Older blog entries for bolsh (starting at number 111)

6 May 2005 (updated 6 May 2005 at 16:12 UTC) »
GUADEC (again)

So, the board spent quite a bit of time discussing GUADEC, and specifically the registration fee, this week.

We were more or less in agreement that the registration fee was badly handled from a communication perspective. We didn't communicate as well as we could have before the fact. So here's a "set the record straight" type post which will hopefully clear up some of the major misgivings about GUADEC's registration process this year.

Why isn't GUADEC free? After all, we're the people making GNOME happen.
Quite simply, if GUADEC were free, the foundation would lose money on it (lots). There are a couple of people in the process of getting figures together to show where money goes in GUADEC, and where money comes from. But taking last year as an example, we appear to have made a small surplus on GUADEC, which then got spent elsewhere (on things like the Boston summit), whereas we would have lost over €10K if there had been no registration.
OK - I can live with a registration fee. Why do I have to go through Paypal?
A group had been working for some time on getting a system online that we could use to accept payments of this kind. And that fell through. I don't know the details. But I know that Fernando San Martin Woerner can in to save the day, and in only 2 days got an OSCommerce front-end for the registration site up & running. Unfortunately, on that notice, the only payment method we could manage for online payments was paypal. But you can make payments through that system without creating a paypal account, so we thought this would be OK.
But it's not OK. (I hate paypal|Ì live in (Iran|Czech republic)) and I can't pay that way because their terms of use are unacceptable. Isn't there another way I can pay?
Tim Ney has worked out a way to handle special requests. Please mail guadec@gnome.org for details of how to pay directly to the foundation account by wire transfer. If you can pay via paypal, we prefer that. Things are getting hectic right now, so if we can avoid adding administrative workflow, that would be better.
How can I register without paying, though? I want to ask for an exemption, but I want you to know I'm coming
In the original page, this was quite hidden away. You had to create an account in the registration page, then click "My GUADEC account", and on that page click "Change my GUADEC details". We've changed that to "Apply for registration, travel or housing subsidy". Hopefully that makes things clearer. I addition, we have added this page to the account creation process so that you can ask for a subsidy while creating your account.
I want to pay on arrival. Can I do that?
We don't currently have a way to handle cash in Stuttgart. Tim's working on it, and this might be an option.
And what if I turn up without paying?
Anything included in the registration pack, you won't get. But you won't be turned away. We have a fee to help with the costs of the conference, not to reduce attendance. We want all GNOME hackers there, and that includes you.
Why not call the registration fee an optional donation then?
A donation and a registration fee are fiscally two different things. It's a semantic difference which is important to some. In addition, we don't consider the registration fee optional. We don't think it's too much to expect people coming to the conference to contribute €30 to the costs. But if you disagree, we're not going to turn you away.
€30? But I'm a professional... shouldn't I be paying €150?
Here's the thing... If you're coming on your own, as a GNOME supporter, and you're paying out of your own pocket, you pay €30 (not including VAT). If your company is paying for you to come, then advisory board members and bwcon members get preferential rates - €150 instead of €225. If your company is paying for your registration, and they're not a member of either of those, then you pay €225 per person. To top all this off, if these fee levels are dissuading you from sending as many people as you would otherwise send, then we want to hear about it (at guadec@gnome.org) and work something out. The fees are not there to keep people away, they are there to help with the costs of the conference.

Now, hopefully that clears things up, and we can start talking about source control, train wrecks, topaz, marketing, interoperability and other important stuff. Sorry we handled this badly.

Update: For two particular use-cases, there have been some options added to the check-out process on the registration site.

For people who have paid through paypal, but did not click the "return to vendor site" link, and thus have not received a confirmation from us of their booking, they can now register, go to the check-out page, and click the "Reorder, only if you has already paid at paypal." checkbox.

For people who wish to enter their registration details without paying, and pay through another channel, click the "Save registration information without going to Paypal" check-box. In both cases, your registration information is saved, you will receive an acknowledgement mail, and you can pay later (or register after requesting a subsidy without paying at all).

Yesterday I brainfarted on the "Fun & GNOME" thing. I re-read it today, and I'm not too ashamed of it, so I said I'd let it free rather than wait until I have time to make it coherent. So, here it is.

Fun and GNOME

We're changing the world. Melodramatic, but true. Software as social work - redressing the technical imbalances of the world by making IT available to all. Software doesn't get built the same way. People's expectations of software are changing. We are commoditising hardware. Write once, run anywhere, with GTK+ and GNOME. GNOME in China, in India, in Brazil. GNOME rocks my world, rocks the whole world.

Boring stuff is what I do. I feel honoured to work alongside people who make great software with a big heart. So I try to make their life easier. But I think GUADEC should have a registration fee (boo, hiss). I also think we should explain why (yay!).

Bringing back the community (good news, it's not gone anywhere). Talking to people again. Encourage the companies around GNOME to hire GNOME hackers, rather than have employees hack on GNOME. Get Novell's cool app developers committing stuff to the desktop again (even if that means including Mono in the platform). Same for RedHat & Canonical.

Shoot our mouths off. We've been watching what we've been saying, for fear of annoying or insulting some unknown people. Our company partners are here because we're a bunch of badly dressed, loud-mouthed anarchists. If we don't go back to that a bit, they'll get bored.

Openness openness openness. Let everyone know what's happening all the time. Why isn't the planet syndicated in a sidebar on gnomedesktop.org? Or gnomedesktop on pgo? Talk to each other. More IRC, more time-wasting, more outreach/recruitment. Collect a list of people prepared to give GNOME presentations on the drop of a hat. GNOME Lovers are great. companies, don't forget some people work part-time on this stuff. Try scheduling planning sessions on mailing lists, having them with IRC in parallel, posting minutes in the wiki.

