Plone Conference 2010 Wrapup
Well.... after a chance to finally catch some sleep and collect my thoughts, I thought I'd write a post about the Plone Conference we just held here in Bristol. This blog post has actually taken me ages to write as I kept looking through all the great photos of the event and trying to fit as many in this post. Also, Astra is writing a bit of a behind-the-scenes blog post, so I need to get a move on and get this out first! There will probably be another post from me soon with some more technical details, and maybe one with all my favourite photos from the event!
With a total of 275 people from 33 difference countries coming to Bristol for a total of seven days of Plone training, talks, development, and of course socializing - the whole event went by far better than I could have ever imagined. Thanks mainly to my amazing colleagues at Netsight, especially Astra who was dealing with the hotel and all of our suppliers, and to Scott who was helping the wifi wizard Wyn with the wifi setup for the venue.
After his success of running the conference wifi in Budapest, and the abysmal performance of the wifi at pretty much every other conference I've been to, we invited Wyn Williams to again setup the conference wifi this year. Wyn arrived on the Thursday before the conference began and started to assemble all the wifi access points we needed. His original plan of bringing the equipment over from Finland with him was thwarted after his warehouse was broken into and all the equipment stolen. A last minute order to a UK stockist saw ten new access points turn up at Netsight's office the day before he did to assemble and configure them.
The conference took place in the Thistle Grand Hotel in central Bristol, with us having pretty much the run of the entire hotel. The training, main conference and sprints all took place within the same venue. We searched hard for a suitable venue, and whilst Bristol has many large conference facilities on the outskirts of the city, we really wanted a venue right in the centre, so that people could easily walk to nearby hotels, pubs and restaurants.
Monday and Tuesday were training days, with both Steve McMahon and Nate Aune running training sessions over the two days. Speaking to some of the students after the training sessions, their heads certainly seemed to have been filled to the brim with new knowledge!
Tuesday also saw a new event, the Plone in Business day. This was intended to be a standalone mini-conference to a wider audience that the general Plone community that already comes to the main conference.
There was originally scheduled to be the inaugural 'Plone Community of Practice' run by JBoye on the Tuesday morning. Alas due to a combination of school holidays in the UK that week, people already out of the office for three days for the main conference and my late announcement of it, we had to cancel it as, whilst there was a lot of interest, not enough people would be able to make it. We did however continue with the afternoon Plone Showcase in which we had a number of speakers come and talk to an audience of around 30-40 people.
Later that evening with people starting to arrive for the main conference starting the next day, we held a 'Jetlag reception' (thanks again to JBoye for coining a term for yet another reason to socialise) at Watershed in Bristol. There were about 40-50 Plone people there and we were also joined by some people from the local Django users group meetup that we happening earlier that evening.
The main conference started early Wednesday morning with registration starting at 8:30am. We'd picked up an idea from Europython this year with the registration and had people pick up their badges and conference bags and t-shirts separately. This streamlined the process quite a bit, and amazingly we were able to have pretty much everyone registered by the time of the keynote starting at 9am. Those of you who have been to previous conferences know just how much chaos this stage can be. Luckily we had a long narrow corridor to funnel people through and entice them up the stairs at the end with coffee and breakfast snacks so as to keep the corridor clear.
Each attendee was given a goodie bag was the Plone Conference 2010 branding on it and sponsor logos and contained a Plone Conference 2010 pint glass (we know what freebies will be appreciated by the Plone Community!), a copy of 'A Users Guide to Plone 4' supplied by Enfold Systems, a Plone Conference 2010 t-shirt, and a copy of the Plone Foundation Annual Report.
The talks started with a keynote from Alex Limi and Alan Runyan on the Future of Plone in the largest room, the Wessex Suite. This was a chance for people to hear the plans for the future direction of Plone and a bit of a rallying call to get everyone from the start of the conference heading in the same direction. The main themes of the keynote were on upcoming technologies to make Plone easier to deploy in smaller, shared-hosting environments; and making Plone 5 even easier for designers to theme.
This year we had a total of around 48 talks over the first two days of the main conference days, plus 45 further talks/discussions on the Open Spaces day. Talks ranged from deeply technical talks about Plone architecture and upcoming technologies, through to talks specifically for those new to Plone, and case studies showing Plone out in the wider world.
The video recording and the stage set was supplied by Aurora AV who did an amazing job. This is the first time I think the Plone Conference has had such a strong 'brand' and the illustration we had commissioned by local illustrator Ben Newman was shown off to its best along the front of the table, and on the podium. There was a giant Plone logo lit up behind the podium, which lent itself to one of the best photos of the conference, 'St. Plone' by Denis Mishunov.
Videos were taken of all four rooms, and feeds taken from both camera and the projector feed so you can see what is on the slides. They were recorded direct to disk and uploaded to ploneconf2010.blip.tv at the end of each day.
