Debconf 11 - postmortem
Another year, another Debconf and now it is passed. Pictures are processes and all are now uploaded. We are still missing 25 names in the Debconf 11 group photo. With 265 people and 86 Mpix it is the highest resolution image we have had so far (Spain image had a bit more pixels, but a lot of them were outside the actual photo) and the largest number of people (Edinburgh photo had 248 people). The video team produced hundreds of gigabytes of footage, we had very interesting talks and debates and sometimes the AdHoc meeting room on the side was overcrowded with people in BoFs that were not on the initial schedule. It has been a very special kind of conference. As it always is. :)
As always, there were also some problems. I did not read the debconf-team mailing list, but I hear there was plenty of 'fun' discussions to be had in the run-up to the event, some information on getting to the venue was not quite clear (that was quickly fixed as first people arriving to Debcamp were documenting their experience), the organizational dance with the food tickets was more ... elaborate than usually, both the day trip and the formal dinner were ... more self-driven than expected, vegetarian complaint level was about the same as usual (which is considered high by some) and the wireless in the hotel was very weak, also Saturday weddings are quite loud and run very late apparently.
To compensate for that we had: very sunny Debcamp, cheap beer (!!!), great quality accommodations, very good looking venue, good network at the venue (after initial scalability issues with the wireless), good food (that did sometimes run out, though), short distances to all locations, oh and did I mention cheep beer?
What do we learn from this for next year? I am told that Debconf12 team has already had some meetings specifically to identify and learn from some shortcomings and strengths of this years conference. However, I think everyone of us might have an idea or two to add to the mix as well. For example, I think that BoF rooms are great and we should expand and solidify on that concept: take a page from unconference playbook - have a board on-site where people can book slots for their BoF in one of the two rooms for tomorrow. Not far in advance and without moderation requirement of penta scheduling. In the evening the stickers can be taken down and tomorrows BoFs can be added to the schedule at that point, so the people can see online what is going on.
Also I think that we need some kind of coverage of the BoF room(s) from the video team. Even if that is in a form of a single self-service omnidirectional microphone where people could just walk into the room, press a single button and the audio would start streaming and recording.
In addition we could have a screen with the IRC channel of the room projected onto a screen on a side of the stage, to simplify getting questions off the channel. Recording that channel (as a text log) could also be useful.
It feels like post-conference assembly of the talk lists, presentations, links to the relevant recordings, photos, chat logs, ideas, comments, ... for every talk is very problematic in penta, should we perhaps just use wiki for that?
Any other ideas?
And to finish off some more personal travel-inspired rambling. After visiting Paris, Zagreb, Banja Luka and (very shortly) Vienna on this trip it was very interesting to see similarities and draw some parallels, especially with the added context of Berlin and Riga. The similarities in city planning, street shops, brands and the way people go about their lives in these capitals are quite remarkable. I would even say that a trend can be seen where capitols of countries/regions that had troubles in the past (Bosnia more recently; Riga, Zagreb and East Berlin a bit more into the past) are now moving from their different pasts and converging towards the vision of the European capitol city living we see in cities like Paris. If you look at individual pieces you can even recognise milestones along this route and see when specific cities reach them (possibly in a different order than others). With that in mind you can even try to predict what might come next, like looking at Banja Luka and thinking that they might reach the point of upgrading their buses in the next 2-3 years, or comparing Riga and Zagreb we can see that Riga needs to soon choose a street and close it to car traffic to have more cafés, beer gardens and shops concentrated in that area. Or looking at Paris we might find a compelling idea, like clustering a lot of businesses of the same type (such as kitchen design) in the same street, so the customers know where they can go to have all the best choices available within a block.
All in all this years Debconf for me was one with the most diverse experiences and the one that felt closest to home. I hope to see you all good people again next year!
P.S. I do hope that Debconf12 dates are nailed down in the next 2 months, so we can start talking to air plane companies for group discounts immediately.