State of the Map 2013/Minutes/SOTM Next document

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This document aims to help the next group of people who have to organise SOTM for 2014

Key recommendations are in bold and italic (nb: this markup is missing)


General Working Group Organisation

Guidance / What works well:

  • The SotM working group should consist of 6 or more people. The more the better (as long as tasks are properly distributed/assigned), however less than 6 could put too much work on the individuals.
  • It is not necessary to meet in person as much of the organization can be done online and via telephone conferences.
  • The OpenStreetMap Foundation already has a telephone conference facility. This provides local dial-in numbers for many countries throughout the world, making it cheap (or free) to join the telephone calls. Pick a suitable time that works for the key team members.
  • Use any online tools that help you (the aim is to organise a conference so don't get caught up in any "don't use Google"/"only use open source" debates). In 2013 we found that Google Docs works well as it provides collaborative editing of Text, Spreadsheet and Presentation documents. You can also create forms for the "Call for Presentations" in Google Docs. Users do not need to be registered with Google - they just need the web URL.
  • Keep everything in one place. For SotM 2013 we had a simple Google Document (the “SotM Organisation Tool”) that included the URL links to all previous Minutes and other documents.
  • It does help to have one person as designated venue correspondent. He/she should live near to the venue and be able to answer any questions the venue owners may have.

Areas to improve:

  • The SotM Working Group can feel isolated from other Working Groups and the OpenStreetMap Foundation (OSMF) Board. More effort should be made by the Board and relevant working groups (e.g. Communications Working Group) to engage with the SotM Team.
  • Communication outside of the telephone conferences has previously been by email. With lots of emails flying about this can get confusing. Members should consider setting up a separate email account just for SotM. When replying to emails it helps to include (cc’d or bcc’d) appropriate SotM team members to avoid any confusion as to who has/hasn’t/should reply.
  • Keeping track of tasks can be challenging. Are there free and simple tools are available for task management available online? (This could also help reduce the number of emails being sent).

Timings of key events

Guidance / What works well:

  • Get as much done as early as possible to give yourself maximum time closer towards to conference. There is a lot to do closer to the conference (e.g. conference programme and guidebook) so plan to get tasks that do not depend on other things done early (e.g. find suitable merchandising companies in advance of when you need them).
  • Keep a plan of when you need to achieve key milestones (tickets on sale, call for presentations ends, conference programme finalised etc..)
  • The “Call for Presentations” should end 3 months before the conference. This time is needed to give you time to review the presentations, draft a conference programme, ensure that all speakers are indeed able to attend (and have registered/purchased a ticket), and write the conference guidebook.

Areas to improve:

  • The successful bid team/city needs to be selected sooner. In 2013 we had to prompt the OSMF Board to decide on a city giving us just 28 weeks from first team telephone call to day 1 of the conference. As there were many other GIS related events in the UK this year, we had already missed the opportunity to gain sponsorship from many large companies.
  • It would be nice to start the “Call for Venues” as the previous conference ends, with a closing day a few weeks after. This could be initiated by a question to the audience where they want to go next.


Guidance / What works well:

  • Selection of Venue will likely have already been completed during the “Call for Venues” process. Selection should consider cost, location (transport hubs), accommodation options, wireless internet, presentation rooms, and breakout rooms.
  • The venue will be unwilling to hold the dates for long without a deposit being paid, so this should resolved quickly.
  • Engage with the venue owners so that they are aware of how a conference like SotM differs from a more normal business conference (e.g. a need for good breakout areas, water available throughout the day, a high number of wireless internet connections, and differing AV needs).
  • Meet with the venue owners to check out the venue for ease of access, location of rooms and availability of AV equipment:
    • Rooms should be located near to each other and should be easy to find. If they have long/complex names (e.g. 2.12) then consider room name signs.
    • All facilities must be accessible for wheelchair/disabled users.
    • Get every single detail of the AV: Screen (projector) resolution, wifi at podium, wired network at podium (don’t just look for socket, check it works), power sockets for speakers, power sockets for audience, microphone types (lapel, necklace, handheld, desk/stand fixed), etc..

