[OSGeo-Discuss] [OSGeo-Conf] FOSS4G

Steven Feldman shfeldman at gmail.com
Fri May 13 06:13:20 PDT 2016


We hosted FOSS4G 2013 at the university of Nottingham. We were offered a very good deal from them but it was far from free, universities in the UK and elsewhere are encouraged to find ways to make more use of their facilities to generate additional income. We did get all of the workshop facilities including computers at no extra charge.

We can reduce the cost of an event by finding lower cost facilities (not that easy), perhaps spreading the event across multiple sites and not having the space for plenaries and networking, providing cheaper food (or even no food at all), excluding the party from the overall ticket (or not bothering to host a gala event). There would still be a cost though, the question becomes how much of that cost you charge to delegates and whether a variable pricing model can be applied to subsidise some delegates (although I fear any policy on concessionary pricing will generate a lot of debate around edge cases.

The only way that you can make an event free is to raise a lot more sponsorship (something of the order of 3 or 4 times the levels we have achieved or even more) and my experience of 2013 and being the financial rep to the 2016 team is that there is not currently sufficient appetite amongst sponsors to generate that level of funding. 

The t-shirts and pens and stuff that delegates get given is already funded by the sponsors, it does not come out of ticket prices.

You and several others have pointed out that the costs of attending a FOSS4G event are much greater than delegate fees (transport, accommodation and opportunity costs of the time off work). There are usually some options to reduce those costs but they can’t be eliminated.

FOSS4G generates a modest surplus for OSGeo (which is a large part of OSGeo’s income) - that surplus is used to fund code sprints, outreach, OSGeo Live dvd’s, student bursaries at events, Geo4All awards and to provide the financial guarantee that a conference organising team needs to put on the next FOSS4G (unless they are wiling to accept personal liability, which I believe would be an unacceptable imposition on our volunteers)

The bottom line is that whatever tweaks we make to the scope of a FOSS4G the costs are going to be within 10 or 15% of the current all in costs of conference fee, travel and accommodation. That prompts a few thoughts/questions:

1. Can we unbundle some elements of the conference to help those on low income? Gala event, catering, anything else?
2. Should we encourage lower cost venue options from host cities bidding for 2018 etc
3. Should we focus more on costs of travel and accommodation when selecting host cities?
4. Can we come up with an OSGeo policy on subsidising people who want to attend? How would we select? A full subsidy for someone attending FOSS4G including travel, accommodation, delegate fees, workshops, and living expenses could easily run between €1500 and €2500 depending on the location and an individual’s travel costs. That means finding between €60k and €100k to fund 5% of the attendees at a FOSS4G. Is that achievable?
5. Is it better to leave the successful global event as it is, up till now we have had strong attendances each year? We could instead encourage FOSS4G regional events (in regions that are not hosting the global event) that were designed and targeted to be a smaller scale and more affordable?
6. Are we looking at the wrong side of this by focussing on the cost of attending an event? 

This discussion is very well timed as we will be starting the call for FOSS4G 2018 in September and that event will be a ‘rest of world’ which may mean higher travel costs for delegates from NA and Europe and may provide some opportunities for a different approach to grow the FOSS4G community within the region. If we want them to work to a different set of parameters we need to agree those parameters before we start the process.

