Desktop Summit t-shirt design contest

freesoftware, gnome, guadec 1 Comment

The closing date for the Desktop Summit t-shirt design contest is coming up fast!

I have not heard much about it, so it seems like we need to get the word out about it. You can submit a t-shirt design by email to ds-team@desktopsummit.orgin SVG format, and the winner will get printed on the official conference t-shirt this year. It’s a great honour and ego boost to see your design up there on the conference t-shirt, and as this year is a joint conference with KDE targeting the free software desktop as a whole, there will be added significance.

If you know of any artists & designers who might be interested in submitting a design, please pass this news along – they have only a few days left to make a submission.

Getting people together

community, freesoftware, gimp, gnome, guadec, libre graphics meeting, maemo, openwengo 3 Comments

One of the most important things you can do in a free software project, besides writing code, is to get your key contributors together as often as possible.

I’ve been fortunate to be able to organise a number of events in the past 10 years, and also to observe others and learn from them over that time. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned over the years from that experience:

Venue

The starting point for most meetings or conferences is the venue. If you’re getting a small group (under 10 people) together, then it is usually OK just to pick a city, and ask a friend who runs a business or is a college professor to book a room for you. Or use a co-working space. Or hang out in someone’s house, and camp in the garden. Once you get bigger, you may need to go through a more formal process.

If you’re not careful, the venue will be a huge expense, and you’ll have to find that money somewhere. But if you are smart, you can manage a free venue quite easily.

Here are a few strategies you might want to try:

  • Piggy-back on another event – the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit, OSCON, LinuxTag, GUADEC and many other conferences are happy to host workshops or meet-ups for smaller groups. The GIMP Developers Conference in 2004 was the first meet-up that I organised, and to avoid the hassle of dealing with a venue, finding a time that suited everyone, and so on, I asked the GNOME Foundation if they wouldn’t mind setting aside some space for us at GUADEC – and they said yes.Take advantage of the bigger conference’s organisation, and you get the added benefit of attending the bigger conference at the same time!
  • Ask local universities for free rooms – This won’t work once you go over a certain size, but especially for universities which have academics who are members of the local LUG, they can talk their department head into booking a lecture theatre & a few classrooms for a weekend. Many universities will ask to do a press release and get credit on the conference web-site, and this is a completely fair deal.The first Libre Graphics Meeting was hosted free in CPE Lyon, and the GNOME Boston Summit has been hosted free for a number of years in MIT.
  • If the venue can’t be free, see if you can get someone else to pay for it – Once your conference is bigger than about 200 people, most venues will require payment. Hosting a conference will cost them a lot, and it’s a big part of the business model of universities to host conferences when the students are gone. But just because the university or conference center won’t host you for free doesn’t mean that you have to be the one paying.

    Local regional governments like to be involved with big events in their region. GUADEC in Stuttgart, the Gran Canaria Desktop Summit, and this year’s Desktop Summit in Berlin have all had the cost of the venue covered by the host region. An additional benefit of partnering with the region is that they will often have links to local industry and press – resources you can use to get publicity and perhaps even sponsorship for your conference.

  • Run a bidding process – by encouraging groups wishing to host the conference to put in bids, you are also encouraging them to source a venue and talk to local partners before you decide where to go. You are also putting cities in competition with each other, and like olympic bids, cities don’t like to lose competitions they’re in!

Budget

Conferences cost money. Major costs for a small meet-up might be
covering the travel costs of attendees. For a larger conference, the
major costs will be equipment, staff and venue.

Every time I have been raising the budget for a conference, my rule of
thumb has been simple:

  1. Decide how much money you need to put on the event
  2. Fundraise until you reach that amount
  3. Stop fundraising, and move on to other things.

Raising money is a tricky thing to do. You can literally spend all of
your time doing it. At the end of the day, you have a conference to put
on, and the amount of money in the budget is not the major concern of
your attendees.

Remember, your primary goal is to get project participants together to
advance the project. So getting the word out to prospective attendees,
organising accommodation, venue, talks, food and drinks, social
activities and everything else people expect at an event is more
important than raising money.

