|Flock Krakow 2016
||[Aug. 10th, 2016|04:34 pm]
The annual Fedora contributor's conference, Flock to Fedora, wrapped up last week. From everything I've seen and heard, it was a smashing success. The trip reports and writeups have been very detailed and helpful, so I thought I would take a slightly different perspective with mine. I'll cover a few sessions, but most of this will be from an organizers viewpoint.
However, the highlight for me was meeting three of my new team members in person (or in the case of Dan, seeing him again). My transition to the team had just completed and it was almost purely coincidence that all of us were going to be in the same place at the same time. I appreciate the opportunity to see them, as I really value face to face time with a team. It was a great way to start off on a good note.
The Kernel Talk
For the first time in several years, someone else gave the Fedora kernel talk. Laura Abbott did a fantastic job with this. I thought she struck a good balance in using statistics to emphasize her points where needed, whereas my talks tended to be heavy on statistics for statistics sake. The overall theme of inclusion and community during the talk was also excellent. We need the community around the Fedora kernel to grow, and Laura made that point numerous times. Hopefully people watch the video when it is online and feel empowered to reach out to the kernel maintainers. I promise they are very approachable people.
Ensuring ABI stability in Fedora
Dodji Seketeli and Sinny Kumari gave a fascinating talk on abicheck and libabigail, and it's potential uses in Fedora. Having done work on toolchains and ELF in the distant past, I was very impressed on how they are able to present an ABI difference between two package versions down to the individual .h file level and present that in a format that humans are comfortable reading. Hopefully as work continues, we'll be able to utilize this in the Fedora updates process to detect inadvertent ABI changes before they land on users systems. I also think it could be useful in the Modularity effort to validate that the API/ABI a module claims to export is actually what is exported. I'm definitely going to keep an eye on the work Dodji and Sinny are doing here.
Fedora Council Townhall and Update
This session was kind of a bust for it's intended purpose. The people in the room were literally the Council members, a couple of members of OSAS, and one or two people that I think were really just looking for a quiet room to hack in. However, not to make it a waste, we spent most of the session discussing some Flock itself among the Council and OSAS members. I felt this was fairly productive, but there wasn't anything firm enough to recap here. Hopefully the results of some of that discussion are posted in the not distant future.
I've seen Langdon give his Modularity talk 3 or 4 times now across various venues. Every time I watch it, I'm amazed at its ambition and relevance in today's trending software market. The nice thing about this session is that it continues to show progress towards actually doing this every time. This particular time around, Langdon was able to show off a few demos of installing various modules (a kernel and httpd). Live demos are always fun, and this was no exception. I think his team is doing great work, and I'm looking forward to seeing how this plays into the way we create Fedora in the future. There are a lot of details to work out and that's where the fun part will be.
I wound up, somewhat unexpectedly, moderating a PRD workshop for the Fedora Editions. The PRDs for each WG have existed for a few releases now, and some of them are woefully out of date. It was time to refresh what each WG was aiming for, and document that.
Rather than dig into the existing PRDs and revise from there, we started off by using the Kellogg Logic Model that Matthew Miller covered in his talk earlier in the day. We started with Impact. So we listed Mission and Vision statements, followed by Outcomes that map to those, followed by Outputs that would meet the desired outcomes. Stephen Gallagher started us off with Server and we spent quite a bit of time getting used to the ideas and flow of the model, and then drilling down into some of the details. Workstation was next with Christian Schaller and Alberto Ruiz leading the way.
Ironically, the WG that needs to address their PRD the most is the Cloud WG and we ran short on time to really dig into it in any meaningful way. The main thing we took away there was basically the WG is blowing itself up and doing a pivot to become the Atomic WG. That might sound drastic, but it was a direct follow on from the Cloud FAD that was held recently with the WG members. What that actually means for all the involved parties is up to them and I'm curious to see the end result.
Organization and Logistics
I thought the venue for Flock this year worked out very well. Having the conference in the hotel makes everything massively easier. People have less transit to worry about, the organizers only have one set of staff to work with, and it generally makes for a better conference in my opinion. I thought the facilities were great, the quality and amount of food was good, and even the wifi worked well as long as nobody used the floor outlets (... no idea). Brian did a fantastic job finding the Best Western for us.
Having created the schedule for Flock this year I'm completely biased. However, I thought it worked out well. There were the inevitable gripes about conflicts between sessions people wanted to attend, but it is impossible to avoid that for everyone. I did tell the Fedora Engineering team that they have to write in their goals for next year to be less awesome and submit fewer interesting talks. They could have had a mini-conference of their own, and scheduling their talks were by far the hardest part.
The only concern I had from a schedule perspective is a significantly higher number of cancellations this year. We lost 10 sessions total for a variety of reasons. A typical year normally results in only two or three. The organizers will need to keep an eye on this to make sure it doesn't turn into a trend, particularly when we have a growing number of submissions overall.
The Flock booklets this year were great. Ryan and the design team did a superb job with them again. The only comment I had for Ryan was to eliminate the schedule from the booklet itself. We always get requests for new sessions on the Workshop days, or cancellations/changes after the print date and that makes it obsolete before the conference even starts. He did have a fantastic way to compensate for this though, and created a schedule on the main hallway wall every morning with printed out session tags. I thought this was brilliant and made it much easier for attendees to know what was coming next without having to bring up the sched.org page.
Online channels were a mixed bag this time around. Typically the bulk of the chat is done in the Flock IRC channels and the staff monitor those for things that might need attention. This year, a Telegram channel was created by the attendees as well. I think the attendees liked the Telegram channel, so much so that the bulk of chatter went there. That was somewhat problematic only in that it deviated from the past and made for one more place staff had to monitor despite us saying we weren't going to do that. The dilution wasn't severe though. Inevitably wherever the bulk of the people are is what becomes the main avenue for communication. I would advocate for coming up with an online discussion plan well in advance of the conference next year and sticking to it.
Streaming wound up having something in a similar vein. The wifi did hold up very well, but the staff didn't feel it would be sufficient to stream all the sessions. We went for recording instead, as we did last year, and told speakers that remote attendance or speaking via streaming wasn't something we were going to do. As is typical with any strong willed and creative community, this was ignored for the Diversity panel and they went and did it anyway. I was pleased to find out after the fact that it seemed to go well enough, and it didn't kill wifi for the whole conference. Kudos to them for getting it done, particular for such an important topic, but I don't think it would have worked for all the sessions at once.
I cannot stress enough how wonderful the city itself was this year. The people of Krakow were friendly and approachable, the city was beautiful, and the evening events were great. I say that as someone that does not like boats, and I had a great time on our boat event (as I did last year after reluctantly going).
As always, the biggest factor to making Flock a success is the Fedora community. It is rewarding to see people turn up ready to interact and contribute time and again. I'm always impressed with what people can get done there, and with the energy level they bring. It always leaves me looking forward to next year.