FOSS4G2020 Q&A 2 Halifax

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logo design by Anton Patrushev from pgRouting, now lives in HFX

Questions from Steven Feldman

Hi Steven,

Thank you for your questions. We are very happy to clarify some points that may have appeared less well explained in our proposal. Do not hesitate to come back to us if you have any other questions.

1. You have not provided the budget spreadsheet that was part of the RfP. Or did I miss it? Can you provide this to the Conference Committee?

We have provided the spreadsheet budget directly in our proposal, under the Budget section, “Expenses and Revenues Spreadsheets” on page 31-33.

2. Can you provide clarity on whether you will be videoing and/or streaming just the plenaries or some of the conference streams as well? Is this provided for in your budget?

The HFX team has already included in the budget, and confirmed with our Audio/Video company, to stream all plenaries and possibly all sessions, and will archive them online after the event. In addition to the videos, we will make sure to post the PowerPoint/PDF presentations of every session. Of course, we will ask each speaker for permission to broadcast the content online.

It is important, especially considering streaming, that we have negotiated with the NovaCentre venue team to have a dedicated "FOSS4G" WiFi network (maximum bandwidth 800Mbps) for a flat rate for the event (~3700USD, or 5000CAD), which we included in the budget.

We mentioned briefly in the proposal, but we put out a call for competitive bids for Audio/Visual, and we have decided on a very reliable team at FREEMAN AV Canada who are not the in-house A/V company, but have a solid reputation all across Canada for handling large events. We will in fact still be using the in-house A/V company of FMAV for any "rigging" (new wiring through walls etc)

3. Your budget has a very high dependency on sponsorship (up to 45% of income), higher than most previous events. Can you explain in more detail where you expect this sponsorship to come from?What are your contingencies if your target is not achieved?

We expect a lot of enthusiasm from a very large geospatial sector all across Canada, as FOSS4G comes back after 13 years since Victoria 2007. We will also have a very strong sponsors committee with input from Jonathan Murphy, the Managing Director of GoGeomatics Canada, who hosts geospatial events from coast to coast in 15 different local communities, and already has a vast network of sponsors who will be interested in the foremost geospatial event of 2020. Additionally, we are planning to provide more affordable sponsorship options to smaller companies, and also considering increasing the number of available booths in the exhibitor space. Finally, we will leverage the large network of connections from members in our local organizing committee, and invest considerable efforts in reaching out for both recurring and new sponsors, all across Canada, but also in the United States and on the international front. Our budget includes a 5% contingency, but generates a considerable surplus even at the minimum budgeted number of attendees of 800, which can also act as contingency should we not manage to reach our sponsorship expectations.

4. You have indicated that you will need seed funding of $50k from OSGeo, will you require any additional guarantees from OSGeo? You have proposed to remit 75% of any surplus back to OSGeo, the guideline in the RfP was for 85% to be returned to OSGeo, please explain why you are proposing a different level?

We will not need any further guarantees from OSGeo to ensure the success of our event. The $50k seed funding will be enough to reserve the venue for the conference as well as the social events. We will avoid incurring expenses beyond the total of seed funding, initial sponsorship and registration revenues.

Regarding the ratio of surrender of surplus, as explained in the proposal, 75% will be returned to OSGeo and 25% to the three OSGeo local chapters (OSGeo Atlantic Canada, OSGeo Quebec, and OSGeo Ottawa) organizing FOSS4G Halifax 2020. So, in the end, the LOC ensures that 100% of the surplus will be redistributed to the OSGeo community. We figured that this way, the 3 chapters could continue to spread the OSGeo activities to the local community. If however this is deemed problematic, we can accept surrendering 85% to the global OSGeo foundation.

5. You refer to a payment to co-chairs who will undertake the tasks of a PCO, can you provide some more detail on the amount of these payments and the scope of work to be undertaken? Will there be a formal contract between the LOC and the co-chairs? Who will arbitrate in the event of a dispute?

A global amount of $ 60K has been set aside to pay the co-chairs to organize the FOSS4G-HFX. This amount will be divided equally between the co-chairs. We are aware of the workload that such an event can cause. We speak from experience. However, we are lucky to be surrounded by an incredible LOC who all have exceptional qualities. We are also fortunate to have fairly flexible jobs that will allow us to complete the event.

For the moment, no formal contract has been signed between the LOC and the co-chairs. Be assured however that in the event that we win this bid, a contract will be put in place to define the roles of each and avoid any dispute.

6. Can you confirm that the workshop fee of US $200 (EB) or $300 (Regular) is for 2 full days of workshops. Is there an option for attendees to register for only 1 or 2 workshops individually?