Of course, you need money to be able to do all the rest of that stuff,
so finding sponsors, fixing sponsorship levels, and selling your
conference is a necessary evil. But once you have reached the amount of
money you need for the conference, you really do have better things to
do with your time.

There are a few potential sources of funds to put on a conference – I
recommend a mix of all of these as the best way to raise your budget.

  • Attendees – While this is a controversial topic among many communities, I think it is completely valid to ask attendees to contribute something to the costs of the conference. Attendees benefit from the facilities, the social events, and gain value from the conference.Some communities consider attendance at their annual event as a kind of reward for services rendered, or an incitement to do good work in the coming year, but I don’t think that’s a healthy way to look at it.

    There are a few ways for conference attendees to fund the running of the conference:

    1. Registration fees – This is the most common way to get money from conference attendees. Most community conferences ask for a token amount of fees. I’ve seen conferences ask for an entrance fee of €20 to €50, and most people have not had a problem paying this.

      A pre-paid fee also has an additional benefit of massively reducing no-shows among locals. People place more value on attending an event that costs them €10 than one where they can get in for free, even if the content is the same.

    2. Donations – very successfully employed by FOSDEM. Attendees are offered an array of goodies, provided by sponsors (books, magazine subscriptions, t-shirts) in return for a donation. But those who want can attend for free.
    3. Selling merchandising – Perhaps your community would be happier hosting a free conference, and selling plush toys, t-shirts, hoodies, mugs and other merchandising to make some money. Beware: in my experience you can expect less from profits from merchandising sales than you would get giving a free t-shirt to each attendee with a registration fee.
  • Sponsors – Media publications will typically agree to “press sponsorship” – providing free ads for your conference in their print magazine or website. If your conference is a registered non-profit which can accept tax-deductible donations, offer press sponsors the chance to invoice you for the services and then make a separate sponsorship grant to cover the bill. The end result for you is identical, but it will allow the publication to write off the space they donate to you for tax.

    What you really want, though, are cash sponsorships. As the number of free software projects and conferences has multiplied, the competition for sponsorship dollars has really heated up in recent years. To maximise your chances of making your budget target, there are a few things you can do.

    1. Conference brochure – Think of your conference as a product you’re selling. What does it stand for, how much attention does it get, how important is it to you, to your members, to the industry and beyond? What is the value proposition for the sponsor?

      You can sell a sponsorship package on three or four different grounds: perhaps conference attendees are a high-value target audience for the sponsor, perhaps (especially for smaller conferences) the attendees aren’t what’s important, it’s the attention that the conference will get in the international press, or perhaps you are pitching to the company that the conference is improving a piece of software that they depend on.

      Depending on the positioning of the conference, you can then make a list of potential sponsors. You should have a sponsorship brochure that you can send them, which will contain a description of the conference, a sales pitch explaining why it’s interesting for the company to sponsor it, potentially press clippings or quotes from past attendees saying how great the conference is, and finally the amount of money you’re looking for.

    2. Sponsorship levels – These should be fixed based on the amount of money you want to raise. You should figure on your biggest sponsor providing somewhere between 30% and 40% of your total conference budget for a smaller conference. If you’re lucky, and your conference gets a lot of sponsors, that might be as low as 20%. Figure on a third as a ball-park figure. That means if you’ve decided that you need €60,000 then you should set your cornerstone sponsor level at €20,000, and all the other levels in consequence (say, €12,000 for the second level and €6,000 for third level).

      For smaller conferences and meet-ups, the fundraising process might be slightly more informal, but you should still think of the entire process as a sales pitch.

    3. Calendar – Most companies have either a yearly or half-yearly budget cycle. If you get your submission into the right person at the right time, then you could potentially have a much easier conversation. The best time to submit proposals for sponsorship of a conference in the Summer is around October or November of the year before, when companies are finalising their annual budget.

      If you miss this window, all is not lost, but any sponsorship you get will be coming out of discretionary budgets, which tend to get spread quite thin, and are guarded preciously by their owners. Alternatively, you might get a commitment to sponsor your July conference in May, at the end of the first half budget process – which is quite late in the day.