Areas to improve:

  • There needs to be an area for delegates to work collaboratively away from the conference hubbub (e.g. a room with 20-30 spaces, desks with power sockets and wifi).
  • Naming of rooms: We received a comment that “Secondary Lecture Theatre” suggests less interesting talks. “Room/Track A, B, and C” might be better? Or a map theme, “World Room, UK Room, Birmingham Room”?
  • Try and deal with just one company - if you are dealing with a University and a Conference company then areas of responsibility can become confused.
  • Have the Volunteer Team meet at the venue and be shown how everything will work.


  • Money in (Sponsorship & Tickets)
    • Having a budget spreadsheet early so as to match sponsorship and delegate income against costs was a great help
    • OSMF Board should have a formal budget presented and regular updates of progress in order to co-ordinate activity
    • Access to web statistics on may be useful.
  • Money out (Merchandise)
  • Communication (externally)
  • Call for Presentations
  • Programme and Guidebook
  • During the Event


General Comments

  • How effective are the tools? Google Docs versus Hackpad etc..
    • Google Docs worked very well. Easy to keep minutes, especially when a 2nd or 3rd person aiding. The organisation tool (document) is probably a must, although I also made use of ‘starring’ key documents. - Greg.
  • Having a budget spreadsheet early so as to match sponsorship and delegate income against costs was a great help
  • OSMF Board should have a formal budget presented and regular updates of progress in order to co-ordinate activity
  • Use of email versus google docs - in my opinion email should be for notifications not for storing information (use documents/spreadsheets for that)
  • If we do feedback surveys after each SOTM, then the next group needs to see the results of this.
  • Numbers: Almost impossible to work out, but we do need to put some thought into this (based on previous years and location of the conference) so that we are not in a mad panic at the end.
  • Access to web statistics on may be useful.
  • Name badges as (Name/Country/OSM Username - all on separate rows)


  • The Call for Venues probably needs to be earlier - we struggled to find suitable venues that were still available.
    • Shaun: Some years ago the OpenOffice conference started doing the conference planning 2 years in advance, thus 2 conferences would be getting organised at a time, thus the next year’s conference organisers can work along side the current ones to learn how to do it.
    • I think the Call for Venues would be good to start as the conference ends, with a closing day a few weeks after. This could be initiated by a question to the audience where they want to go next. - Greg
  • I seem to recall that the confirmation that Birmingham had been selected was slow and we had to chase this up as Aston were getting nervous.
  • To help this part of the discussion we should collate the dates:
    • Call for Venues opens: Dec 18*
    • Call for Venues closes: Jan 31
    • Birmingham selected: Feb 11*
    • First ConCall: Feb 20
    • Website online: March 13
    • ...
    • Tickets available: April 30
    • Early bird closes:
    • Call for Presentations opens: Apr 23
    • Call for Presentations closes: June 10
    • Grading of presentations to be completed by: circa June 22
    • First local meeting to work on conference programme: June 24
    • Second local meeting to work on conference programme: June 29
    • Confirmation email sent to Presenters: June 29
    • Hackday announced: Aug 2*
    • Reach out to find volunteers to help run the conference: Aug 9
    • Print deadline (conference guide and posters): Aug 28
      • Start logging programme changes (this is inevitable): Aug 29
    • Information pack sent to presenters: Aug 29
    • Start to gather things for stationery box: Aug 30
    • Programme announced/released: Aug 31*
    • Sponsors provide their slide for the interval presentations: Sept 3
    • Print name badges: Sept 5 (delegates registering after 9am will have a hand written name badge)
    • Conference dates: September 6-8 (Hackday: Sep 9)
  • dates based on wiki history