GNOME is great. Don't forget we're changing the world. How could that be boring?

Testimonials like this always warm my cockles.

I just installed debian w/ Gnome on my friends' machine, GNOME is great, i personally hated all sorts of "Ease of use" features like not being able to tweak GNOME so easily because of the dumbed-down setting menus and stuff, plus the spatial ting of course, but my friend (to my GREAT surprise) liked its uncluttered user friendlyness, so great work guys, really, he is the kind of user to appeal to (not me, who would be happy to use a console all his life :D).

I especially like "plus the spatial ting of course". Although "to my GREAT surprise" was a close second.

3 May 2005 (updated 3 May 2005 at 13:09 UTC) »

So, I copied everyone else and made my Southpark figure.

Here it is.

Pity Advogato doesn't have inline images.

Mikael: First, let me be clear - the fee is there to help with the costs of the conference. It is not there to scam people coming to the conference, or to make money. If you don't want to pay the fee, then don't. Turn up, and you will not be turned away at the door. We want as many people as possible at GUADEC. If you don't want to pay the €225 or €150 rate, tell everyone in your company to pay €30. Then sponsor the conference to the tune of what you think is fair.

Let's be clear - the conference will not make money because of the fee. GUADEC loses money. Sponsorship is not enough to pay for the conference, and when you pay a registration fee, that the money will be going to pay for someone's bed, or travel expenses, or internet access, or facilities. The foundation will take a hit of a few thousand dollars/euros on the conference, as we did last year.

GUADEC has become a big conference. That's because there are so many supporters of the desktop, which is great. Starting with Dublin, there was an attempt to make GUADEC appeal more to businesses, because they would pay money to support the conference, and back then it was felt that hackers wouldn't. So GUADEC stayed free, and businesses and sponsorship covered most of the bills.

Last year, we spent more money getting people to GUADEC than ever before. GUADEC was also more expensive than ever before, because of its size and location. This year, it's looking like it will be just as expensive. We're bringing several speakers from Australia, Canada and the US. We're sponsoring travel for people who need it. And all that takes money.

Perhaps we do need to re-think GUADEC, take a smaller facility (or even a field), announce the thing late, stop having presentations altogether, make it free, and get closer to the way things were in Paris in the good old days I never saw.

At the very least, we need to decide whether we're a technical conference or outreach to local users and business. 3 days is too short to be all things to all men.

But it is unrealistic to expect that an event the size of GUADEC can be organised with little or no cost, or that the costs can be completely covered by sponsorship. A registration fee is reasonable, in my opinion. And €30 is not a huge amount.

Yet another GUADEC post

As Murray mentioned, GUADEC is one of those times of the year when we really need people's support.

Support comes in many shapes and sizes - from people who pay as much of their own transport costs as they can to be there, to people who volunteer to sell t-shirts during the event.

One great way to support GUADEC is to sponsor a hacker. Sometimes, people who really need to be at GUADEC can't get there, because of the travel costs involved. We always do what we can to get as many people as possible to GUADEC, and you can help.

Companies can offer to pay air fare for somebody, and make that be tax free by going through the foundation. Or as an individual, you can give anything from a few dollars to help contribute to the train fare for a poor German student. GUADEC is our Christmas-time, a time for giving and sharing. So even if you can't be here, come join in the fun.

Camp Stuttgart

A quick reminder that the ultra-cheap accommodation option for GUADEC Camp Stuttgart will be available if there is sufficient demand.

Someone in Germany will be paying a deposit out of their own pockets, so if you want this option, please sign up now on the wiki under the heading "Extra cheap camp".

The price will be around €30 for the 3 nights of the conference, apparently, bring your own sleeping-bag.

21 Apr 2005 (updated 21 Apr 2005 at 08:50 UTC) »
Elijah asked me a question on why I thought the 6 month cycle was too short.

I've discussed this with a few people and have been reminded of a Joel Spolsky interview - the grandmother story ("the process is overtuned") on page 2 caught my eye. Basically, he explains that over the years Microsoft has picked up so many good habits (by correcting their mistakes) that the process (testing, validation and so on) has become more important than the actual *thing* - the product being created.

When you're on a 6 month cycle, you're in feature freeze for 3 months. That's 6 months a year that we're not focused on new features.

Now, if you move to a 9 month cycle, you still have a 3 month feature freeze per cycle, but you're only spending 4 months a year in freeze, so you've gained 2 months innovation/breaking time. Experiments can happen right in GNOME.

If we stay in the 6 month cycle, the breakages happens outside the main GNOME tree (as Luis said). That's risky for some young gun to take on in his garage.

As an alternative to the "clean break", the leap of faith that Luis is talking about, perhaps we can just have a little more madness in GNOME devel. Doubling the feature addition period, moving the focus from testing and bug fixing to innovation for 1 quarter a year more, might be a way to do that.

Luis made a couple of points I agree with about an eventual leap to 3.0.

One of the major reasons for what he calls the fear to fail is the fact that the 6 monthly release cycles, which were necessary to stabilise the 2.0 work, and have been a huge boon overall for GNOME, are not suited to 3.0 work. They are just too short. For a platform as big as GNOME, to get any big user-visible features in a release cycle, it needs to be at least 9 months, and perhaps a year.

I know I'm not the first one to have said this, but I'm more & more convinced that the 6 month cycle has outlived its usefulness.

Having been shamed by Edd, I spent some time today on the GUADEC wiki, organising things into sub-pages that made sense.

As always with wikis, your help is needed to make the wiki a useful resource. We need more people offering lifts, accepting lifts, more Stuttgarters, and more information on sleeping, eating and drinking in Stuttgart.

Thanks for your support.

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