[Board] Very concerned: FOSS4G 2008 Budget

jo at frot.org jo at frot.org
Mon Apr 14 10:41:30 PDT 2008

dear all,
On Fri, Apr 11, 2008 at 09:44:57AM -0700, Paul Ramsey wrote:
> > But as member of the board I think I should give my reaction
> Don't be. The worst case scenario is not bad, and the likelihood of
> actually entering that scenario is low.

While the spreadsheet shows sketches of "best case scenarios" it is
tempting to expect it to show other futures and explain everything. 

> > If in fact the sponsor revenue has an error, that would make for a surplus
> > per attendee of only 135 Rand with 700 attendees, but worse, it would make
> > for a loss with anything more than that.

The sponsor revenue figure is guesswork anyway and it sounds as if the
prospects for it being (relatively) high are good - both with local
institutional buy-in and with international consultancies asking for
one more cheaper sponsorship category they can buy into. 

> > the budget on. I would be much more careful and start with an estimated
> > 450-500 paying attendees, making sure cost/revenue is balanced on that.
> The 600 number is based on a formula of about 200 Europeans, 100 North
> Americans, a handful of Elsewheres and 250 or so Africans.  Given the

I recall seeing an estimate of up to 400 GISSA member discounts for
the conference fee in the pricing - this is in line with historical
attendance numbers? 

> >  - The registration cost is not a moderate one. Just grabbing some numbers
> > from the registration page I see 630USD for early bird full registration,
> > 760USD for normal registration and 500USD for conference only registration.

Remember how much less a USD is worth now than it was 1 or 2 years ago.
While not "grassroots"-level cheap this is still "affordable", many
people have instituational support and there is this large provision
for free-of-cost entrance which has not featured in previous years. 
Reachability of venue is another issue... 

> We chose South Africa. If we wanted FOSS4G to have a larger attendance
> with easier access for the usual NA/EUR attendees we should have
> chosen a venue in NA or EUR.  If we want to re-visit our RFP process
> and siting policies, we should do that (we *should* do that)

My recollection from the last face-to-face Board meeting is that
there is no definite policy about whether the FOSS4G event should 
be treated as a large-attendance revenue-raiser. (Which would mean a
siting policy biased towards EU/NA, *at least* every second year.)
The BoardBorg is ambivalent about scaling up or not. So the outcome 
is "wait and see what happens, plan for a small profit and revise
opinions after the results of the next conference".

The RFP process places all decisions in the hands of the Conference 
Committee up until it requests the Board approve the selected host city.
The President, Secretary, ED, at least are all on that committee.
It could recruit new members and try to generate more public discussion.
But i would *not* like to see constraints applied that prevented, e.g.,
a really kicking bid from Rio de Janeiro for 2010. Meanwhile those in
EU/NA *can* afford relatively much more expense, and each year we
see more local events being organised to help people gather locally.

> > was a question from Jody on the Africa-SDI mailing list to try to get
> > feedback from the African community on the conference. There was only one(!)
> > reaction to that. I rephrased the same question and send it again but
> > nothing... This is not a good sign for what concerns the Africa

I think there can be weirdly little overlap between the "SDI"
community and the software development community. Perhaps this is a
policy/institutional crowd with a fractional representation of hackers. 
The former wouldn't expect to network with peers at any FOSS4G. 
But free software community yet not nesc. geospatial would do - 
http://wiki.goodtogreatfoss.org/ and http://www.fossafrica.org/ and so on.

> the ability to compress costs a reasonable amount.  They still would
> probably run a deficit, but it would not be as bad as a simple twiddle
> of the spreadsheet might indicate.

It is reassuring to see this picture of the worst case not being so bad.

> > > 4) the spreadsheet has been reviewed and approved by the finance
> > committee?
> Yes, but not quite as closely as it should have been apparently, since
> it had an error in it. My bad.
+1-my-bad for my not spotting this sort of thing either. 



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