SummerCamp 2011 aka #sc2011 and organization

As I posted a few weeks ago, I’m in charge of organizing an entire conference. I’ve had a ridiculous amount of help from my boss and Mekki, who I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting yet. There is unsurprisingly a large amount of organization that is required for a conference – even a one day affair. This has led me to a few interesting discoveries.

1. I knew nothing about conferences before I started this.

Like a wedding, there are all of these little things that no one but the wedding party has to think about. Centerpieces, linen, water jugs, food allergies, access to rooms ahead of time. The attendees, even the speakers, don’t always think of these things. I’m still working out swag, prizes, the volunteer coordination and everything else. I have been to some conferences before, but not many. I’ve volunteered with FOSSLC for a few conferences, but have never been in charge of figuring out even how many tables we’d need. It’s been great practice for my upcoming wedding though!

2. Decision Fatigue exists and I may have it.

Between spending two hours at 8 different stores trying to find linen at a decent price (and 8 of the identical ones) and trying to decide on venues, food and who to contact first, decision fatigue has set in. I didn’t even know this was a thing until Jason pointed it out here. I’m on page two and finding myself nodding along. For the tech savvy of my readers, it is similar to looking at laptops. There are tons of options and you know that as soon as you make a decision, a better one is going to go on sale or a newer one is going to come out.

It’s interesting though, because my job is to make decisions. Every day, I’m making decisions about our conference or how we are going to record State of the Map and FOSS4G down in Denver. I had to make decisions about the flights to Denver, hotels, transit and volunteers. It’s as exhausting as the article makes it out to be.

3. Drupal is different from WordPress.

So I’m currently using WordPress. FOSSLC is definitely using Drupal. The longer I work writing both blogs, the more I realize that they have both fairly decent interfaces and that I have no idea what’s going on underneath. I didn’t set up this blog and I won’t touch the underlying … anything of FOSSLC. Not only because I’m a gremlin, but because there’s no reason for me to know how the underlying code and what not works. I can do what I need to in either page and things just work. I understand why people use either WordPress or Drupal, from a user’s point of view.

4. Most of a conference can be organized via email.

Don’t believe me? The snacks are from Auntie Loo’s, the lunch is from Dantessa, the evening event is at the NAC, the conference is at OttawaU and the mapping party is at The Code Factory. All of these were done via email. I’ve met with Auntie Loo for a taste test (yum!) and with the NAC for signing and a deposit. That’s it. I’m a nerd, I tend to work strange hours and honestly, the world is working to accomidate me and my strangeness. I don’t like the phone, and never really have. The nice thing was that people are willing to phone me. I emailed the NAC and Dalia called me back the next day asking about details. It was when she was free that she contacted me and she already knew what I wanted. I didn’t have to wince afterwards and think “drat, I meant to ask about that” because I had had enough time to think about that in my email. It worked really well.

5. I have no idea who is on the who’s who list of Open Source.

I don’t and I still don’t. I know enough to know that bringing in the creator of OGG/Vorbis is a pretty awesome thing, as is bringing in one of the guys who founded Mozilla. It does make it very hard though when people are asking me about the conference and I honestly can’t tell you much about it. Why? Because it’s beyond me. I’m not a technical enough person to quickly explain what the guys from TikiWiki are going to be talking about. Actually I say technical but I mean mostly that I’m not a developer/programmer. I can easily tell you that one of the rooms is going to be full of open data talk and I love it. I’m making it my aim to get myself in that room for the 90 minutes. It’s Open Data, Open Data Ottawa and Open Street Map. You can check out the full schedule in printable form and on the conference main page.

6. Volunteers appear out of the woodwork about two weeks before the event.

I’m not complaining! I think it’s fantastic that I asked our IEEE Ottawa U Student Branch exec to find me some volunteers and I got six, four within a few days. I hope they’re reading this, as the more volunteers they bring me, the more they get to watch the conference! Incentive is the best way to get volunteers, really.

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