From Linux Australia
Below is the (draft!) HOWTO for bidding for and running linux.conf.au, one of the worlds greatest technical FOSS conferences!
Bidding for linux.conf.au
Join the elite ranks of LCA organisers! Bring fame and prestige to your local Linux community! LCA is classed as “the best technical Linux conference in the world” (Keith Packard :) and with good reasons. It is a lot of fun, very technical, has some of the best international and local Linux community people rubbing shoulder with even the newest sysadmin. Here are some ideas for how to have a successful bid for running an LCA:
- Have a venue booked - preferably sponsored in full by the venue
- Have a draft budget prepared, you can get a draft budget outline from the LCA committee
- Explain why LCA should come to your town
- Have any bling planned out, for example, Perth prepared a video for their bid
- Get buy in from potential sponsors and the Australian community. Use the LA mailing lists as sounding boards to get suggestions and buy in
All the information for organising your teams, money, meetings, communications and the media
Organising the Core Team
The core team (organising committee) is generally made up of people who are keen to be involved. A leader is required to keep everything running smoothly. The lead organiser should not have too many "jobs" allocated to him / her, as this person will be keeping all the details and various groups straight and should have a general overview of details at all times.
It is important to keep the core team small somewhere from 5-7 individuals who hold responsibilities for the core conference requirements; speakers, volunteers, venue, treasury, events etc
Several smaller committees may be formed to deal with various areas, for example, a AV team, a papers commitees, sysops etc. Someone on the core team should either run each committee or be the main point of contact with the person that does. This should NEVER be the core team leader.
Keeping people interested
Remember that people have home lives and other responsibilities. It is usually easier to ask for a volunteer for a job, than to allocate a job. People who are interested or passionate about a role are more likely to complete tasks. The head organiser will grow to learn which members of the organising committee are reliable and may need to shuffle job allocations as appropriate.
The team leader needs to be able to make tough decisions when it comes to volunteers, especially those who are not pulling their weight. If a member of the team is not pulling there weight or not coming to meetings then it is important to address the issue as early as possible. If necessary replace the core team member with someone who can make the commitment. This has happened almost every year and no on should feel shame in having to drop to a less loaded roll or out all together, circumstances change.
Linux Australia (LA) does not pay conference organisers. However, it is fair to reimburse the organising committee for costs involved in the conference. Most people are happy to volunteer their time and energy, but covering items such as car-parking during the conference is appreciated. Other "payments" for time given may include free conference registration, conference dinner tickets for spouses etc. The head organiser and the committee should keep in mind that most conference organisers will NOT get to attend many (or any) sessions at the conference, as there is always something to be done during the week of the conference.
Volunteers or Helpers
Consideration should also be given to "volunteers" or "helpers" who are not part of the organising committee. Often there are people who offer their services for the week of the conference. The ideal helper is someone who is not interested in going to talks! Consider if a discounted conference rate or other "in kind" payment is appropriate to be offered to these persons.
Meetings and Communicating
LCA committee meetings are usually held regularly, with increasing frequency as the conference draws nearer. Initially these can be monthly to fortnightly but in the last 3-6 months leading up to the conference they should be weekly.
It is best to find a venue, either someone's work or home which is always available when the meetings are on. Even if half the team can't make it the rest can just turn up to work on things.
Committees have also set up mailing lists and wikis for sharing of information and discussion between meetings. Each years organisers are free to hold meetings / forums in which ever way works best for them.
Communication with Linux Australia
Every year, LA make a decision to award the following years conference to a group. By doing this, they put their trust, faith and a significant amount of funding into this group of people.
In delegating organisation of the conference to a group, LA allow that:
- any and all decisions regarding the conference are made by the LCA team
- any and all contact regarding the conference should be directed to the LCA team
- LA council are available for advice / support at any time
- LA is also fiscally responsible for the conference and as such is to ensure fiscal responsibility on the part of the LCA sub-ctte
The LCA team allow that:
- Regular reports are made to LA (It is suggested that a single point of contact within the LCA team be allocated to report to LA on a regular basis)
- Some roles within the LCA team will have regular contact with specific people within LA (such as treasurer)
- LA may request information regarding the progress of the conference organisation, and it should be provided in a timely manner
- LCA team will request support or advice where necessary
A single point of contact should be established early and advertised widely. This person will be responsible for media enquiries, writing press releases, looking after media reps during the conference and any other media related issues.
LA has assisted with Media training for LCA organisers that will be dealing with the media. LCA and LA should work closely to ensure a consistent message to the media, and as such any press releases should be sent to the other party. Where possible, LA will defer all comments on LCA to the LCA sub-ctte to ensure up-to-date information is being passed on.
Dealing with sponsors and contracts
Firstly, sponsors are NOT essential to the conference. However, sponsorship ensures keeping the prices down for attendees, and ensures futureproofing of the conference. A budget can be planned that does not include sponsorship money, however it is nice to have them on board, and particularly where both large and small sponsors can be engaged to ensure local industry also benefits from the conference.
