FOSS4GUK 2020 Online - Lessons Learnt

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Revision as of 11:56, 22 June 2020 by Stevenfeldman (talk | contribs) (Feedback)
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This is a draft at the moment!


FOSS4GUK 2020 Online was hosted by the OSGeo:UK committee on 17th June 2020 from 9.00am to 17.30pm UTC+1

The event was free to attend with all of the costs (see below) funded from OSGeo:UK reserves.


  • 1,000 people registered
  • We estimate that between 500 and 600 attended
  • Maximum number online at any time was 460, minimum was 205
  • Delegates from 77 countries
    • 48% from GB, 8% US, 4% India


  • 3 streams running for the whole day (except during keynotes)
    • 2 keynotes
    • 29 talks and demos
    • 4 Lightning talks
  • 38 Speakers (10 women)
  • Coffee bar stream where delegates could hang out and chat (not heavily used)


  • The only costs were the fees for the zoom account for 1 month: £198
  • Delegate donations:
    • OSGeo:UK 63 individual donations - gross £1,810, net after Paypal fees £1,744 (as of 2020-06-20)
    • MapAction ?


As of 2020-06-22 we had 210 feedback responses:

  • 95% rated the event experience very good or excellent
  • 93% were happy with the technology platform
  • 27% attended for the whole day, 27% attended 7-11 sessions, 45% attended 2-6 sessions
  • 16% used the coffee bar
  • 47% of respondents (but not attendees) made a donation to OSGeo:UK (34%) or MapAction (13%). The average donation was ca £20

Tech and tools

Choice of video conferencing platform

We considered

  • webex (we had an offer of a free account from a sponsor) - problems with audio, uncertain linux support, limit on numbers
  • - a virtual conference application, unfortunately the demo the we attended was not successful and we did not feel comfortable taking the risk on a new service but it looks promising for the future
  • several other services that did not seem to fit our needs
  • jitsi - our experience of using the free hosted version left us uncomfortable with jitsi as platform for a large event with 3 streams. None of us had the experience or access to hardware and bandwidth to consider running a large self-hosted version of jitsi. We were also concerned about how we could control access or restrict anyone breaching our CoC
  • several of us had experience of running large meetings on zoom and were confident that we could host the event on zoom and leverage it's capabilities.

What we learnt

  • zoom worked as anticipated. We had no major technical problems and as far as we know very few participants experienced problems, zoom offers clients for Linux, Mac and Windows, iOS and Android.
  • we were able to manage participants by muting everyone on entry and restricting chat within the app to messages to one of the hosts and from the hosts to the whole audience.
  • the recording worked well, a co-host was asked to remind the host to start and stop the recording for each session to keep videos at a manageable size
  • we saved all of the chat transcripts as part of our CoC policy (fortunately unnecessary)

We purchased:

  • 1 account for up to 1,000 people for the keynotes
  • 2 accounts for up to 500 people for the other streams
  • 1 account for up to 100 people for the coffee bar
  • An add on for large cloud storage for all of the video recordings
  • Total cost £198 (a month's licenses)

We over-provisioned because we did not know how many people would actually log-in. We could have managed with smaller accounts and saved some money.

It is unclear whether we would have been better off purchasing zoom webinar licenses rather than large meetings.

We were aware that the zoom meetings could have been streamed to youtube but we did not see any significant benefit from doing that.

Options for the future

We have received some retrospective suggestions for alternative tech approaches to running an online event. Hopefully others will be inspired to run further online FOSS4G events and they will experiment with these.

Our choices were based on a need for a low effort tech approach given our small team and pressures on our time. Despite the poor publicity that zoom had received re security during the COVID crisis we found that the security features available were sufficient for our needs.


We used eventbrite for our registration system.

  • It was free as the event was a free event, if we had charged £10 per registration we would have incurred cost including credit card fees of about 10%
  • Eventbrite has an online event page which is only accessible to people who have registered, we only exposed the links to the conference streams via this page to minimise the risks of being overloaded or trolled.
  • We added a registration question to request permission to add registrants to the global FOSS4G mailing list (we had a very high acceptance rate). This should be highly recommended practice for future FOSS4Gs
  • We made the completion of a company address mandatory on registration because it forced people to provide their 2 digit country code which enabled us to analyse the locations of registrants. This will enable future FOSS4G to geographically segment the audience.
  • We used the attendee mailing features to send a a series of emails to participants in the build up and post event. Its a bit clunky but it works fine and avoided having to maintain an alternative email list.


We used WhatsApp for team communications in the build up and on the day. We also had a group for our volunteers and were able to share updates with the volunteers before the event and it was the main channel of communication on the day

We could have considered a speakers group in addition.


We used twitter as our main channel for publicity prior to the event. It is important to recognise that not everyone is on twitter, future events should consider what other channels to use for communication with potential participants.

We used twitter on the day for announcements, publicity and encouraged the participants to chat via twitter.

Event structure

3 streams plus coffee bar, describe how it worked

Link to programme

Hosts and co-hosts

Link to Guide

Recording and publishing

automatic recording helps

What worked

List our reflections

What didn't work

List our reflections

What would we try to do if we ran another event?