Building a better FUDcon experience
FUDcon has always been a way to interact with other, to meet those contributors that were your coworkers for the past year (and in many cases, for longer periods). As the time goes by, Fedora has experienced a series of changes that sometimes are way to fast to keep track, specially since most of the contributors have a life outside the community.
We have people that have never attend to a FUDcon but has come to a Flock, people who has never gone to a Flock but has gone to many FADs, and we have people that has no idea where to start. Fedora Events should work as a way to prepare our contributors, from the smallest event to the biggest one, so they can learn hot to make the most of their time while traveling. During FUDcon Córdoba 2015, we held a long meeting talking about the future of conferences in Latin America, which need desperately a make over.
FADs: The best way to prepare for the challenge
Even if FADs are events that focus on a single team or task (most of the time), we should encourage our local community to held monthly FADs so not only organizers, but attendees can experience what’s to be part of a Fedora Premier Event. Last time LATAM held a FAD was in 2013 at Managua, so why did we stop?
- Is Money the big question? : LATAM has never received a big budget, and we are so used to it that we rarely ask for something. Half of LATAM people doesn’t know how to receive a reimbursement, and those who do… well, it’s a pain to receive it. We need to deal with delays, problems with payment methods and in some occasions we receive a big NO because people outside LATAM doesn’t want to deal with our issues.
- Long distances: While Central America can be travel (at least part of it) by bus overnight, South America is a different story. 15 countries is a long territory to cover and I doubt we could get funding to have FADs and move so many people with the frequency that EMEA or NA does. So we have figured a new way to keep frequency and don’t spend that much. Online FADs.
- Fedora Teams: We have members of each team across LATAM, but not in each country. An Online FAD (in case required) could help us to recruit more people with half the effort we are already using.
- Recording FADs: We always deal with the issue of recording conferences and talks during FUDcons, where a lack of hardware is usually the main issue. It’s quite easy to record an online conference using software like Hangouts, BlueJeans, BBB and others. That way, we could have a large database of videos that other contributors could check.
- Frequency not an issue: We have 6 main teams inside Fedora, Documentation, Design, Ambassadors, Infra, L10N and Development. considering that FUDcon is held once a year, we could organize 2 FADs yearly per team, which I think could impact on the quality of talks, content and goals tha can be reached at the next FUDcon.
One of the main issues about FUDcons in LATAM is that we wait a full year to meet and we expect people to come running just for the love of Fedora, when the truth is that we should harvest that during the year so we can see the results at FUDcons. One of the ideas of the online FADs is to provide a conference that can reach anywhere in LATAM, spending the less time/effort/money possible, and allowing us to identify the potential in each country, so once the FUDcon arrives to your door you know your strengths and weaknesses, and can make the most of the Conference, but besides getting a wide overview of the people, local teams could also gain experience organizing meetings, small events and even knowing each other. In countries like Argentina and Brazil, with such a wide territory, some contributors have never seen each other.
Events Team: Using the right tool for the job.
Why are we asking Developers, Packagers and Technical contributors to organize Conferences if we have a Marketing Team? This is the question that always comes to my head every time I go to a conference. In LATAM, we are 15 countries participating inside the Fedora project, but we only have Marketing members in 4 of them. We have countries where we could recruit a ton of users and turn them into contributors that could make our region to grow, but if we ask a Packager to forget about his packages for 6 months to organize a FUDcon… are we doing the right thing?
It’s well known that part of the tasks need to be made by the local team, but this doesn’t mean that they are prepared to do so. There are letters, meetings, budgets, schedules and more that need to be organized, but sometimes, countries only have technical contributors that have never organized their own birthdays. So, why are we putting so much pressure on them if we have the right tool for this job? We should have a small team to help releasing the pressure on our talent. Here are some ideas for this local team:
- Documentation: Even if there is a vast guide on how to organize a FUDcon (or any conference) there are some local things to consider that only affect LATAM, and are not listed inside the general guide. We should work during this year, not only on translating the current documentation, but also expanding it with local issues that all the previous organizers have experienced. There is also a huge requests of Visas, letters, brochures and more that could be already built so organizers only fill the new info (or we could also have a team doing this and just pushing the final result).