May the FOSS be with you #mtfbwy

> On 12 May 2016, at 22:56, Jonathan <jonathan-lists at lightpear.com> wrote:
> Hi Till,
> On the issue of conferences, I'd like to chip in. I've never organised one, but my other half has so I know how much work they are, so plenty of respect for the effort you've both put into them.
> I suppose I'd ask two questions of any given element of a conference - Is it necessary, and how much should it cost? Conference centres are very expensive, this much is clear, but does FOSS4G really need a single space that can handle all of its delegates at once for the plenaries? How much does that add to the cost? Would universities be cheaper as hosts? They certainly have the facilities, including wi-fi, canteens, and (potentially) cheap accommodation; I note that the FOSDEM conference ( > 5000 delegates for all of whom it is free) is hosted yearly at a university in Brussels.
> What about the "freebies" that are included in the welcome pack - conference branded pens and t-shirts? Are they really necessary? Ok, maybe the pens (not everyone remembers to bring one, they get lost), but the t-shirts? Bottled water (some conferences do that)? Etc. I suspect these little things add up.
> You make a good point Till about other costs to the conference but a counter-point: I can *choose* how much I pay for the other elements.
> I'm paying less than €40 per night accommodation for Bonn - sure there are options for €100 a night, but they're not for me. It doesn't matter who's paying (work or me), I always seek out a cheaper alternative.
> Food is likewise - Looking at the invoice for Bonn I can see it says "Food and beverages: ...  € 150.00" - (excluding the Gala dinner), I'm sure there's a reason for it, but to me that's a staggeringly high cost, that's considerably more than I spend on a *month* of food at home (UK). My last holiday (mid-price European country) my total food cost came out to €16 a day.
> Travel too the delegates get a choice in - I could fly Ryanair for €35, but I refuse to fly so will spend about €130 on trains (book early! :-) ). But that's my choice. (If a delegate really wanted to they could hitch-hike and/or couch-surf to get the costs to near 0.)
> Unfortunately for someone wishing to attend they don't get a choice in the conference fees.
> I'd also point out, as before, that the high cost of the fees also makes it difficult for lower-income attendees. OSGeo has as one of its stated goals "be a welcoming and inclusive worldwide organization at all levels;". I'm not sure what the solution to this is, but the "studentship" programme is good, as is the travel-grant.
> Comparison with a few other conferences of a similar or larger size I'm aware of or quickly found:
> FOSDEM - already mentioned.
> ARVO - a 5 day conference that moves around the USA with > 11,000 clinical delegates - it doesn't include food, but the late-registration conference fees for Non-Members (so their most expensive fee) - $269! (http://www.arvo.org/Conferences_and_Courses/Imaging_Conference/2016/Registration/).
> http://opensourcebridge.org/attend - 500 delegates, 4 day conference - $350, but an option to pay more ($500) if you want to be a "supporter" - that might work for FOSS4G.
> That said, FOSS4G isn't the most expensive conference either. LinuxCon (3 days) is $800 at early-bird rates, going up to $950.
> There are a few ideas scattered above that may make it cheaper (or maybe won't). Another one - have the sponsors sponsor explicit things; not just the "gala", but things like the pens (or even supply them), or maybe the meals ("this food sponsored by GeoWorldSpatialMapGlobalGIS Inc").
> A counter point to my own argument though - the increasing delegate count shows that plenty of people (or their companies in many cases) are willing to pay the current rates.
> Cheers,
> Jonathan
> On 12/05/2016 10:34, till.adams at fossgis.de wrote:
>> Hi Maxi,
>> I pick up your discussion, but break your email into single issues, so that anyone interested in one topic can jump in.
>> Your point: "FOSS4G CONFERENCES
>> This is the momentum. Here i have always get inspiration from listening talks, discussing with people, talking with friends. It used to be a very inclusive event: the peak of the FOSS4G iceberg. I'm saying "it use to be" because prices are year by year growing so much that today they represent a barrier. I would have liked to came with 5 people from my group but this is simply not economically sustainable: as a result the younger will lose this opportunity to join the community and breath the breeze of Open innovation. If i compare FOSS4G prices (rate per day) with other comparable events they are higher. I personally don't need fancy locations and I am more interested in involving more people rather then having high revenue for the foundation. I want to meet students, people from low income countries, small companies, start-up. Let's find a way to be Open.."