Initially you may wish to consider who is eligible to become a sponsor of LCA. For example, would you allow Microsoft to sponsor the conference? You may wish to draft a policy for acceptance as a sponsor. Consideration may be given to the following:
* Is the company supportive of Free and Open Source Software (FOSS)? * Does the company use or distribute FOSS software? * Does the company employ FOSS programmers?
LCA 05 formulated such a policy and it is available for review.
Sponsorship contracts should be entered into with all sponsors. A written contract ensures everyone involved is aware of their responsibilities, and provides a support should disputes occur. Templates of previous sponsorship contracts are available. Sponsorship deals are made year to year, and therefore are subject to change. The following is a list of considerations regarding sponsorship packages:
- levels of sponsorship
- cost of packages (at diff levels of sponsorship)
- inclusive of x amount of tickets or not (usually NOT, but make this VERY clear)
- advertising and signage
- bag inserts
- sponsor responsibilities (due dates for payments, inserts to arrive etc)
- conference responsibilities (advertising space, time for announcements at PDNS, conference dinner etc)
Small sponsors are sometimes the hardest to manage, so clear levels of sponsorship, with responsibilities and expectations clearly set out are important to ensure stress levels are kept as low as possible.
Also it is very important that the sponsors feel the money spent is worthwhile, so ensuring the sponsors get feedback, can show their ROI, and are engaged with during and after the conference is very important.
Ultimately this process is very flexible, but keeping sponsors happy if we engage with them is very important to ensuring they will participate in future conferences.
A decision should be made by the organising team as to how they will decide who receives sponsor positions. Do you give "penguin" sponsor to the highest bidder, or to the first company to ask for it? Or, do you approach last years sponsors first and offer it to them? These are only a few of the decisions that will need to be made prior to opening up sponsorship negotiations.
A treasurer will need to be selected from the organising team. This person will work closely with LA (mostly the LA Treasurer) to prepare a budget for the conference. Some experience in account keeping will be an advantage, but support is available from LA at all times. Previous years budgets are also available to assist in this process. The LCA treasurers role will include:
- Preparing a budget
- setting up signatories to the bank accounts
- record keeping
- paying invoices
- reporting to the LA treasurer
- tracking payments in (sponsors, delegates etc)
- balancing the bank accounts
Advertising, marketing and the handbook
Advertising / Marketing
At the end of each LCA, the following year's location is announced. The winning team will be aware they have been approved to organise the next years conference some time prior to this. This notice is given to the successful group so that they are able to prepare advertising and a presentation in advance. Advertising may be in any form the group chooses. For example, postcards or other hard-copy advertising may be placed into the current year's conference bags, or handed out at the door at the close of the conference. Organisers should be aware it can take up to 6 weeks to have print media printed, so a logo (see also TECHNICAL ISSUES - Logo) and design of the advertising should be considered and prepared well in advance of the official announcement.
Shortly after the conference the next years organisers should be prepared to issue a press release setting out the pertinent details, such as location, dates and venue. The LCA press team should engage with the LA press team who can assist with putting together PR as well as use the LA press contacts which are quite good. It also means again some consistency in the LCA and LA messages to the media.
The organisers will need to issue regular press releases to maintain interest and impetus in the lead up to the conference. Examples of times to issue press releases include (but are not limited to):
- Announcement of conference location, venue and dates
- Keynote speakers confirmed
- "Penguin" sponsor signed on
- Other sponsors signed on
- CFP opening
- CFP close
- Early Bird registration opening
- Early Bird registration closing
- Speakers confirmed
- Regional Delegates Program submissions
- Regional Delegates Program winners
- As you near maximum registration numbers
- Any other reactive press which might be useful
Be aware that press releases take to time to write, plus you may need to get various approvals (especially from sponsors). Press releases are issued through LA's media channels, so again, there may be a lag between when the organisers have prepared the release and when it actually hits the paper or Internet news site. At the time of writing the IT news section in the Australian closes for articles / advertising for the Tuesday on the Friday prior. LA has a designated Press Contact ( firstname.lastname@example.org ) who can be used as a resource for polishing and issuing press releases. It is the LA Press Contact who the LCA media contact always sends press releases to for issuing.
Printing - T-shirts, conference goodies, etc
It is also advised that printers quite often take longer than expected, and this slack should be built into your time-line. For example, you may have ordered x amount of t-shirts, plus printing, but the t-shirt maker may run out a specific size, so the printer has to do a smaller print run. If the printer has to do a 500+plus run for you to get the cheapest rate, you may lose money if you have to pay for a smaller run later, when that final size becomes available. It cannot be stressed strongly enough to plan ahead, and have these kinds of issues organised well in advance.
The same advice should be heeded in reference to the conference Handbook (see also TECHNICAL ISSUES - Conference Handbook). It is not only the printing process that takes time, but the collation of the information to go into the handbook, the layout, spell-checking and fact-checking of the book.
