[OSGeo-Discuss] Fixing FOSS4G (was: Hacking OSGeo)

Darrell Fuhriman darrell at garnix.org
Wed Sep 17 10:41:02 PDT 2014

FWIW, what I want to ensure happens is that the issue of partnering with LocationTech does not get conflated with fixing how FOSS4G is managed.

What is clear is that things cannot continue to go on as they have, especially if OSGeo is serious about expanding FOSS4G, both in size and scope. I believe the organization it at a cross-roads with FOSS4G, and it’s a choice between expanding the conference with the help of a professional, or letting the conference stagnate (and hence OSGeo stagnate). It is simply as large as it can get under the current structure. And given that there’s already been one flame out, arguably already too big. 

Unless things change, and change soon, there will be another failure like Bejing. It’s that simple. It’s past time to grow up and start acting like the conference(s) are OSGeo’s lifeline — which they are.

Though one proposed path to adulthood for FOSS4G involves LocationTech, it’s not the only possible solution.

I see three ways to do this, each with advantages and disadvantages:

1) Contract an outside PCO on an ongoing basis
2) Hire a staff person to be the organizer
3) Partner with LocationTech

I’ll address each of these in turn :

1) Contract an outside PCO

This is the easiest thing to do. In fact, and this is very important to understand: OSGeo already hires an outside PCO, they just do so from scratch on an annual basis, in the most inefficient way possible.

If you want the really easy way out, hire the one we used this year. They did a good job at a reasonable price. They were already discussing with the Korea team about continuing the contract with them.

If you want to be more formal, solicit bids and choose one that way.

However you choose, choose with the assumption that the contract is an ongoing one as long as both parties are satisfied.

The only real objection I’ve heard to doing it this way is that it’s good to have someone with local knowledge. My response is that this is simply false. In fact, we chose our PCO in part based on that assumption. We were wrong. Heck, one of them even commented to me that it was a nice change to do a conference in Portland, since they hadn’t done so in years.
Some lack of flexibility: if OSGeo wants to expand the role (see below), then it requires a renegotiation of the contract, and a general PCO may not be the right choice for that role.
Institutional knowledge. The conference knowledge carries on in the organization, and is hopefully not entirely imbued in one person. 
Simplicity. We’re already doing it — just poorly.

2) Hire a staff person to be the organizer

This is more risk, but also offers more potential.


Having a staff person allow OSGeo to be more flexible in organizing conferences. Is there a budding regional conference that needs some assistance? We can help with that. Would OSGeo like to foster growth in regions without a local FOSS4G event? OSGeo can do that. 


You would only have one staff person, which means more risk of losing institutional knowledge if that person leaves.
Potential for no being seen as less of/no longer a volunteer led organization. (Personally, I think this fear is overwrought, but that doesn’t make it any less real. OSGeo already outsources jobs which its membership isn't qualified to do, for instance lawyers, accountants, and yes even PCOs.)
Hiring is hard, and takes time, especially to find a good autonomous person to take on this role

3) Partner with LocationTech

Obviously in the current context, this is a loaded proposition. I appreciate that there’s fear of take over or of “losing” FOSS4G and its income. I believe that can be allayed with a properly written contract. There seems to be a lot of speculation about what a partnership means, and not a lot of facts. 

I see this partnership as starting with LocationTech serving as a PCO and nothing more.  If both parties later want to expand that relationship, that can be done, but start with the PCO and treat it as no different than the proposal in (1).

LocationTech works in the same space, has contacts, and the Eclipse Foundation already runs conferences
Potential for future, deepened partnerships
LocationTech works in the same space, has contacts, and the Eclipse Foundation already runs conferences, so there’s a potential for conflicts of interest
If it doesn’t work out for whatever reason, future partnership opportunities might be lost


Those are a few of my many thoughts on the topic, and on my thoughts for the future of OSGeo, but I think it’s important to stay focused on bite-sized chunks for right now. If possible, let’s try to keep this (sub-)thread focused on the issue of FOSS4G and not on the larger questions about OSGeo.


On Sep 16, 2014, at 07:38, Jeff McKenna <jmckenna at gatewaygeomatics.com> wrote:

> Hello everyone,
> To clarify publicly, I have no problem with LocationTech, and in fact I feel that its foundation plays an important role in our ecosystem.
> The issue actually boils down to OSGeo's only event, FOSS4G.  We, as OSGeo, present this event each year and it is a large part of our annual revenue.  It is very important to the OSGeo foundation, as it is our flagship event.
> It was made clear to me that LocationTech is not interested in having their own global event, and that they are in fact interested in our event, FOSS4G.
> So maybe to remove this stress, or "fear", I would prefer to pull back on the throttle, start with an MoU between the two foundations, and then begin to share booths at events, or donate booths at each other's events.  In other words, take baby steps, and build the relationship slowly, as we do with every other foundation.
> I apologize for not bringing this issue to the community sooner.  In fact this all really came to a head in Portland, and you can see that now we must deal with this all together.
> I always try to represent the entire OSGeo community well, if you feel that I have made mistakes please share this here with everyone.  I am here to represent you.
> The last few days have been very hard on me.
> -jeff
> OSGeo President

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