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On the DebConf20 decision process

In response to some concerns I've heard, I'd like to address the private
(and late) decision process here. These are my words, not the
committee's as a whole.

I'm sorry the decision took a while. And I regret not announcing our
full decision process in advance. This is simply because we hadn't yet
decided how we wanted to make the decision.

I'll cover the whole timeline since bid submission. Bids were due by
2019-01-01. Haifa and Lisbon had bids in in time, but neither was quite
fleshed-out enough to make a decision on, yet. Additionally India had a
bid wiki page up, but seemed to have dropped out of the contest.

In very early 2019, Nattie and I visited both contenders, to see venues,
meet the teams, and help them finish their bids.

On 17 January, we had the teams present their bids in public, and the
DebConf team, as a whole, was able to discuss the relative merits of the

It was quickly obvious that both bids were viable - there was no single
obvious candidate.

At FOSDEM, the committee got together to discuss our initial positions,
and see how we wanted to handle the decision. A this point, we'd got
some wider informal input on both bids, and had an idea of how many
attendees each potential venue could expect.

We asked both bids for some more details on a few issues.

Some time passed - we all got a little busy, and I apologise for my part
in this delay. And then, last Friday, we had a private meeting to select
a bid.

Personally, I have a strong preference to have all discussions in
public, where possible. But, this was something we thought would be
difficult to do well in public. There is obviously a delicate political
side to this decision. We wanted to be able to speak our minds to each
other, and make a decision as a team, without having to be to carefully
mind every word to avoid causing offence. I hope you can understand

Was there a rationale for the decision we made? We said in the
announcement that it came down to a close vote, and really, that was it.
Different team members had different rationales for their choices.

You can probably guess what they are, but here's a summary. Most of
these came up in the public team meeting, before. Not all of us agree
with all of these points, but they were all discussed:

* There hasn't been a DebConf in Europe (where the majority of regular
  attendees live) for a number of years now - by the old norms we are
  long overdue for one.
* There are regular DebConf attendees (and orga members) who have stated
  that they wouldn't attend a DebConf in Israel. Although Israel is near
  Europe, we could expect lower attendance than Lisbon.
* The Haifa bid has on-site University accommodation. This massively
  simplifies things for the organisers.
* Neither bid has a local team that is as strong as we'd like, but Haifa
  appears to have a small edge here.
* There are some nationalities that may find it difficult or even
  impossible to visit Israel. This isn't new territory for us; we
  regularly have to deal with attendees being denied visas.
* Israel has big political issues. I would imagine that a large part of
  our community objects to the country's behaviour toward the Palestinian
  people, for example.
* We've held DebConf in politically questionable countries before, and
  don't want to preclude a bid for political reasons. Obviously no
  country is perfect, and it's all relative. This may be further than
  we've been, before, though.
* Along those lines, it would be unfair to a bid team, to let them do
  all the work to prepare a bid, and then reject it because of an issue
  with their country. If there are political requirements for host
  countries, they should be laid out in the submission guidelines.
* We don't want DebConf to be endorsing a country or a city. But we're
  aware that those optics are unavoidable. Wherever we go, we will bring
  a large portion of our community, have a (presumably) great time, and
  share memories of it for years to come.

Again, we were divided in which of these we supported, which we thought
the most important, and which we'd state less diplomatically :P
We spent a good couple of hours trying to build a consensus on a
selection.  Once it was clear that that wasn't going to emerge, we went
with a vote.

I hope that clarifies things for anyone who feels cabalized.


Stefano Rivera

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