poor man's SWOT analysis of GUADEC

While I'm flaming away elsewhere, I thought it might be constructive
to write down some of the thinking that has led me to the conclusions
that we are drifting very badly with GUADEC right now. A simplistic
SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis might
let me get some of this onto the record while still letting me sleep
tonight and be productive tomorrow. It is also the kind of thing that
other people can usefully add things onto, I think- so feel free to

For a little more background on what a SWOT is, I found this article helpful:

The basic idea, though, is just as a tool to help you list and focus
important issues facing you.


* gets existing community together and recharges the batteries very well
* gets very good speakers, both for government/business days and for
technical days
* many indications that technical newbies who come to the conference
get excited and continue to partcipate, and at least one stunning
success in terms of deployments (Extremadura)
* strong history, known 'brand' within technical free software circles
* reasonably successful at fundraising, particularly in getting
financial help from local governments and reliably getting funding
from a small number of key corporate partners
* known as a place that an organization can go to (Nokia, Sun, Real)
if they want to get broad access to the whole GNOME community in a
cost-effective way

Weaknesses: (no particular order)
* embarassing attendance at government/business sessions
* reduced spending this year on 'core' expense of getting contributors
to the conference
* some hackers think it is too structured and want more free/hacking time
* some outsiders think it is too unstructured and wonder what is going on :)
* few tutorials, so hard for new people to learn skills, even if the
conference motivates them a great deal
* compared to the large amounts of talk, little concrete hacking or
planning gets done
* only really happens in one country in Europe, so not very effective
in outreach to the rest of the world or possibly even to many places
in Europe, because of cost of travel
* no brand awareness outside of free software circles
* very small budget (if any) to market the conference outside of free
software circles
* organizing teams are very inconsistent about interfacing with local volunteers
* old hacking room (where everyone was tethered by ethernet) is now
distributed because we expect wireless everywhere, so no central
gathering places like there used to be

* no one else is really effectively reaching out to governments in
most of the world, talking specifically about free software desktops
as either a tool for them to use, or as a means of national economic
* continue to see large deployments and corporate interest that we
should be able to leverage- sun, real, nokia, in successive years- who
will be next year's big news?
* lots of interest outside the first world- india, indonesia, etc.
* still large bodies of potential volunteers to reach out to, ISVs to
speak to, companies to fundraise from, etc., etc.

* getting extremely expensive, which makes us very dependent on
corporate sponsorship, which may be fickle
* KDE fairly effective at many small linux shows around europe, and
aKademy very large/successful
* many other conferences more successful at reaching a broad-ranging
audience and attracting a broad range of free software or competitive
technologies- if Moz/Web 2.0/OSX/whatever is the new platform, and
Moz/Web2.0/OSX/whatever is at every conference in the world and we are
mostly at GUADEC, does that weaken us?
* success of Boston Summit may reduce perceived need for Americans to
come to GUADEC

Anyway, I hope this reveals some of my thinking about the background
for where we are and where we could be going, and hope it is of use to
someone who might feel challenged to make GUADEC and perhaps other
conferences all that they can be.


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