I don’t normally write public journal-like entries, but I’d like to describe my experience at ArchCon as an advertisement to attract more attendees next year!
As co-organizer of the conference, I felt a lot of pressure for it to go well. People had paid registration fees to attend, as well as their travel arrangements and accommodation costs. I wanted it to be worth the time, effort, and money they spent to attend.
I think it was. I feel quite confident that no-one was disappointed.
My trip started a week before the conference. Dieter came over from Belgium around the same time as me. We did some touring around Toronto and down to Niagara Falls, and I had the dubious pleasure of introducing him to Canada’s own special recipe: poutine.
On Wednesday, the day before the conference, my best friend, fellow arch user, and ex-developer, Jason Chu flew in from Victoria, BC. I navigated my way to Humber College, where the conference was hosted and where we were rooming together on campus. Our room very closely resembled a prison cell with cement walls, floors and ceilings. We each got a private bedroom; mine was especially private (and prison-like) as my magnetic key card tended to need frequent resetting.
We met up with Ricardo Alvez who gave us a tour of the college and classrooms and then drove us to a nearby Mr. Greek for supper. We were all thoroughly entertained and swapped a variety of stories, information, and ideas.
Ricardo dropped us off at our dorm where we impatiently waited for our third roommate, Dan McGee (veteran pacman hacker, patch rejector, and expert freelancer). Jason and Dan had never met before, but they quickly became old friends and we spent the weekend insulting each other just like old friends who have far too much respect for each other always do.
We failed in our first mission of Archcon: Find a pub near campus. Dan and Jason were less than impress when we settled for Tim Horton’s (A Canadian coffee/donut chain) instead. Conference consensus is that, wherever Archcon 2011 is held, it must be in proximity to multiple pubs. No beer that night, but it wasn’t for lack of trying!
We went to bed slightly too late, but got up in time. I had meant to be at the conference early and get set up before anyone arrived, but there were already several attendees in the room when I walked in. People seemed a bit nervous and reluctant to allow me to draw them into conversation, but this didn’t last. People became very animated and everyone had something to contribute.
I haven’t presented anything since I was in school, and I have always been an awful presenter with massive public speaking anxiety. So I was surprised, as I set up my introductory speech, to find I felt relaxed and comfortable and was looking forward to the talk. I don’t think the talk was terribly well done, but I was happy with it, and most importantly, enjoyed it. The best part was, having my talk over first, I was able to enjoy the rest of the conference completely anxiety free!
We all experienced a fair amount of anxiety to begin with, though, as wireless was not immediately available. We had an ethernet port in the room, but no wireless routers. This was eventually resolved when Jason set his laptop up as an access point.
We had arranged scheduled talks in one room with various versions of free form discussion in a second room. With the small number of attendees, the second room didn’t get much use on day one, although a small collection of us got together for an informal bug squashing. I had intended to run this in parallel with an online bug squashing in IRC, but I had trouble getting into IRC and had previously thoroughly forgotten to advertise the session! I wrote a patch for an archweb bug, but I’m sure Dan will be rejecting it.
The conference was catered with pastries and drinks at breaks, and burgers, hotdogs, and way too much salad at lunch.
I am writing this as I upload and encode videos, so I won’t describe individual talks. The presenters were all game and presented well. The talks really made the conference, and I think a lot of enthusiasm for Arch development was generated among the participants, even (or especially) those of us who have basically left the community.
Day one ended with a trip downtown to find food and, more importantly, beer. I’d say about half the attendees went out, and I’m pretty confident fun was had by all. If laughter is the best medicine, we should all be very healthy for some time to come. Matt and Jason’s argument about…. well, I’m not sure what they were arguing about, but it was entertaining to watch them argue.
Day two started about 15 minutes late. Most people showed up surprisingly close to on time in spite of the late night. Coffee was consumed. After the scheduled talks wrapped up, several attendees presented “lightning talks” (5-8 minutes on whatever topic makes you happy). These forced a lot of variety into a short amount of time and were quite entertaining.
I was sad that we missed out on the development sprints. These were scheduled to occur in parallel with the last talk, but I think we were all a bit too tired and decided to watch the talk instead. I had in my mind we’d have time to do development after the lightning talks, but instead we ended the conference early. Some people left, having to catch planes, buses, or other commitments, but a large group of us stuck together. Dan and Jason coerced Kevin into chauffeuring them through a beer run while the rest of us borrowed Dan’s disc to play a game of three on three ultimate. Given Toronto’s humidity, we were soaked with sweat in short order. I still managed to cause grievous injury to my right thumb, though. It’s still hard to type and even harder to text as I write this.
Once Dan, Jason, and Kevin returned, and Jason had fixed a problem with his company’s web servers, we headed over to a Chinese buffet for dinner. The group kept shrinking as people left.
Next, the beer was consumed in our prison-like dorm. The number of beer-consumers was disproportionate to the amount of available beer, and we ran out quickly. Alex and Eric showed up shortly after all beer cans were empty. We had to switch to alternate forms of entertainment, and rotated between exchanging friendly insults and compliments, modifying and discussing playlists, discussing the history and future of Arch Linux, and planning ArchCon2011. Jason was repeatedly asked why he wasn’t carrying his Nexus one. Apparently this question annoys him.
That was the official end of ArchCon, but not for me. Jason, Dan and I spent Saturday touring Toronto in the rain. I didn’t go up the CN tower, but they had a wireless lounge that allowed me to write a python script to create the archcon image thumbnails page you’ve seen. I wrote it on my android cell phone over SSH with my injured thumb.
Dieter and a local friend of his met us at the bottom of the CN tower and we made our way to the Cloak and Dagger for more beers. We were all hungry, but didn’t realize that their kitchen was closed on Saturday. Jason and I grabbed a pair of pizzas which disappeared to quickly. So Dieter and I picked up a couple more. Loui showed up and further Arch discussion ensued with, of course, an adequate consumption of beer. I’m told it was one of the best place to get beer in the city.
I wouldn’t know. I don’t drink.