FUDCon Pune 2015: CFP Closed, But…

The CFP for FUDCon Pune 2015 is now closed.  We have had an overwhelming response: 141 talks/workshops submitted.  This is more than twice the number of sessions we received for the 2011 edition.  Talk submissions were pouring in till the last minute when we flipped the switch for the CFP page.

However, there’s a twist in the tale, so people who couldn’t get their CFP in aren’t left out.

For FUDCon Pune 2011, we tried something new: instead of the regular barcamp style at FUDCons, we put out a CFP and accepted talks in advance.  This was done as we knew a FUDCon in India was going to be different than the usual FUDCons, where at most a hundred people turn up.  Barcamp style is manageable with those numbers.  We were proved right when the number of attendees exceeded 1000 then.  Setting up the Drupal + COD instance back in 2011 had helped us with getting talk proposals accepted, as well as opening voting for everyone, so we knew which talks were going to be popular and schedule accordingly.  Also, the voting aspect of it had a barcamp feel to it.

Fast forward to the 2015 edition.  The conference is happening end of June, and our CFP closes start of March.  That means there’s almost 4 months between the CFP close and the conference start.  People who plan late, and have something to bring to the conference, are left out (well, there always are hallway tracks, but that restricts the audience).  Also, just having the CFP isn’t traditional FUDCon style.

So I proposed in the 3rd March weekly FUDCon planning meeting that we do some barcamp tracks in addition to the regularly-scheduled tracks.  We squabbled a bit over the details on how to actually make this work — have a new CFP open / have people submit talks via our COD instance, or do it on a whiteboard at the venue / do we recognise barcamp speakers as our scheduled speakers (matters for the swag!) / do we provide subsidy to barcamp speakers / etc.

One thing became clear from these discussions: no one objected to having the barcamp; we just had to flesh out the details.  So here’s some good news for people who couldn’t submit their session for the CFP:

We’re going to have barcamp tracks at the FUDCon, and sessions can be proposed at the venue on the days of the conference.

One of the reasons to have a FUDCon is to get people together and work on stuff.  The traditional FUDCon style (i.e. barcamps) were designed so that people active in Fedora just turned up, and things happened.  It didn’t matter who got to speak officially; everyone just mingled together and had their say.  “Hallway tracks” are always the more interesting and productive ones than the scheduled tracks.  They’re also far more interactive and focussed.

We don’t want to take that away.  This obviously means that whoever turns up to the event gets to propose barcamp sessions.  So if people are thinking they’ll attend the event if their talk submission gets accepted, that’s the wrong way to go about it.  Just turn up, you’ll have a voice no matter what.

This also means people needing travel sponsorship need to put in their subsidy requests NOW.  We are soon going to start looking at requests already in the queue, so don’t be late for requesting subsidies.

Doing the barcamp in addition to formal scheduling is going to put a strain on the venue and logistics team, but we like challenges, and we’ll step up to them.

During the 10th March planning meeting, many people were of the view that we should not accept barcamp talk proposals on the COD instance.  Reasons were that’s not how barcamp submissions work, and a whiteboard at the venue can be used just as well.  That obviously means the barcamp tracks can only be held on the 2nd and 3rd days, since the first day people will have to come up, propose sessions, and vote on the proposed ones.

Since most of the people were of this view, we accepted this.  However, we may change this depending on how our scheduling goes for the main conference (we can’t really fit in 140 talks!) so we may just flip over the rest to the barcamp track, and have people vote beforehand.  I find there’s a certain appeal to using the COD instance to ease our jobs.  It also means we have a proper schedule to display on the web / print out, so people know where to head to, instead of looking at the schedule on the web for the formal schedule, and missing out on the barcamps entirely, or having to hunt for the barcamp schedule at the venue.  I’m sure we’ll have a lot more discussions around this topic as we approach the event.

The response to the CFP has been mind-boggling.  We can project that the event itself will witness more participation than the 2011 edition.  We did a fairly good job in 2011 handling 1000 people, 60 talks and 6 parallel sessions; this time we may have a much bigger scale, and we actually know what to expect; I’m confident we will execute it as well as the last time.

Update 16 Apr 2015: Corrected note about proposing barcamp submissions: can be proposed at the venue; instead of “till the day of the conference”.

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