We are very pleased that you raised this point. We will propose a rate of $100 per block workshops (AM or PM) in early bird which will increase to $125 at the regular rate.

7. Can you confirm what level of discount on delegate fees you are offering to workshop presenters?

To clarify: For each workshop, 1 presenter will have free access to the entire event (meaning: if there are 2 presenters for a workshop, there will be one free pass available, or the 2 presenters can use it as a 50% discount each). This point was mentioned in the Budget section under Expenses / Gratuities, but we failed to mention it under the Grants and subsidies on the next page.

8. In your budget you have a $62k line for Coordination (inc event planners, transport & hotels etc). Can you explain please?

The amount for the Coordination will cover the organization costs of the event, ie $60K, which will be used to pay the co-chairs to organize the event. In addition, a $10K will be used to cover transportation costs, hotels reservations, meals, meeting room rentals and any other fees that will allow the co-chairs to make this event a success. We also added a $ 2K to pay other fees that could be added to the organization of the event.

9. In your budget you have a $10k line for modifications to the registration system. Can you explain what this is and why it is needed?

This covers integration within our conference website and testing, but also planned improvements, in particular to the presentation submission and community voting system. We are already in discussions with Volker Mische (OSGeo Charter Member) and plan to work with him to leverage and expand on the pretalx conference management system (, which is now being implemented for the 2019 team (the HFX team has learned over the many years in planning FOSS4G events of all sizes, that it is best to be consistent and expand on existing tools).

One idea for improvement is making it easier to narrow down presentations during community voting, by offering a way to see them organized by topic of interest and additional classification/filtering capabilities, which we think would greatly enhance the community participation in the voting process.

Other improvements may be made as well.

10. In your budget you have a line for “promotional stuff” running at almost $35/delegate - can you provide some more detail please?

Yes of course! We are excited to provide a special t-shirt for each participant who will register in the early bird (we are stealing the wonderful idea from the FOSS4G 2016 team). In addition, in order to make this event more eco-friendly, we plan to provide reusable water bottles bearing the image of the event (the NovaCentre venue has special bottle refill stations throughout). We will also provide a reusable bag for each participant and are currently evaluating the possibility of giving a reusable "FOSS4G: Free as in beer?" glass for use during the various social activities.

We also plan to print a small booklet (1-4 pages) summarizing the program and schedule, for the attendees' convenience. This will also be an opportunity to include sponsor logos. The detailed program will be accessible from a mobile app or on-line on the conference website. Note that HFX team members keenly witnessed the FOSS4G-Dar team's use of a mobile app, for push notifications for immediate changes to the schedule etc, and the HFX will evaluate the pros and cons of this.

11. You mention a Travel Grant Programme of $20k - is this a contribution to the OSGeo TGP initiative or one that will be run independently by your LOC?

beer label design by Anton Patrushev from pgRouting, now lives in HFX

We are very pleased to have included in our budget an amount of $20K that will be donated to the OSGeo TGP initiative. In addition to this amount, we imagined 2 other initiatives led by our LOC. The first will be to offer the opportunity to a participant to give a financial contribution of a minimum of $20 when registering.

The second initiative will be conducted with the collaboration of a local brewery (we are already in talks with 2 Halifax craft breweries, and 2 of our HFX team members, Jon Pye and Lenore Bajona, work for an organization based in Halifax that have already done something like this for another cause, see: Tag You're It! ). We will work with one of the local HFX breweries to create a craft "FOSS4G: Free as in beer?". This will be on sale before and during the event at all of the major pubs and restaurants in downtown Halifax (yes, members of our HFX team have done this for another cause, and it WILL happen for FOSS4G-2020!). For each beer sold, an amount (such as 50cents per beer purchase) will be accumulated and donated directly into the Travel Grant Program. Hey, nothing explains our vision better than a "draft" of what the beer labels could look like! (see picture of 2 possible labels)

12. Can you confirm that any funds allocated to a TGP (your own or the OSGeo one) will be used for travel and subsistence support and that all TGP recipients will receive a free conference pass in addition (i.e the TGP funds will not be used to cover delegate passes)?

We confirm that all TGP funds will be used to pay for travel and financial support for a recipient. The HFX team also confirms that recipients of the subsidy will be given a free pass without any change/effect to the TGP.

Questions from Jonathan Moules

Excellent stuff on the re-usable focus. Some further *sustainability/ethics* related questions

Thank you. The HFX team is very pleased that the new NovaCentre venue offers so many sustainable and eco-friendly initiatives, and we will do our best to implement as many as possible, throughout all of our planned venues. As we mentioned in the first round of Q/A, the province of Nova Scotia produces the least waste per capita and has the highest waste diversion rate in Canada, so we Nova Scotians believe strongly on sustaining our environment (many of us on the HFX team rely on the health of our oceans for our day jobs, for example), and we make constant efforts to make this so.