    4. Approaching the right people – I’m not going to teach anyone sales, but my personal secret to dealing with big organisations is to make friends with people inside the organisations, and try to get a feel for where the budget might come from for my event. Your friend will probably not be the person controlling the budget, but getting him or her on board is your opportunity to have an advocate inside the organisation, working to put your proposal in front of the eyes of the person who owns the budget.

      Big organisations can be a hard nut to crack, but free software projects often have friends in high places. If you have seen the CTO or CEO of a Fortune 500 company talk about your project in a news article, don’t hesitate to drop him a line mentioning that, and when the time comes to fund that conference, a personal note asking who the best person to talk to will work wonders. Remember, your goal is not to sell to your personal contact, it is to turn her into an advocate to your cause inside the organisation, and create the opportunity to sell the conference to the budget owner later.

    Also, remember when you’re selling sponsorship packages that everything which costs you money could potentially be part of a sponsorship package. Some companies will offer lanyards for attendees, or offer to pay for a coffee break, or ice-cream in the afternoon, or a social event. These are potentially valuable sponsorship opportunities and you should be clear in your brochure about everything that’s happening, and spec out a provisional budget for each of these events when you’re drafting your budget.

Content

Conference content is the most important thing about a conference. Different events handle content differently – some events invite a large proportion of their speakers, while others like GUADEC and OSCON invite proposals and choose talks to fill the spots.

The strategy you choose will depend largely on the nature of the event. If it’s an event in its 10th year with an ever increasing number of attendees, then a call for papers is great. If you’re in your first year, and people really don’t know what to make of the event, then setting the tone by inviting a number of speakers will do a great job of helping people know what you’re aiming for.

For Ignite Lyon last year, I invited about 40% of the speakers for the first night (and often had to hassle them to put in a submission, and the remaining 60% came through a submission form. For the first Libre Graphics Meeting, apart from lightning talks, I think that I contacted every speaker except 2 first. Now that the event is in its 6th year, there is a call for proposals process which works quite well.

Schedule

Avoiding putting talks in parallel which will appeal to the same people is hard. Every single conference, you hear from people who wanted to attend talks which were on at the same time on similar topics.

My solution to conference scheduling is very low-tech, but works for me. Coloured post-its, with a different colour for each theme, and an empty talks grid, do the job fine. Write the talk titles one per post-it, add any constraints you have for the speaker, and then fill in the grid.

Taking scheduling off the computer and into real life makes it really easy to see when you have clashes, to swap talks as often as you like, and then to commit it to a web page when you’re happy with it.

I used this technique successfully for GUADEC 2006, and Ross Burton re-used it in 2007.

Parties

Parties are a trade-off. You want everyone to have fun, and hanging out is a huge part of attending a conference. But morning attendance suffers after a party. Pity the poor community member who has to drag himself out of bed after 3 hours sleep to go and talk to 4 people at 9am after the party.

Some conferences have too many parties. It’s great to have the opportunity to get drunk with friends every night. But it’s not great to actually get drunk with friends every night. Remember the goal of the conference: you want to encourage the advancement of your project.

I encourage one biggish party, and one other smallish party, over the course of the week. Outside of that, people will still get together, and have a good time, but it’ll be on their dime, and that will keep everyone reasonable.

With a little imagination, you can come up with events that don’t involved loud music and alcohol. Other types of social event can work just as well, and be even more fun.

At GUADEC we have had a football tournament for the last number of years. During the OpenWengo Summit in 2007, we brought people on a boat ride on the Seine and we went on a classic 19th century merry-go-round afterwards. Getting people eating together is another great way to create closer ties – I have very fond memories of group dinners at a number of conferences. At the annual KDE conference Akademy, there is typically a Big Day Out, where people get together for a picnic, some light outdoors activity, a boat ride, some sightseeing or something similar.

Extra costs

Watch out for those unforeseen costs! One conference I was involved in, where the venue was “100% sponsored” left us with a €20,000 bill for labour and equipment costs. Yes, the venue had been sponsored, but setting up tables and chairs, and equipment rental of whiteboards, overhead projectors and so on, had not. At the end of the day, I estimate that we used about 60% of the equipment we paid for.