The venue organisation and requirements
This is the very first thing the organisers will need to nail down: this determines the date. In the past LCA have used universities as they are generally large enough and provide access to lecture theatres, catering and accommodation all in a small area. Usually price concerns prevent LCA from using large hotels and formal conference venues, however feel free to check and compare prices, as things do change.
Probably the most important detail is the size of the largest lecture theatre, or room with chairs etc. As keynote speakers attract a large majority of the delegates, consideration needs to be given to the size of the room in which the keynotes will be presented. The venue needs to hold at least all the delegates, and possibly extra people such as organisers, media, sponsors etc. This number will limit the number of registrations you can accept.
Other considerations include the available network access (or the ability to set it up, if there none currently available), and the AV equipment available. Most speakers expect at least a data projector and microphone. Other venue considerations also include the ability to record sound and / or video proceedings, as well as catering companies or provisions available. These may change depending on university holidays too, so be sure to check ALL details thoroughly before booking a venue.
Providing network access
It has become expected that the conference will provide networking for the conference venue. It adds to the LCA atmosphere for delegates to be able to sit around, outside of the lecture theatres and hack. Quite a large amount of work is actually produced this way! (As is a lot of time wasted, but cest la vie). It is up to organisers whether this network access extends to the lecture theatres. Some speakers don't mind delegates listening with half an ear, and hacking at the same time, others consider it rude and in bad form.
Conference content, the call for papers, mini-confs, finance, and guidelines
The Program Organisation
This needs to be decided early in the process. It is important to know how may talks / presentations slots there are available. In the past there has been a "tutorial day", followed by 3 days of "papers". The length of tutorials and papers is up to the organisers. Previously tutorials have run for 3 hour morning sessions, or 6 hour, all day sessions, and papers have been between 45 - 60 minutes long, plus time for questions and change-over. organisers can decide how many streams of papers / tutorials they wish to hold. This will depend upon the topics and types of papers submitted. They may group neatly into streams, or not fit into groups at all.
Organisers will need to decide roughly how many talk "slots" there are, plan the key-note sessions (see Keynote Speakers) and then work out how many papers they can accept.
Call for Papers and Tutorials
See ["/CFP Timeline"] for a suggested Call for Papers timeline.
Call for papers and tutorials (CFP) should be advertised and announced approximately six months prior to the start of the conference. (See attached time-line.) This gives potential speakers time to plan and put together their abstracts. CFP should close approximately 3 - 4 months prior to the conference. A built-in grace period is recommended. For example, you may advertise CFP closes 12 weeks prior to the conference, then at that time, announce an extension of 2 weeks. This allows the "last minute" abstracts to filter in, whilst still allowing the conference organisers as much time as is required to assess papers.
The CFP submission process is usually described in detail on the current year's website (www.linux.conf.au). CFP submission is almost always via email. Following is a description of the general CFP guidelines. These are subject to change by each year's organisers but give a guide.
Presentations should be primarily of a technical nature. Commercial advertisements or sales pitches are not appropriate for this conference. Reports on legal, educational, organisational or similar aspects of open source software are also welcome.
Papers on the following topics are encouraged:
- The Linux kernel, filesystems and networking
- Databases and storage
- Programming languages and tools
- Linux on the desktop: productivity, groupware and GUIs
- Multimedia, audio, video, music and games
- Linux deployments, practical experience and war stories
- Linux on unusual platforms: embedded systems, virtual systems, handhelds and very large systems
- Distributions, management and standardization
- Other open source projects
We are open to a broader range of topics as well, even non-Linux based projects. However all presentations must be based on 'open source' software and projects.
We have two very different presentation formats: 150-minute interactive tutorials and 50-minute seminars. You might also want to participate in a BOF session, lightning talk, miniconf or to present a poster.
A papers selection committee will be required to sort through the proposals and rank /grade them for inclusion.
See ["/Presentation Selections"] for details.
BOFS / FIXITS and Lightning Talks
BOFs (Birds-of-a-Feather Sessions) and FIXITs are informal sessions for people with common interests to talk and network. BOFs can be proposed at any time up to and during the conference, but earlier is better. BOFs are generally run in the evenings. Lightning talks are usually 3 minute ad-lib presentations organised during the week of the conference.
These sessions are generally self-organised, with LCA organisers simply providing a venue and a mechanism to list what's on. Usually a whiteboard or sheet of paper is posted in the conference venue, showing times, dates and venues available and people are free to fill in the details of their sessions. A moderator should enforce time limits for the lightning talks (probably the lightning talk organiser).
A formal announcement each morning may be made stating which sessions are on, any changes, or the location of a list of sessions.
Keynote speakers are usually one of the first "content" related areas to be planned. In previous years there has generally been one keynote per day of the conference, usually at the beginning of the day. The speakers have covered a wide range of topics, some technical, others more general. Usually the speakers and topics generate a high degree of interest from all delegates.