  • Sponsorship spreadsheet created after first conference call.
  • It has been proposed that sponsorship should not be the responsibility of the local organising team as it puts too much pressure on them and does not encourage long term relationships between our sponsors and ?OSMF?. How could things work in practice:
    • RobJN: OSMF should be responsible for main sponsorship. Sponsorship can be collected at any time during the year and sponsors are informed of the cut-off date (any sponsorship after this date will have to be included in the following years SOTM banners and programme guide). OSMF should maintain a dialogue with sponsors to improve lasting relationships.
    • RobJN: Based on sponsorship levels, OSMF board should give the SOTM organising team a budget (provisional during Call for Venues), final when accepting a venue. It is the organising teams responsibility to meet this budget.
    • RobJN: Merchandising remains within the remit of the local organising team.
    • RobJN: The OSMF Board should survey our sponsors and community to understand how financial support should be spent. For example, are we being too extravagant with our conference? Do we have the balance between sponsorship and attendee ticket price right?
    • Brian: sponsorship pack need a major rework, complete with lots of “what do I get for my money” arguments and some hard data on who attends the conference and who accesses the conference website output. Some quotes from this year’s sponsors would also add value
    • Greg: needs one-to-one connections with sponsors that last several years. I understand an OSMF fundraising group may get set up, but that team should identify a single “account manager”(for want of a better term) per company/entity.
    • Brian: sponsorship needs high-level contacts in organisations backed up by a slick sponsorship programme and an early start to get into organisations’ budget planning cycle
    • Greg: The fundraising WG will also need to work out how it sits with corporate membership of OSMF. Maybe membership doesn’t give you a sponsor discount but could mean you get first refusal on the limited sponsorship levels.
    • Greg: Fundraising drives should be better timed in the year. Fundraising drives should still happen (individuals might donate), but companies(or large donors) might need to be aware that will later be a call for SotM sponsors with (hopefully/presumably) better advertising opportunities. Maybe donation drives should freeze funds until it’s clear if SotM will/won’t need any funds.
    • RobJN: Stu often commented that he felt a clearer picture of the conference programme and a list of attendees would help. This is a bit of a timing issue as we are approaching sponsors well before the programme is finalised. Perhaps we need to sell the OpenStreetMap story instead and aim to provide a clear vision of what we are hoping to achieve at this years conference.


  • How to maintain a good website? Should it include a blog?
    • Greg: There were too many updates to put on the OSMF blog, but maybe they should go directly onto the page and notice of the change/addition be sent through twitter/mailing lists.
      • RobJN: I felt quite disheartened trying to keep a momentum on the SotM blog when it seemed like nobody was ready it. Integration into the OSMF blog would drive greater readership and we could reduce the number of blog posts (e.g. Free Mug should be a tweet not a Blog post)
    • Greg: The last ~3 years the delegate-editing of the wiki has been lost and it upsets me. It have much fun queuing for a flight with others then sharing a taxi/bus to our accommodation. I knew what flight to book based on many of us adding our plans to the SotM wiki pages. I don’t know if the SotM organisers can aid the return of this, the push may need to come from the crowd.
  • If this is a OSMF event (as it is), shouldn’t we be using the OSMF website?
  • Use of Eventbrite, Lanyrd and other third party software - cost issues, how practical are they to helping the organising team? What about using the open-source conference schedule / planning application Indico ( as suggested by Matt Williams?
    • Greg: A lot of people (but certainly not everyone) is familiar with Eventbrite and Lanyrd.
  • Who should get a banner/ad on
    • Greg: We and SotMUS caused a discussion to be made on this and I *think* a policy came out of it.
  • The programme shown on our website was switched from a google spreadsheet to a lanyard list. The list made it hard to distinguish between each track. See feedback form comments on this.

Call for Presentations

  • 65% of proposals came in the last 2 days (or late)!!
  • We had to go back and ask for shorter abstracts - the form should have a 120 word limit.
  • Titles varied in length greatly - what about a character limit on titles? How about a word limit?
  • I personally struggled to keep track of Keynotes and Panels that we arranged but not added to the Call for Presentations form / spreadsheet.
  • Deadlines after the Call for Presentations closed were very tight - can everything move forward one month?
  • Clash with SOTM US re the Call for Presentations end date.
  • Letting people know their abstract when we send the confirmation and ask for an improved version as some people expected to get it in the confirmation thus didn’t keep a copy. One solution is in the form for submitting the presentation to also send a copy email to the proposer. (That wasn’t too much of a problem - all I did was send them their proposed presentation back). Suggest potential presenters required to include their word limited abstract with proposal.
  • Possible confusion with Posters - needs to be on separate web page and called, perhaps, Posters Call
  • It was a nightmare getting the presenters to confirm that they were still intending to come and to sign up for tickets.
  • Whoever is managing the Call for Papers/Presentations needs ready access to the booking system, view mode only.
  • Make it clear that the Conference cannot fund presenters - everyone has to pay.
  • Was there a field to say if you were speaking from a specific organisation or website? This would be helpful to put in the programme more prominently than the abstract. - Greg.
  • There was feedback on the content and level of the presentations and requests for more hands-on workshops
  • Rather than just issue a blanket call for presentations; decide first on themes and allocate sessions- say a morning or afternoon. THEN ask for presentations addressing these themes. Needn’t have the whole conference booked out in this way.
  • Ask the community what they would like hands-on workshops on and then invite community experts to deliver them
  • Members of the OSM Working Groups thanked the SOTM team for forcing them to do a session on the WGs. I suggest we do this each year.