Conference venues are hugely expensive for everything they provide. Coffee breaks can cost up to $10 per person for a coffee & a few biscuits, bottled water for speakers costs $5 per bottle, and so on.  Rental of an overhead projector and mics for one room for one day can cost €300 or more, depending on whether the venue insists that equipment be operated by their a/v guy or not.

When you’re dealing with a commercial venue, be clear up-front about what you’re paying for.

On-site details

I like conferences that take care of the little details. As a speaker, I like it when someone contacts me before the conference and says they’ll be presenting me, what would I like them to say? It’s reassuring to know that when I arrive there will be a hands-free mic and someone who can help fit it.

Taking care of all of these details needs a gaggle of volunteers, and it needs someone organising them beforehand and during the event. Spend a lot of time talking to the local staff, especially the audio/visual engineers.

In one conference, the a/v guy would switch manually to a screen-saver at the end of a presentation. We had a comical situation during a lightning talk session where after the first speaker, I switched presentations, and while the next presentation showed up on my laptop, we still had the screensaver on the big screen. No-one had talked to the A/V engineer to explain to him the format of the presentation!

So we ended up with 4 Linux engineers looking at the laptop, checking connections and running various Xrandr incantations, trying to get the overhead projector working again! We eventually changed laptops, and the a/v engineer realised what the session was, and all went well after that – most of the people involved ended up blaming my laptop.

Have fun!

Running a conference, or even a smaller meet-up, is time consuming, and consists of a lot of detail work, much of which will never be noticed by attendees. I haven’t even dealt with things like banners and posters, graphic design, dealing with the press, or any of the other joys that come from organising a conference.

The end result is massively rewarding, though. A study I did last year of the GNOME project showed that there is a massive project-wide boost in productivity just after our annual conference, and many of our community members cite the conference as the high point of their year.

GNOME Census report released

community, freesoftware, gnome, guadec, work 8 Comments

I was delighted to see that the GNOME Census presentation I gave yesterday at GUADEC has gotten a lot of attention. And I’m pleased to announce a change of plan from what I presented yesterday: The report is now available under a Creative Commons license.

Why the change of heart? My intention was never to make a fortune with the report, my main priority was covering my costs and time spent. And after 24 hours, I’ve achieved that. I have had several press requests for the full report, and requests from clients to be allowed to use the report both with press and with their clients.

This solution is the best for all involved, I think – I have covered my costs, the community (and everyone else) gets their hands on the report with analysis as soon as possible, and my clients are happy to have the report available under a license which allows them to use it freely.

You can download the full report now for free.

GNOME Developer Training in danger

gnome, guadec, work 14 Comments

The take-up on the GNOME Developer Training sessions at GUADEC (pdf brochure) has been below expectations. Without going into the details, we’re in a situation where running the training would cost the foundation and the organisers more money than canceling.

If we have not had a number of people sign up for the training by Wednesday evening, we will unfortunately be in the situation where we will have to cancel the session. The GUADEC organisers sign the final contracts with the university for room reservations on July 1st, and that will increase our costs substantially, so that is our deadline for viability.

I hesitated for a long time before writing this blog. It’s never nice to have to admit that something you thought was a good idea, that you put together and made a reality, might not work out.

Many people have, over the years, said that the lack of training options was a major flaw with GNOME. With this training offering, we gave people what they were asking for, with a two day training course plus the flagship GNOME conference for less than you would pay to attend another technical conference. If we cancel this training session, there will likely not be another. The credibility of the foundation (and, I suppose, my credibility) will take a hit.

I decided to let people know in advance that the session is likely to be canceled, to have a chance to stop that from happening. I have confidence that the GNOME community can come to the rescue here, in some sense.

I am sure that there is interest out there. Perhaps people have not yet gotten budget commitments to send developers along, but that they’re still working on it. Perhaps there are people who really should know about the training who don’t yet, because I haven’t managed to get in touch with them. Perhaps a couple of people were planning on signing up, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

If you are in one of these categories, please get in contact with me soon. If you know someone who would benefit from the training, please let them know, and point them to the brochure and web page. If I have a relatively small number of commitments to attend by Thursday, the training will go ahead.

