[OSGeo-Conf] Comments on Philadelphia 2017 proposal

Michael Terner mgt at appgeo.com
Mon Nov 9 07:20:11 PST 2015

OK, this thread (actually two threads) are moving really fast and while I
intended to have this post cover just the "Boston's story" perspective, I
do believe it is appropriate for Boston to comment on some of the other
issues that have been raised on the other "Call to discuss..." thread.

Philadelphia and Ottawa have told their story so it seems appropriate for
Boston to tell ours as well:

   - Boston has had a thriving "geo community" through various meetup
   groups (e.g. AvidGeo and Maptime) but has never had an OSGeo chapter.
   - Increasing numbers of people in the community have been to FOSS4G
   events (both global and North American) and have felt the energy.
   - Boston is known as a great "conference town" and has a somewhat unique
   blend of academia, government and high tech and we knew it could be a great
   - Several of us began informal discussions to study the OSGeo selection
   process and to see what it would take to mount a bid.
   - To assess interest, and also to understand whether there were any
   dissenting opinions, we issued a broad-based letter of explanation and
   survey to the Boston geo community with the local meetup groups sharing
   their mailing lists. Our basic questions were: Is this a good idea? Could
   we get it done?
   - Over 100 people took the time to respond to the survey, and the
   response was overwhelming support and interest.
   - In the survey, we asked who would be interested in volunteering at the
   event and who would be interested in joining and "organizing committee".
   Through the survey we had 17 people volunteer to be on the Boston Location
   Organizing Committee (BLOC). Another 20 people relayed interest in
   "volunteering at the event" (if we were successful in bringing it to
   - We then conducted four BLOC planning meetings as we initially
   submitted the LOI and then built the full proposal. Inevitably, some people
   were not able to volunteer their time and did not make any of the planning
   meetings, and they were not included in the final BLOC. And, as described
   in the proposal we have a very strong and experienced BLOC and we also have
   BLOC members who have taken leadership on some of the sub-committees and
   wrote sections of the proposal document.
   - We had always planned to have a PCO and did some research on PCO's who
   had worked at other FOSS4G events in North America. During the process and
   as part of the Q&A on the LOI we were encouraged to look at *local* PCO's
   and we reached out to Delaney Meeting & Event Management. Cindy Delaney was
   excited by the prospect and volunteered some of her time to help us address
   key questions and to get good bids from hotels and conference venues. Many
   of us have known Cindy for a long time through her work with other New
   England-based geo events and she immediately added value to our team.
   - And then we submitted our proposal to host with a committed set of
   hands-on, local volunteers and a strong and experienced PCO.
   - We are ready for the next chapter of this story and we want to make
   both OSGeo and Boston proud. But, win, or lose, we know we have built a
   great team and put in a strong proposal and vision that we're all proud of.

While we agree there are some fundamental issues that the selection
committee faces (see below), we also ultimately agree that this is *not* just
about the kind of PCO that helps with 2017. We know that Boston is one of
three very strong proposals that were prepared with great thought, care and
effort. The proposals deserve close reads and scrutiny across the full
variety of ideas presented.

Now, we'd like to raise a couple of questions/comments on two things that
Robert has brought up and also on Andrea's latest comment to the thread.

1. *Volunteer fatigue:* I've seen that mentioned several times - Robert
uses the term "burned out volunteers" - but can that be taken as universal
fact? Perhaps Boston is idealistic, but that's not necessarily what we've
observed and several of us have served in various capacities on volunteer
driven conferences. There's no doubt that the amount of work that goes into
a conference takes a toll, but from our vantage there are many positive
residual effects on the hosting community. Indeed, one of the drivers in
Boston pursuing the event is to strengthen our geo open source community
for the long haul. In addition, we see continued, significant volunteerism
from many, many people (including most on the "conference_dev" list) who
have participated in running past conferences. As we see it, the lesson
learned is that a strong PCO *is required* to help with the logistics and
take some of the load off of the LOC itself. Indeed, all three 2017
proposals have such a PCO partner.

