FOSS4G Handbook

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This FOSS4G Cookbook aims to provide guidance to future FOSS4G and FOSS4G related events, based upon the collective wisdom gained during prior events. It is a continuous work in progress and is a guide rather than a rulebook. We encourage all FOSS4G organisors to contribute to and enhance this cookbook.

About FOSS4G

Free and Open Source for Geospatial (FOSS4G) conferences refer to a series of events which provides presentations, workshops, and networking opportunities based around Free and Open Source Software.

FOSS4G includes one annual global event which rotates around the world, as well as a number of regional events which follow similar principles.

Editing this document

This FOSS4G Cookbook aims to be concise, so that it is easy to read and follow. We also aim to collaboratively edit and continuously build this document based upon our collective experience running conferences. As such, we will need to continuously update and delete old text as new ideas come to hand.

The process to follow in updating this wiki is:

  • Feel free to make trivial tweaks to grammar and syntax.
  • If you would like to introduce a new idea, maybe add a new section, or improve an old section:
    • Raise your suggestion on the OSGeo Conference email list.
    • Once a rough consensus has been reached on the list, you may then update the Cookbook with the collective wisdom of the list.
    • If writing a new section, consider starting the section with: Draft, awaiting review
    • After updating your text, notify the list again to give others the opportunity to review and tweak.

Section Writing Guide

Draft, awaiting review

The first sentence(s) of a section should describe the meaning of the heading. Eg, if this section is on "Birds of a Feather", then the first sentence should start with: Birds of a Feather sessions refer to semi-formal gatherings of like minded delegates to discuss a topic of interest.

International FOSS4G: [Mandatory, Recommended, Optional, Not Relevant]
Regional FOSS4G: [Mandatory, Recommended, Optional, Not Relevant]
FOSS4G stream / Local Event: [Mandatory, Recommended, Optional, Not Relevant]

Following paragraphs provide specific details. They might hyperlink to more details from an external Lessons Learned type doc. It will likely cover some of the following topics:

  • Key success factors
  • Things that can go wrong, with optional brief examples
  • List of considerations and why choose one consideration over another
  • List of steps to follow
  • Organisations or people to contact to coordinate with
  • Links to external documents, such as a Google Docs spreadsheet
See Also

Size of the event

A FOSS4G Event can be the main international FOSS4G conference, as well as a regional event such as FOSS4G-North America. It can also be a local FOSS4G seminar drawing from one city, a FOSS4G stream in a bigger conference, a workshop or a code sprint. The number of participants can vary from ten people (code sprint) up to 1000 people (global FOSS4G).


All successful events should be planned, and to help with the plan, we have a generic FOSS4G Planning Schedule which can be used as a starting point.

International FOSS4G: Mandatory
Regional FOSS4G: Mandatory
FOSS4G stream / Local Event: Highly Recommended

When planning an event:

See Also



Draft, awaiting review

The OSGeo foundation can be approached to provide financial guarantees for major FOSS4G events.

International FOSS4G: Recommended
Regional FOSS4G: Optional
FOSS4G stream / Local Event: Not Relevant

As per our board priorities:

Conferences are financially risky events. They need to be planned well in advance, and you are never sure how many people will turn up, or whether some global event will have a substantial impact on registrations. Consequently, conferences such as FOSS4G require financial guarantees up front in order to secure a venue. To support and enable these conferences, OSGeo will endevour to retain sufficient capital to offer such guarantees for any FOSS4G event requesting it. If OSGeo's support is requested, then OSGeo would expect these events to budget for a modest profit under conservative estimates, and for OSGeo to retain profits from such events. To date, such profits, while relatively modest, have been OSGeo's primary income source.

See Also


City Rotation

The International FOSS4G event rotates around the world, and cities compete to be selected to host the event, as described in the RFP process.

