2022 contributor conference - community feedback requested!

Hi there, Fedora Friends!

It might seem a little early but as we start 2022 and the third year of pandemic life, we are beginning to think about our annual contributor conference. The Flock/Nest planning team (@mattdm @bcotton myself and Jen, Veronica, & Natalie from Red Hat events) met recently to talk about what 2022 could look like for Fedora’s conference.

One thing we agreed upon is that things are still uncertain for the upcoming year and our collective fight against COVID-19. We threw around all kinds of ideas of what our annual gathering could look like. After going round and round, we decided to ask for the Fedora community’s input. Please note, this is not a vote. We want to get the community’s input to ensure we are serving Fedora well with regards to events. The planning group will take whatever feedback we receive here to inform the decision about what we will do for 2022.

Let’s lay some groundwork.

  • The FCAIC is the lead organizer (me!) with numerous other responsibilities
  • We have support from the Mindshare Committee to guide decision making around the event
  • We have support from Red Hat events to execute coordination around parts of the event (i.e. hotel venue or the swag packs)
  • We can tentatively set the first or second weekend of August as the dates
  • As far as budget- it was tight when we ran Flock, looser now that we have been running Nest. We have been able to do other things (i.e. 2 sessions of Outreachy instead of 1, sending 650+ swag packs internationally)
  • Flock to Fedora consisted of 150-200 contributors from all over the world for 3 days of in person sessions, workshops, and socializing. A lot of quality time- spontaneous conversations, plenary work, and other serendipitous connections.
  • Nest with Fedora consisted of 500-750 contributors from all over the world for 3 days of virtual sessions, workshops, and socializing. We reached a LOT more people with Nest with Fedora, but the quality and length of the interactions are naturally lower based on format.

Based on our current team capability and available resources, here are the main directions we see going forward, but we are open to other ideas.

  • Continue on with Nest with Fedora only for the time being. Continue to make improvements on our virtual events overall.
  • Organize Flock to Fedora in Detroit. Bring as many people as we can. Discontinue Nest with Fedora for the time being.
  • Continue with Nest with Fedora, accompanied by distributed local in person local events (i.e. Detroit, Brno, Mexico City, Pune) organized by Fedora Ambassadors or other volunteers. Local events & Nest would not overlap so that it would not detract from either events.

Some questions and thoughts to consider.

  • What impact will it have to not meet in person? Are we already feeling the effects of that?
  • Will it be safe to bring people from all over the world to the US? If we can’t bring everyone, will it be the same?
  • Are people feeling comfortable traveling in 2022?
  • What do we value most for our collective community? What do we need as a community? Reaching as many folks as possible with a fair experience (virtual), or reaching less people with an excellent experience (in person)?

Looking forward to feedback!

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Speaking from the point of view of a non Red Hatter, there’s no way I would be able to put the time or budget aside to travel. I really liked Nest last year and would like the opportunity to attend something similar again this year, as a virtual conference. This makes it really easy to manage time by hopping in and out of sessions that are most relevant at a zero monetary cost to the participant. However, I can definitely see the benefit of a face-to-face meeting for those contributors who are able to do so. I’m not sure if the best answer is a combined event i.e. face-to-face AND virtual or separate events, just registering my interest in a virtual one.

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I have mixed feelings. My inner fear screams “not in-person”, my inner social being screams “human contact!”.

But trying to be as objective as I can, these are my input points:

  • Traveling now (January 2022) is still uncertain and it depends on a lot of per-country regulations.
  • Nest and virtual events in general have shown great results, Fedora 35 is listed in almost all lists as one of the best distros of 2021.
  • It’s been a long time since I (and this is MY impression) saw an Ambassador doing Ambassadors work.
  • Traveling is always awesome, meet new and encounter old contributors is always great!