2. *2016 FOSS4G North America bids: *As has been observed, FOSS4GNA has a
very different (and new) structure, and also for 2016 a very different
venue selection process (i.e., no LOI, no proposals from interested host
cities). I would guess I may not be the only one who was a little surprised
to read that: "Philadelphia worked with LocationTech to put together a bid
for the FOSS4G-North America 2016 event and was short-listed." Indeed, no
bids were solicited from anyone except from hotel/conference venues that
Location Tech identified (there is an extensive thread on this subject on
the foss4gna_selection listserve [Google group]). Rather, as per the
process, Location Tech conducted an "venue RFP" and then announced the
short-list based on their *internal* decision making (without receiving
proposals from LOCs). Indeed, many people in Raleigh - ultimately, the
winning location - were unaware they were even being considered until the
short-list was announced by Location Tech. I don't doubt at all the
Philadelphia and Location Tech worked together on the Philadelphia "bid", I
just think it needs to be acknowledged it was a very different kind of bid,
and process (i.e., there's no Raleigh or Philadelphia "proposal document"
from an LOC).

3. In Andrea's recent post there seems to be an implied assertion that only
Location Tech can potentially *broaden the conference* to include other
participants. Indeed, it was acknowledged that this has happened to some
degree already with the current model. The FOSS4G agenda is *not* *only*
about FOSS4G projects. In addition, the Boston proposal talks extensively
about "broadening" participation including specific outreach activities
aimed at the Boston/New England startup and technology (non-geo)
communities. The point is, this is a choice for OSGeo; and the Philadelphia
and Ottawa proposals are not necessarily the only way to attract new
participants and sponsors to FOSS4G.

Again, best of luck in the call today, and in the voting over the week to

MT & the BLOC

On Sun, Nov 8, 2015 at 10:10 PM, Robert Cheetham <cheetham at azavea.com>

> Conference Committee,
> As Steven re-raised the question on the meeting logistics thread, I
> thought I'd elaborate on our PCO selection process on the Philadelphia
> thread.
> First, let me say again, that there was no collaboration between the
> Ottawa and Philadelphia bids.  Any common text arises from the fact that we
> worked with the same PCO and inevitably used text provided to us where it
> made sense.
> Based on Dave's description of how they came to develop a bid, it sounds
> like we had different stories.  Allow me to tell ours.
> Philadelphia worked with LocationTech to put together a bid for the
> FOSS4G-North America 2016 event and was short-listed.  As you know, we were
> not successful at winning the conference, and FOSS4G-NA 2016 will be held
> in Raleigh next spring.  However, we had done a lot of legwork and decided
> to leverage this effort toward a more ambitious bid to bring the larger
> FOSS4G global event here.
> Philadelphia hosted the OSGeo Code Sprint in Feb 2015.  We promoted this
> as an event that invited developers from both OSGeo and LocationTech
> software projects.  The result was work on OSGeo projects, LocationTech
> projects, and developers that work on projects housed in both
> organizations.  It was fruitful.  At the end of the day, the objective of
> both organizations is the development of a stronger geospatial open source
> ecosystem, and working together on building better software is the reason
> most of us are involved to begin with.  Further, we had more sponsors than
> any previous OSGeo Code Sprint (including a cash sponsorship from
> LocationTech).  Most of the new sponsors were from companies that are
> members of LocationTech.
> When we made a decision to invite the Eclipse Foundation to help us with
> 2017 FOSS4G bid, we felt like it was a pragmatic decision at multiple
> levels:
>  * Many past FOSS4G events that relied on volunteers resulted in burned
> out volunteers - we didn't want to rely on a volunteer team to run the
> event.
>  * A collaboration with the Eclipse Foundation, another open source
> software foundation, would likely result in a whole that is greater than
> the sum of the parts.  FOSS4G has never solely been about OSGeo projects;
> the event has always invited open source geospatial projects of all kinds.
> By including a second open source geospatial organization in the effort, we
> would have a greater likelihood of expanding the diversity of projects,
> people, partners, and sponsors that will be the key to a successful event.
> Eclipse is more than just a PCO, they are fellow open source geospatial
> collaborators, and I believe that's a good thing.
>  * At a personal level, I prefer to view the world in terms of potential
> non-zero sum outcomes.  Providing LocationTech with a booth and some kind
> of logo on the web site does not diminish the OSGeo brand.  Similarly,
> OSGeo's success does not diminish the younger LocationTech's short-term or
> long-term prospects.  A bigger, healthier open source geospatial ecosystem
> benefits all of us.
> We invited LocationTech and the Eclipse Foundation to serve as PCO because
> we felt that the result would be a better event and a richer open source
> geospatial ecosystem.
> Best,
> Robert
> ------------------
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*Michael Terner*
*Executive Vice President*
617-447-2468 Direct | 617-447-2400 Main
Applied Geographics, Inc.
24 School Street, Suite 500
Boston, MA 02108

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