Thanks everyone for your help and support – I will keep you posted to any new developments.

GNOME Developer Training at GUADEC

community, freesoftware, gnome, guadec, maemo, work 2 Comments

I’m delighted to announce the availability of GNOME Developer Training at GUADEC this year. It’s been brewing for a while, but you can now register for the training sessions on the GUADEC website.

Fernando Herrera, Claudio Saavedra, Alberto Garcia and myself will be running the two-day course, covering the basics of a Linux development environment and developer tools, the GNOME stack, including freedesktop.org components, and the social aspects of working with a free software project, being a good community citizen, getting your code upstream, and gaining influence in projects you work with.

The developer tools section will go beyond getting you compiling the software to also present mobile development environments, and the tools you can use to profile your apps, or diagnose I/O or memory issues, dealing with the vast majority of performance issues developers encounter.

This is the first time I have seen a training course which treats the soft science of working with free software communities, and given the number of times that people working in companies have told me that they need help in this area, I believe that this is satisfying a real need.

We are keeping the numbers down to ensure that the highest quality training & individual attention is provided – only 20 places are available. The pricing for the training course is very competitive for this type of course – €1500 per person, including training, meals and printed training materials, and a professional registration to GUADEC, worth €250.

If you register before June 15th, you can even get an additional discount – the early bird registration price is only €1200 per person.

I’m really excited about this, and I hope others will be too. This is the first time that we will have done training like this in conjunction with GUADEC, and I really hope that this will bring some new developers to the conference for the week, as well as being a valuable addition to the GUADEC event.

The GNOME Census project

community, freesoftware, gnome, guadec 9 Comments

I’ve been working on a project for the past few weeks, and it’s time to take the wraps off.

For as long as I’ve been involved in GNOME, we have been asked the same questions over and over again: How many GNOME developers are there? Which companies invest in GNOME, and how much? Where can I go for professional GNOME development services? And for as long as I’ve been involved in GNOME, the best answer that we can give is pretty hand-wavey – we talk about hundreds of developers, thousands of contributors, the advisory board, an ecosystem of expert independent companies, but we never do get around to putting meat on the bones.

I decided that we should do something about that, and so for the past few weeks, an intern called Vanessa has been working to help me dissect the underbelly of the GNOME project.

What is the GNOME Census?

We’re aiming to answer three questions as completely as we can:

  • Who develops GNOME, and what do they work on? What does the GNOME developer community look like? How many GNOME developers are there?And how many contributors doing things other than development?
  • What companies are investing in GNOME, and how? Are there modules where companies are co-operating, or have contributing companies been concentrating on disjoint parts of the project?
  • Finally, if you’re a company looking for expert developers for custom GNOME development, where should you go? What does the commercial ecosystem around the GNOME project look like?

We’ve been using tools like gitdm, cvsanaly and artichow to get some nice quantitative data on modules in GNOME git and freedesktop.org repositories. We will be running a survey of GNOME developers, and doing one-on-one interviews with key people in the GNOME commercial ecosystem to go beyond the figures and get some qualitative information about future plans and priorities as well.

So why take on the project?

Well, it seemed like fun. Answering interesting questions is always challenging and interesting. And it also seemed useful – if people are always asking for this information, there must be a reason they want to know, right?

Financially, this is an investment. I am paying Vanessa to help with the study, and it is taking a lot of my time. I initially looked for a sponsor for the project, but reaction was tepid, no-one wanted to bear the full cost of the report, but everyone I spoke to agreed that it would be useful and they would definitely like to have a copy when it got done. So I hit on the following idea for funding the project:

When the report is eventually available, I will be selling some copies to recoup costs. When I have sold a sufficient number to cover the cost of the project, I plan to release the report under a Creative Commons license. Those who are eager to get the results and information sooner rather than later will subsidise the availability of the report for everyone. I have submitted a proposal for GUADEC to present the conclusions of the report, and I anticipate that it will be available under a free licence by then.

Who’s the target audience?

