I’ve had a few days now since the first-ever MeeGo Conference ended to jettison the jet lag and sort my thoughts, so it’s time to run through experiences there. This will come from a purely personal viewpoint; later I’ll do a more objective analysis of the event. Apologies in advance for the epic length.
I had a “Birds of a Feather” (BoF) workshop scheduled as well as a lightning talk, so there was obvious work involved for the presentations. The lightning talk, an introduction to MeeGo Greeters, was easy to work up. The BoF on user engagement was more difficult, as I had never conducted one before at the conference level. After kicking ideas around I decided to wait until arriving in Dublin and draw out the thoughts of friends and especially my two co-panelists Timo and Leinir. Since this was meant as a brainstorm I figured it might not even hurt to completely wing it. Barring, though, a frustrating tendency to occasionally freeze into a mute on stage or fail to edit a long talk down to lightning class.
But most of my time beforehand was spent drawing requested custom characters for the MeeGo community. Dubbed “Meegons“, the little things turned out to be immensely popular, particularly the week before I had to leave. I had decided to create badge and device stickers of them for as many people as I could. As luck would have it, high humidity made printing a real pain just prior to my flight out, but by some miracle I got everything done that I could.
My last trip to Tampere, Finland for Akademy 2010 included a missed connection in Paris (CDG) and so this trip naturally had to up the ante. Remember the high humidity I mentioned? It was a warning sign: our outgoing flight to Newark, New Jersey (EWR) was delayed when the pilot of the incoming plane ran low on fuel trying to out-maneuver a storm in east Texas (he landed safely to refuel). Rather than risk getting caught in that same mess the next morning at DFW, I agreed to United Airlines’ offer to send me on to Newark when the plane arrived (two hours late) that night and put me up in a hotel at their expense if I could not connect.
We landed in Newark four minutes after the flight to Dublin took off. Sigh.
So, I spent the night in a nice hotel room. As it turns out, the United Airlines clerk who made the arrangements somehow scheduled me to fly out to Dublin in June of 2011. Talk about delays! Easily fixed by another helpful United employee and I was off again Saturday evening.
Coming in on Sunday meant missing Saturday “Early Bird” activities but it also meant meeting up with good friends Stephen Gadsby, Gary Birkett, Arek Stopczynski, Ryan Abel, Aniello Del Sorbo and Felipe Crochik at the airport. After arriving at the hotel we caught up with other attendees, checked into our rooms at D4 Ballsbridge Towers and ultimately several of us set out for the city center.
Gadsby had in mind to check out an exhibit on the Book of Kells at Trinity College. The display was certainly interesting but the exit turned out to be even more so: it took us through a massive old library called The Long Room, stacked from floor to an incredibly high arched ceiling with centuries-old books. The mustiness of history was truly overwhelming and just standing in the room was an emotional experience, alone well worth the 9 euro admission. On leaving I snagged a few souvenirs from the gift shop and we headed back.
Later that evening Henri Bergius asked me to accompany him and a few others out to eat. Henri alone is such good company that one does not say no. A short bus ride and long walk later we wound up at a restaurant (I forget the name) where after a wait made tolerable by beer we got a table in the very back. I had potatoes and chicken covered by cream sauce. As I had been warned, it was a bit bland but not bad otherwise. Consider that I like my food spicy to the point of volcanic.
After supper we headed out again and stopped at the Vat House to enjoy more drinks and some good local music. As a songwriter I’m always interested in experiencing something different and it was a real treat to hear the acoustic trio at the Vat House. The sound system was nice enough to do them justice, too. I came away inspired, with notes for new songs.
From there we returned to the hotel where some of us collected in the “Hacker Lounge” for more socializing (and some coding!). Handing out custom Meegon stickers and seeing the joy of the recipients was a lot of fun. I just wish I could have completed more of them.
My roommate, Sanjeev Visvanatha, arrived early on Monday, essentially just in time for us to head out to the conference. It was a short walk to the impressive Aviva Stadium from our hotel, where we were told we would need to wait until after the first keynote talks to register.
Prior to the event I had been asked by numerous people what I thought the “handout” would be. I replied that I expected nothing so that if something was given out it would be a nice surprise. So when Intel’s Doug Fisher whipped out a Lenovo S10-3t Ideapad running MeeGo, I leaned over to Sanjeev and whispered, “I want one of those!”
A few minutes later Doug told us that attendees were all getting one. Sweet! Second biggest surprise: AMD announced they were joining the MeeGo effort. Wow! This is getting interesting!
It turned out that the full shipment of Ideapads had not yet arrived but no matter; there was plenty to keep us occupied meanwhile!
