When the call for bids for FUDCon APAC 2015 was put out, a few of us huddled together to discuss a bid from India. We had already organised a successful FUDCon in Pune in 2011, so our initial conversations were around which city to host it in. Pune won again, just because the number of volunteers available in Pune are more than any other place in India, and Pune has several technical colleges, which makes hosting the event at one of them easier.
This time around, we're proposing to host the FUDCon at the MITCOE campus, more details in the bid page.
I was very pleased the last time around as an organiser of the FUDCon: everything had gone according to plan, even the 6 parallel sessions were going on schedule, and logistics was taken well care of. The speakers and visitors were happy with how the event was run smoothly; despite the scale of the event - hundreds of attendees, making it the largest FUDCon ever.
We had extensively documented the planning process - even face-to-face meetings were recorded on etherpads and posted as blog posts. That exercise was to ensure people who wanted to join in and volunteer anytime weren't felt left out, and also to serve as useful documentation and platform for people to organise a future FUDCon at a similar scale.
That time has now come again, for us. As part of our kickstart activities for FUDCon 2015, I went through several blog posts, event reports, and planning details from 2011. I compiled a list of the most useful ones for the planning process, which I have appended to this blog post.
On voting for Pune again: One of the purposes of planning for a FUDCon is to involve the local non-Fedora community, like students, professors, and professionals. Pune is fondly known as the Oxford of the East, which signifies it has a lot of education opportunities, and the city is brimming with students. There are several colleges affiliated to the University of Pune, as well as some independently-run colleges and universities. This gives us a lot of potential to tap into a huge student pool.
The other goal of planning a FUDCon is to involve the regional community, who know the city, its language, and so on, to pull off a successful FUDCon. Pune fit the bill perfectly on these two counts.
When we started scouting for locations, we reached out to institutions we had had some contact with: several of us keep doing talks / sessions at events which are hosted with colleges. One of such talks was delivered by Siddhesh at the MIT college. He was very impressed with the students there: they already have a FOSS chapter going, the students were genuinely interested in technology and solving problems themselves. They also use Linux as part of their activities at the college, and a few also use Linux on their personal machines. As with all things new, there was also a lot of interest in Android and writing apps, but as long as students are actively involved in technology, and doing fun things, we know we're going to have a very interested gathering for the FUDCon.
So based on this experience, we approached MIT to ask if they were willing to host the FUDCon. We met with the MIT-COE folks; the HOD of the Comp. Dept., and a few professors. They were very eager to host the event. They offered us all kinds of assistance with hosting the event, offering their huge auditorium, and a few classrooms. The facilities are nice, and we were impressed. They do not have wireless on campus, but they said they will fix this by the time the event starts! They wlil also arrange for power extension boards in the auditorium. All this just in the first meeting, and before we even won the bid!
The professors too showed a keen interest in technology, and what we did as part of the Fedora project. They asked us what kinds of talks they should expect (we showed them the schedule from the previous iteration), what would they gain from hosting the event -- they were concerned we would step in, organise the event, and go away. We ensured that won't happen, and that their students will be involved in the organising of the event, and that we would also do a few things we did the last time, like organising FADs to prepare the students and faculty for the kinds of talks and discussions we'll have at the FUDCon, setting up a local Fedora mirror, etc., and also some more - like introducing more upstream as well as direct Fedora technology.
In addition to the FUDCon, we also have planned to host one FAD (or a Fedora meetup, focussed on one topic) per month. We've done a few of those at the Red Hat Pune office, but we plan to go to colleges for the next ones. We also mentioned we could host such events at their colleges if they have interest. They were eager to host such events too.
Overall, we felt MIT-COE and us would have a great time organising the FUDCon together. It was really easy to decide on the venue based on these discussions. The only point which we had to have some discussion around was the timing of the event - Mar-Apr is exam time for the colleges, and that wouldn't have been ideal. We went with June 2015 as a month when we all would be able to participate better. The students will be fresh after a (almost) month-long vacation.Another encouraging thing with scouting for locations was that there were several colleges that showed interest in hosting the FUDCon, as well as the smaller events. We can't host the FUDCon at those venues, but we can surely host the smaller events (and the upcoming release party) at these locations. I'm sure we'll get quite a few people (students + faculty) involved with Fedora and FOSS technology if we go through with our plans.
This post is already too long; I will save the rest for later (and for others to chime in). As promised earlier, these are the links (in reverse chronological order) with information that will help organising a large FUDCon: