Open Source Bridge 2010 feedback

It’s over. It was great. I learned a lot.

I didn’t give back as much as I wanted to. Well, that’s a little dishonest – I don’t think I gave back at all. I intended to (I had a crackin’ idea for a lightning talk) but I didn’t carry through. My bad. I will do better next time.

I sent Selena some comments about it:

I tremendously enjoyed this year’s conference. I attend only two conferences each year, PyCon and OSB, and I find the energy level and attitude similar and equally enjoyable between them.

I may not attend your wrap-up session today at 3:30. So I’d like to send you this mail with my feedback. I hope you don’t mind.

Please take this only as constructive criticism, to try to help in a small way. In doing this, I FULLY recognize that I might not be your target demographic or psychograhic! How much to factor in any of the following is up to you.

Feedback and suggestions:

1. This year’s location was better than last year’s. It’s good to actually be in downtown PDX. But I’m not saying that last year’s location was awful! If you could save money by going back to OCC or some equivalent place, I would consider doing that.

2. Although the external location was better, the internal room logistics were much worse this year.

a) The curtain “rooms” that weren’t rooms were terrible. It was too easy to be distracted by other presentations, or by hallway (fabricway?) conversations. A conference’s number one goal is to transfer information! The fabric “rooms” worked directly against that.

b) “Hallway” space is needed. In the OCC last year, hallway conversations happened in the, well, hallways. They were a venue for information exchange. But this year there wasn’t a hallway. There was a stairway, up and down which the conference attendees trudged. The dynamic was completely different. Eyes front, look down, don’t trip fall and die.

c) The hacker lounge didn’t feel like a lounge. It felt like a bunch of tables in the back of a room. The energy at least year’s lounge at the Hilton was much better.

3. There ought to be some thought given to additional quality control for next year’s talks.

a) I attended three talks that surprised me by how much they aimed at beginners. The drawback to narrative descriptions is that, while they allow for detail, they also allow for varying interpretations. “We’ll start with…. and then talk about….” can be interpreted in many ways. There needs to be some easy-to-scan indicator of a talk’s level – newbie, intermediate, etc.

b) Two talks veered dangerously close to being glorified marketing spiels for the products of their speakers’ employers. Even if not deliberately intended, it’s easy for biases to creep into a talk, or to give the appearance of a conflict of interest. I suggest that OSB adopt a rule along the lines of, you can’t give a talk about a product sold by your employer. Or, if your talk covers your employer’s product, you have to have a co-presenter who works for a different company.

c) There should be more formalized feedback to the speakers, and to OSB, beyond a wiki page on which anyone can change or obliterate others’ comments. Why not use Surveymonkey or something similar?

4. I know you have to balance money vs. goodies, but, the coffee/tea serving during the day was weak. More cookies.

5. I thought of a sponsorship prize for next year: Have your name used for a session room! (“The DeRosa room…”)

6. I liked the smaller paper program, compared to last year. You could save even more money by not having paper programs at all. Everyone’s lugging a laptop. Paper is so 20th century.

7. Some of the speakers were better than others at staying on time. Consider having session runners give the speakers 5-minute warnings, supervise audience questions, etc. Alternatively….give speakers the same instructions you gave them this year, but be more emphatic. One talk ran nearly 15 minutes over, and that’s a problem for the audience. Some of us have no problem standing up and walking out. Others are more timid.

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