  • good job on covering dietary requirements; will you also have things to meet said requirements during the breaks beyond simply fruit? ("Pastries" are rarely vegan or gluten free for instance).

We feel that it’s very important to offer snacks that meet all dietary requirements as gluten intolerance, vegetarian/vegan etc., so therefore during the breaks we will be sure to offer items such as: gluten free muffins, cookies and such that are more interesting than pastries and are gluten free/Vegan all made in house by the NovaCentre culinary team, such as:

almond quinoa berry energy bars
chia apple and blueberry fruit leather
root vegetable chips with artichoke dip
spicy oven roasted almonds
raspberry zinger energy bites
fresh fruit salad with berries
house-made granola clusters
warm pretzel stick with sweet mustard

Also, as many of the HFX team has travelled the world for FOSS4G events of all sizes, we also believe that refreshments should be of variety also, including green tea, infused water, etc.

  • Are you going to reduce the amount of animal-based (and especially meat-based) products to try and reduce the conference's CO2 footprint?

We are lucky to live in a province that relies a lot on non-animal based goods, with its thriving fishing and oceans sectors, we’re therefore happy that our Gala dinner night will have local fresh seafood (lobsters etc.) as the main dish, which also works well to reduce the typical meat-based focus of events.

We also specifically stated to the catering team to donate all FOSS4G-HFX leftovers to the non-profit Feed Nova Scotia, which manages the local food banks, to help reduce food waste and support the local community.

We have also asked the NovaCentre catering team to purposely work with imperfect fruits and vegetables, which might otherwise be thrown out, into the FOSS4G-HFX in-house cooking.

  • Will your caterers source food locally by preference?

The NovaCentre has informed us of the option to use local menu items that are organic, fairly traded, seasonal and not processed, and we have asked for these types of food items, to help to reduce the carbon footprint of our large event, and support our local holistic growers. It’s also important to note that Nova Scotia is also famous for our apples, and blueberries, so you can expect many snacks and dishes to contain such local treats.

  • Will caterers use tea/coffee/chocolate/etc that is FairTrade (or equivalent)?

This is an excellent point. We have confirmed with the NovaCentre catering team that we are able to source local fair trade products; and for coffee we have confirmation that both local FairTrade coffee roasters Just Us and Laughing Whale are options for FOSS4G-HFX (note that I am drinking Laughing Whale while writing this). Done.


I would first ask if this is necessary for the conference (it seems to be an unquestioned assumption that OSGEO=t-shirt), but if it is, then I'd ask:

  • Are they going to be mandatorily ordered for each delegate who orders and early-bird or will there be a "no t-shirt" option? Will it be opt-in or opt-out (opt-in saves money and waste of course)?

This is a good point Jonathan. As you know, there’s a lot of history with the FOSS4G t-shirts being displayed around the world, but, you are right that we must not assume that HFX attendees must receive a t-shirt. We will therefore make the t-shirt an opt-in, for the important reasons that you mention, mainly of unnecessary waste. Also, as an incentive to reduce that waste, for every time an attendee does not opt-in for the t-shirt, we will make a donation to the Travel Grant Program of 10 dollars.

  • Will they be ethically sourced? (Ethical cotton and ethical manufacture)

Nova Scotians are proud that a local energetic student entrepreneur, Alex MacLean, started a t-shirt business a few years ago while he was attending our Acadia University; the business “East Coast Lifestyle” (ECL) has now won him national awards. The HFX team is excited to work with Alex’s student team locally, to ensure that ethical materials are used in the FOSS4G-HFX shirts, and at the same time support a grass-roots student business.

Questions from Maxi Cannata

  • how will you manage contribution from sponsors, in particular on the number / percentage and how they are acknowledged as sponsored talks?

Thank you Maxi for bringing up an important subject. You’ll notice that our bid contains very detailed plans for the FOSS4G-HFX program, with grouped talks forming a session on a shared topic (eg. “Open Geosciences”); in terms of sponsored contributions, as you know this can be not only talks but also workshops (HFX team members have been on past FOSS4G committees and have seen this topic has come up for workshops, talks, even keynotes). Besides giving ‘the stage’ to FOSS4G-HFX Diamond/Platinum/Gold sponsors for quick introductions during the Welcome Reception on the first day, and visibility throughout the event, there will also be one short sponsor talk, 5 minutes, during each Plenary session (one in the morning plenary, one in the afternoon plenary, each day). We will also try to fit in these short sponsor talks throughout the schedule, with the Program Committee.

