[OSGeo-Conf] Time to decide on FOSS4G NA 2017

Michael Terner mgt at appgeo.com
Mon Feb 22 07:40:30 PST 2016

*Full disclosure, I will be the incoming Conference Chair for the Global
FOSS4G 2017 event to be held in Boston from August 14-18, 2017.*

As promised, I’m back from holiday and have been able to better synch with
our BLOC and would like to take the opportunity to more fully and formally
reply to this important thread. Thanks are in order to Andrea for bringing
this serious issue forward for discussion; indeed, there should be a common
understanding of if/how Global and North American events should be
“coordinated” when the international rotation brings the Global event to
North America.

Ultimately, we do hope and urge that a springtime FOSS4GNA event does
*not* happen
in 2017. The following provides the thinking behind this position.

In re-reading the thread just about everything I was intending to write has
been posted by someone, or another. Ultimately, this thread is a reminder
of what’s best and powerful about the OSGeo/FOSS4G community. The
discussions may be imperfect in some ways, but they are always open,
thoughtful and reflect a desire for consensus. And indeed, it seems a
consensus is potentially forming on this topic.

First, a quick listing of opinions from other writers that we share:

   - +1 to Rob Emanuel’s observation that this is a time to avoid “any
   force of schism” and that rather 2017 is a huge opportunity for the
   community “to come together”.
   - +1 to Cameron Shorter’s very concise enumeration of what several
   people echoed in other posts: “two major FOSS4G events in the same country
   would weaken both events.”
   - +1 to several writers who observed that precedent holds that regional
   events generally cede to the Global event when it is on the same continent
   (e.g., there was no FOSS4GNA in 2014 in lieu of Portland; no FOSS4G Asia in
   2015 in lieu of Seoul; and no FOSS4G EU in 2016 in lieu of Bonn) with the
   few exceptions being for non-English language regional conferences.
   - +1 to Randy Hale’s clear enumeration of the small business-person’s,
   or independent attendee’s dilemma, in having only so much time or budget
   available and needing to choose one, or the other, if there were two events.
   - +1 to both Robert Cheetham’s and Jody Garnett's superb ideas on seeing
   an opportunity for new, focused types of geo open source events that can
   complement the bigger FOSS4G and FOSS4GNA events (e.g., Civic oriented open
   source; Big geo data oriented open source; etc.)

With these things said, I’d also like to address a couple of the additional
points that Andrea referenced in her post from last Friday, Feb. 19.

   - It is terrific that FOSS4GNA 2015 achieved such a great participation
   rate from women. It was an important accomplishment. I think all would
   agree that diversity in attendance and speakers is a key goal; and the
   Boston team shares this view, and we wrote on this in our proposal to
   OSGeo. We have our own ideas on how to spur diversity and do not believe
   that “free all access passes to all speakers” is necessarily the only way
   to advance this important
    (and we have not ruled out pricing and free passes as a tool to this
   - We agree and are counting on east coast participation being an
   important part of our attendance base. At the same time, we hope not to
   lose the 10% (or whatever it turns out to be) participation of US attendees
   who may be prepared to travel cross-country but choose not to because they
   have a nearer-to-home option. We are planning on vigorous nationwide
   marketing for participation, and we hope to work with our international
   friends to encourage attendance and have this be the largest FOSS4G to date
   (and we hope that Bonn sets a new record for attendance in 2016!).
   - Yes, we are aware that Boston is a relatively expensive city and that
   our hotel block rate was $260 (for 2 beds and double occupancy). At the
   same time, Boston’s costs are a function of its popularity and amenities
   and we believe interest in Boston and the New England region will help
   drive attendance. And, as we wrote in our proposal, there will be numerous
   lodging options beyond the hotel block that will provide more affordable
   lodging; from hostels to AirBnB to lower cost hotels outside the city but
   accessible by public transportation.

In the end, we love Eddie Pickle’s vision (that Robert Cheetham recounted
in his post) of FOSS4G being among the most major geo gatherings, bar none.
I have also heard Eddie relay this vision and coincidentally I will be
meeting with him this coming Thursday in Washington, DC to further
understand his ideas for *realizing* this vision. We see no reason why
FOSS4G shouldn’t be the #2 geo event on the planet (and it is already the
*best* one). As Robert wrote, over time, and as the gap narrows between the
10-15x difference between the Esri User Conference attendance and a growing
FOSS4G attendance there will come a time where it will “be desirable to
have sub-events that remain of substantive size…” But I would also agree
that we are not there yet.

The Boston Team needs and strongly wants the full support of the North
American community to help continue the momentum of stronger and stronger
FOSS4G events. Together and with a singular focus we can do great things to
make FOSS4G 2017 the largest and best possible event.

