Tags: debian, floss, montreal
Last DebConf, Antoine Beaupré (IRC: anarcat) and others put together a bid for DebConf12 in Montreal, an effort I am (of course!) supporting.
On the last Tuesday of October, Antoine and I had a meeting at Foulab. The invitation to the meeting went out to a larger invite list of people in the province and nearby cities, but for this first meeting only he and could made it. Antoine took some notes on a gobby server, I am posting here my notes.
The place where DebConf happens is a key element for winning the bid. Things to take into account are costs (can it be fully sponsored?), sleeping quarters proximity to talk rooms / hacklabs and in-place food halls (which should accommodate all the attendees at once). These are more wishes rather than requirements, but they can help choose among options.
In general, we want to make sure we stress in the bid that, for comparable cities, food and lodging in Montreal is cheap.
A good network speed is key for even thinking about organizing a DebConf. Imagine multiple talks simultaneous video streaming, dozens of developers git cloning remote repositories, etc. Sadly, my short experience so far is that Internet access in Québec is really sub par (something everybody seems to be aware of). In short, this is is a key issue to focus on while bidding.
So far, we discussed aligning ourselves with non-profits that are pushing for better and more widespread Internet access.
We discussed some umbrella organizations to help us with logistics and volunteers. This list is more a list of organizations to contact at this time.
Finally, these organizations might want to help spreading the word
After having been working on fundraising for DebConf10, government fundraising is a little bit of an unresolved issue for me. Both DebConf9 and DebConf11 rely heavily on government funding, up to 50% (or more!) of the total costs. As I have said elsewhere, by the time I started working on DebConf10 fundraising, it was too late to go for government sources.
Antoine has some experience dealing with the Québec government for funding, but as it usually goes, it wasn't easy and it took time for the funds to appear.
For searching for grants, we might want to reach out to a local start-up specializing on that.
When requesting Québec funding, I believe we can emphasize the support of the French language and Franco-phone community within Debian (we can ask Bubulle for some pointers about it).
Overall, after talking with Antoine, I feel government funding is possible, but won't be on time for the bid. Moreover, there are intrinsic issues of the insularity of a DebConf with respect to the goals of a local government. Also, I wonder if by accepting Québec funds we will be forced to run a bilingual conference. We should definitely check that.
Internet (discussed above)
Venue (discussed above)
Accessibility: DebConf prides itself of taking care of its attendees including of course the ones with non-standard needs. This issue is a little bit venue-related but also has to do with the city in general (which Montreal seems OK, saving the underground city) and the activities organized during DebConf.
Getting to the venue (fly to the city / from the airport): Montreal is decently connected to the world, particularly through Toronto and New York so getting to Montreal is no so much of an issue (beyond costs, of course). But getting from the airport into the city will require plenty of hand-holding as it is quite a bit of an ordeal at the moment.
Local language: we should stress that Montreal is perfectly accommodating of English-speaking tourists. I had heard that before but after living here for a few months, I can attest is true.
Visas: it is not going to be easy, so better look for smart ways to deal with it. In DebConf10, we were blessed with a lawyer that gratuitously volunteer his time to help our attendees with letters, support and insights (Franklin Bynum, thanks!). Finding somebody local with such skills will strengthen our bid considerably.
Overall, the meeting was very good. I have been talking with people I met here and there and have found a few Debian supporters that expressed interest in hearing more about this bid. Finding Debian supporters in Montreal, by the way, it is not easy, as Montreal has a very strong Ubuntu (and Canonical) presence. Antoine suggested using that fact to spice up the bid as a DebConf of "building bridges between Debian and Ubuntu". I have no clear opinion but definitely an idea worth reflecting upon.
The next stage will be to organize a larger meeting with these volunteers plus others. Whether we will win this bid for 2012 is, as always, very uncertain (as it depends on the quality of the competing bids) but the goal is to assemble a team interested in making DebConf-Montreal a reality and then keep improving the bid until it is good enough.