I just finished chairing the organizing committee for the International Evergreen conference in Vancouver. It’s been more than a year of planning and a labour of love. From our own evaluation and from participant feedback we put on a really excellent conference. Now that I’m caught up on sleep here’s some of my thoughts.
Why this was an awesome organizing experience for me
- great community – the Evergreen community is awesome. People are kind, hardworking and have a DIY get ‘er done kinda attitude. I don’t write code, so can’t make that kind of contribution to the project, but I am good at event planning. While I’m sure I could organize an event for a group of people I didn’t know, it’s easier and more fulfilling to do this for a community of people I care deeply about. One of my first jobs out of library school was doing training and support for the Sitka Evergreen installation in BC. I learned a lot and this experience helped me get interesting library technology jobs. I feel grateful for the skills I built and to the people who mentored me. On a personal level it feels good to be able to contribute something back to the Evergreen community.
- great organizing team – This was the second conference that we’ve organized together. I have a lot of respect and admiration for these folks: Anita Cocchia (BCELN), Caroline Daniels (KPU), Mark Ellis (RPL), Mark Jordan (SFU), Paul Joseph (UBC) and Shirley Lew (VCC). While Ben Hyman (BC Libraries Coop) wasn’t on the organizing committee he did a stellar job of communicating with and buffering us from the Evergreen Oversight Board and the Software Freedom Conservancy. We all work hard and trust each other. I’ve learned a bunch of soft and hard skills from this group. I enjoyed our group dynamic and loved working together. We were comfortable asking questions and challenging each other. There were a bunch of times i felt like, as a group, we came up with a way better decision than any one of us as individuals would have.
Things that didn’t cost anything and added value
- We had an amazing team of volunteers who did live note taking as well as helping out stream the technical track. These folks were super enthusiastic and committed. The live notes are written documentation of the conference that makes it easier for everyone to write reports afterwards. One of the participants said “The team of note-takers was awesome. It let me focus on how any given session could affect my work, without worrying that I’d miss something important as I chased down random thoughts.” For me they function as a quick summary of a video, and I’ll likely scan the notes of the sessions that I missed to figure out which videos I want to watch. Many thanks to Kimberly Garmoe, Eka Grguric, Mary Jinglewski, Jonathan Kift, Jonathan Schatz, and David Waddell.
- No-host lunches were a great way to get people outside the building to see a little bit of Vancouver. They also were a way to create a structured opportunity to socialise in small groups. From an organizing perspective it wasn’t a lot of work. We created a map of places that are nearby the venue with tasty food that can accommodate 8 people, found locals who were willing to lead the groups, and put out signup sheets (7 people plus a leader). We made sure we identified places for vegetarians and gluten free folks. According to participant feedback the no-host lunches were a big hit. Also, we had a really tight budget, so this allowed us to provide something for lunch without actually having to pay for it. We did this for the Access conference, but didn’t organize it enough and it was a bit chaotic. With a bit more forethought this time things went much more smoothly.
Live note taking and no-host lunches are ideas that can be adapted to any kind of conference or event, not just an open source library software event.
This was the first time that the conference proceedings were streamed. It was expensive to pay for AV for the main track, but I think is important and should be a requirement of future conferences. There were a total of 183 people watching the live stream from the United States, Canada, Czech Republic, Japan, Mexico, Finland and the UK. As Mark, Shirley and Ben from the BC Library Coop were willing to figure out a DIY streaming solution for the tech track, we were able to also do this for next to no money. It was awesome to hear from someone watching in Mexico (a CS Masters student who is implementing Evergreen for two university libraries) via Twitter. Thank you to Sam Mills for volunteering to edit the video from the main track and to Mark Jordan for getting it up on the Internet Archive.