Thanks for opening this conversation Ben. This is a good opportunity to get ideas and thoughts out into the open about what a Flock 2023 would actually look like.
I agree that we should not jump back in by doing the same thing we always did. While I am traveling home from All Things Open today, it surprised me at first that it was way more taxing than I remembered larger events and conferences being. This line in the article resonated especially:
“Our social skills are like a muscle that has atrophied, and we need to provide everyone with the space to ease back into these events. People should leave retreats feeling refreshed and energized, not exhausted.”
First, I want to point out that isn’t a new idea for Flock. We integrated hackfests into Flock programming in a more intentional way for the first time at Flock 2017 in Cape Cod. While scheduling still included many presentations, we made steps away from unidirectional content (i.e. speaker presenting to audience) and more bidirectional content (i.e. facilitator threading conversations between a core team or multiple teams).
I mention this because I think this shift worked well for Flock. Looking back at the article, one major difference with Fedora is that we also haven’t done small team “mini-retreats” (i.e. hackfests / FADs) in a while now either. So, Flock would likely be a significant convergence of many teams who also have not had the benefit of face-to-face interaction in a long time either. I don’t want to carve away too much of that time because I do think it is valuable, and I particularly value opportunities for teams that don’t normally get to collaborate or be in the same room at the same time to do that at Flock.
That said, my preference would be to reduce unidirectional content (i.e. presentations) in favor of more bidirectional or interactive sessions (i.e. half-day or full-day hackfests, or workshops). Since the pandemic, release parties took off in a way they did since my time in Fedora began. Release parties are an effective medium for unidirectional, informational content. They fill a gap that was previously only filled by Flock.
So, I don’t think reducing presentations from Flock programming is controversial. Additionally, it could actually be a boon for organizing efforts around release parties.
I was thinking recently about what Flock might look like if the programming was made to be more thematic around how each day was spent. Assuming we continue a 3.5 day format (Thursday to Sunday afternoon), what do you think of something like this?
Day 1: Engineering Day.
- This day focuses on all topics related to engineering and development in Fedora. This could be release engineering, Fedora Infrastructure, FESCo, websites & apps, packaging, Fedora Spins & Labs, Mentored Project intern presentations, or anything else that could be rolled up into “the bits and bytes” of Fedora.
Day 2: Mindshare Day.
- This day focuses on all topics related to non-engineering and Mindshare in Fedora. This could be design, marketing, CommOps, Mindshare Committee, localization & translation, mentored projects, documentation, Fedora Join, etc.
Day 3: Community Day.
- This would fit better with the idea offered in the article for unstructured social time. This could be planned social activities (e.g. physical/adventure, cerebral/cultural, health/wellness) as well as self-organized social time. We could reserve the venue space for spontaneous “unconference”-style sessions that might emerge as a result of conversations in the previous two days. Ideally, this is the day for the community to unwind, enjoy the journey, and get that valuable social time that many of us have missed since the last Flock.
Day 4: Read-outs and wrap-up.
- This remains similar to how we have done it at previous Flocks. Session organizers and speakers present read-outs of what happened at Flock, key takeaways and actions, and what comes next. I prefer to reserve this day to be transferring the outcomes of Flock back into the usual workstreams that we have across the project.
Other than ending with read-outs, I’m not committed to this specific order.
My intention of having an Engineering and a Mindshare day would be to encourage better overlap of these two different groups. One struggle for me at previous Flocks is that opportunities to grow in new areas was harder to come by. I wanted to attend session X about CoreOS and container infrastructure in Fedora, but I actually needed to attend session Y withthe Fedora Badges team that ran at the same time. For me, I often stayed within my comfort zone or in my lane at Flock, and it was harder for me to “reach” across the Project into areas where I had less visibility.
So, I feel like splitting the content into these two buckets might allow people the chance to break into a part of Fedora that they might not otherwise get to explore. Would it make scheduling easier or harder? I’m not too sure.
One potential downside is that this would segregate our contributors, and lead to an “othering” of other parts of Fedora. Which is the exact opposite of the outcome I would want. For example, I’d want to encourage Engineering folks to be present in the Mindshare Day and Mindshare folks to be present in the Engineering Day.
To be frank, I could not sustain both a Flock and a Nest in the same year. I have enough prior context to know how much work organizing each of these events is. Even if someone else organized one or the other, I would still have to be tied closely to both by the nature of the FCAIC role. Maybe I could be convinced otherwise, but I really want to mind my burnout clock and I think running both in the same year is too much on me.
However, to counter, I really love our virtual release parties. I think this was an unexpected success that emerged in the last two years. The release party model could also work well with autonomous, locally-organized events (which is something I would like to encourage more of).
To be perfectly clear, I am not dictating that this is how it is going to be, but as the fulcrum for a lot of our events now, this is my gut feeling for what I’d like to do:
START: In-person Flocks.
STOP: Virtual Nests.
CONTINUE: Virtual and local in-person Release Parties.