Musings on the West Coast Hackfest

The idea of a west coast hackfest came out of a failed attempt to have the Montréal/Boston Summit in Portland.  Initially, we had decided to have it in Portland, but due to timing and the lack of availability of a decent venue made things harder.

When Endless Mobile offered their office as a venue, we moved the event to San Francisco and then made it the week before the Red Hat Summit allowing most of the Red Hat crowd to show up.  With Tiffany Yau, Christian Hegert it was such a pleasure to put together this hackfest and make it a reality from conception to implementation.  I think we all had a great time and we were able to move the platform forward.

One thing we wanted to do different from the other hackfest and GUADEC is to turn this into something more public facing.  We want to be more inclusive and invite the general public, invite potential parterns and customers.  I wasn’t quite successful in this.  I came into the realization that to build the brand amongst startups and potential partners, we would have to build up a contact list, a rolodex that we should have a continuous contact with in order to really be able to have the ability to bring people to events.  So one task is to start building up that contact list, and start working on making connections so that we can start making the next hackfesst and hopefully a sister conference that is more outward facing so ewe can expose the project to those who actually use our software.

My failure to bring in externals wasn’t a complete failiure, we did have great participation from Yorba and ElementaryOS.  In fact, their input was very valuable in identifying barriers of working on GNOME software and working with the community.  As Matthias mentioned in his blog, working with Daniel Foré we were able to help solve some of their issues as well possibly solving some of us are.  We look forward to working more with Elementary OS in the future.  I have encouraged the Elementary OS community to present at GUADEC and be part of our community.  I have plans to extend this to other GTK+ based desktops like XFCE and Numix.  There is a recognition that our diversity is our strength and we should be more aggressive about reaching out.  Particularly, Elemntary OS seem to have a similar goals as us minus the shell and several of us have remarked how beautiful the desktop looks.  Morever, they are a complete OS from top to bottom.  Wehile we’ve talked about GNOME OS, Elementary OS is already there.

We made a great impression on the Endless Mobile folks, who all told me how excited they were to have all of us there and as one person said “I can finally get my GTK+ patch accepted!”  Lots of discussions with everyone there and of course again, so nice of them to offer their space and their hospitality.  Big thanks to Nuritzi Sanchez and Matt Dalio for making us feel welcome and providing us witih gift bags with chocolates, energy drinks and trinkets!

Germán Poo-Caamaño and I had a hangout with Diego who was unable to come but we all talked about our website and hopefully being able to better capture our mission better than the current iteration.  We will continue that discussion with the engagement team and find better ways to attract people.  After all, if you’re going to work out a method to reach out to someone, you will also need to have the infrastructure for them to be actual useful.

The events were a big hit.  Huge thanks to Christian Hergert for setting up the community dinner.  Big thanks to Tiffany for setting up visiting Noisebridge and the event at Zeitgeist.  Cosimo also gets thanks for buying the first round! 🙂 The noisebridge event was a lot of fun, and great exposure to the maker community.  We share a lot of values, and I had some great discussions with the people there.  It does underscore that the fact that we really need a nice way to setup GNOME with all the development tools.  Colin Walters actually had some nice thought about this in regards to GNOME Continuous.  We should be able to have our cake and eat it too!

Overall, it’s been a great experience.  I think everyone feels they would like to do this again.  We are already working on planning for next year, but this time with a goal to be fully sponsored, better representation, and hopefully events that we can meet the people who want or use our software.

Of course, the biggest thanks goes to everyone who attended and took the trouble to come al the way out there and hack on GNOME!  Thank all of you!


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