- Budget: Out team could also have an “accounting department” that collects all the info about pricing, vendors, flight tickets, hotel, transportation and other expenses; it’s usual for some countries to deal with currency exchange issues that doesn’t apply to other regions and this has always have been an issue. FUDcon Córdoba was a great experience for us since was the only FUDcon so far where all expenses were paid in time (in case some people don’t know, most of the times local organizers need to pay for almost everything and get reimbursed several months after the event is held).
- Talks acceptance and Schedules: Once the local organizers have the information about the venue (rooms, times, etc) should be fairly easy for a non-local-team to organize the schedule that can generate the most interest in the attendees, that way, local team should only worry on getting this info printed and nothing more. Information about Venue interests, local activities, careers, work schedules and others should be collected so this team can create the best schedule possible for everyone.
- Artwork: Badges, posters, flyers, stickers and some other gigs are already made by the local Design Team members, however, once the organizer makes the request, they also need to make print proofs, scale checks and more. Having the local vendors information, the Design team can personally handle all this issues by phone/email, make sure the printing is turning out fine, then the Accounting team can directly pay, and the local organizer should only go and pick up what they ordered. Must be a team effort, and we can make it better.
A better FUDcon: Reinventing the Wheel (or not)
FUDcon LATAM needs to adapt to the local host, which means schedules changes, different kinds of talks, and other issues that are not the same for each country, however, with the Events Team I’m sure we could do a better work. Here are some ideas:
- Users and Developers… BOTH: When comes to FUDcon, we usually forget about the U and aim to have a more technical conference, which is not wrong… but we need to include everyone. At our final meeting at FUDcon Córdoba there were several ideas to solve this issue:
The Half-Half: Using our internal Teams division, dividing our 3 FUDcon days in half, we could cover topics about each team at each half, so people interested in two or more teams doesn’t miss anything. for those who are not interested on the current topic, a general meeting room could be provided so random topics get discussed.
The Team Rooms: In order to let each team have a full FUDcon to work, we could arrange (if venue allows it) a room for each team, with it’s own schedule. that way, there wouldn’t be free time for anyone and we would make sure that the time is used completely by all the teams. it’s quite hard, but possible.
The Users friendly FUDcon: We all have been users, and some of our brightest contributors were born in a FUDcon. Even if we organize a FUDcon that are 2/3 technical, full of talks and workshops meant to get a goal, we could easily designate a Fedora Contributor for each team, and use a small room for those users that want to jump in and help, with 6 “demonstrative talks” that help them to join and help.
Instead of just showing them a slide full of boring steps, we could organize a 1h fast task that let us as mentors see if the user has what we need, and show them how to join the fedora project, help, push a contribution and make them be part of the family. We need to make more and talk less, but how? Showing them how to do it instead than reading a boring presentation.
The Guru Panel: How many of us want to ask a simple question but is not answered at one of the FUDcon Talks? If a member(s) of each team dedicates 15min of their time at a Guru Table just to answer 1min questions… just imagine the possibilities…
Fedora Makers Space: One of the things that I liked the most on the group of suggestions came from the Brazilian community. They have something called “Makers Space” where professionals show what they do and how it’s useful for others. Many of us work with OpenSource daily and would be quite interesting to have a session of lightning talks from professionals that can show the attendees that it’s possibly to make a living of it.
If you’re reading this let me say THANK YOU for taking the time into reading a boring long post that probably had a ton of information that you already knew.
As a community, we have face difficult times for living in such a complicated group of countries and sometimes we just lose the push, it’s hard, but we are still here, we just don’t want people to lose the interest and the faith in us, because we are Fedora too.
If you are interested on any of the topics from this article, feel free to either leave a comment, ping me on IRC (as tatica) or just drop me an email (taticaATfedoraprojectDOTcom) if you want to discuss something more privately. The idea is to create a healthy debate that can help us identify our weaknesses and turn them into strengths so we can continue growing as a community.
NOTE: FADs schedules and more to come, just be patient :)
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