FOSS4G 2007 - Under a Week to Go

Disturbingly, the date of the conference just keeps marching relentlessly closer, without consulting me on how much I have left to complete before the big day.

Quick stats: 640+ registered, 318 in workshops, 300+ for banquet, 120 presentation, 28 posters, 12 workshops, 18 labs.

Here’s what’s going on:

On Friday, people start to arrive, some of the workshop teachers, other folks from far away who are leaving time to do some tourist stuff and get over jet lag, and so on. I will be sitting down with our organizing company (Sea To Sky Meetings), the Conference Centre staff, the AV contractor staff, and our workshops organizer for a final walk-through of the schedule and all the physical details. How rooms are configured, and when; what food arrives, and where; all that great stuff.

On Saturday, we have an orientation meeting for volunteers, and stuff delegate bags. Inserts from exhibitors, the program, maps, some coupons from local attractions and merchants, t-shirts, etc, etc. Also we move as much stuff into the conference centre as possible (workshop handouts, etc) so we don’t have to do it on Sunday. Meanwhile, the Open Street Map folks will be having a mapping party today.

On Sunday, we take over the conference centre as our lease begins (at noon) and start setting up the 6 full computer labs needed for the workshops. The conference really will start to “feel real” at this point, as Registration opens at 3pm and real live delegates will start showing up and picking up their credentials. Workshop and lab teachers will be coming in through the early evening to check out their class rooms and make sure things work. Folks should be arriving at the airport and on ferries all day long. I will be spending much of my day at an OSGeo board meeting. The Open Street Map mapping party will be into day two at this point.

On Monday, things kick off with the workshop sessions. I’m teaching my “Introduction to PostGIS” class in the morning, to 84 hopefully enthusiastic pupils. About 50% of the delegates will be attending workshops, so the other 50% will presumably still be arriving and registering as the day goes on. The exhibitors will also be hard at work, putting up their displays and getting the integration showcase up and running. I’ll probably go help with that during the afternoon. At the end of the day, the OSGeo general meeting goes in the Lecture Theatre (a really pretty room), and simultaneously the workshops team has to tear down 4 of the 6 classrooms to make space for presentations the next day. The remaining 2 classrooms will be used for labs during the rest of the week. After the AGM, everyone will converge on the Sticky Wicket for beers, turning it into a chaotic madhouse.

By this time, having spent Sunday at a board meeting, taught a 3-hour class, and spent the remainder of the day talking continuously, greeting people, and spending a couple hours at the Wicket, I expect my voice will be shot. I find I don’t talk all that much in my day-to-day life, so transitioning from Quiet Paul to Talking All The Time Conference Paul means that I basically thrash my vocal cords in the first 24 hours and spend the remaining days whispering as loud as I can.

Tuesday, plenary day! As conference chair, I get to greet the assembled hordes, and serve as MC during the plenary session. Howard Butler will take up the mic to host the lightning talks. I’m really looking forward to Damian Conway’s talk, having seen him at OSCON some years ago. That OSCON talk felt like a Full Brain Massage, with equal measures of humour, crazy puzzles, and great observations. Then talks and labs begin! I have a talk right away in the Lecture Theatre, my oh-so-popular “Survey of Open Source GIS”, which I will once again try-and-fail to shoehorn into 25 minutes. Perhaps I will just collapse in a heap on Tuesday evening, but I imagine I will have one or five business meetings to do. I hope visitors have a sunny evening and take a walk to Fisherman’s Wharf or the Ogden Point Breakwater and don’t spend their whole evening in BoF sessions.

By Wednesday, things will be cruising along, with a full day of presentations, demos, exhibition hall, and the poster presentation at lunch time. Everyone will be in town, folks will be relaxed and settled in, and there’s a huge number of talks to choose from. I’ll be speaking yet again, this time doing a “PostGIS Introduction and Case Studies” talk, and followed by my colleague Kevin Neufeld’s excellent (he did a test run last Friday) “PostGIS for Power Users” talk. Wednesday evening, about 50% of the attendees have signed up for the evening Banquet at the Royal BC Museum. We’ll be starting with a private IMAX screening of Titanica, then heading to the third floor galleries for First Nations art, Victoria history, and lots of yummy food.

On Thursday, we wind things down, with a morning of presentations, labs and demos, and then the closing plenary. Again, MC duties fall to me, but I will get to lean on Adena Schutzberg, who is going to lead our closing panel, and then do a little conference re-cap for our entertainment. The workshop committee will spring into action one last time, and tear down the remaining 2 classrooms, and the exhibitors will all clear out, and the conference centre will fall silent. Lots of folks will head home at this point, but some developers will remain…

For the Friday code sprint!

Canadian Privacy Commissioner Discovers Google Street View

And she does not like what she sees.

Apparently the problem is not the US-style “expectation of privacy” – which is hard to have when walking down a public sidewalk – but the Canadian statutory concept of “personal information”, which has specific protection under our privacy legislation:

Stoddart doesn’t have a problem with [Google satellite maps]. However, she warned that high-resolution pictures such as those available on Street View could contravene the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act, which came into effect on Jan. 1, 2004.

“Our Office considers images of individuals that are sufficiently clear to allow an individual to be identified to be personal information within the meaning of PIPEDA,” Stoddart writes.

As usual with internet curfuffles, the problem seems not to be the infraction per se, but the scale and visibility of it. The cameras on my bank machine are collecting and storing recognizable images of me all the time without my consent (my personal information!) but it is a quiet and invisible process, and does not end in a public distribution step.

I am trying to think of any other situation where my identifiable image might be captured and then published without my consent, but so far am drawing a blank. (Oh, here’s one, when I walk home I end up in numerous people’s tourist shots of the BC Legislature and I am sure some of those people publish to Flickr – which brings us back to the scale and systematic nature of Street View.)

FOSS4G Conference Program

The conference program has been coming together, piece by piece, over the past several months. Workshops and labs, keynote speaker, presentations, lightning talks, and demonstrations. Well, it is all done now, and off to the printer for conversion to dead-tree format. It’s also online in PDF format.

FOSS4G 2007

Apart from the pretty pictures and nice formatting, the content has already been available for a while:

But it’s nice to have it all in a handy book now! See you all in two weeks!

Bad Software Causes Global Warming

This Friday, I hopped up from my computer, told it to shutdown, turned off my monitor and hurried home.

This morning, I got in, turned on my monitor and … my computer was already on. Huh? It had never shut down in the first place, because Acrobat Reader doesn’t respect Windows telling it to shut down, it only listens to you, the user. So my Acrobat spent the weekend waiting for me to confirm that yes, I really wanted it to shut down!

I wonder how many tonnes should be booked to Adobe for this particular design infraction.

FOSS4G Update

By my count, it’s just 38 days until FOSS4G! Scary thought, the amount of logistics involved.


The opening plenary session is now set, with some great keynoters (Geoff Zeiss, Autodesk; Tyler Mitchell, OSGeo; Peter Rushforth, GeoConnections) and a fabulous feature speaker, Damian Conway.

Also, a full line-up of 5-minute lightning talks, to get the blood circulating! Peter Batty, Raj Singh, Schuyler Earle, Chris Schmidt, and more!

We had our update from the conference organizer yesterday, and the hotel blocks are almost sold out! Make your travel plans now, otherwise you will be paying higher prices for accommodations. The hotels are chomping at the bit to take away our block rooms and sell them for more on the open market — snap them up!