My opinion on main directions:

  1. Continuing Nest with Fedora: I think none Flock to Fedora have the level of attendance that Nest had. For me, it’s the best idea.
  2. Organize Flock to Fedora: Again, traveling is still difficult. From my perspective, doing it isn’t safe yet, and it will present tons of disagreement or possible discussion points like: ask for vaccination to attend
  3. Continue Nest with Fedora, accompanied by distributed local in person local events: That needs a level of commitment that I’m not sure is still there. TBH COVID-19 sent a precedent that sooner or later we have to accept: Remote work (even community work) is incredible effective and positive

My answer to the questions

  • I think at personal levels the impact isn’t bad. It will be awesome to met in-person again, but being totally honest, remote work have worked very well in general for Fedora.
  • It’s not safe yet. No, having a partial event should feel wrong.
  • No, I don’t feel comfortable with traveling.
  • The work, the capacity of work in adversity, and the greatness of working through internet. We need to feel (as we have now) that the leadership is working with us, answering, sharing, commenting and being present in our places of work. I think is better to reach more people.

Conclusion

Nest with Fedora 2022

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Due to both the lack of an available vaccine (STILL!) for my youngest child, the risk to other medically vulnerable household members, and the impact COVID has on our child care situation, it is highly unlikely I would be able to travel in 2022. Detroit for me would require a plane and the risk would be too high, especially with waning immunity from boosters and no authorization for a 2nd booster yet. If cases were down a lot, and a 2nd booster was available, and my youngest was fully vaccinated… the risk might feel somewhat doable but even then if there wasn’t universal masking compliance at the event, I would just leave and be unable to participate.

My best current assessment, based on what has transpired up until now over numerous waves and the glacial pace of vaccine development for young kiddos: it’s really unlikely even if logistically possible that I could attend.

If there was an outdoor, masked, local affiliated social event in the Boston area, I might attend that, but I would not feel comfortable in an indoor space attending talks. (Dining would be out since that would involve unmasking.)

I hope the above is helpful in understanding the factors going into a anecdotal self assessment of safety/risk for travel / in-person contact in 2022.

If Nest were to continue, I would be eager to participate. If we had a hybrid version, though, it wouldn’t be the same - one of the things that has been really nice about Nest is that everyone is attending at the same level. Whenever we’ve had hybrid events in the past (e.g. like live streaming / live transcribed talks) the virtual attendees always are at a disadvantage / have more difficulties than if everyone is virtual.

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My 2 Euro 50 cents:

I started to work from home before it became mainstream, and offline conferences were my main means of socializing. I basically counted seasons not as Spring or Summer, but as FOSDEM to release party, release party to Flock, Flock to release party and release party to next FOSDEM.

So I believe that offline events are extremely important, inspiring and helpful.

On the other hand I also noticed that before I joined Red Hat I considered Fedora Flock conference to be a bit intimidating. I was not able to participate in the US part at all, and at EMEA part always felt that there is a crowd of people which know each other really well(partially because many of them were colleagues), and I am the outsider who is not part of that group.

In my early years in Fedora I had much better experience from joining Fedora Booth at regional events (Berlin Linux Tag, FrOSCon, FOSDEM…) and Fedora Ambassador Meetup in EMEA, than from the dedicated Flock conference. Working at Fedora booth gave me that feeling of belonging and being part of the community, rather than peeking at someone else’s work from the outside.

On yet another hand (I don’t know how many I need today), I also remember that local user group didn’t work as good for me. Local groups are small and limited. They can be quite fun, but you can not get the scope as wide as you could on the regional level. It helps to have a local user group, but that local user group itself can be quite disconnected from the “mainland”.

So what conclusions I would like to make of it:

  1. I think it is important to keep Fedora Nest event as accessible virtual conference which is open for more people than usual Fedora “professionals”. We see that it works, and it brings people together.

  2. I think offline events are still very helpful for fast brainstorming and design work and for building necessary connections. But then we should probably form offline events around such topics. So rather than a generic event for all Fedora celebrities (sorry, Matthew :slight_smile: ), we should maybe try to create events where we can build meaningful connections with less visible people over a specific topic or work item. So basically choose interactive hackatons over keynotes+afterparty combination.

  3. I would recommend Fedora Ambassadors to look into “middle”-level events, where you don’t need to be the only organizer, but can work together with other people and share the load and responsibility, and also reach out to external audiences.


P.S.