International FOSS4G: Mandatory
Regional FOSS4G: Not Relevant
FOSS4G stream / Local Event: Not Relevant

The regions FOSS4G rotates through are:

  • Europe
  • North America
  • Rest of world

This is caveatted by the OSGeo Conference committee feeling confident that the proposed city/region will attract the majority of the international FOSS4G audience.

So our rotation policy is:

  1. Strong preference is given to the region which hasn't had FOSS4G for 2 years
  2. We next consider the region which had FOSS4G 2 years ago
  3. Only as a last resort would we consider a region which had FOSS4G last year

Prior International FOSS4G event locations have been:

  • 2013: Nottingham, United Kingdom
  • 2012: Beijing, China (cancelled)
  • 2011: Denver, United States
  • 2010: Barcelona, Spain
  • 2009: Sydney, Australia
  • 2008: Cape Town, South Africa
  • 2007: Victoria, Canada
  • 2006: Lausanne, Switzerland
  • 2005: Minneapolis, United States
  • 2004: Bangkok, Thailand
See Also

Integration with other Conferences


Draft, awaiting review

Past FOSS4G metrics are very valuable for planning future FOSS4G events, and should be collected for all events.

International FOSS4G: Mandatory
Regional FOSS4G: Recommended
FOSS4G stream / Local Event: Optional

Key questions that we wish to ask of our metrics:

  1. How many people are likely to come from a future FOSS4G event in region X?
  2. In the lead up to FOSS4G how many more people are likely to sign up? Eg: 200 people registered by Early Bird, will we reach our predicted 300 attendees?
  3. In lead up, when do sponsors sign up?
  4. Schedule and workshop planners wish to understand the technical expertise of participants. What is the percentage of OSGeo newbies (requiring "Introduction to ..." presentation/workshop).
  5. When considering whether to sponsor, and how to target spsonsorship messages, FOSS4G sponsors wish to understand the makeup of FOSS4G attendees. In particular, are attendees likely to influence decisions to purchase future software systems.
  6. How much sponsorship should we expect? Where in the world did previous sponsors come from?
  7. What is the most effective way to market FOSS4G? How did people hear about FOSS4G?

Key metrics we wish to collect from attendees:

  1. Registration date
  2. City, State, Country
  3. Sponsor name, amount, sign up date
  4. Information Source: Past attendee,Friend/colleague,E-mail list,Web badge on open source site,Grapevine,Internet Search,Web advertisement,Magazine advertisement
  5. Job Description 1:C-Level Executive,Manager,Consultant,Programmer,Scientist,Educator,Mysterious
  6. Job Responsibility 1: If I Told You I'D Have To Kill You ($1,000,000s),Heaps Of Money ($100,000s),Piles Of Money ($10,000s),Stacks Of Money ($1000s),No Money At All
  7. Reason For Attending: The Technical Networking,The Workshops & Technical Sessions,The Beer,The Sales Networking,Something Else Altogether
See Also

OSGeo Branding

Draft, awaiting review

FOSS4G conferences are expected to promote the OSGeo Foundation at events.

International FOSS4G: Mandatory
Regional FOSS4G: Mandatory
FOSS4G stream / Local Event: Recommended

There is a symbiotic relationship between the OSGeo Foundation, OSGeo projects and FOSS4G conferences around branding. The Foundation and projects maintain valuable promotional material for FOSS4G conferences, and in return the FOSS4G conferences provides a valuable marketing pipeline.

