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The extra mile (of track).

Depending on your background, where you live, and your personal predilections, you may or may not be used to any kind of overnight noise. When staying in a hotel, this is a concern for any guest. Even if you frequently stay in hotels, each new location is an unfamiliar environment, and humans just like any animal are predisposed to be less comfortable in a place they don’t know.

Because there are railroad tracks that run nearby the Courtyard Tempe Downtown, the planning group for FUDCon Tempe wanted to do a little extra to make your stay comfortable. We bought disposable earplugs (the kind you can roll and insert) — you can pick up a pair Friday night to help you sleep easier.

It’s impossible to predict whose sleep is bothered by train noise. For example, my family stayed once at a bed and breakfast located right next to the old L&N railroad line where it ran through downtown Henderson, Kentucky. During our stay, my wife didn’t seem to have much problem sleeping through the train noise. (It’s probably fair to say she’d been conditioned over years of my snoring.) On the other hand, it really bugged me and our kids, so we gave them earplugs. Problem solved!

Anyway, just wanted to let people know that we had comfort aid available for anyone who thinks they might need it. If you decide to use earplugs, though, remember to turn your alarm device up so that you can hear it! We’ll be opening FUDCon promptly at 9:00am Saturday.

We love stinkin’ badges.

For a few years now our FUDCons have always included attendee name badges. Often people coming to FUDCon are meeting face to face for the first time with people they know from online interactions. Name badges make it easy to put a face to a name or IRC nick.

At FUDCon Tempe, though, we’ve added a little twist. Name badges this time around will feature a QR Code that includes a little bit of contact information for each attendee. This code can be scanned by certain smartphone apps, so if you meet someone and you’d like to keep in contact later, you can scan each other’s badges to make it easier to do so. The excellent suggestion for using a QR Code came from contributor Juan Rodriguez (nushio), and all-around superstar Ian Weller provided the script to create the badges.

Here’s how the QR Code works:

  • If you included your Fedora Account System (FAS) username in your signup, either with a wiki link or as a comment, we’ve used that to construct the contact information in the QR Code (your @fedoraproject.org email, and your User:Username page on the Fedora wiki).
  • If you didn’t include that information, your QR Code will only indicate the name shown on your badge. It’s still minimally useful, in that you can let someone scan the code to get the spelling of your name correct.

The information on the badge is based on what you made public in the wiki, since we don’t want to just start throwing people’s email addresses around if they haven’t given us one. (If you want to give anyone details beyond your Fedora email or wiki page, you can do that manually.

The badges were printed this weekend using the template Ian set up, and here’s a demo. Hint: if you have a barcode scanning app on your phone, you can probably test my badge directly from your computer screen!

Example QR Code on a FUDCon Tempe badge

We even left a line on the badge for informative or funny comments. Unfortunately in a couple cases these comments were much longer than we could include on the badge. If your comment fell into this category, you may find it truncated or missing on the badge. You can feel free to write it in by hand once you get your badge, but I recommend you avoid writing over the QR Code, so it stays useful. As I mentioned earlier, we were careful not to put any information on the badge you didn’t already provide publicly through the Fedora wiki. But if for some reason you don’t like the idea of this QR Code, you’re welcome to mark it out with a dark marker or pen to render it useless. (That’s a pretty effective opt-out measure.)

We look forward to seeing you at FUDCon, start gearing up your blogs!

GTD at FUDCon.

The upcoming FUDCon in Tempe will be a rather interesting experience for me, because in a sense I’ll be returning to a role as an individual contributor in Fedora. One of the things I’m looking forward to doing in that role is sitting down with any contributors who are involved in, or interested in, working on our Drupal instance called Insight.

We have a very small group of people — albeit truly wonderful ones — who have been working on the system for a while now:

  • Pascal Calarco, as an editor-in-chief of Fedora Weekly News, has been involved for some time because we share a desire to get the Fedora Weekly News published more formally outside the wiki. He’s helped test with content, and started us down the road to using custom Views settings to group FWN issues.
  • Peter Borsa came in late last year and has helped with packaging, research, and development efforts. He and I have been making a lot of headway on getting the “Top 10″ modules for Drupal into Fedora, and we expect to be finished with that effort very shortly.
  • Jon Ciesla, who owns the core Drupal packages in Fedora, has been of inestimable value in getting us toward a side goal of being able to put parallel installable Drupal instances (i.e. Drupal 6 and Drupal 7) on the next Fedora release and beyond. It’s been a challenge to navigate all the packaging issues but he’s risen to it with gusto; and fortunately Drupal’s excellent (and strict) licensing standards have made things quite a bit easier than they could have been.
  • The seemingly omnipresent Robyn Bergeron has helped with testing and with asking questions that made us all think a little harder about what we were doing, and how to make sure other people understood it better.
  • Sven Lankes and Volker Fröhlich have helped with packaging issues as well, both on the construction side and the review side, finding issues as we go. Thanks guys!