Past speakers have included Andrew Morton, Andrew Tridgell, Eben Moglen, Jon "Maddog" Hall, Rusty Russell, Bdale Garbee, Ted Tso, Dave Miller, Alan Cox and Jeremy Allison. Keynote speakers are chosen for their excellent speaking skills, as well as content.
As keynote speakers attract a large majority of the delegates, consideration needs to be given to the size of the room in which keynotes will be presented. The venue needs to hold at least all the delegates, and possibly extra people such as organisers, media, sponsors etc.
Mini-Conferences give sections of the Linux community up to two days to focus specifically on their area of expertise enabling smaller sections of the community to get together and share their knowledge and network with each other.
Anyone can propose to run a mini-conf. Information on how to submit a proposal should be included on the LCA website. Mini-conf proposals are accepted during the CFP process, as it takes dedication and a large amount of time to properly organise a mini-conference. Acceptance of mini-conf proposals should be done by the LCA committee in a timely manner for this same reason. If a proposal is accepted, LCA allocates a room and mentions the mini-conf in the programme. What happens after that is up to the mini-conf organisers. The general point of mini-confs is that LCA provides the space, but the LCA committee does not organise them.
- Mini-confs must be basically zero-budget. They absolutely can not accept sponsorship or registration fees as this can interfere with the sponsorship arrangements of the main conference
- Attendees and organisers of the mini-confs must register with LCA to attend.
- The mini-conf may not impose additional charges.
- Attendees may not register for just the mini-confs.
- Mini-conf speakers do not get free registration or transport / accommodation assistance, unless, of course, they are also speaking in the conference proper. Speakers MUST be registered for LCA.
Below are some guidelines determined by the LCA2005 committee in regard to mini-confs. These are not concrete rules, but consideration should be given to these factors.
- Naming: Named as "The Linux.conf.au 200x $foo mini-conf"
- Can be one or two whole days (or perhaps 0.5 or 1.5 days?) This needs to be specified in the CFP submission.
- The LCA registration form will ask which mini-confs the delegate intends to attend, just for planning purposes. This is not binding.
- LCA delegates can attend as many mini-confs as they want, just by turning up.
- There is no warranty -- LCA is not responsible for the content. If the mini-conf is lame, we won't be held responsible. (But it still does reflect on LCA...)
- LCA committee members can run mini-confs, but they need to balance that against their duties to LCA.
- Anyone can propose a mini-conf during the CFP.
- All reasonable proposals during the CFP will generally be accepted, (dependent on venue space) Proposals after CFP close may be considered. If there are more proposals than can be accommodated the papers committee will decide / negotiate.
- Mini-confs run over two days before main LCA.
- Mini-confs may NOT have their own sponsors. This is important to LCA maintaining good relationships with sponsors. I.E. One contact, not having several people contacting sponsors regarding LCA, then a mini-conf etc. Potential sponsors should be put in touch with the LCA sponsorship person.
- Mini-confs in general do not need their own web site or mailing list. Of course, people are free to put up a web page with e.g. an agenda for the mini-conf, and the LCA website can link to that.
- Mini-confs do not generally run their own CFP; but their organisers are free to build an agenda of topics or speakers.
- A room at the venue, appropriately sized for the indicated attendance. It may have a projector or other technical equipment. LCA will organise security and access for the room as for the rest of the conference.
- Inclusion of a web page, on the main LCA site, describing the mini-confs based on CFP submissions and later information. May be broadly similar to the page describing speakers and accepted papers.
The Mini-conf organisers must organise
- Submit a submission to run a mini-conf to LCA
- Organise speakers and / or a program
- Ensure speakers are registered for LCA
Co-conferences are larger than mini-confs. Perhaps they started as mini-confs, but they have grown up to the extent that they want / need their own speakers, registration fees and venues. LCA allows for conferences to become peers (co-conferences), rather than children (mini-confs), of LCA.
The goal of distinguishing co-conferences from mini-confs is to allow conferences to grow as their scope expands, while still making it easy for interested groups to run small mini-confs without needing to worry about venues etc.
The following are a list of general guidelines / considerations regarding co-conferences.
- Are described as "foo.conf.au 2005, in association with linux.conf.au". LCA should be acknowledged in their promotions but it is not an LCA project.
- Should have goals that are reasonably aligned with those of LCA.
- May have their own sponsors, bank account, budget, etc.
- May need separate incorporation or GST registration, and this is a matter for the Co-conference organisers to determine. It is basically another entity in a business relationship with LCA/LA, rather than some people working in LCA. (This entity might be ACS, AUUG, or something similar.)
- Have their own formal committee.
- Must organise their own public liability (and other?) insurance - it may be possible to get the LA insurance to cover this, but don't rely on it
- Need a contract or memorandum-of-understanding with LCA/LA, which should be checked by LA's counsel.
- Organise their own venue and speakers. May wish to be at a hotel or convention center rather than at the LCA venue. May wish to pay or transport their speakers.
- May wish to run their own dinner or evening event.
- May wish to cater lunch/tea, which they must organise themselves.