In terms of the program, the HFX Program Committee will be relying strongly on the Community Voting results of the abstracts, and then will have to make some decisions according to that (inclusivity & diversity, OSGeo project representation, balancing number of talks by presenter, for example). All sponsors will also be required to submit abstracts during the regular submission process, to be reviewed by the Community Voting round; sponsors who have talks accepted by the HFX Program Committee will have their talk marked with a special sponsor symbol in the final program.

We thank you Maxi for sharing this openly, and the HFX team is open to your own ideas for handling this, as we know of your long experience with FOSS4G. In fact, we’d also like to invite you to participate on the HFX Program Committee, if successful, which is chaired by Jérôme Jacovella-St-Louis from the OSGeo-Ottawa chapter. So let’s work together as a community to get this right. Thank you Maxi!

Questions from Michael Terner

Thank you Michael for your detailed questions for our HFX team, we really appreciate the extra eyes on this from someone with your experience. Related to that, the HFX team feels strongly to keep this close contact and updates with the OSGeo community through the lifecycle of the event, and plan to bring back monthly reports to the OSGeo Board meetings on FOSS4G-HFX 2020 progress (this was very useful years ago); the HFX team is lucky to now have 2 current OSGeo Board members as part of the local committee, Tom and Jeff, who will be sure to have a monthly agenda item to report to the OSGeo Board (the report could instead be to the Conference Committee, but since the OSGeo Board meets monthly and minutes are shared publicly, this is a great opportunity to be truly open). We also feel that it’s important to work closely with a member of the current OSGeo Conference Committee, as part of the local HFX team. We believe these initiatives will keep progress on FOSS4G-HFX in the open and with lots of feedback from community members. Please find our answers below:

  • On page 27, you state: "A majority of our budget will be dedicated to the audiovisual." Can you clarify as the spreadsheets seem to indicate that Audiovisual + Live streaming + Translation will add up to $100,000. Under all three scenarios, $100,000 is far less than the "majority" of the three different total expense budgets (i.e., ~$696k - ~$863k)?

We agree that the statement needs some rewording (we have multiple languages represented on the HFX team here), but our point was to state the importance of Audio/Visual for the FOSS4G-HFX 2020 budget, with included French-English ‘simultaneous translation services’ (this is the provider’s term), live streaming, archiving, and dedicated network all included (those items are not usually part of any past FOSS4G bid, as you know). We are of course keenly aware of the ‘big three’ expenses to focus on (catering, venue, A/V), plus also the as-important FOSS4G expenses for social events. We are therefore sorry to cause confusion with that statement, but the meaning of it is that as experienced FOSS4G/OSGeo/LocationTech event planners, we know the utter importance of Audio/Visual/Tech for this audience, and have therefore allocated more resources for that item. You are correct that the total A/V is not the majority of expenses for FOSS4G-HFX.

  • Given that recent conferences have employed "professional conference organizers" (PCO), can you elaborate on why you chose to not have a PCO? Was a PCO ever considered? If so, was there a reason this option was not pursued? Can you elaborate on what services Destination Halifax will be providing on a complimentary basis? Has either of the two Chairs been involved in the hands-on organizing (i.e., not just being on committees) for a conference of 800, or more people? Will there be any other paid support staff for the organizing team beside the two Chairs?

We are definitely aware that recent FOSS4G event teams have hired a separate PCO, as HFX members have been part of the local team for many of those events. Exactly a year ago now, we met with both partners DiscoverHFX (they have recently re-branded from the former “DestinationHFX”) and COINAtlantic, and that is how the team began to really shape and it became clear to Karine and Jeff how to proceed. We did reach out to 2 local PCO’s in Halifax, but it was after the HFX team formed that we knew the way forward. We will explain below.

DiscoverHFX will dedicate one staff to help the event along, and to work with Karine and Jeff. They have been unbelievably helpful throughout the long bid process (since we started working with them last Christmas), and we are thrilled to have this partner; they have also announced that they will give a 5k payment towards event expenses (see their Letter of Support at ). DiscoverHFX will also fund an official site visit for a couple of our team members (Karine, and possibly our Program Chair Jérôme) including airfare and food/accommodation, upon successful bid award, to kickoff the official planning in a formal meeting downtown Halifax. DiscoverHFX is a good partner throughout this process.