>> is one view on FOSS4G (negotiating that OSGeo has to deal with business is another one, and I have a totally different opinion here, but that's another issue).
>> As the "responsible" person for this years FOSS4G (and also one of the nerds, that took every FOSS4G since 2005 with one exception in 2014) I am also not really happy with our prices either, although I must say, that we are nearly equal to 2014, but more expensive than 2015, that's true.
>> But, some important issues to take into account before we (you?) continue to dream:
>> 1. People tend to see only the prices for the conference. If we could save 30% of our costs and being able to offer tickets for 400€ instead of 590€ (Early Bird) wouldn't make that big difference in total costs for the attendees at the end. This because there are also travel and accommodation costs which are out of our influence (see, my flight to Seoul last year was about 1200€, accommodation 700€ - looking at this, a conference fee of 400.- compared to 600.- does not really make that big difference). Even in a city like Bonn, where accommodation rates are moderate, you should at least calculate 70€/day, plus food, beer, etc.
>> So, the fact, that tickets are more expensive than last year couldn't be the only reason not being able to bring 5 people to Bonn. Also this view completely negotiates that there are definitely costs, that we have to cover.
>> 2. Tieing on here, although this is another discussion: The requirements of OSGeo bear some parameters, that really rise up costs: Hire a conference center, need to have a PCO and include the Gala Event. These are all nice ideas, but of course they all result in higher costs and with that in higher ticket fees. As long as OSGeo (especially you should remember ;-)) refuses to give a 100% financial backup, the calculation of income to reach the break even drives LOC's to calculate much more carefully - and with that with higher fees.
>> 3. Regarding the most expensive part of our conference - the conference center: In most cities it is simply impossible finding a location where you could run a conference with that a size of up to 1000 attendees. And hiring a conference center is expensive, regardless where in the world.
>> This just as a quick review - having time to think little more, I am sure I'd find many other reasons, why we should stop dreaming here when thinking about having a global conference that everybody is able to join, where you just meet good friends and have some nice beers together. Everything simply does not work as long as there is no source of income that makes LOC's and OSGeo independent of financial success of a FOSS4G conference.
>> Perhaps there is a need for a discussion and also a decision, which focus we/OSGeo want/s to give our annual global event. As a person from the business side (which is important as engine for development of the projects, see recent email from Jeroen), I say that one global professional conference is definitely required. And having something like studentship programme, travel grants helps to enable at least some people to join that conference, that normally couldn't afford it. But most of them couldn't even afford attending anyway, even if conference fees were less than half of what they are.
>> Perhaps the spirit of the conference that everybody could afford (especially because of travel costs), must be carried out on a regional/continental scale ?
>> BTW: Yes, it's me arguing like this, and I am one of the last guys that fighted as long as possible to keep our FOSSGIS conference free of charge ;-)
>> Last point - regarding your people from your group: If they are students, they could have applied for our studentship programme. They can try, but looks like that we are nearly complete here...
>> Just my 2 (long) cents.
>> Till
>> Am 2016-05-11 11:01, schrieb massimiliano cannata:
>>> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
>>> From: <conference_dev-owner at lists.osgeo.org [1]>
>>> Date: 2016-05-11 10:41 GMT+02:00
>>> Subject: Incubation, osgeo-EU and FOSS4G
>>> To: massimiliano.cannata at supsi.ch [2]
>>> Your message has been rejected, probably because you are not
>>> subscribed to the mailing list and the lists policy is to prohibit
>>> non-members from posting to it.  If you think that your messages are
>>> being rejected in error, contact the mailing list owner at
>>> conference_dev-owner at lists.osgeo.org [3].
>>> ---------- Messaggio inoltrato ----------
>>> From: Massimiliano Cannata <massimiliano.cannata at supsi.ch [4]>
>>> To: OSGeo Board <board at lists.osgeo.org [5]>, OSGeo Discussions
>>> <discuss at lists.osgeo.org [6]>, OSGeo Incubator Committee
>>> <incubator at lists.osgeo.org [7]>, "<conference_dev at lists.osgeo.org
>>> [8]>" <conference_dev at lists.osgeo.org [9]>
>>> Cc:
>>> Date: Wed, 11 May 2016 10:41:55 +0200
>>> Subject: Incubation, osgeo-EU and FOSS4G
>>> Sorry for cross-posting but these recent topics (which took place on
>>> different lists) took myself to reflect about our foundation.
