Conference Options 2014
Future organisation of FOSS4G has been discussed at FOSS4G 2014 then followed onto OSGeo emails lists (Conference, Discuss and Board lists).
This wiki page aims to collate background information, options, options, and recommendations in order to facilitate making decisions about guiding the future management of FOSS4G events.
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The international FOSS4G conference has grown from 100-200 attendees when it started 10+ years ago, to ~ 800 attendees now in 2014. Some regional events are also attracting large numbers. Extra attendance leads to extra effort required to coordinate, leading the OSGeo Community to consider options on how to move forward.
Options for focus
The official event policy states an OSGeo event must contribute positively to the OSGeo Mission, which is a) to support the development of open source Geospatial Software, and b) to promote its widespread use. Focus for any OSGeo can balance between these 2 goals: focussing on the support of the developement probably targets on a smaller well-known inner circle, whereas focussing on promotion of its use aims at a broader audience.
Focus on supporting the development of open source geospatial software
- Great venue to promote how open source works and attract new developers
- Foss4g as a "meeting of tribes" promotes cross platform activities
- Attracting new committers is a goal for projects joining a software foundation.
- Conflict with customer focus (developers attendance often sponsored by their employer)
Focus on the promotion of use of open source geospatial software
- Great boost for open source adoption in the hosting region (attendance often draws from nearby countries)
- Travel hard to justify
Consideration of remaining OSGeo goals
FOSS4G touches on all foundation goals:
- To provide resources for foundation projects - eg. infrastructure, funding, legal.
Funds raised by foss4g support OSGeo operation.
- To promote freely available geodata - free software is useless without data.
Topic of interest in the foss4g program.
- To promote the use of open source software in the geospatial industry (not just foundation software) - eg. PR, training, outreach.
Foss4g presentations and workshops are not limited to foundation projects.
- To encourage the implementation of open standards and standards-based interoperability in foundation projects.
Topic of interest in the foss4g program.
- To ensure a high degree of quality in foundation projects in order to build and preserve the foundation "brand".
Handing out OSGeo Live (and the marketing opportunity of foss4g) helps encourage an annual release for foundation projects.
- To make foundation and related software more accessible to end users - eg. binary "stack" builds, cross package documentation.
Workshops and presentations promote accessibility. Cross project presentations (benchmarks) less common - perhaps worth funding.
- To provide support for the use of OSGeo software in education via curriculum development, outreach, and support.
Topic of interest in the foss4g program.
- To encourage communication and cooperation between OSGeo communities on different language (eg. Java/C/Python) and operating system (eg. Win32, Unix, MacOS) platforms.
Foss4g is billed as the "meeting of the tribes" - this has gradually dissolved boundaries leaving a solid focus on spatial rather than language or platform.
- To support use and contribution to foundation projects from the worldwide community through internationalization of software and community outreach.
Foss4g is our largest outreach effort, the selection process encourages the event to be held in a range of locations world wide.
- To operate an annual OSGeo Conference, possibly in cooperation with related efforts (eg. EOGEO).
Foss4g acts as our annual OSGeo conference.
- To award the Sol Katz award for service to the OSGeo community.
Announced at foss4g.
Options for management of FOSS4G
Following are options which have been identified.
Same as before
For a number of years, the LOCs for large FOSS4G events have hired a new Professional Conference Organiser (PCO). This PCO is usually local and knows the city where the event is being held.
- Minimal effort (for the board) to set up.
- A local PCO likely has local experience.
- Loss of knowledge between events and associated risk of failure.
- Significant stress put on LOCs.
- -0 CameronShorter
- -1 Darrell: This model simply doesn't scale. The idea that local knowledge is required for the PCO position is, quite simply, false. (I find it amazing that we can operate a global organization on a small budget, but are unable to conceive that others are also able to.)
- -1 Jive: If we want foss4g then this model does not scale, if we were more flexible we could end up with a different flavour each annual conference
- -0 DanielKastl: Pretty much every year some local community has to reinvent the wheel, setup a new infrastructure for website, payment, etc.. IMO it's currently done not very efficient.