You will be most curious to learn about our strong partnership with COINAtlantic (see Letter of Intent: ). They are the ‘warm bodies’ that are willing to help and dedicate their time to help the event along. COINAtlantic staff has experience in planning large events locally and internationally. The exact partnership details is still being determined, but you’ll notice on the footer of our website ( that the event is a partnership with 3 OSGeo local chapters and COINAtlantic. We have had initial talks (even today at their Christmas event) about the formal relationship, and we believe this is common for past FOSS4G event bids.

Because we started planning so early for this event, and our team’s vision to try not to reinvent the wheel, we have already started on implementing the same Conference Management System (for registrations, abstracts, etc), Pretalx, the Open Source system that is about to be used for FOSS4G 2019, and will be used for FOSSGIS 2019 ( We have received advice from OSGeo charter member Volker Miche, who is helping the 2019 team now, and have begun to implement it for 2020 ( ). As stated in an earlier Q/A question, we have already allocated budget for improvements to this system, with the benefit that the improvements will be available for the FOSS4G-2021 team of course (this of course is how the Open community works, and this will be a wonderful contribution to the OSGeo community).

Regarding the question about Karine and Jeff’s experience with hands-on planning large events, in fact both have long experience in planning large events (from boots-on-the-ground work to ‘committee’ work as you mentioned). The HFX chairs are both part of the OSGeo community, and have come together to form a strong team and strong leadership across multiple local chapters; in fact, we are also considering making our working relationship more formal, as in a registered company, to help future event planning in the FOSS4G space. It is really both Karine and Jeff’s passion, and the experience working together has been just magical (Karine the task oriented veteran OSGeo+LocationTech planner, Jeff the veteran FOSS4G planner). We both therefore feel, to answer your earlier question, that we do not need to hire a separate company.

In terms of paying support staff, we have of course seen other FOSS4G teams hire an ‘intern’ later in the process, so we are keenly aware that this could be needed, and will tackle that together at some point.

  • What is the obligation/commitment of work that a “discounted volunteer” needs to complete to obtain the discount to $400? In other words, how much work should a volunteer expect to need to perform?

We believe that volunteers are key to a successful event, and we have noticed that a Volunteer Committee Chair is the one role that is forgotten by a lot of FOSS4G teams, until later on. The HFX team instead already has a Volunteer Committee chair, Debbra Wilkinson, who works at the provincial GeoNOVA organization. Her passion and experience in the local community will help us manage the many volunteers needed for FOSS4G-HFX. Regarding the requirements for a volunteer to receive a discount, we are planning to require one full day (can be one morning on one day, and one afternoon on another day) of time, to help with important tasks as room monitors, keeping time for speakers, checking workshop registrants, etc. Again, we feel strongly that the most successful past FOSS4G events are the ones that managed volunteers and encouraged their participation.

  • Kudos on setting an ambitious sponsorship goal. But, as per Steven's earlier questions, it would be helpful to better understand how you intend to meet the goal. Given that top-tier sponsors (Diamond, Platinum, Gold) are often given "exclusive privileges" such as naming rights to large events, is it realistic that there will be 18 separate $2,000 investments in naming for the evening events (i.e., to match the $36,000 of expected revenue from evening event naming)? What kind of "exclusive benefits" will you be offering to top-tier partners if naming is not included in their base investment?

You may have noticed how detailed our program is (, including a breakfast and evening event for every night (in fact we plan to do this from Sunday-to-Sunday). Our experienced FOSS4G team has noticed this as a lost opportunity at many past events; reality is that on a Sunday night before workshops begin, hundreds of out-of-towners are arriving into the city looking for a recommended place to meet at, and, there are definitely companies who will be willing to put their name on these events. So therefore we have set the bar high for those evening named events, as you keenly noticed.

Top-tier partners, besides the usual booth, registrations, and signage benefits, will also get a lightning talk in front of the FOSS4G attendees (spread out over plenaries, welcome sessions, etc), and their accepted session talks will have a special sponsor symbol in the final program. We should note that we are open to customizing these top-tier packages for specific needs as well.

Here we should take a moment to mention our experienced team members, including the managing director of GoGeomatics Canada, Jon Murphy (see Letter of Support ), who is arguably one of the most connected geo industry person in Canada today; and we are lucky to have him as a strong member of the HFX team, and therefore Jon will be a great asset for sponsor relationships.

Thanks for your great proposal, and good luck!

Thank you! We have worked very hard as a team, a strong experienced team that has come together from all over North America (Mexico, US, Canada) and spanning 3 OSGeo local chapters, to make something magical, THE geospatial event of 2020, FOSS4G-HFX !

 on behalf of the whole HFX team,
 Karine Jean & Jeff McKenna
 FOSS4G-HFX 2020