Last week, I went to the MeeGo Conference 2011 in San Francisco, as I said I would the week before. It was a good conference and the organisation is to be congratulated on putting it together (disclaimer: I’m part of said organisation team, even if my contributions were small). The talks were nice, the venue was great, the networking opportunities were invaluable. Yet, when I arrived home on Friday evening, besides feeling very tired, I had the feeling that something was missing. (And I’m writing this blog right now on a plane to Helsinki, an Embraer 190, which makes the Brazilian in me proud; see the proof).
Some people complained about the keynote. I don’t think it was as bad as some people I talked to thought — the SF conference was meant to give a “business spin” to MeeGo, talking about the opportunities going forward, the successes of companies for their using of MeeGo, etc. Yet, I can’t help but agree with the keynote proposal made by Andrew Flegg. I’m wondering if we’ll soon need two conferences: one for the hackers and people working on MeeGo, to plan ahead and celebrate the successes, and another for the business people, device makers, and application developers who are looking at MeeGo as an opportunity.
I think actually that what was missing from this conference was some device announcements. Not device giveaways — no, I think that people who deserve to get hardware will get it anyway at the proper time and, besides, we don’t want to attract “device-leechers” to the conference (that’s a term I heard for the first time in SF, applied to people who go to conferences only to get free devices but don’t have any intention of developing its platform or developing for it). We were missing companies and groups announcing their support for MeeGo, that they are shipping devices that are cool and slick, etc. With those announcements, I think we would get a boost of energy and excitement injected in the community. Those of us working in MeeGo know that, despite the challenges it faces, there’s a lot that you can do already. Rationally, we know that and we have some proof — some products are in the market using MeeGo, like the WeTab and Amino’s set-top-box, but also a lot of lesser known devices. Emotionally, we’d be more excited and committed by seeing and playing with them at the conference.
Another part that will need improvement in the conference is the handling of the Late Breaking News sessions. We need to adjust the number of slots we keep open for late submission, as we had a couple of “holes” in the programme — not a bad thing per se, as we had 6 parallel tracks. On-site scheduling of sessions, especially the BoFs, will need to improve too. We had a few sessions with too few people and some others with too many — we’ll try to adjust for a future conference, but we’ll make mistakes again. I didn’t see any session overcrowded, where no one else could get in and those inside couldn’t breathe.
Of the good things of the conference: the hacker lounge. That was a great idea. It was a great idea in Dublin, with a space for people to just sit back, relax and engage in social activities, like a game of Werewolf. In SF, the organisation took it to the next level, with a great lounge area and free beverages, plus the WiFi connectivity without which no hacker would be happy (I heard connectivity was good, but I don’t have direct evidence since I was using the “meegostaff” AP).
I think we had a compelling line-up of talks too, but I won’t talk too much about this, as it was the Program Committee’s selection and that’s exactly the part of the conference I was directly involved in. In turn, I’ll comment about the talks themselves: I couldn’t watch all of the talks that I wanted to, as I expected to happen. Fortunately, the videos will be posted online soon so I can watch the ones I missed. Of my own talk, I thought I was boring and monotonic — I think I need to repeat those presenter trainings I had 2½ years ago. Thankfully, my poor performance was offset by great performance of the next speaker, Carsten Munk with his talk on transparency, inclusion and meritocracy. Have I mentioned that I used the same three key concepts in my presentation (plus fairness), and we didn’t even sync up?
The Qt 5 and Qt Quick 2.0 talks were very well attended and received. In fact, the presentation of Qt 5 was so well received that the response we got from other MeeGo developers was “that’s great stuff, can we have it sooner?” We had a BoF session to discuss just that and we have a draft plan I should post to the meego-dev mailing list soon. I’m glad I had a part in making sure these talks were present by nudging the presenters, given the number of people who attended them.
Of course, the venue itself was a highlight. The hotel accommodations and the conference area were superb. The conference rooms were large and it was easy to get around. My worry that the escalators from the street level to the second level would be a bottleneck did not come to pass. The sponsors seemed well placed and we had lots of people coming in. At the Qt booth, we were showing the Qt Media Hub and the Chicken Wranglers QML applications.
Unlike Dublin, I didn’t have to spend my time introducing people to other people. I only had to give my business card to one person, and that’s because he had lost the one I had given to him at a previous event. It looks like everyone by now knows each other, which is great. This crowd behaved really well. At the end and on the day after, some came to me and told me they were feeling energised by the event. Instead, I spent my time finding people I needed to talk to and help get problems solved, as well as talking about the Qt Open Governance.
Now, I’m feeling the air pressure in my ears and the pilot is announcing that the we’re initiating the landing procedures (“hyvät matkustajat, tervetuloa Helsinkiin…”). I’ll shut down now and post when I get online.