My personal way to deal with the current situation:

I recently joined the local hiking group. They do a 10-14 km hiking on Sundays in the nearby area, and it is a more or less safe and easy way to socialize. And then at those hikes I realized that the 70% of the hiking I actually talk to people about Linux, Open Source, life of the Software Engineer and all that.

So it made me think that hiking is actually a good format for the local meetup, or even Fedora Release Party.

Therefore my plan for the next Fedora release: I am going to choose the 10 km path, publish the route in the local Fedora community and invite people to join me on the hike, wearing Fedora swag and talking about the new Fedora, while walking along the Rhine.

Not sure if this would work, but I am going to try anyway :slight_smile:

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I would love to get back to Flock in person eventually, but this year and likely next, if that happens I’d have to give it a hard pass with a kid at home (who is also too young to vaccinate).

If the situation is conducive next year, I’d prefer Flock be in person even though I’ll have to miss it, but for this year it seems too uncertain. Especially given many consulates are still backlogged so those who need visas will find it hard to arrange travel (and many companies including mine have not cleared employees to travel as part of work)

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I love the idea of a hike as an event! At one of the Boston FUDcons long ago a group of us hiked the Middlesex Fells here as a side activity I think the weekend before! It was great fun.

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This first reply is speaking for me personally for 2022. I’ll make a second, community-oriented reply afterward.

  • I think we’re losing (or not gaining) the community relationships and deep discussions that work much better in person. We’re managing to do well without them, but the longer we go, the more concerned I am. In particular, I’m thinking about the three-year strategic plan work the Council needs to do.
  • I believe it will be safe for people from all over to travel to Detroit in August. Whether or not various governmental policies will make it practical, I can’t say. If we can’t bring everyone, it won’t be the same, but also we’ve never been able to bring everyone. We haven’t had a western hemisphere Flock since 2017.
  • I personally don’t feel comfortable traveling at this moment, but I expect that to change in the next two months and hold true until late summer/early fall, at least.
  • I wouldn’t call virtual a fair experience—less unfair is more appropriate. We’re still bound by network requirements and timezones. But given that we’ve had a lot of virtual events lately, I think swinging back toward the in-person a bit is justified. We should definitely emphasize travel sponsorship for those willing to attend.

So of the directions above, my preference is organize Flock in Detroit. For 2023 and beyond, I can see a mixed approach that might give us the best of both worlds (see my next reply), but I don’t think we have the timeline to implement it this year.

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So here’s my 2023-and-beyond idea.

Problem: In-person events exclude large portions of our communities. Online events don’t provide the social and high-bandwidth conversation benefits. Hybrid events seem to be the worst of both.

Another problem: Events are hard and there’s only one FCAIC.

Solution:

Events

Flock (June, in-person)

Three days of hackfests, planning sessions, and social events. Alternates between geos.

Nest (August, virtual)

Two days of contributor-focused talks and virtual socials. Some are readouts/results of Flock sessions. Others are general “here’s what we’re working on” or “here’s this neat idea I have” sessions that we’ve previously done at Nest/Flock.

Release Parties (May, November)

One day of user/release-focused talks and virtual socials. Not run by the FCAIC.

Q & A

Why move Flock to June?

It makes sense to have the planning and hackfests before the talks, so that people can share the results while they’re “fresh”. ~Two months of spacing gives some time to finish Nest planning but isn’t too far away. We could try to put it in between DevConf.CZ and FOSDEM to make it easier for some people, but that’s a long wait until Nest.

How will this not overburden the FCAIC?

Moving the Release Parties to a TBD group takes some planning off of the FCAIC’s plate. Having Flock and Nest split and be several months apart lengthens the time that event planning happens, but requires less planning at any given moment. Plus Flock would have fewer, bigger sessions, which lessens the coordination burden.

What’s the elevator pitch?

By de-consolidating our events, we can focus these shorter events on the benefits that the mode gives us. The content that doesn’t require high-bandwidth interaction can be made more accessible while still having an opportunity to try to bring contributors together in-person.

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I missed nest and never looked into going to flock. I would like to attend nest this year if it runs. A Detroit location for flock makes it unlikely I would attend this year.

If some Boston area people wanted to do a hike at some point, I’d be interested.