ISVs are interested in knowing how active projects are before committing resources. The GNOME Census will help reduce the uncertainty when choosing GNOME as a platform. GNOME distributors will be able to leverage this report to show the vibrancy, size, activity and commercial ecosystem around the GNOME platform. For companies who have been long-time investors in GNOME’s success, the census will give them well-deserved recognition, especially in areas where that investment has not been very end-user visible, but has had a huge effect on the quality of the user experience. Finally, for companies building software platforms on top of GNOME, and for companies in the GNOME commercial ecosystem, this report will allow swift identification of service providers with a high credibility level through their involvement in GNOME and the core developers who are working for them.

So what now?

We will be launching a survey this week asking GNOME developers who they work for, and whether they have worked for other companies previously – because of the widespread use of gnome.org email addresses in GNOME, unfortunately it has not always been easy to identify companies behind the people. We also want qualitative information on projects you work on, whether you work on GNOME in your free time, and more. We are be breaking down GNOME development by core platform, external dependencies, GNOME desktop, GNOME hosted applications and other GNOME applications. Vanessa will be sending out a very short survey to everyone who has committed to GNOME, and we need your help to make the census as useful as possible to the GNOME project.

Thanks for your help!

GUADEC Call for participation deadline – arriving fast!

community, freesoftware, gnome, guadec, maemo 1 Comment

I just realised this morning that after a very long call for participation period, we’re now in the last week before the call for participation deadline for GUADEC – you should have proposals in by 23:59 UTC on March 20th to be eligible for selection (although a little birdie tells me that might get extended to the end of the weekend). Of course, I knew that the deadline was sometime in the end of March, but I didn’t realise that we’d gotten so far through the calendar!

So get your proposals in about all things GNOME, GNOME 3, GNOME Mobile, usability, accessibility, webability, open data, free services, scaling the community, developer tools, whatever – but get them in quick. It’s better to get a poor proposal in now & improve it next week than wait until next week to polish what you have now.

For guidelines on a good talk proposal, I really like the OSCON guidelines as a list of good dos & don’ts for conference proposals – in general, make the proposal (and your presentation, if accepted) not about you or your project, but about your audience and what they can do with your project – so clearly identify the target audience & why they would attend, and make the title short & action-based, rather than vague, weird or overly clever.

Good luck to teuf and his merry band evaluating all the proposals!

GCDS round-up 6: The tail-off

community, freesoftware, gnome, guadec Comments Off

The last in the series!

After Mobile Day on Wednesday, I chilled out on Thursday morning, and attended the GNOME Foundation AGM where I gave a quick report on GNOME Mobile, before heading off to play in the fourth annual FreeFA world cup, with the mad dogs and Englishmen who went out in the midday Gran Canaria sun to play football for 2 hours.

As is usual, the team I played on won and the team that Bastien played on lost :-) After the match, though, I let Bastien in on my secret: always play with the team with the most local guys. Why? Because the people from the local team who take time off to go play in the patch usually play regularly. The rule has never let me down :)

Another highlight of the match was Diego, ending the match without breaking a sweat, finally broke a sweat just as we were taking the group photo at the end.

Thursday evening, met up with Federico Mena, and Jonathan and Rosanna Blandford for a very interesting hippie BOF, with conversation varying across a bunch of subjects, including compost heaps, growing trees and herbs, architecture pattern languages, cultural variations in building design, and more. On to dinner, and home to the hotel early, ready for the cycling trip on Friday.

Up early on Friday, down to breakfast, no sign of Aaron or J5 yet, so I start eating without them, and go get started with the bike. Turns out we were sitting in different parts of the lobby in the Fataga.

Armed with bikes, we set off around 9:30 to get to Arucas, on our way to Teror. We made pretty good going of it along the waterfront, and after taking it fairly easy on the edge of the motorway (surprising that we could cycle there actually, but apparently that’s the only way to get where we were going) along the coastloine, we finally came to the intersection for Arucas. John was starting to find the going a little tough already, but nothing had prepared us for what was next.