- +1 BruceBannerman: Having served on the LOC for FOSS4G 2009, this work is not overly onerous. Local knowledge in the Professional Organiser definitely helps. There is certainly room to improve how events are done: OSGeo could for example insist that the LOC contain members of past successful events; OSGeo could insist on common software, web infrastructure etc.
Engage a long term (for profit) PCO
- Institutional knowledge. The conference knowledge carries on in the organisation, and is hopefully not entirely imbued in one person.
- How would an OSGeo exit out of the arrangement with the PCO if the relationship sours?
- It is in the vested interests of a PCO not to share information with community, such that we become reliant upon the PCO.
- -0 CameronShorter. I'm nervous about an exit strategy if things go sour.
- +1 Darrell. It's simple, the contract is renewable on an annual basis. If either party isn't happy with the arrangement, it can be ended. Put into the contract what knowledge is to be shared and how.
- -0 Jive: Risk is a subject for contract negotiation
- +0 DanielKastl: It's better than looking for a new PCO every year, so if there is a good candidate this might not require much work for OSGeo. I just doubt that it's easy to find a suitable PCO.
- -1 BruceBannerman: It is unlikely that OSGeo will find a single PCO with local experience and capabilities across the globe, e.g. what locations are suitable to hold the event; how effective are local communications; which caterers are good and reliable; what parts of a city do you *not* want delegates to stay in; are there any local government incentives that can assist the organisers. Also, how can OSGeo be sure that there is an open and accountable process to select the 'global' PCO?
Hire a staff person to be the organiser
This is more risk, but also offers more potential.
- Having a staff person allows OSGeo to be more flexible in organising conferences. Is there a budding regional conference that needs some assistance? We can help with that. Would OSGeo like to foster growth in regions without a local FOSS4G event? OSGeo can do that.
- You would only have one staff person, which means more risk of losing institutional knowledge if that person leaves.
- Potential for being seen as less of a a volunteer led organisation.
- Hiring is hard, and takes time, especially to find a good autonomous person to take on this role
- +0 CameronShorter
- +0 Darrell: I think this is a good idea, if and only if OSGeo has a clear vision of how they want the organization and the role to grow. Right now, I don't see that they do.
- +0 Jive: Would hate to see us responsible for an employee, easier to exit out of a relationship with PCO. Still an employee could line up PCO in region hosting foss4g (as we advise LOC committee to do) while handling community / publicity angle.
- +1 DanielKastl: I wouldn't call it "hire a staff", but pay people to spend a certain amount of time to lead organizing the conference. This doesn't need to be a single person (but could be shared within a small team of 2 or 3 people). The idea is, that there is a knowledge transfer from one year to the next, and that work gets done, that volunteers may not find so motivating (ie. overlook the conference management, acquiring sponsors, boring paper work, report to OSGeo,...). German FOSSGIS is doing this way for their local conference, and I think it works pretty well.
- -1 BruceBannerman: This option would have similar problems to hire a single POC, specifically a lack of local knowledge required to effectively plan and run an event.
Partner with LocationTech
- LocationTech works in the same space, has contacts, and the Eclipse Foundation already runs conferences
- Retention of knowledge between regions
- Potential for future, deepened partnerships
- LocationTech works in the same space, has contacts, and the Eclipse Foundation already runs conferences, so there’s a potential for conflicts of interest
- If it doesn’t work out for whatever reason, future partnership opportunities might be lost
- Potential OSGeo Brand dilution due to obvious prominence of LocationTech taking responsibility. Eg, publicity emails would come from a LocationTech email address.
- Reduction in OSGeo income.
- -0 CameronShorter. I think the OSGeo/LocationTech relationship discussions have further to go first. Also concerned about loss of OSGeo income and branding.
- -0 VasileCraciunescu. Mostly because I'm concerned about the dilution of OSGeo brand and values.
- +0 Jive: This is outreach - recommend joint events with a range of open source groups - expect LocationTech is an easy way to get started.
- -0 DanielKastl: It sounds too nice to have a "win-win" collaboration, but I fear there is also some conflict of interest. It might be good to give this a try on a local conference (such as FOSS4G NA) first.
- -0 BruceBannerman. I echo Cameron's and Vasile's comments.