>>> Summary of the long mail below (for those who dont have time go trough
>>> :-D )
>>> =================================================================
>>> DISCUSSION: only a small number of people take part to the
>>> discussions, why?
>>> INCUBATION: we care about high quality, long term sustainable and
>>> reliable solutions, who cares of governance models?
>>> BUSINESS AND OSGEO(EU): we are a foundation of people not of
>>> companies, we dont have to do business!
>>> FOSS4G CONFERENCES: fees are a barrier, we are building exclusive
>>> events rather then being inclusive, who care about revenue!
>>> More explanation of my thoughts (for those who have time to spend and
>>> go deeper :-o )
>>> ==================================================================
>>> Im an environmental engineer and thus far from being a rigorous
>>> informatics or an economist or a social science expert. Nevertheless
>>> in these last 20 years (from Bangkok to Seoul without missing a single
>>> one) I had the opportunity to met those words, make some experience
>>> and learn a bit.
>>> Thats to say that i do not have the truth in my pockets and Im open
>>> to change my view.
>>> First a small consideration, those topics are discussed by a small
>>> number of people with respect of the total members of our community.
>>> It means that A) the arguments are not of high interest B) silent
>>> people are shy and do not feel to be in the position to add value to
>>> the conversation C) people think it is a waste of time.
>>> This is often happening and my impression is that people just dont
>>> care to much of these political issues but only of technical matters.
>>> My understanding is that OSGeo trough the incubation process aims at
>>> guarantee high quality, long term sustainable and reliable solutions
>>> to show that FOSS Geospatial technology is valuable and credible. In
>>> this view the governance model adopted (PSC, dictator or whatever) is
>>> of secondary importance to me as long as the software respond to the
>>> above mentioned requisites. I personally prefer clear process rather
>>> then open-in-words but fake-in-fact rules.
>>> OSGeo is an organisation of people. Not of sectors or groups or
>>> parties. Of course people belong to categories and this tend to
>>> influence the way they see the world. For this reason people tend to
>>> contribute to the community for their competence and interest within
>>> committees or working groups. It is not the mandate of OSGeo making
>>> lobbies or acquire mandates. To me OSGeo should get together great
>>> projects and people to offer the world the possibility of advance and
>>> improve the life of people. I know It is a bit exaggerated but when i
>>> think of open source i see it as a mean of equity: like making
>>> accessible food and sanitation and drinking water and medicine to
>>> everyone in the world. Making tools for a better governance available
>>> to all.
>>> OSGeo is about mutually sharing experiences, ideas, solutions not
>>> building business. For this LocationTech which is a community of
>>> companies / entities I understood is more suited.
>>> So my vision is OSGeo focused on people not on companies or groups.
>>> Splitting the community is not an advancement but a loss of value.
>>> This is the momentum. Here i have always get inspiration from
>>> listening talks, discussing with people, talking with friends. It used
>>> to be a very inclusive event: the peak of the FOSS4G iceberg. Im
>>> saying "it use to be" because prices are year by year growing so much
>>> that today they represent a barrier. I would have liked to came with 5
>>> people from my group but this is simply not economically sustainable:
>>> as a result the younger will lose this opportunity to join the
>>> community and breath the breeze of Open innovation. If i compare
>>> FOSS4G prices (rate per day) with other comparable events they are
>>> higher. I personally dont need fancy locations and I am more
>>> interested in involving more people rather then having high revenue
>>> for the foundation. I want to meet students, people from low income
>>> countries, small companies, start-up. Lets find a way to be Open..
>>> -- 
>>> -- 
>>> Dr. Eng. Massimiliano Cannata
>>> Responsabile Area Geomatica
>>> Istituto Scienze della Terra
>>> Scuola Universitaria Professionale della Svizzera Italiana
>>> Via Trevano, c.p. 72
>>> CH-6952 Canobbio-Lugano
>>> Tel: +41 (0)58 666 62 14
>>> Fax +41 (0)58 666 62 09
>>> Links:
>>> ------
>>> [1] mailto:conference_dev-owner at lists.osgeo.org
>>> [2] mailto:massimiliano.cannata at supsi.ch
>>> [3] mailto:conference_dev-owner at lists.osgeo.org
>>> [4] mailto:massimiliano.cannata at supsi.ch
>>> [5] mailto:board at lists.osgeo.org
>>> [6] mailto:discuss at lists.osgeo.org
>>> [7] mailto:incubator at lists.osgeo.org
>>> [8] mailto:conference_dev at lists.osgeo.org
>>> [9] mailto:conference_dev at lists.osgeo.org
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