We thank everyone for this important discussion and also for your future

And in the meantime, we are looking forward to supporting a fantastic slate
of 2016 events with FOSS4GNA in Raleigh, NC in May, and Global FOSS4G in
Bonn in August.


MT & the BLOC

On Fri, Feb 19, 2016 at 11:56 PM, Robert Cheetham <cheetham at azavea.com>

> Rob,
> Great comments.  I agree on every front.
> As a business owner, even if I might stretch to try to make it to both
> events, I'm unlikely to spend double, and each event would therefore
> receive less.  That calculus won't change unless the audience at both is
> substantial.
> Building on Jim Hughes message, I think there might be a day when having
> two conferences (NA and Global) in the same year would be both feasible and
> desirable.  Eddie Pickle and others have expressed the idea that FOSS4G
> could be *the *major gathering of open source geospatial, similar in
> scale to the Esri User Conference - in other words, 10x more than what most
> of us are planning for a typical FOSS4G event.  At that scale, it will
> likely be *desirable* to hive off sub-events that remain of substantive
> size and deliberately pull some audience away from the main event.  But I
> don't think we are there yet.
> I also think Jody's suggestions were quite interesting.  And such events
> need not necessarily use the FOSS4G moniker.  For example, I think it would
> be cool to consider:
>  * Big Geospatial Data Summit (or maybe High Performance Computing for
> Geospatial - HPC4G)
>  * a concerted geospatial presence at SC <http://www.supercomp.org/>
>  * Civic Open Source Geospatial Conference
>  * Geospatial for Social Good Conference
> and so on.
> Thanks,
> Robert
> ------------------
> On Fri, Feb 19, 2016 at 5:41 PM, Rob Emanuele <rdemanuele at gmail.com>
> wrote:
>> Hi Andrea, thanks for bringing this up on the lists.
>> My feeling is that based on what knowledge I have and what I can reason
>> about, I cannot be certain that having a FOSS4G NA in 2017 would *not*
>> effect both attendance and sponsorship of, and ultimately have a negative
>> impact on, both events.
>> My understanding is that sponsors we draw from for FOSS4G NA is a very
>> similar set of sponsors that FOSS4G would draw from, and given the work
>> that needs to get done for those companies to sponsor one conference, I
>> don't think the two teams would be able to convince all of the potential
>> sponsors to foot two bills without having to pick one conference to favor
>> over the other.
>> For attendees who need to pay their own way, or have to justify going to
>> conferences like FOSS4G to their employers, asking them to foot the bill
>> for attending both a FOSS4G and a FOSS4G NA might be too much, and them
>> having to make a choice is going to negatively affect attendance for both
>> conferences. Because we are trying to build on the momentum of successful
>> FOSS4G NA's, having one in a year which will necessitate a portion of the
>> attendee base to choose one or the other conference is a way to actually
>> stifle momentum, IMO more so than skipping a year. And while I think that
>> there will be attendees on the west coast that would end up going to a west
>> coast event but not the international event, I'm not sure this would make
>> up for the attendees who would be able to attend either but not both
>> conferences (and also feels a bit like a west-coast or pacific north west
>> regional event, which might be cool).
>> If we have both sponsors and attendees that will need to go with one or
>> the other conference, then that creates a force of schism in the community.
>> I am not sure how strong that force would be, and I know that whoever would
>> be in favor of having a regional 2017 conference (which no one has strongly
>> argued in favor for yet) would not be trying to introduce that type of
>> force at all. However, I believe we are in a time where the community
>> coming together really matters: with Jeff stepping down as OSGeo president,
>> with the echoes of anti-LocationTech sentiment still ringing in many of our
>> ears from various heated exchanges on the mailing list months ago; also
>> with the OSGeo board making strides to define and clarify it's vision and
>> goals, and the work many people from LocationTech, OSGeo and other
>> organizations or on their own are doing to break down organizational and
>> other barriers to bring together the wider geospatial open source
>> community, I think that it is not a good time to have any force of schism,
>> however light it may be. Instead, let's to work to ensure that the
>> international event is a success, and then make a big push for a very
>> successful FOSS4G NA conference in 2018.
>> I'm glad this topic was brought up, so thanks again. The decision whether
>> or not to have this specific regional event in the same year as an
>> international event is not a forgone conclusion (as evidence by the fact
>> that it has happened for other regional events). And though my and other's
>> take on it is not in favor of having a FOSS4G NA 2017, hearing about the
>> potential positives is good to consider, and deserves this discussion. For
>> me, specifically hearing about Victoria for a potential conference spot
>> makes me hopeful that it might be located there for 2018...I recently had a
>> great time in Victoria for the LocationTech code sprint and am looking
>> forward to going back!
>> Thanks,
>> Rob
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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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