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gnat (29)

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Journal of gnat (29)

Thursday July 17, 2003
11:56 AM

OSCON: mechanics

[ #13510 ]

This year saw some changes in the conference. Most probably weren't apparent to attendees, but I'm sure some were (e.g., lunches). This blog entry talks about those changes.

From my point of view, the biggest change was that the printed program didn't contain a schedule of what was on when. We instead moved to a Just-In-Time schedule--at 3pm each day, Catherine (marketing queen for conferences) made a Kinkos run to print the long schedule for the coming day (the hot sheet). Hundreds of these were available in piles for attendees to collect, and a large copy was posted on a board in front of the main boardroom.

This JIT scheduling let me fill gaps far more easily than in years past. Previously, last-minute changes to the schedule (room swaps because topics were popular, cancellations, substitutions, additions) were hard to advertise and inevitably resulted in only a few people attending the delta'd sessions. This year it was hard to tell what was the result of a last-minute change and what had been in place since February.

Case in point: Friday. The Friday session schedule had had plenty of holes, right up until Wednesday. Suddenly a lot of great sessions came together and Friday morning turned into the strongest 90 minutes of the conference. I wanted to attend every single session on Friday morning--I joked that I made the mistake of laying them out horizontally instead of vertically. Disappointing though it might have been (that you could only attend one of the eight great simultaneous talks), it had two major benefits: it left everyone on a very high note, and it evenly distributed people across all the rooms.

Room distribution was important, because more of the rooms were smaller this year than in years past. The Ruby people noticed this--their track was scheduled for the smallest room because it was new and it had to be shown that anybody was actually interested in Ruby. Consider it shown! Every Ruby session I heard about was standing room only, overflowing into the hall. Next year, expect a bigger room for Ruby!

Other than room size, lunches were probably the biggest change noticed by attendees. Your conference registration did not get you lunches, except any that a sponsor wanted to buy. This, in addition to the new venue, let us lower the registration cost for OSCON this year (by $100, if I remember rightly). In return, we got complaints about there being no lunch :-) I heard a surprising amount of angst about the fact that Microsoft provided lunch ("there's no better opportunity to poison a lot of open source developers!!!!!")--Joe Johnston's monologue in the movie could have been taken word-for-word from any of a dozen conversations I overheard.

One of the big questions in my mind is whether in 2004 we should move the price back up to 2002 levels and offer lunches. Personally, I enjoyed being able to go downtown and eat. Ziggy, Lisa, Jesse, and a bunch of us found a nice teriyaki place within a few blocks, and every time I passed the Chinese restaurant diagonally opposite the hotel, it was empty. The predicted "two thousand people descending on downtown Portland for lunch" chaos never eventuated, that I saw. The worst I heard was "I'm looking forward to eating somewhere other than Quizno's!" on Friday.

And that's all I can remember about the mechanics of the conference ...

--Nat

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  • The biggest issue I had with OSCon this year had nothing to do with the conference team, but with the venue itself.

    It was a wee bit inconvenient having everything layed out vertically. In San Jose, Monterey, and San Diego, there were many more opportunities to network because you could see someone down the hall, walk over and start up a conversation. This year, not only was it easy to be spread out across four levels, but the horseshoe configuration on LL1 didn't help. Going to Salon I felt like a trek

    • I would have liked a ladies' room on the main conference level. There was also a lack of general sitting space - the lobby didn't offer much space and there were very few tables outside the speaker room.

      But it was nice being able to walk down to the riverfront at night, and out to places to eat.

      If given a choice, I'd prefer to have some light breakfast provided at the conference rather than lunch.

  • In a place such as Portland, where there are lots of places to eat close to the hotel, I'd prefer to get my own lunch.

    On the other hand, I'd gladly pay extra for an OSCON t-shirt. :)

    -Matt

  • That the convention was in a hotel within easy walking distance of restaurants, ice cream, and liquor stores was a big, big win for OSCON 2003. In a perfect world, there would have been a better mingling place for attendees. I think the lobby area on LL1 needed to be utilized better in some way (although I found that camping under the stairs was particularly useful for socializing). The LL2 lobby was just dingy and had no chi flow. The terminal room was just too darn far way from everything.

    I had a mor

    • I had a more positive experience with OSCON 2003 than others

      Sorry if I sounded too curmudgeonly above, but I did have a good time too. Portland is great, and being back downtown again is a huge win. Twelve hours a day in that hotel started to grate on me towards the end of the week...

      I don't think there is an ideal hotel for OSCon. The Fairmont was great, but it's way too small now. Now, it's a case of picking priorities. This year's venue is obviously addressing years of feedback and fixing thi

      • I don't know what others think, but the hotel in Monterey had both a great location and a good layout (from what I remember of it all those years ago!). I'd love to go back to Monterey.

        Though I must get this in: Make the date in August next year! I can't go to OSCon unless it's in August now my wife is working full time - she just won't let me visit the west coast without her - and you can't blame her.

        Of course I realise that August is probably much more expensive :-(
        • If the current location pass muster, we're looking at July 26-30 in 2004. Confirmation of that will come within a month. No August, sorry!

          Can your wife escape in April or May? The Emerging Technology conference [oreillynet.com] is then, and might provide a convincing west coast escape excuse. Similarly for the Mac OS X Conference [oreilly.com] in October. If you can get her to the west coast then, you might be able to slip off to OSCON without her later :-)

          --Nat

  • My talk was standing room only also, but I sort of like the intimate feel of the smaller rooms.

    If anything, I think people enjoy the sessions more than the tutorials, regardless of room size. With tutorials, you have to register specifically for that, so you feel stuck, or feel that you've wasted half a day if the tutorial turns out to be not so good.

    With sessions, the speakers are forced to get to the point quickly, so your time is better spent, plus there is a lot more to choose from, and you're fr

    • Things look much better when the rooms are full than empty, but I frequently found that if I wasn't in a room five minutes before the talk started then it was impossible to get a seat. Sometimes I'd end up bouncing from my first choice, to my second choice, and finally end up standing in the back of my third choice. In general, the only sessions where I could get a seat were the giant Perl talks, like the Perl 6 Preview or 9 Views of Dominus.