FOSS4G 2009 Lessons Learned

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See also: FOSS4G2007_Lessons_Learned#Bidding

  • Plan ahead. FOSS4G moves around the world to give everyone a chance to attend locally.
    • Bidding cities should take a long term strategy. If you don't win one year, keep submitting until you do.
    • The bid committee should suggest regions they would like to move to in the near future which will encourage cities in that region to bid.
    • Feedback to unsuccessful bids should include targeted feedback, including rankings, to help cities refine their bid.
    • Cities should engage the local conference industry. They are likely to provide their services for free in order to secure the conference.
  • Network locally. A large, diverse team is attractive to selectors.
  • Be open in your bidding process. While it may allow competing cities to gain advantage, you will demonstrate your strength and openness to the OSGeo bid committee.
  • Talk up your city and local involvement at FOSS4G the previous year. Tim Bowden talked up Sydney's intention to bid for 2009 at FOSS4G 2007 and no other city decided to bid for that year.

Reference: International Conference delivered to your doorstep by Cameron Shorter

Commercial In Confidence Documentation

  • Open Source developers often expect that all FOSS4G documentation will be Open. Unfortunately, the Professional Conference Organisor (PCO) industry seems to protect all their processes and documentation very closely. Consider this when dealing with them. Request up front for documentation to be made available publicly. Some documents, like Bid Proposals will probably remain Commercial In Confidence, and you need to ensure participants are aware of this.

Decision making

  • Collaborative decision making is good, but make sure each committee has a chair-person with the mandate and authority to make decisions on behalf of the committee. (The chairperson should consult the committee and aggregate comments). This should make the committee significantly more effective.

Communication with PCOs

Our PCO required training to become familiar with Geek communication practices. In particular, the PCO preferred telephone conferences over email lists, wikis and IRC and was unfamiliar with email voting. This required training and negotiation with the PCO.


  • Ensure PCOs have realistic expectations regarding our communication habits up front by describing them in our PCO tender documents. In PCO selection, include familiarity with email lists, wikis as one of the selection criteria.

Venue booking & Conference dates

  • During proposal development, the bid team selected two venues for the conference:
    • The University of NSW
      • Pro: Has accademic ties
      • Pro: Has cheap university accommodation for 500 near by (share bathrooms)
      • Pro: 10 mins bus to beach
      • Pro: Cheaper, by ~ $50/delegate
      • Con: High end accommodation is 20 mins by bus (in city)
      • Con: Would need to bus delegates to the city harbour for an impressive dinner
    • Sydney Convention and Exhibition Center
      • Pro: Professional, classy center
      • Pro: Right on harbor, so easy to ship delegates to dinner location is style
      • Pro: Wide range of accommodation near by.
  • We postponed venue selection till after we won the bid, and consequently SCEC did not hold our preferred date for us.
  • Despite the initial analysis of the dates to be avoided (e.g. due to conflict with cultural or religious holidays, other conferences, etc.), As of early September 2008 we had still not booked a venue and it appeared that the Sydney Convention and Exhibition Center (SCEC) was only available on dates that overlapped with the USA thanksgiving weekend (which is in late November). We were able to salvage the situation by booking the SCEC for dates in October rather than November, however the availability was limited, and restricted our options.


  • Ensure that an early decision is made regarding the Venue, and the dates. If a venue can be booked for 'the entire week', the fine tuning of the actual days and rooms required can be done later, but being able to know 'the week' allows for marketing of the event, such as at the prior year's FOSS4G conference.
  • In terms of communication the critical nature of the date should have been better communicated by the Organising Committee to the PCO.
  • When considering cost/delegate, be mindful that international delegates will likely be paying thousands of dollars on travel, accommodation and lost income. $50 price difference in the conference will not effect them much. (It will effect local delegates more).
  • Pick a date that doesn't conflict with national holidays of key markets.
  • Find out when related national and international conferences are being held and make sure you don't clash. FOSS4G 2008 was on at the same time as Europe's biggest Geospatial fair, Intergeo. Here are this list of conferences we watched for 2009: FOSS4G_2009_Marketing_Plan#Related_Conferences.
  • Be aware that PCOs can reduce costs substantially by adjusting the number of rooms used, or using rooms off site for workshops or code sprints.


OSGeo attendees want access to local facilities and these should be researched before hand, and details provided on the website.

For some things, like printing and CD burning, it helps to set up an account with a trusted local source (as was done for FOSS4G 2008). See FOSS4G_2008_Media_Facilities.

Attendees want:

  • CD/DVD printing
  • Paper printing (for workshops)
  • hire of general IT services, computers, projectors, etc.
  • An address to ship materials/equipment to ahead of time.



  • We have spent considerable time communicating/deciding the URL - if this is format of the URL is not standard (i.e. http://20xx.foss4g/) then make a decision early.
  • If a POC is being used and they are supplying the website then liase as early as possible with their technical contact and set out expectations on what the site should be (and not be i.e. .ASP)
  • Provide whoever is doing the website with as much reference material as possible - if they are a POC they will not know anything about FOSS4G therefore they are at an immediate disadvantage when it comes to creating content for the website