Sunday, March 11, 2012

Running a devroom at FOSDEM

FOSDEM 2012 is over and it is time recollect the newly gained experience as a Microkernel OS devroom organizer. It may or may not be useful for the future devroom organizers.

  • Our devroom involved several projects, loosely related by their focus. It is a very good idea to try to get involved as many projects as possible. It can happen that the most obvious projects that could participate in the devroom will fully or partially pull out of the devroom shortly before the FOSDEM weekend. It is good to be ready when something like that happens.
  • We traveled by car all the way from Prague to Brussels and brought some heavy hardware equipment (Sun Ultra 60, Sandy Bridge PC, OpenMoko FreeRunner, two LCD monitors and keyboards) with us in a hope that we will be running HelenOS demos in the back corner of the devroom. Judging from the mostly idle utilization of these demo computers, this was not worth the trouble.
  • I held a 15-minute welcome and introductory talk. In retrospective, it may be better to start the devroom with a regular talk right away. This is mainly because the devroom visitors navigate themselves among the devrooms using the FOSDEM booklet and the schedule contained therein. Standing in the visitors' shoes, it is likely that people will ditch the welcome talk in favor of some more technically interesting one in another devroom. This will, of course, drive people away from the first technically interesting talk in our devroom as it starts some 20 minutes after all devrooms open.
  • The FOSDEM organizers recommend placing short breaks in between the talks. This is in general a good idea. The breaks provide some time for the visitors to talk to the speakers and also serve as buffer zones when some speakers exceeds his or her time slice. Ten-minute breaks seemed very reasonable. On the other hand, I'd suggest not to schedule an hour-long lunch break as the total of 8 donated hours is, in fact, a rather short time. We were able to cram  6 regular talks and one panel discussion into our program, while some other devrooms offered over 10. Clearly, the lunch break was at the expense of one additional talk in our program.
  • Organizing the devroom is a challenging task and if there are more projects participating in it, it may be a good idea to establish a system of rotating presidency so that each year the devroom is run by a different project. 
  • If your devroom is scheduled for Sunday and you are in town already on Saturday, go and see your devroom on Saturday and get familiar with the specifics of the room.