[OSGeo-Discuss] [OSGeo-Conf] FOSS4G

Johan Van de Wauw johan.vandewauw at gmail.com
Sun May 22 11:52:35 PDT 2016

On Thu, May 12, 2016 at 11:56 PM, 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.

Hello Jonathan,

I want to comment as I have been involved in several editions of
FOSDEM and other conferences.
You certainly can not copy the model of FOSDEM easily to FOSS4G or any
other conference.

FOSDEM has a much broader focus and as a result more potential
sponsors. As the largest Open Source conference in Europe it gets a
lot of sponsorship (the winner takes it all applies here). To give you
an idea, speakers in the 3 main tracks can apply for travel costs.
Nevertheless there are still a lot of costs made (network, security,
cleaning (the toilets of ULB seem to be cleaned only during FOSDEM),
video, ...). Anyway, finding a different location to host it even with
the same budget is nearly impossible. One of the reasons it could grow
so large is because it was organised every year at the same place,
which also leads to confidence between the university and the

Some of the other reasons that FOSDEM can be organised for free may
nevertheless apply to FOSS4G:
1) It is held in a weekend. This makes universities as a location
possible. This also means that you may still find volunteers to eg
help with catering. During a working week this is much harder.
Additionaly, there are only two days, so less places to fill with
2) There is a large crew of volunteers at FOSDEM. Not just the people
who actually organise the event, but volunteers are people helping out
with setting up, staffing booths, cloackroom, ... for a number of
hours during the event.
3) Food. Food is not supplied by the organisation. There is a (large)
number of foodtrucks. Sandwiches and pastry are sold at the cafetaria
(outsourced to a student union - which knows what to expect from
previous years).

Anyway, OpenStreetMap is hosting state of the map this year in
Brussels. They were not able to get the premises of the ULB (which
FOSDEM uses) but they could reach an agreement with another university
(VUB, which is not the same one). They have a system with two ticket
prices: 75 euro (early bird rate) for "community members" and a
regular ticket of 180 euro (early bird, ending today - grab one if you
intend to go!). Perhaps this is something to conside? A "regular
ticket" perhaps including vouchers for lunch etc and a 'starving
hacker' ticket. So people who come to FOSS4G professionaly choose the
regular ticket and sponsor the community members?

I should note that 75 euro still is a threshold even for some of the
Belgian contributors of OpenStreetMap to join, something to consider
in a world where hourly rates often exceed that.

Kind Regards,

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