Conference Programme Planning

  • As soon as the “we have accepted your presentation” email is sent a list of attendees who have actually signed up needs to be available to the CFP admin. Updated lists every couple of days would be helpful. Some presenters appear to think they have signed up as delegates but were not on the attendee list.
  • FLORIS: About the visitors/presenters asking for free tickets: That's happens every time, sometimes from really big names indeed.

Us and, well us

  • How to most effectively work with SOTM, SOTM US, other local SOTM events and OSM Plus?
    • Should the OSMF adopt other/regional conferences as it’s own in addition to the main one? This may be answered by local chapters becoming formalised (in the works, within 2 years perhaps). - Greg
    • Some people were confused on the difference with OSM PLUS. I didn’t, but I think we could have improved the global community feel of SotM by doing things like having more “state of my country” talks. This could be done by Call for Papers mentioning requested themes, and maybe the blog showcasing some recordings of previous exemplar talks (especially as a lot of potential speakers won’t have attended before).
  • Steven Feldman (FOSS4G) has offered to discuss ideas with us.
  • The team worked well and felt the right size at 7-8 consistently throughout the campaign but probably another couple on the ground would have improved the event


  • Much better liaison with CWG needed
  • Much better work with the press - of all our press releases we got three mentions, but this depends on work around the year cultivating press contacts
  • On the opening day we need a separate press liaison person - too much to expect the main conference organiser to do this as well as iron out all the initial niggles.
  • We write stuff in the guide but it’s not read - suggest a display screen or matrix sign
    • Maybe have someone responsible for the screen(s) in the registration/general room and deciding/choosing when to flip it between the video/twitter/programme feeds and popping up notices. Could this be the same person updating the programme changes? (I don’t know how that went for them).
  • Specific emails for team members and “inboxes”, eg presentations@, posters@, etc.
  • Feedback suggested we had poorly planned and co-ordinated communication with delegates
  • It is essential that a communications plan is drawn up and executed by somebody with marketing/comms experience even if it means budgetting for and paying someone. It should address which messages go to which audiences via which channels at what frequency in a co-ordinated plan. For example the press campaign can re-inforce the sponsorship campaign


  • Get every single detail of the AV - we were backwards and forwards on multiple items
    • Screen(projector) resolution, wifi at podium, wired network at podium(don’t just look for socket, check it works), power points for speakers, power points for audience. Microphone types(lapel, necklace, handheld, desk/stand fixed?) - how many and what do we want to use, are there bad spots in the room or bad way to hold the mic?
      • Any other questions we got by e-mail?
    • Why didn’t we use the laptops? The desktops were great, but some people were expecting LibreOffice rather than Microsoft suite.
    • As Brian went elsewhere the AV guy(Bill) showed me through each room and it’s tech. Did everyone know I knew the tech (I could have closed the grand hall windows)?
  • Don’t assume the venue is well-organised - ask for a run through of everything you can think of
  • Definitely need a well-publicised area for delegates to work in away from the conference hubbub- suggest a room with 20-30 spaces - desks with power sockets and wifi
  • Registration room was great but the breakout room felt too far away (even going through the two lecture rooms).
    • Needed better/more signage (and team to direct everyone the same way?)
    • Would be good to have the registration room centrally, so it’s left for Track 1, right for Track 2, second right for Track 3 etc, then people will pass through/by the registration room more often.
  • Naming of rooms.
    • The registration/refreshment/welcome/info room could be more consistent. I would like to call it the breakout room because people can go there when they are between talks or wanting to break away for informal chats/work.
    • Comment made that “Secondary Lecture Theatre” suggests less interesting talks. “Room/Track A, B, and C” might be better? Or a map theme, “World Room, UK Room, Birmingham Room”?