The nice straight GC-20, from the coast to Arucas, was steep, much steeper than I had expected (if I had to guess, I’d say an average of around 8% with some bits around 10%). It was a struggle, but we got to the top, before a nice long downhill stretch to come into Arucas, after which we all needed a water stop. We agreed that the goal of Teror (600m higher and 15km further on) was probably not realistic, so we decided to cut across on the GC 300 to Tamaraceite, grabbing lunch in the first village we came to on the road.

And so we set out after a nice long break & a walk around the “cathedral” in Arucas, the town gardens and the main shopping district (with a detour by a farm supplies store) for what we thought would be a nice light 20 minute cycle to the next town over. No such luck.

After climbing a nice hill straight out of Arucas, we had our reward – a really nice winding fast descent towards Tenoya. But when we got up to the village of Tenoya, we couldn’t find a restaurant anywhere. Eventually a nice old man pointed us towards “la cantina”, which turned out to be a bar with some very nice young men standing outside calling us crazy. So we decided to go to the next village over.

Through a road tunnel – watch out for the oncoming cars! Traffic lights don’t know about bikes going through and we didn’t have lights. then we got to a sort of service station with a promising sign: “Supermarket in Las Mesas: 500m”. If you ever come across that sign, don’t believe it. Between us and lunch was a killer hill and 2km of dusty road.

We settled in to la Cantina to weather the hottest part of the day, had some nice lunch (food always tastes better after physical effort) and set off again to get back to Gran Canaria. Getting around Tamaraceite was a bit tricky, we took one or two wrong turns before finding the nice small back road to get us on the right track. Then one last killer hill, up the Cuesta Blanca to the major shopping district, and then downhill all the way through the roundabouts, right down to the hospital near the golf club, and home.

It was a great ride, lots of fun, and I’m happy I made time for it. Aaron & John were great partners.

After that, packed my bags, out for dinner with Lefty, home to bed quite early, and up with the birds for an early flight, when I got to run into lots of GCDS attendees in the airport – a nice breakfast with Guy Lunardi, Jonathan & Zana and Owen Taylor (IIRC), and I was off on my plane once more. Homeward bound, for a few days, before heading off to OSCON and the Community Leadership Summit.

GCDS round-up 5: Mobile Day

community, gimp, gnome, guadec, maemo 5 Comments

Nearing the end of the series on the Gran Canaria Desktop Summit.

On Wednesday morning (after SMASHED), we had to get to the new location for the conference. I missed the bus window of 8am to 9am, so I took a taxi, without knowing the address of where we were going, other than knowing that it was the “Gran Canaria university, informatics building”. Turns out that’s not enough information for a taxi driver :) Anyway, got there eventually, late for the opening session, and a little more expensive than expected. I also lost some change down the back of the bucket seat, so he even got a tip.

Anyway, the rest of the day went pretty well, and we had some great mobile related presentations (to compliment all of the other mobile related content in the conference):

  • Multimedia in your pocket, by Stefan Kost: Nice presentation on using MAFW to build complex multimedia applications
  • Designing Moblin-Netbook. A free desktop on a 7-10″ Screen, by Nick Richards: Great overview of the Moblin platform, and the design principles guiding it – from design requirements, personas, and dealing with constraints.
  • Hildon desktop in Maemo 5 by Kimmo Hämäläinen: An overview of the Hildon desktop on a whiteboard by Kimmo.
  • MAFW: the Media Application Framework for Maemo by Iago Toral: Drilling down into the details of MAFW.
  • Why its easier to re-invent rather than participate on the mobile? by Shreyas Srinivasan: My favourite presentation of the day. Shreyas laid out what he had expectied from GNOME Mobile, the problems he encountered, his understanding of the issues, and some proposed solutions to those problems. All in 15 minutes. I really appreciate people who don’t pad out the content that they have to present and instead focus on making a high-impact presentation.
  • GNOME Mobile BOF, led by myself: We talked about how far we’ve come, the original goals of the initiative, and identified a bunch of things that we can improve short-term and medium-term.

Had a great dinner again on Wednesday, in a tapas bar with some Red Hatters and Michael Meeks, and then on to the party. Wednesday night was the golf club party, sponsored by Collabora, with a free bar until 1 (of which I mostly did not avail – I was being good), and I was in bed by 2. It was a great party, and I picked up another couple of cyclists for the outing I had been planning for Friday, before they wimped out on me.

