Tuesday, May 22, 2012

FUDCon Kuala Lumpur 2012 Post-Conference Report



Fedora User Developer Conference (FUDCon) Kuala Lumpur 2012 - which I was the event owner - ended successfully on Sunday, 20th May 2012. With only around 3 months of planning (1 month for the bid, and 8 weeks for the organizing process), FUDCon Kuala Lumpur might have been one of the shortest FUDCon planning ever, if not the shortest!!.

With roughly a total of 34 crew and volunteers, we managed to pull it off successfully. To some of the crews, our experience pulling off a crazy stunt of organizing FOSS.My 2008 in 30 days might have helped us in getting prepared for the worst.

We were hit by the Murphy's Law several times before and during the conference, and one of it was Harish unfortunate tennis calf injury made him unable to come to FUDCon KL. This created a challenge for us in the monetary stuff related to on-site payments, but thanks to Harish's swift action sending us some cash through Western Union , we managed to cover a number of them.

Pre-conference

With only 8 weeks to the event after winning the FUDCon APAC bid, the team scrambled to start shooting down tasks for the event. As usual for Fedora Malaysia events, we simply pick UCTI as our venue, primarily because there is Gurdip who will almost always get us what we need from the college.

We also hacked together a conference management system on Plone in less than a day worth of effective hours for the event site. Code is available here: https://github.com/inigoconsulting/collective.conference. The system served its purpose ok, though during the conference we discovered that certain things can still be done better, namely in session organizing and listing. For example, the agenda should display who is the speaker of a session and the listing of attendees need to be filterable easily.

The funding request approval was one of the tough stages during the organizing process. We wanted to bring as many contributors as possible to FUDCon Kuala Lumpur, however, we also need to keep it within our budget limit. Deciding on the seection fairly was tough and for  those who did not manage to get the funding, please no hard feelings, we hope you do try again.

We also created several artworks for swags and banners for the FUDCon. We produced 170 T-shirts, 1000 Fedora 1.5" buttons (500 for the event, 500 for distributing across APAC), 10 banners (2 roll up generic fedora/fedora-my, 6 x-stand generic, 1 x-stand FUDCon-specific, 1 big gate banner), and 350 FUDCon stickers. We chose to focus on creating generic swags so that we can reuse in the future, especially the banners.

Nearing the event, OSCC-MAMPU contacted us for a meeting, and from the meeting, they offered 2 Samsung Galaxy Tabs for lucky draw , in exchange for us getting attendees to fill in a survey form regarding to FOSS. We however, could not announce this early as we only get the final confirmation on the tablets on Saturday, 19th May.

Murphy's law does not leave us alone however. A few days before the event, around the final 2 weeks, we received some sad news from Heherson, David Ramsey and Harish that they could not make it to the event. The news about the absence of Harish created a challenge for us related to monetary stuff as we need petty cash for a number of stuff during preparation, and the FUDCon days. As a temporary measure, I put aside my own money, and cut off some items from our things-to-buy list and try to get some items - like lunch and tea - to be paid later. Harish also sent some cash to us on Saturday. Fortunately, it kindof works out. 


Day 0 : Thursday, May 17 2012

Ankur (ankursinha), Praveen (kumarpraveen), Aditya (adimania), Kushal (kushal) and Soumya (soumyac) arrived early on this morning and I was in charge of picking them up. Ankur, Praveen and Aditya arrived roughly on time on 12:30am, however, Kushal and Soumya's arrival were delayed for almost 3 hours, and we only manage to leave the airport around 3:30am.

We arrived at the hotel around 5am and after check-in, I left the hotel to home to switch the van which I was driving, to my car, and return back to the hotel. Managed to get a short nap. Afterwards, I took the group to the LRT station for a short tour around KL. We dropped by Low Yat  plaza and grabbed some simcards for the group. After briefing the group how to take the train lines and places which they might want to visit, at noon, I left them on their own and head to UCTI for the preparation for FUDCon KL.

When I arrived at UCTI, I was surprised to notice that Tuan (tuanta) was already there. After giving instructions to the volunteers on the tasks that need to be done, I drove tuanta to the hotel to check-in his room. At the hotel lobby, we met with Christoph (cwickert) who apparently already arrived and was hanging out at the lobby. After tuanta left his belongings in his room, we head back to the venue, this time, with cwickert.

Preparation ended at around 10:00pm as the venue was closing. There were however, some more tasks left , which some of the team then later continued them at the crew hotel room.

