FOSS4G 2017 Lessons Learned

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FOSS4G 2017 Home

Previous Years Lessons Learned

FOSS4G 2017 Lessons Learned

The Boston Team was thrilled to welcome the global OSGeo community and other interested parties to Boston in 2017. And we were extremely proud to set the attendance record of 1,150 people while also delivering strong financial performance with a surplus of over $115,000 returned to OSGeo, above and beyond full repayment of the advance that was provided to our Boston Local Organizing Committee (BLOC).

We benefited greatly from the guidance of past Chairpersons, and we look forward to sharing our lessons learned through this page. Our plan is to use a slightly different approach than some of the other material found on this Wiki. Indeed, we performed a lot of documentation and data collection in the process of producing the conference. As such, a good deal of the material we present will be links to shared Google documents and spreadsheets, with brief introductions and links presented on this page. And of course, we remain available to, and look forward to providing direct guidance to future conference teams beginning with Dar es Salaam and Bucharest.

This will be a work in progress over the coming weeks.

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We hosted a logo contest to pick our FOSS4G Boston 2017 logo. The design criteria can be found here. The BLOC voted on their favorite design based on these entries, which is how we ended up with our beloved logo above.


Knowing that Boston was a relatively expensive city, the Boston Team highly prioritized attracting sponsors as an important revenue source to help defray the costs. In addition, sponsors are incredibly important partners who help drive attendance to the conference and their speakers provided rich and invaluable content to our program. Our Sponsorship Committee as well as the Co-Chairs directly worked hard to engage with sponsors, hear their needs and design a program that would be attractive to them.

We are extremely proud, and grateful to our sponsors, that we were successful. Indeed, sponsors contributed $273,000 of funding support to Boston. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!

This page from our website describes our Sponsor Packages including a link to our Sponsor Prospectus.

A complete listing of our sponsors, by tier of sponsorship listed here.

Finally, in planning for sponsorship our team compiled a historical listing of all companies that had sponsored either a Global FOSS4G or a FOSS4G North America dating back to Barcelona in 2010. This list proved valuable in helping our team identify the most consistent FOSS4G sponsors, as well as identifying overseas companies that had sponsored events in North America previously. We have updated the planning sheet to include all of the sponsors for FOSS4G Boston 2017, including the 13 "first time" sponsors who supported the Boston event. If future conference teams would like to update this sheet after their events, please reach out to the Co-Chairs, Michael Terner, or Guido Stein to gain access to this sheet (via using the OSGeo Conference Dev mailing list).

LOC Organization

Michael Terner was Conference Chair

Guido Stein was Conference Co-Chair

Our Boston Local Organizing Committee, as known as The BLOC, is described on this page from our website:



Travel Grants

Abstract Submissions

Our Call for Presentations opened on February 3, 2017 with a final abstract submission deadline of March 21, 2017. We promoted our Call for Papers heavily through both Twitter and our regularly distributed newsletter. We were pleased that this promotion was successful and by the deadline we had received 411 abstracts and thus did not have a need to extend our deadline.

Our original "Call for Presentations" is found on this page of our website.

This Google Spreadsheet provides the week-by-week tracking of how abstracts were submitted over time, as well as a chart that indicates the flow of abstracts over time. Spoiler alert: the vast majority of abstracts were submitted in the 1 week preceding the deadline.

Paper selection

The Program Committee, chaired by Andy Anderson, led the paper review and selection process. With a very large volume of 411 submitted abstracts having a fair and equitable process that helped to create a diverse program - both in terms of human diversity and program diversity - was essential.

This blog by Conference Chair, Michael Terner, provides an overview of our goals for a diverse program as well as the process and some of our challenges.

This blog by Program Committee Chair, Andy Anderson outlines many of the details and finer points of our process and abstract scoring.


Academic Program

The Academic Committee, co-chaired by Mohammed Zia and Charlie Schweik, consisted of 21 individuals with a broad set of academic backgrounds who separately reviewed 49 proposals out of the 411 submissions that requested academic consideration. Each abstract was assigned to three members of the committee with relevant experience, and they used a standard rubric to ensure the selection was a fair and equitable process. Thirty of these proposals were accepted and papers were requested from the proposers; another fourteen were accepted in the form of posters. The proposals were also reviewed separately by the program committee, and a number of authors subsequently withdrew their papers or posters in favor of a regular presentation with the approval of the program committee. The submitted papers were subsequently reviewed by two members of the committee, revisions were requested in many cases, and the resulting papers were included on the FOSS4G 2018 flash drive in the form of proceedings that are also available online.

Some lessons learned:

  1. Organize the academic committee early enough so that it can hit the ground running immediately after the submission deadline. The committee’s recommendations were automatically accepted into the program, and it’s best to have that already known when the program committee begins to make its own selections.
  2. Many hands make light work. Even with 21 members on the committee, there were seven abstracts and four papers per reviewer, and some reviewers didn’t have the time to fully participate in the process. Their reviews were passed on to others, increasing their load and often taking them outside of their areas of expertise.
  3. When scheduling presentations, organize them by topic, whether or not they have an academic paper associated with them. Session speakers and audiences can benefit by having both academic and non-academic participants.

This blog by Academic Committee Co-Chairs, Charlie Schweik & Mohammed Zia, provides an overview of the committee’s goals and process.

Code Sprint

Other side events

Harpoon Brewery Welcome Social

As our attendance numbers grew, we began to realize that we would exceed building capacity for the Harpoon Brewery. For this reason we limited the event to those who signed up for Early Bird (this also helped raise our Early Bird registrant numbers). After making this constraint and looking at our numbers, we noticed that we were still above building capacity. This is when we decided to create an Academic event, for those who wanted to connect with other academics and who would prefer this event over the Harpoon Brewery. We also split the Harpoon event into two time slots and gave the academics a choice to do both events. By doing so, we were able to accommodate all of the Early Bird registrants at this event.

MIT Academic Reception
Ice Breaker Social
Gala at the New England Aquarium