GCDS round-up 4: Days 2 – 4

General, gnome, guadec, maemo 2 Comments

Sunday, Monday and Tuesday were the “core” days of the Gran Canaria Desktop Summit, with cross-desktop and KDE & GNOME specific presentations throughout. I caught a number of presentations, but mostly I was chatting in the hallway track, or doing work on the schedule, or actually working.

For me, the story of the 3 days was “parties”. I missed the early sessions on Sunday and Monday to get breakfast at 10am, after the parties hosted by Nokia (Sunday night) and Igalia (Monday night) – I was relieved that there was no party planned on Tuesday night, my 35 year old body couldn’t stand the pace! Great parties, not marred by excessive boozing mostly, and some great chats, notably with jrb, and Adam Dingle and Jim Nelson from Yorba, makers of Shotwell, a Vala photo manager with some really nice features and plans. And some great discussions with Michael Meeks and Matthew Garrett on the fouton during the Igalia party, with Federico Mena Quintero on architecture design patterns, and Jorge Castro on dinosaurs. I also got to meet Joaquim from Igalia, the Macacque band were great, but I’m sure that a hoarse Lefty regretted sweet home chicago and smoke on the water the day after.

I did get to some presentations though (here with a one line summary):

  • Power management by Matthew Garrett: “Power management isn’t doing the same amount of work, slower. Do less work, or you’re killing polar bears.”
  • ConnMan by Not Marcel Holtmann (Joshua Lock from Intel gave the talk in the end – thanks Emmanuele!): “ConnMan solves some problems for Moblin that NetworkManager wasn’t designed to solve.” (I think).
  • Bluetooth on Linux by Bastien Nocera: “It mostly works now”
  • Introduction to GNOME Shell, by Owen Taylor: “It’s pretty cool stuff already”
  • GNOME Zeitgeist, by Thorsten, Seif and Federico: “We record what you’re doing”
  • Communicating design in development, by Celeste Lyn Paul: “Keep it simple until they get the design principle, excessive realism too early just makes the discussion about the details”. Unfortunately, I don’t see a video available, highly recommended viewing if there was one.
  • GNOME 3.0: A live circus^Wstatus update, by Vincent Untz et al: “It’s not just GTK+, Zeitgeist and GNOME Shell”
  • GNOME 1,2,3, by Fernando Herrera and Xan Lopez: “A history of GNOME with thanks to YouTube” (my favourite presentation of the conference)
  • Personal Passion lightning talks, by Aaron Bockover: “We’re not just Free Software hackers!” This was absolutely my second favourite session of the conference. We got a 10 minute overview of the burnout cycle from Jono Bacon, underlining how important it is to have a life outside of software, and heard from people whose passion was running (complete with a soundtrack of me finishing a marathon), airplanes, motorcycling, cooking, bacon, dinosaurs, Aikido, buddhism and calligraphy, trekking in Argentina, and also a couple of geeky ones on icon design and scheme (which was very enjoyable indeed, thanks Andy!)

Update: Memory playing tricks with me – for of course, Tuesday evening was the highly anticipated meeting of SMASHED. We finally met at the Mare Baja again, where the opening night party was held, and enjoyed a bunch of tapas courtesy of CodeThink, before scoffing down some great whisk[e]y, including (from memory) a 21yo Highland Park, a nice 16yo Longmorn, a very lod bottle of Oude Ginever from Lefty, an old standard Connemara single malt, and a Yamazaki 10yo I brought.

SMASHED 2009 in Gran Canaria

SMASHED 2009 in Gran Canaria

Festivities carried on until after 1pm, when I left with Andrew Savory and someone else (whose name I don’t recall), and Behdad got in an unprovoked fight with the footpath on the way back to the hotel – it came right up and hit him in the face. Some nice KDE people took him to the hospital to get sewn up – luckily the group photos had been taken earlier in the day.

Got back to the hotel around 2, and tried to catch up on some of that beauty sleep before Mobile Day on Wednesday in the new conference location in the university.

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