The extent and nature of OSGeo promotion is dependent upon the size and nature of the event, and availability of volunteers to support the promotional activities. Activities which should be considered are:

  • Include a presentation on an OSGeo topic, often as a keynote. You can find good local presenters from OSGeo_Advocate.
  • Provide a free OSGeo booth or stand. Refer to your OSGeo Local Chapter and/or OSGeo_Advocate list to source volunteer(s) to man the stand. Local Chapters can approach the OSGeo Marketing committee for an Exhibition_Pack
  • Include an OSGeo logo included in the program and on the conference website.
  • Make use of OSGeo-Live, either handing out a USB or DVD to delegates, using OSGeo-Live Virtual Machine in workshops, making use of the OSGeo-Live presentation, displaying the OSGeo-Live Poster. Options listed here:
See Also

Time Frame


Previous global FOSS4G conferences have had a program similar to the following (regional and local events typically have a similar structure, reduced to match the size of the audience):

  • One to two days of workshops. Workshops are generally 3.5 hour instructional sessions, in a computer lab setting. Workshop instructors provide software, data, and materials in exchange for free conference admission. Attended by 200 to 300 people, depending on facilities.
  • An “ice breaker” event on the evening before the first day. Usually held in a large bar or restaurant, but could be in any venue that allowed for easy mixing and mingling.
  • Three days of Main Conference
    • Opening and closing plenary sessions with all attendees at the start and end. Sometimes additional plenary sessions at the start and/or end of conference days.
    • Approximately five parallel tracks of presentations, with each presentation consisting of a 20-25 minute talk, 5 minutes of Q&A, and 5 minutes of transition time between talks. Attended by 500-900 people, depending on conference attendance.
    • A “banquet” event on the evening of the second day. Usually held in a “showcase” venue, examples have included: art museum, castle, harbor cruise, cultural restaurant.
    • [Global FOSS4G only] The Sol Katz Award, presented during the closing plenary session. The award is selected and presented by the Sol Katz committee, the conference organizers need only include 15 minutes in the closing plenary schedule for the presentation.
    • The OSGeo Annual General Meeting. Held in a venue suitable for about 200 people. Interested OSGeo members hear from local chapters, the board, and other speakers on the state of OSGeo. Held either the day before the conference, or on the final day after the closing plenary.
    • Birds of Feather Sessions. Held after the days presentations, groups self-organize to discuss topics of common interest.
    • A lunch time allocated for poster creators to stand next to their posters and talk about them.
  • OSGeo Directors Face-to-Face Meeting. Held before or after the conference, in a board room or meeting room provided by the conference organizers.
International FOSS4G: Recommended
Regional FOSS4G: Recommended
FOSS4G stream / Local Event: Optional
See Also


Draft, awaiting review

Workshops are an valuable component of every FOSS4G conference. They require a lot of preparation for both presenters and conference organisors! As such, be sure to have a dedicated team manage everything around workshops.

International FOSS4G: Mandatory
Regional FOSS4G: Recommended
FOSS4G stream / Local Event: Optional
Workshop Call for Proposal

The Call for Proposal can be aligned with the regular presentation Call for Papers (see below).

Workshop Selection

The workshops selection starts with a Call for Proposal. Anybody can submit a workshop proposal. The selection follows a few clear rules:

  • Graduated OSGeo projects get precedence over incubating projects over others.
  • Each graduated OSGeo project will receive one slot provided there are enough in total. If not first come first serve.
    • Graduated OSGeo projects have to submit a workshop proposal just like anybody else.
    • The Local Organizing Committee can decide to not accept a workshop but has to provide valid reasons to the submitting party. This should not be done on public mailing lists. In case of bitter resentment include the board of directors.
    • If a graduated project does not convincingly confirm their participation slots are filled up by other active projects.
    • Workshop leader/s have to register until x weeks before the conference.
  • Individuals and organizations are encouraged to collaborate on joint workshops.
  • Ideally a few slots should be reserved for workshops that may be not tech related for example for the Education and Data committees.

Final adjudication lies with the LOC!!!

See Also
  • ...


Presentations are the heart and soul of the conference and form a large part of the attractiveness. A lot of time and energy will go into making a good program. There are at least as many opinions on how a program should look like as there are people in the community. There is no silver bullet that will solve every problem and insure that everybody will be happy. Therefore it is good practice to make the Program Committee have the last say.