- Have their own web site, mailing addresses, etc. Are mentioned on the LCA web site; perhaps LCA has a page about them.
- Run their own CFP.
- May (will?) charge their own registration fee. Registration is available either for LCA alone, or the co-conference alone, or as a combined fee, less than the sum.
- In the case of combined registration, an equal percentage discount will be internally applied to both conferences. For example, if LCA is $400 and FooCA is $300, a 20% discount would give a combined fee of $560, of which LCA would receive $320 and FooCA $240.
- May accept payments themselves, or may rely on LCA to accept payments. At close of registration (or at regular intervals) any un-balanced funds are transferred to the other conference committee.
- Are free to schedule as they wish. They may overlap with some of LCA. May run either before or after LCA. LCA suggests they run before LCA at the same time as the mini-confs, but we do not require it.
- Need to be settled fairly early, since they have a lot of preparation work to do. Ideally the list should be settled fairly early in the CFP, with some details to be settled later.
Speakers are an integral part of the conference. Without them, you really don't have a conference. Speakers are treated well at LCAs. However, speakers are NOT paid to present at LCA. Organisers should allocate a specific speaker contact, who is responsible for advising speakers that their paper has been accepted, helping sort out travel, meeting and greeting speakers at the airport / train station etc, organising their accommodation, and generally being available to answer questions. It is simplest for one person to communicate with speakers, to avoid spamming them. This means there will be minimal confusion, as one person will always know what is going on. It makes it easier on speakers too, as they know who their contact person is.
What they get
It is customary for LCA to provide to speakers:
- pick up and drop off to airport / train station / other on arrival and departure
- free registration
- free (budget) accommodation
- possibly some travel assistance (where budget is available)
- free partners program registration to their partners and children
- thank you gift
- free conference dinner tickets for speaker and family
- free speakers dinner tickets for speaker and family
- speakers "time-out" room
Some speakers will not require all of the above. For example, usually the employees of IBM and HP have their travel and accommodation covered by their respective companies. However, do not assume this will be the case. It is far easier to manage surplus funds than find you are short. There is always another speaker who you could offer travel assistance to at the last minute.
Part of the CFP submission process should include an area where potential speakers can request travel and / or accommodation assistance. The budget will include an amount for speaker travel. This amount may be used for flying international speakers out to Australia (or New Zealand), or for helping domestic speakers get to the conference.
Keynote and invited speakers usually have their travel covered by LCA, unless they are sponsored by their employer. These speakers are generally given priority for travel assistance. The number of speakers LCA are able to assist each year really depends upon how much assistance each speaker requires. Some will ask for a specific dollar amount in their CFP submission, or a flight, or accommodation, or a combination of them all.
A speaker's need for travel assistance may influence acceptance of their paper, dependent on the budget. Organisers will often need to balance the quality of a paper against the costs the conference will incur. Whilst it would be nice to not have to make such decisions, unfortunately they are a fact of life. If the budget won't stretch, it won't stretch. The treasurer on the LCA team can advise how much money is available for travel expenses. The LA treasurer is also a useful resource when making such decisions.
One of the "perks" of having a paper accepted at LCA is that speaker accommodation is usually included. Speaker accommodation is usually a separate item in the budget.
Some speakers will have their accommodation booked and paid for by their employers, and hence will not need LCA to organise this for them. Your speaker contact should have a record of all speakers and what their individual requirements are.
Speaker accommodation in recent years has been on-campus (previous LCAs have been held at Universities). It is up to the organisers to decide if they wish to have speaker accommodation separate from delegates (if you offer accommodation for the delegates, that is). Some speakers like to mix with the conference delegates, while others appreciate the time and space offered by accommodation away from delegates.
It is usually the done thing to give each speaker a small gift, to thank them for coming and presenting. Frankly, there wouldn't be a conference without them! This is usually presented to them directly after their talk.
The example for LCA2005 was LCA2005 pewter beer mugs for all speakers.
Speaker training has been offered at LCA over the past few years with great success. It has been provided as a free service to speakers.
The Speaker training has been very appreciated by speakers as the training typically would cover:
- how to give a good presentation
- how to prepare good slides
- getting the most from your audience
and other useful topics to help a speaker tune their approach. There are some excellent presenters for this kind of training including Dan Shearer and Paul Fenwick, otherwise looking for volunteers is useful. The trainer really should have a free pass or something to the conference for their trouble, unless paying them is budgeted for.
Each year a room has been set aside for speakers use. This room gives them the ability to practice their talk, or have a quiet space to think or chat with someone. They can also use the room as an area away from the noise of the conference, to nap after a big night at the speakers dinner, or simply to avoid that pesky reporter or delegate that has been hassling them.
Organisation accommodation, delegates, pricing, giveaways, the Regional Delegates Program, and more
In previous years accommodation for delegates has been provided at reasonable rates in the various university halls and colleges. The registration system allows for accommodation bookings. In 2005 there were rooms available at one of the university's colleges for $55 per night.
However, it is not essential to provide accommodation for delegates, a simple list of hotels, backpackers and other accommodation near the venue, on the website is also adequate. This list is recommended whether you choose to provide accommodation for delegates or not. It should include several options, to suit all budgets and tastes. It should also provide contact details, web addresses, and distance from conference venue. This makes it easy for delegates to choose accommodation that best suits them, without having to search all over the place, in a country / city they are unfamiliar with.
Previous LCAs have also provided networking at the delegates' accommodation venues. Whilst this has become expected, in some instances it may not be possible. However, most university halls and colleges have some kind of network already set up. It may simply be a matter of speaking to the appropriate person within the university / conference venue.
In previous years there have been three levels of registration: Professional, Hobbyist and concession. All levels of registration have included attendance at any / all mini-confs, and a conference bag.
In 2005 the Professional level of registration also included 1 conference dinner ticket, 1 ticket to the Professional Delegates Networking Session, extra goodies in conference bag and an acknowledgement in the Conference Handbook.
Hobbyist and Concession levels of registration have been able to purchase tickets to the conference dinner, for an additional fee. Hobbyist registration is aimed at those who are self-funded (and generally not tax-deductible) Concession level of registration has never really been policed, i.e. LCA organisers have never asked for student or concession cards to be shown at registration. It may have stated on the website that cards would be checked, but they rarely actually were. Whether or not to continue to use an honesty system, however, is up to each year's organisers to decide.
The following are the prices from linux.conf.au 2005. These prices may need to be updated from time to time. However, LCA organisers generally try to keep the prices (especially for students and hobbyists) at approximately what it actually costs to hold the conference, rather than being focused solely on profit-making.
. Prof Hobbyist Concession
Price (full/earlybird) $690 / $460 $300 / $200 $100 / $100
It is prudent to have a cancellation policy stated clearly on the website. Following is the cancellation policy used at LCA 2005:
Date Percentage Refunded Three months before conference 100% (Full Refund) A month before conference 50% (Half Refund) From a month up to conference 0% (No Refund; see below)
You may substitute another person however you must contact us with this person's details. If you do not contact us with the person's details before February 15, 2005 we cannot provide any personalised items except for the person's name badge.
Badges and Bags
Each years organisers have come up with various versions of the conference badge. Along with the logo, conference name etc, the badge could display a multitude of facts, useful to the organisers, such as
. Delegate Name Registration level Organisation Number of Dinner tickets
plus any number of "interesting facts". Each years organisers come up with all sorts of additional items to add to badges.
Conference bags are usually emblazoned with the current year's logo. Conference bags are generally the same for Concession and Hobbyist delegates. In previous years the Professional Delegates have received a few extra items in their conference bags. <pia> Other useful ideas for the bags are t-shirts/business shirts, cups, pens, pads,etc.
The conference handbook is the place that all the information delegates may want to know should be. It may include:
. abstracts, speaker bio info, map of venue / campus, conference program, locations of toilets, restaurants local pubs and clubs, transport information, emergency numbers, closest hospital location, list of professional delegates, other pertinent information, weather.
Producing the handbook is a large undertaking. It is not only the printing, but the collation of the information to go into the handbook, the layout, spell-checking and fact-checking of the book. Do not underestimate how long it will take to get this done. Start early and add to it as you go.
Media registration is intended primarily for the use of people attending the conference to report on it. Media Registration is free of charge, and is assigned at the discretion of the organisers.
These Media Registrations should be actively encouraged by the Media Team of the LCA committee to ensure good coverage up to and during the event. It also means getting the Media on side which is important.
The registration system is able to handle these requests (although not on-line). In 2005, media were asked to email the organisers and provide the following details:
- Phone number:
- Publication/organisations represented (name and brief description):
- Position (reporter, photographer, analyst, etc):
- Field of coverage (IT, Linux, general news, etc):
- URLs of previous work (or citation if offline):
- Do you intend to make video or audio recordings, or to take photographs:
- Brief biography or URL, or any other information
In the past media registrations have allowed access to miniconfs, tutorials, keynotes and seminars, and to the professional networking session. Tickets for the conference dinner have also been available for an additional fee. The following is the general "rules" given to media in the past:
You are welcome to interview to delegates, organisers and speakers, but we do ask you to respect that they may not be willing or available to speak or be photographed at any particular time. We plan to provide a dedicated media room for quiet work or interviews (to be confirmed). --lca2005
In the past few years this program has been funded by a sponsor. Essentially this program allows worthy recipients to attend the conference, who otherwise would not be able to afford to attend.
There are 8 - 10 winners per year, one National winner and one winner from each Australian state and territory (extended to NZ in 2006). Winners receive
. transport to LCA 2005 accommodation professional registration at the conference (including all the normal things which come with that) special recognition as a RDP winner
In previous years the sponsor has also held a dinner during the conference for the winners.
Interested persons are asked to submit nominations for the competition. Over the years there have been various ways of deciding the winners. Linux user groups were asked to provide names of someone from each state who was interested, applicants have had to write short submissions stating how the open source community would benefit from their presence at LCA 2005 with winners decided by LCA committees. Thus far, the decision for the states is left to the State LUGs, usually the capitals but certainly as a combined effort decision of the states, and the national winner is decided by the LCA and LA committees together.
The partners program has become quite popular over the years. It is a great place for spouses and children to hang out and leave the conference delegate to do their stuff. Previously the partners program has run over two or three days, generally doing the tourist hot-spots in the host city. The program has usually been offered for a minimal price, just to cover costs, with speakers spouses and children complimentary.
In previous years partners program attendees have received their own t-shirts and bags. Considerations for organising a partners program include:
. Number or participants expected (the registration system can handle this) Age and weights (for children) Transportation for everyone (mini-buses or several cars, car seats, baby seats etc) Catering Program itself - places to go to keep adults and children entertained Numbers of streams (linux.conf.au 2005 ran two streams) - e.g. http://lca2005.linux.org.au/partners.php
Every year a speakers dinner has been held. This is held partly a thank you to the speakers, and also as a social activity. It is usually held on the Tuesday night before the conference "proper" begins (i.e after the mini-confs have finished). However this date is not set in stone. All speakers and their partners and children are invited. This event is free of charge to speakers and is usually held in a reasonably nice restaurant or similar. In 2005 the price per head was around $70.
Remember to check any dietary requirements with the restaurant beforehand. This information is collected with registration so it should be easy to find out what the requirements of your speakers are.
It is an opportunity for the speakers to meet the conference organisers and each other, sort out any last minute details, and generally relax before the conference starts. It is also an opportunity for the organisers to get together and try to relax, and a way for the head organiser to thank his / her team. In the past organisers have received this dinner free of charge as a thank you too.
The conference dinner is usually held on the last night of the conference (Friday), as many people start to leave for their trips home on the Saturday afternoon straight after the conference. This dinner is usually attended by a large majority of the delegates, speakers and their partners, organisers, and occasionally media.
Organisers in the past have tried many ways of keeping everyone happy, in terms of the menu and beverages for the dinner. Essentially, do the best you can, but accept you will never keep everyone happy. This is a dinner for 400 plus people, some will leave hungry, some will leave unhappy, most will leave content enough, and even more will leave drunk. Unfortunately, the hungry, unhappy ones will complain the loudest. Accept this as a fact of life and try not to take it personally. Just do your best.
Some entertainment is usually provided, in the form of a dinner speech and charity auction of some sort (t-shirt or similar signed by all the speakers etc). The dinner speech is usually a light, amusing speech given by a well-known member of the community. It is advisable to ask the dinner speaker well ahead of time to present, not the day of the dinner!
It is important to get the numbers of people with dietary requirements to the venue in advance. This way they can properly prepare enough meals and not keep people waiting (or without food). It would be worthwhile to get the menu checked by somebody who is vegetarian/vegan/halal/kosher (depending who is attending) to make sure it is all right. This will not be a burden on them, they will consider it considerate.
If a charity auction or similar is to be held, consider the charity you wish to donate to in advance. It is customary to have a representative of that charity present on the night to receive their donation. Clearly announce whether the donation is tax-deductible. Make sure it's a non-controversial charity that everybody can get behind (i.e. a religious one is not a good idea).
A charity auction is not mandatory. organisers are not obliged to try to raise money at all. However, there are often surplus funds, even after LA obligations are met, and it is nice to give back to the local community.
The t-shirt has sold for silly amounts of money in previous years - perhaps several items would prove better as there has been stress when people have sobered up. Also, completely different ideas are of course at the LCA team's discretion. New ideas are welcome!
Professional Delegates Networking Session
This session has traditionally been held on the Thursday night of the conference. Organisers will need to plan for drinks and canapes (or finger food) for the session. Remember to also check for vegetarian/vegan options as drinking without food is not fun for anyone.
Sometimes the sponsors want to use this opportunity to have a brief chat to the Professional Delegates. Decide early on if this is permissible and make sure it is specified in the sponsorship agreement. Sponsors may also want to have a table set up with a display of their latest "big thing". Again, decide if this is appropriate early on and put it in writing.
Morning / afternoon teas
Catering for morning afternoon tea is usually a simple exercise. Tea and coffee, water and other cold drinks are fairly simple to provide. Some kind of snack along the lines of a sweet biscuit and fruit is also generally expected (fruit will cater for those who don't eat the biscuits/cake). A University cafeteria or coffee shop may be able to provide all this for a reasonable price. Otherwise buying in bulk from a supermarket may be a budget conscious option.
Instant coffee isn't pleasant for those who are addicted to a caffeine hit.
Keep in mind that many University eateries will be closed on Saturday so delegates will be unlikely to be able to purchase their lunch on campus. In the past organisers have planned things like a bbq or pizzas to be delivered for the delegates on Saturday.
