FOSS4G 2021 Lessons Learned
Previous Years Lessons Learned
FOSS4G 2021 Lessons Learned
This is to document things that the local committee learned, for the benefit of future FOSS4Gs!!
There was a contest to get the logo, both in English and Spanish. This helps people get enthusiastic with the conference from the beginning and allows members of our community to contribute in their best.
It is recommended to have a designer ready to adapt the logo to the rest of the look and feel of the conference. Even if you ask for a theme, colors or topic on the contest, it is doubtful it will completely fit with the rest of the style.
It is good to have a designer coordinating all efforts with social media, marketing, sponsoring, website, and any other public appearances. A styling guide to help generating content is advised.
The original organization committee was a mix between locals in Argentina, people from all over Latin América and some individuals in Spain. We also asked for help to previous FOSS4G organizers and regional FOSS4G organizers. This is really helpful not only for their experience organizing events, but for their contacts to extend the outreach of the conference.
We used Mailing Lists, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram. Engagement was varied but it was good to have all social networks synchronized.
We encourage to have someone in charge of social media with experience as community manager. It is good if they have a GIS background too. The last couple of months will be busy sending notifications and announcing sponsors. But during time right after the previous FOSS4G finishes until your FOSS4G starts, it is good to have someone generating "noise" and raising interest on the conference.
Besides the inclusivity and diversity discounts mentioned on the following section, we offered a wide range of prices for tickets. This formula worked pretty well.
- Corporative for professional tickets, with access to Business to Business and other similar perks. This helps professionals that can't pay for a sponsorship but want to contribute and be involved in the business side of the event.
- Local for Argentina residents.
- Students which was also divided in three prices: international, regional and local. We asked for proof of being enrolled on some educational institution as student during the year 2021.
The price of local and students was mostly the cost of having that attendee in the conference. Regional, International, and Corporative tickets were the ones that helped increment the pool of free and discounted tickets of the following section.
There were also three time allocated discounts that were applied to each of the previous categories:
- Tempranillo a very early bird to help boost ticket prices. The idea was to offer special perks (a bottle of tempranillo wine and a free workshop ticket).
- Early Bird which we kind of cancelled because not long after starting it the pandemic started.
- Regular normal price.
We also experimented with "Black Friday" types of discounts, with very cheap prices and strongly contained time frames. They worked very well.
Having several time allocated discounts (Tempranillo, Early Bird, Late Bird, Regular,...) help people get anxious to buy a ticket before the price continues rising.
Travel Grants, Discounts and Inclusivity
There was no travel grants per se in 2021, as it was an online conference. But we allowed a wide range of discounts and free tickets to allow people from all over the world to attend. We targeted both people with low income and people from underrepresented groups and identities.
There are several things to consider if you are going to target low income economies in an online event.
Not everyone has access to proper hardware and bandwidth for the conference. You can arrange with local communities crowd gatherings (health and law permitted) so they meet at some school, university, public library, or similar building to use a computer and watch the talks together. Still, that will not be enough in some communities, so it may be recommendable to save part of the budget to be able to send them some hardware or mobile phone card to be able to connect.
The same way, there will be lots of other issues for people that want to attend the conference but they can't even if you offer them free tickets. You can't foresee all of those issues. Contact as many chapters as possible and try to find common ground. There will be things you can fix and things you can't. Be open and save some budget in case you can.
We had a local language track (Spanish/Portuguese) which had a fairly good reception. This is something we encourage you to explore in further editions.
Streaming and Recording Legal Concerns
If you plan to record and publish videos, you need all the speakers (all the people that appear on the video) to sign a contract with you agreeing on a license. We used docusign for this.
Good news is that this can be automated very easily. Bad news is that there are people that will not sign it and you will have to manually ping them and make sure they do before any streaming or recording take place. This is to avoid legal issues. Moderators must sign too.
If you are going to have community voting, enough time to review and a good schedule planning, you need at least two months between closing the call for papers and publishing the schedule. Recommended time is three months. We got a team of almost 100 reviewers and it felt like not enough.
Diversity and Inclusivity
If you want to make sure you have an inclusive and diverse range of speakers, you have to work constantly and since day zero on this topic.
- Don't invite people that bring diversity to your event just because they do. Research what they do and invite them to talk about the things they do. Not just because "we don't have enough women/PoC/LGBT".
- Be careful with tokenizing.
- Ask diversity-focused communities for help. Women in GeoSpatial and GeoChicas are usually a good starting point, but there's probably more local communities around you.
- Personally invite people to your call for papers. Don't just wait for them to approach you.
- Make sure all OSGeo projects have some representation in the schedule.
It is also interesting to have a diverse team of reviewers.
Write some clear easy rules of what a paper must have to be accepted. If you are using Pretalx, you can write some common questions so reviewers can answer them and that helps evaluating the proposal.
Common questions that can help evaluating:
- Is this talk related to a FOSS project? If the answer is no, it should be rejected automatically
- Is this talk related to an OSGeo project?
- Has this talk been presented in other conferences? To rule out repeated content that is already available
- Is this talk a "State of the Art"? These talks are always interesting on the annual FOSS4G
- Does this talk relate to our community or another FOSS community? Meta-talking about FOSS is usually well received and helps making our community healthier.
- Is this talk innovative?
Leaving the call for papers open to non traditional formats allowed us to experiment with the Live Coding sessions, which were a huge success.
There are workshops that get sold out quickly and workshops that are harder to sell. We offered discounted and free tickets for those workshops and that worked well in some instances. We even used some Google Ads on top of promotion on social networks but we still had to cancel a couple of workshops. Be prepared for this.
Note: even if a workshop is voted in the community voting as interesting, that doesn't mean it will get sold.
Giving away free tickets to people not interested in the workshop could be even worse. Because if they don't make it, and the room is empty, the presenter will feel even worse than having to cancel it beforehand.
Free tickets to workshop presenters should be a minimum in all conferences. The amount of time to prepare a workshop is huge and remember that ticket sales on workshops help maintain the conference.
If you plan to publish the papers as peer to peer ISBN reviewed papers, you will have to sign an agreement with some scientific institution.
We have an understanding to simplify this process with ISPRS. They require you send the papers in a specific format and sign some documents. Make sure you academic chair knows about all this process early on. Save some budget because you will have to pay per paper published. Price depends on what you agree with the institution and may vary per year depending on where and how you want to publish it.
Although the review process and the schedule design is independent from the general call for papers, we don't recommend to separate the call for papers. Having all the submissions on the same place is helpful when you generate the final conflated schedule and it helps with communicating with the authors too.
We organized most of the codesprint in Workadventu.re. Participation in online codesprints is even harder than face to face ones. Having a platform beyond a simple text chat or a video chat was helpful.
Originally we planned for the codesprint to happen the full week so we could attract new contributors and help them break the ice and learn how they can contribute best. Obviously that didn't work as expected on the online version.