Although that sounds like a lot of people, every one of them has other things they’re working on, both inside and outside Fedora. As a result, our progress has been slower than any of us would prefer. That’s why I’m looking forward to sitting down with a few people and taking some uninterrupted time to push this project forward.

Not all the people on this list are going to be in Tempe, but that’s why we have IRC and other communication methods. A lot of what we need to do is easily done over the network. Nevertheless, having a few people in a room who are committed to sit still and pay attention to one project at a time will be very valuable.

I’m arriving on Friday afternoon for FUDCon, and leaving on a red-eye flight on Monday night, just after midnight. Since my new job at Red Hat doesn’t revolve as much around attending Fedora community activities, I really want to make the most of my time there. Happily there will be great weather and robust attendance from a lot of fantastic contributors, so that’s not going to be a difficult goal to achieve.

FUDCon sponsored folks, take note(s).

Thanks not only to the auspices of Red Hat’s Community Architecture team but also to generous sponsors Google and Rackspace, the FUDCon Tempe planning team has been able to sponsor the travel of numerous community members to the event. For every person who’s able to travel to the event, there are always many more who aren’t. Whenever travelers are sponsored for an event, therefore, we ask them to repay that favor by helping spread information about it to the rest of the community.

If you’re being sponsored to come to FUDCon by getting help with travel fare and/or lodging, we would like to see you prepare one blog post per day about your experiences.

There are lots of ways to write a FUDCon blog entry. I know that the “daily journal” format is fairly popular, but you needn’t feel limited to producing a summary of what you did all day long. You could, for example, concentrate on one or two sessions or collaborations that were most important to you, describe what you learned, what you contributed, and (here’s the kicker!) what you intend to do in the future that connects to your FUDCon experience. Frankly, speaking as a reader, I find that type of blog to be very interesting and compelling to read.

But no matter what you choose to write about, it’s your choice. Make sure that a feed of Fedora related content from your blog is carried on the Fedora Planet, using the instructions found on our wiki page. Then make sure you tag or categorize your blog post so that it gets picked up by the Planet. (What’s that? You don’t have a blog? Never fear — visit the Fedora Blogs site and you can set one up.)

Published blogs are useful beyond just keeping the community current about FUDCon. They become part of news feeds beyond our community and can get other people interested in Fedora as well. So be descriptive and have fun with your blog entry — your readers will enjoy the time you put into it.

It’s great to be able to see so many contributors at the upcoming FUDCon Tempe event. I’m really excited about the opportunity to see old friends in a brand new venue. (It’s gonna be great not to be freezing!) But at the same time, I also want to make sure that we aren’t forgetting about all our community friends around the globe who won’t be in Tempe. Let’s all make a commitment to involve, inform, and inspire those who aren’t able to attend in person!

FUDCon sponsorships, fares, roommates, and you.

One of the hallmarks of the Fedora Users and Developers Conference, or FUDCon, is that it’s gone global. We just wrapped up another stupendous European event in Zurich this weekend, and we’re already deeply into planning another FUDCon in Tempe in January. Lots of people may also know that we make sponsorships (subsidies) available for our global FUDCon events.

But how do these sponsorships actually work, with regard to paying for stuff like airfares and lodging?

Travel fares

The cost of actually getting from Point A to Point B can be a hindrance for contributors. So we try to make it easier for people who are doing good work to get to FUDCon where they can collaborate in person. The way we do that is by directly buying airfares or other travel tickets. To some extent, we become a little travel agency that serves a small pool of attendees who otherwise couldn’t get to FUDCon. Sending cash advances is possible in some cases, but it’s non-optimal because of the way the accounting works. Buying directly saves time and effort, plus it’s a little more of a personal touch.

No matter the method, there’s always some work involved. It’s worth it, though, when you consider not only what contributors get out of the event, but what they put into it as well! A day of person-time to book travel for a dozen people yields a dozen people coming to FUDCon and clocking several dozen hours of learning, teaching, and good old-fashioned work. That’s a pretty phenomenal ROI before you even start counting the thanks and goodwill of colleagues that you get to send to a fantastic event!

Lodging

We rely on the subsidized people to make their own hotel reservations. Most people who come to FUDCon can cut their costs by sharing a room with someone — double occupancy saves money. The logistics of finding roommates can seem complex, but I’m hoping this post makes it simpler:

  • We have a space on the wiki pre-registration table for Room sharing. When you mark a yes there, it means you want or need a roommate to share costs. When you find a roommate, you mark your roommate’s name in that box — and so does your roommate.

