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Re: [draft] Cancel this year's in-person Debian Developers Conference DebConf20

Hi Steve (2020.06.02_21:58:05_+0000)
> The fact that the organizing team's response to the pandemic was anything
> other than a categorical decision not to hold a conference that would put
> people on planes and increase the overall risk of the community of disease
> transmission - and was instead in the nature of a public poll to find out
> whether there was enough *interest* in holding an in-person conference -
> means they had already lost any confidence I might have had in them in this
> matter.

Let me give some context to those decisions, because I don't think they
were communicated sufficiently clearly.

I suspect there isn't much I can say to give you more confidence, though :P

Early on in COVID-19, we saw that there was a pretty good chance that
this was going to have a huge effect on DebConf20. But things were
changing incredibly fast, and we knew we had time to make a decision.

We weren't a large company that had to decide whether to keep an events
department on payroll for the next 2 years. While some of our attendees
already had flights booked and plans like that, it'd be pretty safe that
nobody else would be making commitments to travel, months in the future,
in the early months of COVID-19.

It's only a couple of months before the conference that contracts have
to be finalized, flights booked, and money paid. June 8 was picked as a
latest possible date for that decision.

In the meantime:
1. Preparation largely stalled. People aren't very motivated to work on
   something that seems unlikely to happen.
2. The local team was monitoring the local situation. What would and
   would not be possible.
3. Some members of the video team were working on tools for online
4. A group organised a minidebconf online, to get a feel for how we'd do
   this, and test the tools we had.

More recently, we hit the deadline for the start of the bursary process.
To have to for submission, review, visas, flights, etc. bursaries needed
to open, even thought we'd hadn't opened general registration yet.

Personally, I think the decision to cancel should have been moved up to
before bursaries opened. But it wasn't. And opening registration for
bursaries sent the wrong message to the community.

Why were people still considering doing something in-person?

The situation differs radically by region. Some parts of the world are
relatively unaffected, at the moment. And restrictions are easing in
some. There's a local team that put effort into preparing something
here. And presumably something small and local could still happen.

Would that be worth the effort? Would it be something to call a DebConf?
That would depend on attendance probably more than anything else. Thus
the poll.

Would it be totally unrealistic, and unsafe to bring a large number of
people together? Probably, yes. But if the local authorities are saying
you can, it's worth considering.

When it came to the decision to cancel, this week, I don't think the
poll was a deciding factor. Or the GR threat. The local situation would
just not support a large event, and it seemed to be the right time to
call it, based on that.


Stefano Rivera
  +1 415 683 3272

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