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This reminds me about OpenStack Design Summit Design Summit - OpenStack

In OpenStack community summit was always organized in two parts: public facing (with promo, keynote speakers, user-facing talks and so on), and the developers summit, which was hosted in the same building two days later and was full of working sessions, quaterly plannings of project teams, building roadmaps, designing new features and so on.

Of course any design created at design summit was only a draft, which than has to be polished and discussed on a mailing list and pass the approval process.

So maybe we can try to turn Flock into more of a brainstorming, and Nest to be a presentation on those brainstormed designs for the next round of community debates.

Basically we would set presentation at Nest to be the goal for any Flock meetup.

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What do we value most for our collective community? What do we need as a community? Reaching as many folks as possible with a fair experience (virtual), or reaching less people with an excellent experience (in person)?

It is more likely to see in-person events in 2022. Still, the travel restriction for business reasons is keeping us from being back to normal. I’m hopeful for regional (rather than a global conference) distributed events like Nest with Fedora. I had a chance to join a RedHat Summit in London in October 2021 where best practice was shared with business cases in the form of ‘Lightning talk’

  • Ansible for data science/data infrastructure: Common patterns for
    integrating Apache Kafka with Quarkus.
  • Running AI/ML Spark Workloads on OpenShift.

I felt more connected after the event. The tangible outcome even as a non-programmer (me) was to navigate real-life industrial use cases of Linux and Open Source toolset for data science where I can find common interests for collaboration with a more tech-savvy group. I presume the impact of an in-person event will be similar to nest with Fedora.

Counter-argument for this may be virtual conferences could have equally been effective in exchanging ideas and interactions.

Result / recommendations
Nest with Fedora and other locations (based on Fedora user/server statistics and the number of ambassadors/volunteers)

In Europe, is Brno fixed location for such event or is rotating within a region?

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I wrote the original post as unbiased as possible, but here goes my personal opinion on this topic. This doesn’t really touch safety concerns around Covid, which are also on my mind, but I believe this topic is broader than “is it safe to travel or not”.

In my opinion, now that we have established Nest with Fedora(virtual), discontinuing it is not an option. With our current set of resources, I believe we should run Nest with Fedora and support whatever local in person events that Ambassadors/Advocates want to run pre/post Nest.

This statement is based on my understanding of Fedora as a community that values accessibility and equity. I have personally learned a lot in the past couple years for a couple of reasons(pandemic + global social unrest + community mgmt work + surrounding myself with people who care about DEI). One of the things I learned was to listen to more… and do what I can to make a difference. What I have heard and learned is that people with disabilities, neurodiversities, with kids, with parents who need caretaking or any of a hundred other reasons, have never/rarely been able to go to in person events pre-pandemic.

It was a side effect of the pandemic, but all of a sudden we(universal) are reaching these groups of people with more content, engagement, and hopefully, we are also listening to them. To me, going back to only an in-person contributor conference would feel like we didn’t listen, that we don’t care, and that we are willing to forget what we’ve learned to just feel like things are “normal” again or to scratch our social itches. (I know Fedora cares, I am not saying we don’t or trying to call anyone out!) I have personally attended Flock to Fedora for many years, and they were amazing experiences. I have re-examined those experiences as privileges and not something I am entitled to.

Longterm, I believe that ideally we would have both contributor focused virtual & in person events, and I think we should work towards that. The format Ben suggested for the future sounds great! This is dependent on a whole bunch of things, but I would love to see it happen in 2023. I think we need to jump into that strategy & future planning work, virtually, and with gusto. If we as a community are doing awesome things, the idea is that we could pull more event sponsorships & general funding :crossed_fingers: :crossed_fingers:

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These are my personal thoughts about virtual events, although looking through this thread, it is not the popular opinion of the group, I feel like it is worth putting it out there anyways.

Reflecting on virtual events and Nest

I am burnt out on virtual events. I don’t get the empowering experiences that keep me close and connected to the community. When I attend virtual events, I am also subject to the physical environment around me, whether that is my non-Red Hat job or caretaking.