Call for Papers

The Call for Papers typically starts x months before the conference and runs for x weeks. The exact dates depend on local conditions, time of the years, size of the program committee and so on. It should be as late as possible to allow up-to-date information. The program should be published as soon as possible to attract local attendees who will only come if the program is attractive.

The LOC has to expect that more than half of the submissions are submitted within last two days of the CfP and that up to 30% are submitted with the last hours of the call. Relax, there have always been enough submission. Still, many conferences extend the CfP. If the LOC does not plan to extend the CfP it should be very vocal about this.

Submission of papers

Abstracts for talks are usually submitted via an online system. This can be based on the system developed over the past years by OSGeo community members or something new, this is entirely up to the LOC. Successful submission of an abstract should be acknowledged, preferably automatically.

Strategic Talks

The Program Committee should make sure that the program is balanced and that specific topics are not left out. One topic that is easily forgotten is a general introduction to Open Source development, licensing and associated business models. Both the actively voting community and the program committee members are usually deeply involved with Open Source and want to learn about the "bleeding edge" and are bored by annually recurring talks about things well known. But the FOSS4G conference also attracts a large group of "Open Source Newbies" who have no or very little understanding of the Open Source geospatial environment and ecosystem.

Other topics of strategic interest may be geared towards the specific region, remember that typically more than 50% of the attendees come from region where the conference takes place.

Selection and Evaluation of the Presentations

WARNING: The selection process has lead to some unhappiness in the community in past iterations of the conference. The most important take away from related discussions appears to be that the process has to be communicated openly. Having said that it has always been OSGeo policy to give the Local Organizing Committee the final say and fully support its decisions.

Step 1: Community Voting

The selection process has so far been to allow the community (that is anybody) a chance to read the abstracts and make a positive vote:

  • 0 = no interest
  • 1 = medium interest
  • 2 = high interest

Step 2: Program Committee Voting

After community voting the Program Committee goes through the list and checks for duplicates, both in content and also to make sure that presenter / submitting organization are not over represented, skewed. Presentation which miss the point of the conference (for example not related to Free and Open Source and Geo) are usually filtered out reliably. Then the Program Committee votes on

Step 3: Program Compilation

One topic that is easily forgotten is a general introduction to Open Source development, licensing and associated business models (see also "Strategic Talks"). Another topic that might be underrepresented if it is only compiled by involved experts are Use Cases with Open Source. In general the program should cater for the following areas of interest:

  1. Introduction to Open source and the OSGeo Foundation
  2. Business models and the "way of Open Source"
  3. Tech talks
  4. Use cases

Classification of Papers in Sessions

Details about Speakers and Publication of the Program

Community Sessions

Birds of a Feather Sessions (BoF)


Conference Opening


Keynotes are selected by the LOC and Program Committee at their own discretion. Typically one keynote is given by a high ranking OSGeo officer, for example the president or a board representative and reflects on OSGeo, addresses the community and invites Newbies to join the party.

Closing Session

It is a good habit to have a drawing with prizes (often donated by sponsors) at the end of the conference. It is also a good habit to have a prominent speaker or well known guest close the conference with a keynote. Both will help to have a captivate and keep attendees until the end of the event.


Feedback from attendees is invaluable. Therefore the conference package should include a feedback form (potentially also as an online version?). Returned feedback forms participate in the drawing and can win a prize at the end of the conference.

Social Events

Unofficial start

Social Event

Members' Meeting


  • Event should provide an OSGeo booth
  • Event should include OSGeo Advocate speaker who would present on an aspect of OSGeo
  • The OSGeo advocate(s) are expected to coordinate and man the OSGeo booth
  • The OSGeo Local Chapters are strongly encouraged to hang out at the OSGeo booth


Media Sponsors

Participant Involvement


Printed Program


T Shirt

Live DVD

Location, Directions


Other local information

Internet access




Advertising and Public Relations

survey participants

See Also

Howtos from related conferences: