FOSS4G SotM Oceania 2018

In late November 2018 the inaugural FOSS4G SotM Oceania conference took place – as one of the organisers it is still completely surreal that it was real, and we made it happen!

To me, it feels now as if a few enthusiastic people had a conversation about a year ago, someone waved a magic wand, and a the conference appeared. That is definitely not how it worked – but I feel like I’m still not able to adequately capture the incredible momentum that carried us all along. The conference succeeded far beyond our initial expectations – as the lead of the sponsorship team, we were able to stop looking for nw funding sources months ahead of the event. We also raised an incredible amount of support in a really short time and with few resources.

So thanks to everyone who chipped in! To remind everyone about who they were, go visit the sponsors page. 

We also need to thank our generous supporting partners – the University of Melbourne who donated the venue, and the Surveying and Spatial Sciences Institute who took all the financial risk and handled all the banking.

So how did this happen? The Oceania region has a rich open source geospatial community, who were hungry for this to happen – the zeitgeist was well and truly captured with this event, and it’s given the community fantastic inspiration for the future.

Our challenge now is to keep that momentum. The organising committee for 2018 was a self-selecting group who literally bootstrapped the event with few rules and a lot of great ideas. We had incredibly robust conversations, got the shits with each other, recovered, moved on. A huge driver was to not do things by default – which meant we spent incredible energy on some seemingly simple decisions, and it took a diverse set of personalities to forge it all into something coherent.

This led to a couple things we’re really proud of, and I’d like to also call attention to some of the key drivers, and shamelessly plug a couple of my own initiatives:

The Good Mojo program – a voluntary contribution ‘pool’ which was aimed at increasing accessibility and inclusivity for the event. It was used to fund a small travel grant program with support from OSGeo. It also funded a women-in-geospatial networking breakfast, and let us cater for children who came to the conference, which is a neat segue to:

A travel grant program which helped several attendees to turn up. This was a lot of work for John Bryant (also the conference chair); and required Greg Lauer’s specialised knowledge of the Oceania region and its various visa requirements to pull off. And we did it! For a new conference, this was unreal. And again, we have our committed committee, generous supporters and OSGeo to thank.

…and A child-friendly conference policy. After much debate and discussion with other similar events, we decided to run with the idea that your children are part of the community, so bring them – and we’ll provide some space and catering. This isn’t a new idea, but it certainly challenged us. We’re still looking for feedback on how it went – we hope it met people’s needs. For the record, I had some children attend one of the sessions I chaired, and they were amazing. I’m a little bit chuffed about pushing the Good Mojo and child friendly programs across the line.

We also had an incredible program led by the community, with a fantastic set of keynote speakers and workshops shaped by Alex Leith and Trisha Moriarty. We used a community voting model, along with committee review to pull together a program which was very well received. The content in a conference is key, and while we didn’t please everybody with everything, the people who turned up to tell their stories were all amazing.

Recording the event. All presentations were recorded (thanks again to our generous contributors and enthusiastic attendees), unless we were asked not to by the presenter. They’re available here: https://2018.foss4g-oceania.org/videos.html, and will be archived by the German National Library of Science and Technology shortly. Please use this incredible resource!

And finally amazing swag and catering, handled by Daniel Silk. We were trying to fit 250 people into a small space efficiently; minimise waste from the event; and provide conference mementos that were useful.

Moving into 2019, we’re carrying that momentum into an event scheduled for Wellington, New Zealand. The current committee is wrestling with post-conference wrap up and lessons to learn; and deeply engaged in creating a sustainable foundation which can support the open source geospatial and openstreetmap communities in the region into the future. A joint OSGeo and OSMF event is hard – but possible. We did it! It wasn’t perfect, but it worked.

A key deliverable for this event was to include as many people from the region as we could. We did OK – not great – not terribly – but there’s room for improvement in representation of our community as a whole.

…so you’re invited! We need your help! Contribute to the discussion here: https://lists.osgeo.org/mailman/listinfo/foss4g-oceania

We’d love to continue creating an open, inclusive community for geospatialistas in the region, and nobody can do that alone. It takes the village. All of the village.

I also presented a workshop about massive point clouds, but I’ll get to that in another post…

*Note – the feature image is a slide from Alyssa Wright’s keynote address – it’s a great message!