At the end of the first day, we had a guest keynote from Richard Noble, OBE the director of the Bloodhound SSC project and former land speed record holder. Whilst we think Open Source Content Management is pretty cool, you just can't beat a car powered by a combination of a Eurofighter jet engine and a giant rocket motor aiming for 1,000mph! Richard talked about all the obstacles they've had to overcome in developing something that no-one has ever done before, and how they have financed the project.
They are going to 'open source' all of the data from the project and the actual telemetry from the car itself. This is an amazing resource as none of their peers in this kind of engineering (aerospace, F1 motor racing, etc) are willing to share their data and knowledge with the public. Bloodhound are running a large education programme and Richard was appealing to the Plone community to see if there was an opportunity to use Plone to help disseminate all the learning materials.
Thursday followed on much the same as Wednesday, with four parallel rooms running, with talks in each. Lunch was again served in the hotel ballroom with a large buffet put on. This was ne area we had learned from previous conferences, and allowed plenty of room for people to get to the food and minimize the queues.
Thursday finished off with a session of lightning talks at the end of the day. I wished we could have fit more lightning talk sessions in, as they are such good fun and you get so much information in such short time. Alas, we had so many good talks submitted there wasn't room. However Geir Baekholt led a second lightning talk session during the Open Spaces day on Friday.
Then, one of the highlights of the conference. The conference dinner/party! We wanted to impart a little bit of British culture and so had organised a beer and pie festival with ten local ales and three ciders on offer, and local organic meat and vegetarian pies supplied by Pieminister. The venue for the party was a stunning former bank just a few hundred meters down the road from the conference venue. We also handed out a couple of complimentary drinks tokens as people came in which went down very well.
The 'Pie & Mash' and Real Ales were very well received by everyone I talked to at the party, which was great -- you never know how well cultural things are going to translate to such a wide audience.
Live music was provided by the band Fellow Stranger who provided a great backdrop to all the conversations going on. I know that some people wished they could have heard more of the band and they had a larger sound system, however that would have been to the detriment to all the talking going on. That said, those who wanted to hear more of the band were up the front beside the stage. I left the venue around 2am, and I know a party of people were heading off to another venue after that... Plone people are definitely known for a party ;)
Friday morning was the 'Open Spaces' day. This is a day in which we open up the schedule and everyone has a chance to propose a presentation or discussion on a particular topic. The idea is that this gives an opportunity to take further the valuable 'corridor discussions' that happen at conferences. It is also a chance for various user groups to meet up, I know that the Japanese Plone people had a talk about what was going on in Japan, and that ZEA had a partners meeting amongst many others. You will probably notice from the board that there was only one proposed talk for the first slot (9am) of the day.
We broke some of the rooms up into smaller sections so we had a total of eight spaces that could be used for Open Space sessions, of which a few of them had projectors and were filmed, but the majority of them were just spaces for discussions to take place.
Finishing up the conference, there were sprints held on the Saturday and Sunday. We had a total of around 80 people there for Saturday and 40 there for Sunday. As a hardcore bunch of Plonistas were still working away at 6pm, I managed to get our stay at the hotel extended until 9pm so people could make the most of their time here. There were an amazing 22 different sprint topics proposed on the sprint wiki.
To find out more about what went on, check out some of the outputs from the event:
- Videos of the talks from the conference
- Slides from the presenters of the talks (Ploneconf 2010 was actually featured on the front page of slideshare.net for the week after the conference)
- Photos of the event
And some great write-ups of the event on various blogs:
- Plone Conference 2010: Day 1 - Richard Mitchell, Isotoma
- PloneConf2010 – and there’s more - Doug Winter, Isotoma
- Plone Conference 2010 - a retrospect - Jens Klein, BlueDynamics
- Plone Conference 2010 Day 1 - Rick Hurst
- Plone Conference 2010 Day 2 - Rick Hurst
- Plone Conference 2010 Day 1 : A Summary - Martijn Jacobs, Four Digits
- Plone Conference 2010: first 2 days - Mikel Larreategi, Code Syntax
- Plone Conference 2010: Open Spaces and Lightning talks - Mikel Larreategi, Code Syntax
- Finally Home - Rok Garbas
- Plone Conference 2010 report - Lennart Regebro, Colliberty
Again, I want to say a big thank you to everyone who helped make the Plone Conference this year such a great success, and I hope to see many of you again soon, sometime... somewhere.
I'll leave you with one specific piece of feedback I got by email. What makes this particular piece so special was this was from someone who had never been to a Plone Conference or any Plone event before, and this was their first encounter with the amazing Plone community:
Astounding. That's the word that comes to mind when thinking about the conference. I have to echo everyone's thoughts on the event. The event, venue, city, people and organisation was exceptional. You and your team should be very proud. A real demonstration to everyone of how to hold a conference.
I was there from Steve's master classes on Monday & Tuesday - through to Friday and enjoyed every minute of it. It complemented the extraordinary phenomenon that is Plone and long may this enthusiasm continue. I met some great people - wizards from around the world - and will take away some great memories.
Many thanks for a great week.....................