say the "tech mecca" thing, but never mentioned
> Silicon Valley.  I have a copy of the paper here, so if anyone wants a
> better photo than that tweet, let me know.
> == Next Time ==
> * The conference would benefit from a dedicated social media person to run
> Twitter, Facebook (plus anything else that makes sense), and also to
> keep the News page up to date on the web site.
> * Two or three more volunteers (room monitor + AV) would have been
> ideal.  We were slightly but not fatally stretched.
> * I was worried given we had three streams and ~80 attendees that some
> poor speaker would wind up speaking to an empty room.  This did not
> happen.  The smallest we got was one tutorial with two attendees, but
> they turned out to be really keen, and everyone had a good experience.
> == Random Comments From Attendees ==
> "This is really...  Peaceful...  It's nice!"
> "The talks are really high quality"
> "Great food!"
> == A Smaller Conference Can Be Good ==
> We went in hoping for a couple of hundred people.  The original quote
> from the venue was for 150, with the ability to move either up or down
> as we needed to.  As mentioned earlier we ended up with about 80, but it
> was really nice.  Everyone got to meet everyone.  We got to the dinner
> venue using two buses.  One of our speakers over from the US was
> delighted with the personal nature of a smaller conference after going
> to giant multi-thousand attendee conferences in the US.  It might have
> been small, but the flavour and spirit were all there, and it worked well.
> == Future ==
> OSDC has apparently become smaller over the past few years.  We had ~80
> attendees (including speaker etc.) in 2015, and ~85 for the
> dinner (a few plus ones).  2014 apparently had ~90 delegates.
> I reckon if OSDC hadn't been on at the same time as the OpenStack Summit
> (which I knew about but couldn't avoid) and OSCON Europe (which I didn't
> know about, but still couldn't avoid), we would have hit close to 100,
> because apparently a large contingent of Australians were at
> OpenStack, and several of them at least would have come to OSDC; and
> another handful of Australians had talks accepted as OSCON Europe, who
> otherwise also would have come to OSDC.  So timing is definitely a thing.
> OSDC has quite some overlap with LCA, both in content and attendees.
> Our pitch for 2015 was:
>> The focus for OSDC 2015 is Opening Up For A Better World.  Open source
>> software, hardware and standards facilitate higher quality technology,
>> better security and faster innovation; open data allows us to better
>> discover and understand the world we live in; open government aims to
>> ensure that citizens can participate in their democracy; open access
>> publishing exists to spread knowledge and allow that knowledge to be
>> built upon.  Open by design is the best default.
> The theme for LCA 2016 was:
>> *Life is better with Linux.*
>> And that’s exactly what our conference theme is. linux.conf.au 2016
>> will focus on how Linux and open source technologies are improving
>> lives - through humanitarian projects, wearables that give us greater
>> control and choice over our health and habits, and which enrich our
>> lives through protecting our privacy and our ‘digital health’.
> ...and the theme for LCA 2017 is:
>> The Future of Open Source. LCA has a long history as a place where
>> people come to learn from people who actually build the world of Free
>> and Open Source Software. We want to encourage presenters to share
>> with us where we think their projects are heading over the coming
>> years. These thoughts could be deeply technical: presenting emerging
>> Open Source technology, or features of existing projects that are
>> about to become part of every sysadmin’s toolbox.
> This is all sounding pretty similar.
> LCA used to be a Linux conference.  OSDC was/is for open foo, regardless
> of platform.  LCA is now arguably an open foo conference that happens to
> have Linux in its name.  What does that mean for OSDC?  Lots of stuff
> that is on-topic for OSDC is equally on-topic for LCA, and LCA is larger
> and (presumably) more widely-known than OSDC.
> OTOH, OSDC has a noticeably different flavour than LCA.  I've never
> quite been able to put my finger on this (I attended 2011, 2012, 2013,
> missed 2014 and ran 2015).  It's...  always been smaller.  More
> accessible?  More friendly?  And I really like it.  It's not that LCA
> *isn't* accessible or friendly, but it's large enough now that you don't
> get to meet everyone.  It's potentially more intimidating for newcomers.
>   And I suspect there's still some sort of "hardcore Linux hacker" mythos
> thing going on.
> But given most of what's on topic for OSDC is equally on topic for LCA,
> does it make sense to have two separate conferences?
> I don't know.
> I don't want to lose that nice OSDC flavour.  It's broadly the same
> community as LCA, but it's like we're in a different restaurant, having
> a slightly different meal.
> Or maybe LCA is a Friday or Saturday night out on the town with a few
> friends and a random pile of strangers, but OSDC is a nice Sunday brunch.
> And who doesn't like a nice Sunday brunch?
> Regards,
> Tim

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