Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Looking back at the openSUSE Conference 2011 (oSC)

Well, once again, I had a chance to meet a community, one of which, I have never met before ;-)

I arrived at Zentrifuge on the 10th of September for the warmup to the oSC. Immediately after arrival, I was greeted with warm smiles, open discussions, and cold beer ;-) No one knew who I was, but they all welcomed me. As the evening continued, I was witness to how the community also made sure that they welcomed everyone, once they arrived. This is pure class and I would like to say is very important to a newbie who is entering the community. This is one aspect where openSUSE makes the difference, since it is not practiced to this extent in many other communities.

The first day: After a great evening of meeting various contributors, members of openSUSE and SUSE employees, and having great technical and non-technical chats, the first day of the event was kicked off. It was hot, not only the event, but the weather. Around 35 centigrade with a lot of humidity, so the speakers, like me, were really put to the test. I had the chance to meet many people in the openSUSE community and spend some time with them one on one to discuss their experiences and how they viewed the project. Furthermore, I met a few others who were not a part of the openSUSE community, but others within our ecosystem who were there to show there dedication to collaboration. I, myself, also held a workshop entitled "Introduction to Cross-cultural Communication, Collaboration and Conflict" which attracted quite a crowd and I am very please with all that attended, showed interest and gave feedback. You guys and gals are awesome and did a remarkable job!!!

The second day: This is where the the fun and the heat started to both take their toll ;-) I made it a point to attend most all of the community track and also Greg KH's talk on Tumbleweed. The first BoF I attended was Ambassador Program: Current status, potential changes and inprovements held by Kostas and Manu. This was an interesting discussion on the current status of the program and what needs to be done to make the program more structured and what will be expected from new ambassadors when they join. The second talk I attended was Greg KH's talk on his initiative Tumbleweed. Greg is an excellent speaker and really has a knack for communicating technical things in a way non-technical people can understand. This is a major accomplishment in itself ;-), let alone his long-time appreciated contributions to the kernel. I learned that I practiced a couple of Greg's don'ts while using Tumbleweed and have since corrected those mistakes. Furthermore, I  would like to add that I had some discussions with Greg about some certain kernel modules and he was very helpful, took the time to research them and got back to me in a very short time with the answers. Thanks again Greg!!! The next workshop I attended was Pascal's Packaging, hands on. Unfortunately, things did not go according to plan in this workshop, due to a number of issues: The network was not working correctly, the heat was almost unbearable, and there were people of various different experience levels that attended making it very hard for the host to keep a steady pace. These things happen sometimes, so let's not shoot the messenger! The next BoF, I attended was Mentoring New Contributors, held by Vincent Untz. This was quite an involved discussion about how to build a structure for a mentor-ship program for new people joining. This is quite a complex topic, still under discussion of how to mentor, who will mentor (given the limited resources and time) and how this program will be implemented. Overall, I think we came up with some good arguments to help build the program and of course we are still in the process of helping build it. In Final, this was quite an involved day, aside from all of the private discussions I had in between these workshops and BoF, which also yielded some solid initiatives for cross-community collaboration. Definitely , a very effective day that gave a great overview of the status of the project.

The third day: This day was quite ad-hoc, I hosted an open BoF to discuss issues/conflicts within the project and in our ecosystem. Thanks to all that attended and your input (for the sake of the issues themselves and trust, I will not write any details about this BoF). Furthermore, I attended BoF's regarding moderation held by Jos Poortvliet, and another held by Lydia Pintscher, which focused on how to get more women into openSUSE. The moderation discussion was interesting and always touchy subject, though we had the right people there to discuss. Thanks Henne, Pascal, Alan, Bryen, and Richard for your input and collaboration. We have come to agreement for a solid start to how we will approach this. This initiative should be implemented soon and IMHO all of the community will benefit from it. In final, last (not chronologically either) but not least was the BoF, held by Lydia Pintscher of KDE on her experiences and suggestions of how to get more women into openSUSE. This is a hot topic in all communities and IMHO, I believe it should be given more of a priority. We have come up with some things to build on and luckily have some of our own who have taken the initiative to continue the discussion and bring forth viable ideas. Thanks to Lydia, Pascal, Bruno, Stella, and Susanne for their suggestions and input. A special thanks to Susanne Oberhauser for taking the lead and initiative to build on the discussion. If any of you have any suggestions or would like to help, please contact her as we need your help to make openSUSE a more attractive project for women to become involved with.

On the final day: I attended one BoF hosted by Kostas entitled "Do we need an ambassador mentorship program? This was also a very interesting discussion, as it, in my eyes, ties into getting women into openSUSE and also to the discussion about a mentoring program in general held by Vincent Untz. Mentoring is a something all organizations and communities need. We need people who can answer questions, have patience with newbies and overall be a go-to person who can refer a new contributor to the right team/person in the project to get their initiatives started and to simply get their questions answered. Hopefully, within the next months, we will have worked out all the kinks and have a workable ambassador mentor-ship program that works together with the overall project mentor-ship program, so we have a clear line of communication that is also reflected down to the mentees.

Finally, I must admit, it was quite a wild ride for me ;-) I met and made some very good friends, got some great business contacts, had a chance to speak to many people individually to get a feeling of the overall health of the community, and also had time in the evenings to plan some social events. Thanks especially to Stephan whom was willing to take a small group of us on a tour of the Altstadt, be our guide, take us to dinner and drinks at a local brewery and not give up on us because we were late. Sorry for that Stephan, I know we broke the cardinal rule in German culture, we were late. It will not happen again. Thanks also to all those who attended. Thanks to those involved for the lunches, dinners and the fun we had after hours ;-) Oh, and who could forget, thanks to the Greek crew for providing their touch, getting people involved and most of all that Greek charm;-)

In Conclusion, I would like to extend my assistance to the openSUSE project with helping with community development, leadership, communication and conflict. I have already initiated some cases on pending issues brought to my attention by several contributors and will be working together with those contributors to help find a solution that best fits their needs and the needs of the openSUSE project. Moreover, I would like to extend a hand out to the openSUSE board and SUSE, so that we together can build a better capacity for clearer communication, a clear process for handling conflict, a more diverse and international community and a more effective and healthy  community for all.

Overall, you Geekos should give each other a big hug and a pat on the back!!! You are a very unique, open, and welcoming community, one of which on this level is quite rare in our ecosystem. I look forward to working together with all of you to make openSUSE even better!!!

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