Mahay (mak), Buddhike (bckurera), Danishka (snavin), Kalpa (callkalpa) and Uditha (udinnet) arrived some time on this day too, and they checked into their rooms themselves.

Day 1: Friday, May 17 2012

Caius (kaio) and Ratnadeep (rtnpro) arrived early this morning around 1am, and they were picked up by Meng (seatux86) from the airport.

The crew started our day very early at around 6:00am and head to the venue at 7:00am. Registration desk finished setup at around 8:20am but we already had a few people coming at around 8:00am. At around 9:00am, the rate of people coming started increasing.

The opening keynote started on time on 10:00am. Harish was supposed to give the opening keynote, however, as he could not make it, we had cwickert to do it. Cwickert gave a talk on "Leadership in Leaderless Organization" which, in my opinion, fits very well to what we will be having right after the keynote, a Fedora BarCamp!.

After the keynote, I gave the attendees a short briefing on what is a BarCamp and how the BarCamp voting process will flow. We then had quite a number (15++?) of talks submitted, that we shortened our 1 hour slots to 30 minutes.  Plenty of the topics were really interesting, which made me somewhat regretted setting Day 2 and Day 3 to fixed schedule. I never been in a BarCamp which had more than 20 geeks who are able to give talks before, and was not expecting such interesting outcomes. If we had made all 3 days a BarCamp, we might be able to go into deeper stuff, depending on what the audience interested in.

After the day ended we head back to the hotel. I then went out to a Western Union agent to cash out some money Harish sent to us for petty cash for the event. At around 10pm, the APAC  Ambassadors met up in the crew hotel room to discuss future activities for APAC. We had a very interesting discussion and sharing session which lasted until 1am. If I remember correctly Yogi (jurank_dankkal) was typing down the notes from the meeting, not exactly sure whether it has been uploaded somewhere or not.

Day 2 : Saturday, May 17, 2012

Like yesterday, the crew started our day at around 6am and head to the venue on 7am. Registration desk open at 8:30am, and at around 9am we had a bus full of students from the German Malaysian Institute registering and attending the event.

The day started without any incident with Joshua Wulf (jwulf) giving the opening keynote for Day 2 where he introduced his project - a crowdsourced Fedora book. The day then continues according to schedule.

After lunch we had a little hiccup as there were some confusion about some sessions that was actually meant to be a discussion session, but was submitted as a talk. We simply cancel out the session and proceed the day as scheduled.

After the final session, we then did a lightning talk session. Afterwards, there were a lucky draw for a Red Hat keyboard which was sent by Harish through Alan Ho earlier in the day before. Swee Meng (sweester), one of our local FOSS community geek, won the keyboard.

Afterwards, we then head to the hotel. FUDPub / FUDCon Dinner then starts at 8pm in a function room at the hotel. Cwickert brought his Beefy Miracle costume and surprised us in the middle of the FUDPub!. After everyone finished enjoying the food there, we took out the cakes for an early  celebration for Fedora 17 and also  for FUDCon KL. When cwickert was cutting the cake, I noticed kushal whispering something to cwickert. I was then caked by kushal!!. I should have remembered what he did during FUDCon Pune to Rahul (rahulsundaram) !!. That inevitably initiated a cake war where everybody cake each other!!.

Dinner ends at around 10pm, and we all head back to our rooms and houses, full with food, and exhausted running around from being caked.

Day 3 : Sunday, May 18, 2012

Final day of FUDCon Kuala Lumpur. Unlike the days earlier, the crew started the day late today, at around 7:00am and only head to the venue at 8:00am. Attendee count on this day was also lower than the attendee count on the earlier days.

The day started slow, where people only started to come in at around 10am. Due to the low attendee count, and a very slow day, at lunchtime, we decided to scrap whatever that have been planned, and run a BarCamp instead. All sessions which were submitted was put up for voting again, shortened, and we reorganized the schedule. This turned to be a good decision as it injected back some life into the event.

At the end of the day, Abu Mansur, a well respected local FOSS community person, which also an employee of Red Hat Malaysia, gave the closing keynote.  Right after the keynote, I took some time to thank everyone who have been contributing to the event and have made FUDCon Kuala Lumpur a success. Following that, we then draw 2 more lucky draw for 2 Galaxy Tabs which was sponsored by OSCC-MAMPU and the day ended with a final group photo in front of UCTI.