Coming out of this year’s DevConf CZ experience, I ended the weekend feeling guilty. I planned to dedicate a day, attend sessions, and catch up with friends, but I didn’t do any of that. I was able to spend two hours max at DevConf CZ and ended up missing >80% of the sessions that I had marked on my Sched as wanting to attend. I felt guilty because I ended up missing out on lots of opportunities to connect with people whom I really wanted to catch up with. I wasn’t able to come on microphone/camera when asked to by a session organizer because of work commitments. My overall feeling at the end of DevConf CZ was whether it was worth getting myself excited for it when in practice, I really struggled to be an active and engaged participant.

For similar reasons, I also forgot/skipped FOSDEM this year because the whole idea of it felt exhausting and overwhelming to me.

Virtual Fedora events like Nest were always an exception for keeping my enthusiasm, but if I look back on my participation in the last two years, it has also become less and less. Last year (2021) was the first Fedora conference in five years that I didn’t submit anything for. I acknowledge a part of that is my work in a role that does not have a lot of overlap with Fedora, but if I think about it, I can’t think of a time when my day job has ever correlated to how I participate in Fedora. I feel burnt out.

What I would like to see

I think we need to encourage more face-to-face interactions. Flock was a great conference because of its ability to connect people from different backgrounds and cultures. It was a great conference because working and talking about Fedora was only one part of what we did there. We also got to be human beings and learn more about the others who compose our community outside of the computer screen. (Comparatively, at virtual events, I feel like the bulk of what we connect over is work and what we do in front of computer screens.)

@bcotton’s idea seems to work for a way to have an in-person and virtual event, and I do agree that completely abolishing Nest/virtual events is not an option either. But neither should abolishing in-person events be an option either. We could consider bringing back local hackfests as one way to improve that engagement if there will be no in-person contributor conference.

I think we should accept the reality of the pandemic situation too and that the timing will never be 100% right, and that every event option (in-person and virtual) includes some people but excludes others. The pandemic will continue, there will be more variants, travel rules and requirements will keep changing. I think the question is, in light of this, what will Fedora do to adapt to this fragile situation, at least for another two to three years?

My pie-in-the-sky wish for Fedora: Hire a new person to Fedora leadership

I would like to see the event organization decoupled from the FCAIC role by bringing in a new paid person to assist on events in the core Fedora leadership team, so that there is not such a huge burden on a single person to take accountability as the community lead for all of Fedora (which is a huge workload!!!) and organizing events around the year for the community (which is quite possibly an even bigger workload!!!).

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Thanks for your thoughts, Justin. I share your weariness of online events. I’m still doing many, more out of obligation than excitement.

From your lips to Shadowman’s ears :smiley:

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Id like to offer my help, if needed, to assist in organizing either a local-ish Flock event that may run in parallel with other Flocks at various locations and/or help organise a main Flock conference. I’ve unfortunately never had the privilege to attend an in-person Flock and while the online Nest event has still given me a wonderful opportunity to engage with the wider fedora community and form connections, I would still love to meet people in person someday (soon!). I mean, a pub quiz really should be in a real pub :wink:
So that’s why I would like to volunteer to help organize any in person events, as like @jflory7 rightly pointed out, placing the responsibility for organizing global event(s), on one person! is a huge undertaking and also not fair. This is purely my own thoughts and feelings on the matter and I am deliberately avoiding bringing pandemic issues into the mix as I think in general a move back to an in person event will need more volunteers to help bring it to reality, especially given the current world we live in.
Fwiw I have thoroughly enjoyed attending Nest and will continue to do so if the annual conference remains online again this year. The way the event is run is very professional and accessible so I have no qualms with it. I just have a preference to attend in person events again and I really like the suggestion of a mixed format - one main in person conference and the release parties remaining online. That feels like the best of both worlds. Personally I gain more from the human interactions and personally, I will make choices to travel based on my health, my family’s health and the safety of the country/venue where an event is being held as I would have done pre-pandemic.
I don’t know if this has been particularly useful, but if more people are needed to bring an in person event back to the Fedora project, pandemics aside, please sign me up as a volunteer to help! :raising_hand_woman:
I might not be great at contributing code, but I can definitely contribute time to help organise and facilitate events and would be more than happy to do so :slightly_smiling_face:

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