[OSGeo-Conf] Analysing the downfall of FOSS4G 2011

Cameron Shorter cameron.shorter at gmail.com
Wed Aug 15 03:59:18 PDT 2012

I think it will help to provide definitions of the different types of 
FOSS4G events, as each should be treated differently.

Firstly: The International FOSS4G:
* This event has grown into a major international event
* It is successful because of the quantity and quality of international 
delegates who attend and present
* Due to the size of the event, it requires a large venue, which carries 
a large financial cost (and risk)
* The event has also become dependant upon sponors in order to keep the 
price appropriate
* We don't want to let this event fail, and as such we only want to give 
these events to experienced teams

At the other end of the spectrum are Code Sprints, or a FOSS4G track in 
other conference:
* These smaller events attract less people, are easier to organise and 
manage, have low financial overhead, often have no, or fewer sponsors
* Attendees pay less, and have a lower expectation on overall content 
* These events can accept a higher risk profile, and a cancellation will 
not have a significant impact on the greater OSGeo/FOSS4G reputation.
* As such, we can support such events being managed by less experienced 

Somewhere in the middle are the regional conferences.

So Paul is right, the International FOSS4G event should not be allowed 
to fail. I believe this should be facilitated by selecting the 
International FOSS4G event to be in a location where minor FOSS4G events 
have already occurred and where there are experienced LOCs.

On 15/08/2012 5:46 AM, Eric Wolf wrote:
> I'm a big fan of failure. We learn more from failure than success. 
> However, I agree that there should be room for small failures to occur 
> but for FOSS4G to continue to get sponsor dollars, the failure cannot 
> be catastrophic again.
> I can't even begin to understand how to provide both an egalitarian 
> approach to hosting while ensuring a high level of professionalism. I 
> love doing little WhereCamp events where the idea is to throw off the 
> shackles of "professionalism". But at the level FOSS4G has attained, 
> there has to be some kind baseline of professionalism.
> I was, personally, one of the biggest causes of uncertainty for the 
> Denver event. But what most people don't know is that I was ready to 
> quit my PhD (or put it on hold) if Peter (or someone comparable) 
> didn't step forward to take over. Fortunately, Peter stepped forward 
> and did an amazing job keeping everyone working together.
> Denver also had the best possible PCO in GITA. They knew how to put on 
> big international geospatial conferences in Denver (and elsewhere).
> To top it off, Denver's choice of location and the way conference 
> hotels, like the Sheraton, work in the US, the event would have been 
> successful by most measures even if very few people turned out. Again, 
> we were fortunate in that the problem was just the opposite: we 
> started to approach attendance levels that would have required 
> changing how some of the events worked.
> I suspect Nottingham will be equally successful because the LOC has 
> had lots of experience with there own events. The only uncertainty for 
> them will be managing the size of the event. And that's a really 
> challenging part of the equation. The last thing I did as Denver LOC 
> Chair was to try to make estimates on attendance. I went 
> county-by-country and tried to estimate a low, mid and high attendance 
> for each. In the end, I was consistently wrong. Fortunately, even 
> though I was wrong, for every time I guessed too high, there were more 
> instances where I guessed too low.
> Peter and I were talking the other night about who might bid for 
> FOSS4G 2014. We both thought it might be interesting to put forward 
> another Denver bid. Many of the biggest conferences stay in the same 
> location because it eliminates uncertainty. We have a template in 
> place for FOSS4G in Denver.
> But that's hardly egalitarian.
> -Eric
> -=--=---=----=----=---=--=-=--=---=----=---=--=-=-
> Eric B. Wolf                           720-334-7734
> On Tue, Aug 14, 2012 at 12:57 PM, Paul Ramsey <pramsey at opengeo.org 
> <mailto:pramsey at opengeo.org>> wrote:
>     On Tue, Aug 14, 2012 at 11:46 AM, Frank Warmerdam
>     <warmerdam at pobox.com <mailto:warmerdam at pobox.com>> wrote:
>     > I agree with Jachym that it is still desirable to give the local
>     > organizers quite a bit of freedom and that we should accept that
>     > occasional failure is not a disaster.
>     On the contrary, I'd say that random failures are a disaster and will
>     actually contribute to more failures. As Cameron noted in his
>     document, the success of a conference is tied to the perceived
>     expectations. Throwing a conference is like throwing a party. Do you
>     want to go to a lame party? No, you want to go to a rocking party. If
>     PartyPete throws awesome parties every Thursday, you'll clear your
>     schedule as next Thursday rolls around. If LameLou throws passable
>     parties sometimes, and sometimes cancels them, you'll start going to
>     PartyPete's instead. Consistency is very important.
>     The same thing will go double for sponsors: are you going to commit to
>     early sponsorship and send a cheque to an event that was cancelled
>     last year? Or will you hold on to your cheque until the last minute
>     just in case? The uncertainty effect is going to make the financial
>     situation of future conferences more precarious as sponsors and
>     registrants hedge their bets until later in the calendar. This will
>     only get worse if we embrace failure as an occasionally acceptable
>     mode.
>     P.
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Cameron Shorter
Geospatial Solutions Manager
Tel: +61 (0)2 8570 5050
Mob: +61 (0)419 142 254

Think Globally, Fix Locally
Geospatial Solutions enhanced with Open Standards and Open Source

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