Again, remember the vegetarian/vegan options and make it clear where to go to get it.
ORGANISING THE UNEXPECTED
Be prepared for unexpected things to happen. You can't plan for everything, so just keep an open mind and deal with stuff as it happens the best you can.
Things like: Contests Laptops/USB keys Dunkings & Penguin suits Speakers not arriving (without prior notice) Delegates hacking into your network Complaints Delegates / speakers ending up in hospital after the dinner People sneaking bottles of alcohol into the dinner Delegates / speakers needing to be bailed out of jail The Spanish Inquisition
Technical issues, web stuff, live streaming and the registration system
The registration system has been a work in progress for several years now. The system is available from the previous year's organisers, approximately 2 -3 months after the last conference.
The system is zookeepr. Look it up.
The system is capable of producing badges. Many variations are available to ensure security from one year to the next.
We should properly open source any code written for LCA as others may find it useful in future conferences and in other contexts.
The linux.conf.au domain
Is all fsked up. Ignore everything under this subhead.At time of writing, the .conf.au second-level domain is still in a state of limbo. auDA is supposed to be taking over the 2LD, and at such time that it does, linux.conf.au is supposed to be grandfathered in, so there is no risk of linux.conf.au (the conference) losing linux.conf.au (the domain).
In the meantime, the .conf.au 2LD is being managed by Robert Elz, under the existing policy. This policy includes that domains in .conf.au are temporary, for the duration of the conference. In essence, this means that the domain will disappear for parts of the year in between conferences. For 2006, the process has been that the LA President sent an email to email@example.com requesting the domain be registered and delegated to: orgo.progsoc.uts.edu.au. digital.linux.org.au. tiny-teddy.aarnet.edu.au. dns.aarnet.edu.au.
It is advised that this process be used again for the subsequent year's domain registration, assuming the situation with auDA remains unchanged. The wording of the email is available in the LA Committee mailing list archive.
Robert Elz has indicated that the domain will again vanish sometime after April 1, 2006.
linux.conf.au website hosting
In previous years, the hosting of the conference website has been left up to the organising committee at the time. In the case of the 2006 conference, they were not able to source suitable hosting, so the hosting was provided by Linux Australia. As infrastructure has been provisioned for this purpose, subsequent conference organising committees are encouraged to also use this infrastructure.
This hosting environment consists of a webserver independent to digital.linux.org.au (the server that hosts Linux Australia's website and email), which hosts a number of User Mode Linux (UML) instances. A fresh, minimal installation of Linux can be made available to the conference organising committee, to be managed as it sees fit. Nominally, the Linux Australia sysadmin team also has full administrative access as well, however it is anticipated that the conference organising committee would have first point of administrative control over the Linux installation in this UML instance.
If however, the organising committee does not have the sysadmin resources at its disposal to administer the server, it could be negotiated with Linux Australia for the LA sysadmin team to provide assistance.
linux.conf.au domain hosting
As previously indicated, the linux.conf.au is delegated primarily to digital.linux.org.au, and secondaried by a number of other nameservers. In actual fact, to provide further autonomy to the conference organising committee, digital will slave the DNS zone file from the UML instance provided for the organising committee. This gives complete control over the contents of the domain to the organising committee.
The linux.conf.au website has evolved over a number of years, to the point where it handles the Call For Papers process as well as the conference program and delegate registration. It is strongly recommended that subsequent conference organising committees do not reinvent the wheel, and rather extend and enhance the existing codebase. The current application requires PHP, Apache and PostgreSQL. Logo Initially organisers will need to consider a logo, which gets printed on everything from T-shirts, badges, and tax invoices, to cups, mugs and other swag, as well as being on the front page of the website, postcards or other advertising for the conference. This will be the "face" of the conference, so design a good one!
It is also important to keep the webpage up to date. It may be easiest to allocate a reliable person to update it on a weekly basis, as necessary The website is the first place everyone (delegates, speakers, media, sponsors etc) go to , so keep it looking loved. (???PUTTING IT UP )
Live / post-conf streaming video
Having live video/audio streaming from the conference is not vital, but certainly some updates live from the conference get a lot more people interested and means that people who can't attend can still participate. Set up blogs, photos galleries for people to submit to, comments pages, whatever to encourage feedback to the wide world on LCA. Post the event, try to do a final report with links to photos and stuff with all relevant thankyous. It gives closure to the event. A good example of this was James, the head organiser of Perth LCA2003 (see http://linux.conf.au for previous conferences)
Some wisdom from the LCA2011 AV team
In the mailing list archive http://lists.followtheflow.org/pipermail/chat/2011-February/001991.html
Post-conf CDs / DVDs
The post-conf CD/DVD is a vital part of the conference, and of the ROI of people who pay their employees to attend. The CD/DVD should be aimed to be out and posted to all delegates (and available online if possible) within a few months of the conference ending.
You need a dedicated person to do this. After the conf, a lot of organisers will be burnt out. It doesn't have to be someone even in the same state.