  • Think hard about having day tickets
  • Definitely have a price for partners at the Conference Dinner
  • If the venue allows it would be good to have some registration take place on the day before the conference as people arrive for their overnight stay - means more work for volunteer team and getting ready earlier but would ease the crush on Day 1
    • Probably working booking the registration room a day early, team can set up from morning and from lunch delegates can pre-register (while set up continues).
    • Good if team can know early we’ll get in. I prebooked my train tickets so had to endure a full day of my brother’s company!
  • Start immediately on scholarships - we had no representation from Africa
  • We should have had a separate delegate price for gov/NGO/social enterprise about £120 - would have had a greater income and possibly attracted more delegates from this sector - also removed the hassle of having to get them to attend on community rates
  • Did we know we’d have 2 disabled delegates?
    • One of them kept joining track 2 mid-session so didn’t get the optional wheelchair space. The table should probably have been moved away when they weren’t there so it was clear it was a wheelchair space. Although when I did get a chance to ask them, they were happy where they kept going (probable fire hazard, but I was fine with that).
  • Suggest you include a Vegan diet on the food requirements, even if no one asks for it - just in case one turns up.
  • Have a laptop and printer available at the Info/Registration desk - useful for Paypal payments.
  • Try to have two people dedicated to Registration on first day - reduces the pressure.
    • Signs for name groupings (e.g. A-F, E-J…) were good. All signs should say if the system is first of family/surname.

Delegate Experience

  • Should have worked harder on this - for visitor type stuff - where to go , where’s cool etc and possibly organised some excursions for the Monday or Thursday to soak up time between arrival and departure - even if delegates had to pay.
    • SotM Scotland 2012 printed fun(optional) stickers(just using cheap printable address labels) that said “Mapper” or “Guest”. Could be a good idea to help introductions. Let people decide themselves what the criteria is and encourage even 1 edit is good enough to be a mapper. A main SotM might want to include stickers like “Developer”.

Conference Organisation

  • Timings were too tight- no space allowed for moving between sessions
    • Session captains need to know if they are to attempt staying in sync or not. Better to tell them not or for someone to come and update them than for them to leave the room to see where people are.
  • Booking and communicating BoFs, Lightning Talks could have been slicker
    • Lightning talks sign-up might be better on a wiki page? Then speakers can add a link to their slides(no usb stick fiddling needed) and the session captain can follow additions online.
  • HackDay should have been announced much earlier to allow travel plans to be made to include it
  • Photo session was too long and people were hanging around waiting for lunch
    • Photo session was surprisingly quick this year.
    • Why were the catering staff so tight on letting us at the sandwiches while we waited for the luke-warm food? Catering maybe need to be informed the lunch time is +/- 10 minutes or just book it for the photo time and let the luke-warm spring rolls go cold.
  • Volunteers either need to be there the night before or to have had roles assigned earlier
    • We need to do a separate conference call with volunteers to bring them all up to speed as to what will happen over the weekend and what to expect. It would also help to know who is willing to do what (e.g. not everyone is willing to Session Captain, equally others may be able to help more on the front desk).
  • Poster instructions could have been clearer to deal with those bringing a poster: we should also have asked for a file for publication
  • Session Captains fulfil a critical role: identify who’s doing this early and make sure they’re well-briefed
  • We didn’t have daily start of day team briefings to assess what needed attention from lessons of the previous day
  • We should have made better use of the screens during the breaks
  • Judging by the feedback we tried to cram too much in and left too little time for Q&A
  • Would it have been possible to inform Conference Aston staff (general/catering/tech) that our team were in orange shirts? Would it have made a difference?
    • I think they only went to the people they had spoken to, when others would have been adequate enough.
  • A conference guide should have been given to the Civico live streaming guys.
    • It’s a shame we didn’t get track two streamed or recording on the first day.