Sunday, April 13, 2008

Part 10: Open Space (PyCon 2008 Chairman's Report)

Open space was under-utilized at the beginning of PyCon. It was slow on Friday, and it only really kicked into high gear on Saturday evening. I don't think it was used much at all during the day, opposite talks. The open space rooms should have been used for more follow-up sessions after talks. Next year perhaps we'll offer the scheduling of open space as a service to speakers; a debate is going on now.

We had a split upstairs/downstairs venue this year, with talks in the ballrooms upstairs, and open space rooms downstairs. There wasn't an ideal place to put the open space schedule board. Upstairs it would have caused terrible bottlenecks, but downstairs (where we did put it) it wasn't "in your face" enough. In the future, no matter what the physical layout of PyCon, we need signs directing people to the different areas.

It seems that another reason for the slow start may have been because many attendees didn't know exactly what open space was, or how they could use it, or that they should use it. Next year we have to do a better job educating attendees on the features of PyCon. We may open the conference with a "PyCon how-to" session. Ideas are welcome!

There were ideas about having video monitors around the hotel displaying dynamic schedules including open space, so people could see what was happening (or about to happen) at any time. The projectors in the ballrooms could switch to these displays between talks. This didn't happen because we ran out of time. Perhaps next year... interested in helping?

One very pleasant surprise was Steve Holden's "Teach Me Twisted" learner-led session. By the time I remembered about it, it was almost over. I popped into the packed room to find a smiling, laughing, rapt audience; everbody seemed to be having a wonderful time. By all accounts was a great success, and learning was had by all. I wish we had recorded it. This is definitely something to try again.

Thanks to Peter Kropf for organizing open space!

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