  • We ask the people we subsidize, wherever possible, to find a roommate who is also subsidized. That means we can simply put their room on our “master account” at the hotel, and the subsidized folks don’t have to worry about a thing when they check out. Putting together people whose funding comes from one place just makes sense. If we get all the subsidized folks rooming together, it’s much easier for other people to figure out open roomsharing connections.

  • Finally, all the people who have an open connection for roomsharing — a yes in the Room sharing column but no identified roommate — can easily contact each other through email or IRC to find roommates. It’s like the way BarCamp works. The crowd can solve the problems more easily in a pareto efficient way than just a few planners.

At the hotel, sponsored folks should have to worry as little as possible about their lodging. We take care of the bill for anyone we’re subsidizing at checkout time — it’s that simple. Having a group set up at the hotel where the organizers can deal directly with the hotel management makes things easy for everyone, and also ensures us a good rate on the hotel.

By the way, for the upcoming Tempe event, we were able to secure a rock-bottom price on lodging for a very popular area (the Phoenix area in wintertime) because we knew there were a lot of people who would be participating in the event and would want to stay for the weekend. You can help by making your reservations as soon as possible. Our group rate ends on November 5, so visit the lodging section on the FUDCon Tempe wiki page now, and use one of the handy links to make a reservation!

Decision making

We have a wiki page devoted entirely to the sponsorship/subsidy process. The decisions are made by those who show up to help plan and execute the FUDCon event, and they’re all Fedora community members who want to make sure the maximum number of participants can attend. And just like other FUDCon events, the planners work hard to include people from other regions, ensuring we have some participation from LATAM, EMEA, and APAC regions for the North American event for example.

In the specific case of the upcoming Tempe event, the planners focused on bringing in people who would commit to help plan and execute future FUDCon events in their region, regardless of whether it was held in their locale or country. That helps us spread the sparkling, rainbow-shooting unicorn magic* of FUDCon globally, and increase the community’s ability to drive and improve these events.

Current status

While we have hit our limit on subsidies for the moment, we are still looking for other ways to enhance our subsidy fund. For instance, some of the event organizers are reaching out to potential sponsors who love free and open source software, to see if they’d like to help us defray a few costs. That helps us divert more funds to sponsor additional community members. You can see our current ticket list in the Trac instance we use for planning.

If you’re interested in helping with the work of planning and organizing, why not join our mailing list and come to a meeting? We welcome community participation and you’ll find it’s a great way to help your fellow Fedora community members. See you there!

* Just seeing if you’re still reading.

FUDCon Tempe update #2.

Yesterday I sent a big update regarding FUDCon Tempe to the Fedora announcements list. Among the other important stuff in the update was highly anticipated lodging information. You can find the links you need on the FUDCon Tempe wiki page. Find yourself a roommate if desired and note it on the pre-registration table, and then make your hotel reservations!

The special $99 rate at the hotel is a real steal for the Phoenix area in wintertime, so don’t delay. The block rate is only guaranteed until November 5th!

FUDCon Tempe lodging update.

Here’s some great news regarding lodging for the upcoming FUDCon in Tempe. We’ve secured a much better rate at a competing hotel nearby. The rate is around 60% of what we were originally expecting. That means it just got a lot more affordable for everyone to travel to FUDCon!

We’re still working out the final bits with the hotel so we can make a detailed announcement, which you can expect in the near future. Of course, we continue to encourage anyone who’s interested in helping to join us on the FUDCon planning list.

FUDCon Tempe update.

We have a FUDCon Planning issue tracker (Trac) that will help the organizational team for FUDCon Tempe 2011 stay on top of their to-do items. We are using the Trac to track our normal meeting agenda, and the meetings for FUDCon Tempe are held (at least for now) on Mondays at 1900 UTC (3pm US/Eastern, 12pm US/Pacific) in IRC Freenode #fudcon-planning.

We will also be using the Trac to take funding requests for subsidizing people. We’re encouraging people to apply for subsidies if they need assistance to attend. We have a process for deciding on subsidy awards, and it’s documented on the wiki in the normal, transparent fashion.

If you already pre-registered on the wiki, and indicated you need some travel assistance, please fill out a ticket. That will really help us keep track of the requests, so thanks in advance. (Don’t worry, we’ll contact those folks by email too, to make sure we catch their attention.) You can find more information on the Trac wiki.

As part of my work helping the new FPL get situated, I’m helping with FUDCon planning for the next few months. Jared and I will also be teaming up to help the FUDCon Zurich team with their needs over the next few weeks until that event starts. We’re making sure to send a few engineers from Red Hat in the USA, and helping with some of the general bill-paying to keep things moving along.

By the way, if you’re in one of these regions, you definitely don’t want to miss a FUDCon event. Make sure you pre-register on the wiki and let us know you’re coming! Here are the links:

Remember that FUDCon is open to everyone to attend and there is no registration fee. Happy Monday everyone!

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