Re: GNOME and KDE to Co-locate Flagship Conferences on Gran Canaria in 2009


One other thing I didn't say but am a little worried about...

Dave Neary wrote:
> I'm pretty sure everyone's aware that the devil is now in the details,
> and there will be times when we are in conflict over some issues. I
> expect clearing up sponsorship and distribution of surplus will be the
> biggest one, and the one we most need to settle quickly.


One other major issue for me with the Gran Canaria bid, which I pointed
out to the board but which was obviously not decisive, is that we have,
in the past, dealt with organising committees from outside the community
on 3 occasions, and each time there were major issues.

Kristiansand: The university helped organise things, and in spite of
regular conference calls, several things went badly - visa requests
weren't answered, resulting in one Chinese VIP not being able to attend,
we were working with people who didn't have a culture of handling large
volumes of email (the conference can generate 20 - 50 mails a day at
crunch time), and there was something of an expectations gap between the
organisers and the community.

Stuttgart: In co-operation with the regional government there, we
corrected a lot of the issues we had previously - we had a local
co-ordinator on-site for the 2 weeks before the conference and during
the conference. We were in a magnificent building (which wasn't really
suitable to the needs of the conference IMHO). The region covered the
rental of the conference center, but we ended up with an unexpected (to
the board) bill for a/v equipment, chairs, coffee breaks & sandwiches...
conferences in conference centers are expensive for all extras. Again,
these problems came from something of an expectations gap.

Barcelona: Originally, GUADEC in Barcelona was to be co-hosted with a
professional conference. And here, there was both a resource problem on
our end, and a major expectations gap. The Barcelona organisers were
expecting us to have a list of needs, a number of attendees, have
sponsorship finalised and have started working on our schedule by the
end of September. In the end, they grew increasingly frustrated, and
added roadblocks and deadlines as we went on, until we finally ended up
deciding mutually not to work together. At which point Super Quim saved
the day with a fall-back plan which he put together in 2 weeks, which
involved using a university, lodging in a campsite, and which resulted
in the successful GUADEC we all attended in Villanova.

These major issues mostly stayed hidden to GNOME hackers attending the
conference, I think, but after all the work which had been put in
(particularly in Stuttgart) aligning expectations and communicating with
the organising committee, the complaints I heard from people at each of
these GUADEC was quite upsetting.

I would hate to see us have a repeat by having the conference in an
expensive conference center, and losing some of the spirit of GUADEC
we've had in the past 3 years or so.

Just some examples of things that raise alarm bells for me:

The local organisers are covering costs up to €250,000, about the same
as our entire GUADEC budget for the last two years combined, and this
coverse the site + 40% subsidy of sightseeing + invited journalists,
VIPs and perhaps organisational staff (to be determined).

In the conference center, lunch is €24.50 per person and coffee breaks
cost €7 per person per coffee break (that better be some good coffee)

They talk about going through a travel agency and getting group rates in
hotels. I would *really* like to see GUADEC go back to block-booking
beds in a hostel or campsite (as we did in Stuttgart & Kristiansand),
and recommending hotels for those who desire them.

All in all, it smells to me like we will need to manage expectations of
the organising group very aggressively, starting now, to avoid a
cultural disconnect. And that means being able to clearly communication
our expectations - I know we have had problems doing this in the past
(thinking in particular about Barcelona). I think the best way to do
that is to have someone representing the two communities who understands
those expectations representing us to the Gran Canaria local government.

Food for thought for the board...


Dave Neary
GNOME Foundation member
bolsh gnome org

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