Dublin proved to be a near perfect setting, with easy air access coupled with a relaxed, easy approach to visitors that made it comfortable to be in. The Aviva stadium are clearly experts in putting on events of this kind, combining great catering, helpful but unobtrusive staff, and all the space, rooms and equipment we could ask for. Well, almost: there's never quite enough wifi when geeks meet! The hotel was excellent. I was lucky enough to be in a room the D4 Towers, so had enough room for a hackers lounge to myself, and beds for 3. Only me and Titch Ted to share, though. Bars, a small shop, and they supplied the hackers' lounge quietly but regularly. Ideal.
This was nothing short of perfect. Breakfast was in the hotel for residents, or in the centre for non-residents (and early-birds stupid enough to volunteer for stuff at 8am). Lunch was provided each day, and was delicious (though SJGadsby wouldn't share his ice-cream). On Monday it was sponsored by Novell: as my employer uses groupwise for email/calendar and has a novell network drives, this was particularly enjoyable on an emotional level. Each evening there was an event. At no point was anything left out. Back at the hotel there was the hackers' lounge, which had a constant supply of beer and soft drinks, crisps and snacks (and chocolate!) and sandwiches intermittently – so if you missed a meal, you could catch up there. And you didn't need to worry about supplies should you be inspired to stay up till 4am playing werewolf!
On Monday evening, we were invited to a reception at the Aviva. This felt a little odd, as we'd been there mingling all day already, but nobody turned down free beer and canapes (though certain selections proved more popular than others!) The council took the opportunity to have a meeting at this point, and we sneaked into the TV room, where the pundits discuss the football at half time. It seemed a little ironic meeting in a soundproofed room, but it was good to finally get together, put faces to usernames and actually discuss some council business.
Wednesday was the Big Match. Sadly, living in the sticks, I had to fly home on Wednesday as there were no flights on Thursdays, so I missed this. Judging from the tweets and photos, it was as good as the other events, though others will have to confirm that.
Tuesday evening we were carefully stashed into buses and transported into Dublin, to the Guinness centre. This is a huge warehouse space attached to the factory/brewery where the Guinness actually happens. We toured the exhibition of the history and the making of Guinness before sharing a delicious meal in the company of an Irish folk band.
After that, we were treated to a U2 tribute band. And all the while the Guinness flowed. I drank rather more than I would normally – but the company was so inclusive, I felt quite accepted even squiffy. And I danced to the band, something I haven't done in years! It was an amazing experience, truly outstanding. And we can now safely say that MeeGo CAN organise a piss-up in a brewery! (explanation here: http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.p
Barring a couple of hitches, this went like silk. There was a bit of confusion about day one registration, and the notorious hitch in the arrival of the give-away netbooks (on which I am typing this blog!) Other than that, the organisation was so good it was virtually unnoticeable, which is exactly as it should be. Huge, huge kudos to all involved, given the size of the event!
To be honest, I didn't go to very many of the talks. Most of the content would have gone flying clean over my head – some of it at considerable altitude. I went to the opening keynotes, which were excellent. I would like a copy of the single slide that Carsten had on the Open Source way of working – inclusion, meritocracy, transparency, upstream first. I can think of a number of institutions where that philosophy could usefully be introduced!
I attended two talks by Dawn Foster on Community. These were mostly about metrics, but it was interesting to look at who the MeeGo people are, where they hang out and which ways of engaging are attractive to different people.
I attended Dave Neary's talk about community problems. This was excellent – and I recognised myself as many of the problems!
Listening to others, the content appeared to be varied enough to have plenty for everyone, and often too much for people to get to everything they wanted. Most people said the material was well delivered, with very few comments about quality or style of presentation – so I assume it was all good for those clever enough to understand it.
I have worn my T shirt (must hand wash that tonight and put it away safely: I never wore the Barcelona one as powder blue is so not my colour!) I haven't tried the umbrella – though I have seen a few in use, so they do work!
The netbook is amazing. I confess I had help with installing MeeGo on it (thank you h0pbeat!) but I have managed to put a few bits and pieces on it using various 'how to' pages found on google. At the moment I can't get the media player working properly (despite having a whole gaggle of geeks work on it at one point!) There are a few things I would expect missing, and it's just a little bit too KISS even for me (there are things I want to configure and no settings for them – adding repos for example, and customizing myzone). But it feels like something that I can get to grips with fairly quickly and it's great to finally have my paws on something that is actually a form of MeeGo. And I'm sure it will make great strides now it's in the hands of a bunch of devs. (Allowing for the ones who will immediately install ubuntu!) It's also good to be pushed beyond my comfort zone (and into the X-terminal!) now and again.
So what did the bear do?
For most of the conference, I hung out with Erika (who was great) at the Information Desk – the coolest (and coldest) place in the conference. It was right in front of the main doors, so we were never short of fresh air. We handed out tickets for the football match, provided information about events, directed people to taxis, atms and shops. We greeted people as they arrived, and provided a place to be when folk wanted a (brief) break from coding and content. We even handed out occasional painkillers, tissues, pens... On the last day, we looked after the odd suitcase. I went to network and meet people, and I can safely say I acheived my aims.
I think I have a question for others whether that was valuable. It felt useful at the time. In fact, it felt useful enough that I'd be looking at ways of improving it for another event: formally having a 'greeters' desk for information and help – and I can think of bits of information I'd have got in advance if I'd known I would be there so much. I loved doing it, and it felt like a good way I could contribute my particular input in something so technical. If other conferences would like a greeter/info desk run, I'd be there like a shot!
Overall, I'd want to offer a massive thank you to Dawn, Amy and their tireless team for putting on such a spectacular event, and allowing me to be part of it. As a mere end-user (sorry – people keep telling me I'm an engaged user) it was a special privilege to be there. To spend 3 days with a terrific bunch of people doing fun things and stuff that we all love, in a fabulous setting, with great hospitality and smooth organisation was nothing short of awesome. I loved every moment (even getting lynched for being a were-teddy) and can only ask... when can we do it all again?