Post conference

Some of the Fedora contributors left early (jwulf on Saturday afternoon, kaio on Sunday morning). While the rest left after the event with cwickert is one of the earliest which is right after the group photo session, followed by Mahay around 1.5 hours later.

Those who yet to leave, met up for a dinner at a nearby Old Town kopitiam. When we were having our dinner, we was contacted with an emergency call from Mahay that he had took the wrong train and is in danger of missing his flight. Fortunately, he managed to reach the airport barely in time before the boarding closes.

After dinner, I asked Fedora Ambassadors who still around to come to the crew room to pick up one generic Fedora x-stand banner and some swags for their place and future events.

At around 2am, kushal, bckurera, snavin, udinnet, soumya, tuanta and callkalpa then checks out and left the hotel on a van to the airport as their flights are on 6am~7am.

rtnpro was the only one left out of the sponsored attendee list as his flight was on Tuesday. All rooms were checked out on Monday morning, so rtnpro had to stay at Yee Myat (MavJS)'s place for a night.

After checking out all of the rooms on Monday, I then went around to drop swags at OSCC-MAMPU thanking them for the sponsorship of the Galaxy Tabs, and also met up with Siva of Red Hat Singapore which Harish sent over to settle some payment issues we had with the hotel. Passed some swags to him and a t-shirt for Harish.

There are still some post-conference work left for me for FUDCon KL, primarily sorting out the receipts, some final invoices which still need to be paid, and claim back the money me and Eric used for FUDCon due to Harish could not attend. Hopefully all these will be done by end of this week or early next week.

Remarks/Notes

Things we learned, discovered, and some advises/suggestions for future FUDCon - or even for other events.
  • A free-to-participate event is much much much easier to run and less stressful than a paid event. Primarily due to the lack of overhead related to registration and less obligation related to swags and food - removing a lot of headaches and stress we once had during FOSS.My 2008/2009.
  • In an event where there are plenty of attendees who are willing to talk or run sessions, a BarCamp format rocks. I kindof regretted not running the whole conference using a BarCamp format considering we had almost 20 Fedora contributors attended. BarCamp format also helps in adding more session which might be of more interest to the audience, and dropping sessions which are of less interest.
  • Keynotes helps in getting everyone in the same room. Try to have keynotes on each start and end of each day. This is useful for announcements, or for ensuring everyone are in the same room before BarCamp pitches+voting start, or for the closing of the event.
  • Walkie talkies are essential for large events. Ensure several handy for the core crew members.
  • Generic swags rocks - anything extra, use it for future local events
  • FUDCon is one of the few times where we are able to gather a lot of contributors at the same place. Make use of it fully for discussions, meeting, hacking and for distributing swags across the region.
  • Sponsoring attendees who can contribute to the event is a GoodIdea(TM). 
  • Close the registration before printing the registrant list. So that there are no people asking - "Oh I have registered, but my name is not on it"
  • Tags and food coupons should be printed earlier - we printed them late, almost screwed ourselves up.
  • Give food coupons to volunteers before the event, not during the event. Giving them during event can cause confusion.
  • Have a crew room in the hotel, regardless whether the crews are staying nearby or not. The crew room can be used for meetings and preparation stuff.
  • Always have a whiteboard for the schedule. Printed schedules could not be reorganized. However, people still need a place to refer to the updated schedule. Online schedule does not really work as they did not have time to load up the site during the event.
  • Do not rearrange sessions in the schedule after they have been assigned, and the event have started. Cancel the session and move it to later on the day or to the next day. Do not shift up sessions as that causes confusion.
  • Be flexible with the event. If you think something can be done better through changing some stuff, change it.
  • Getting the cafe to be open is easier than to provide food for all attendees.
  • As usual, 50% no-show rule applies for free event in Malaysia. We had almost 500 registrants on the website, but only about 260-80 attended throughout the 3 days.
  • Coffee - meh .. Red Bull - win .. Managing coffee and water heater is difficult. Just provide cans of Red Bulls. 
  • If there are cakes nearby, and Kushal Das is in the event, be EXTREMELY careful.
Thanks  to everyone who have contributed to FUDCon Kuala Lumpur 2012 and made this event a success. See you guys later in other events. Kuala Lumpur wont be bidding for at least the next FUDCon APAC, so whoever going to bid for the next FUDCon APAC, we wish you all the best and hope to see you there. 
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