This was a good move for Intel and the community. Instead of hiring several developers and testers in-house, they instantly cultivated hundreds for about the same expense. As we have seen at maemo.org, all people need are tools and a bootstrap!
Several of us found our way to a restaurant later that evening where I had a surprisingly good lasagna. Afterwards it was back to the Hacker’s Lounge and more deep night socializing!
The day started slowly for me. What I thought was an allergy attack kept me from the stadium until around 10:00 AM, causing me to miss Ronan’s marketing talk.
Dave Neary’s lively “Community Antipatterns” talk was another highlight for me. He held up a mirror that reinforced something Quim Gil had also noted: time for me to narrow my focus and cultivate leaders for some initiatives I champion. In process!
Before lunch I sat at the info desk with Jens Wiik and Kathy Smith (two of the hardworking Greeter volunteers) and we stress-tested their Ideapads. Kathy was eager to ramp up her involvement, including bug reporting. It was great to watch the user-to-supertester process in action! Since she agreed to take on the Greeter coordinator role, I rewarded her with an Honorary Texan coffee mug. I’ll leave it to readers to debate the actual honor.
Thiago asked if I could move my Day 3 lightning talk to later for another attendee who had to leave early. No problem. Relieved to not be first!
I caught Nate Willis‘ IVI BoF as promised and very glad I did. Audience engagement and interest were very high, and the dialog lively. It was such a fun session that I decided to try his approach for our BoF the next day. Timo and Leinir were agreeable.
That evening we took buses to the Guinness factory for a self-guided tour, dinner, music and all the beer we could handle. For me that wasn’t a lot. Other than sheer enjoyment, the main goal was not to be the interesting subject in any of the pictures Attila Csipa was taking. Mission accomplished.
Forget allergy attack– apparently I had a cold. Leinir later referred to it as “conference cough”. Good thing I had not drunk much at the Guinness party or I would have really been in trouble. As it was I had a headache and sore throat. Coffee, as usual, helped. Life’s legal miracle drug.
I spent the morning harassing people into attending our BoF on user engagement as I updated the brief presentation. Either that backfired or I didn’t push hard enough because attendance was about half what I expected at 15 or so. I was hoping for better developer representation but at least there was some interest, and it was nice having Timo and Leinir onstage so we could also have a little banter of our own. I’ll probably expand on this in a separate article.
Next I joined a few friends in wait for another round of Ideapad handouts. Mine wouldn’t turn on at first, and the subsequent troubleshooting amused many, particularly Gary Birkett. It turns out the device has a power button lock, and mine was the anomaly arriving locked by default. Pranksters at Lenovo? No matter, all ended well and it was exciting to see people dig right in and not just report bugs but quickly hunt down or develop solutions!
I felt really confident about the lightning talk. Many undoubtedly remember my disaster at Maemo Summit 2009, where I was asked to trim a 20 minute talk to 5 and failed miserably. This year I was not going to let that sort of thing happen. The talk was a half-serious introduction to the MeeGo Greeters that seemed to go over well and earned compliments from people whom I respect. And it took about 3 minutes. Very energizing!
Later we moved back to the Hacker Lounge to wait for the final party preparations, and then back to the stadium. After the party we were treated to a football (soccer) game.
Norway ended up beating Ireland 2-to-1 in an uneventful match; rain drove many of us into a suite at halftime, where a never-ending river of beer kept things lively.
Many of us wrapped up back at the Hacker Lounge again, and I finally gave in to Dawn Foster‘s invitation to play the icebreaking game Werewolf. Dawn was too tired after playing hostess so Julien Fourgeaud did most of the moderating. I think we were all a little beat if the lethargic responses are any indication.
It was hard to say goodbye to everyone but I know there will be more opportunities for many of us to meet up again.
Checking out of the hotel and taking the bus to the airport was uneventful. I even had time to grab lunch. Or so I thought. I was unaware that US Customs was onsite there (???) which adds time to departure. Hearing my name page as I approached the agent in line was embarrassing. At least he had a good humor about it. Made up for the airline attendants who were not amused.
The flight back was amazingly smooth, including the landing at Chicago O’Hare (ORD) airport. One of the best I have experienced in fact. We connecting fliers had to manually transfer our checked-in luggage… no great distance, but what a mob! It could have been handled much better by airport staff.
The flight from Chicago to Dallas was short but I had hoped to play with the Ideapad a bit in-flight. It was not to be: I had apparently left it powered on for some time and the battery had 5 minutes life on it. Oops.
Once settled in at home, I got really serious about the Ideapad and power was no problem. Thanks to our wonderfully helpful community, I was able to quickly turn this little thing into a highly mobile Linux-driven productivity tool that I look forward to using in the wild. The MeeGo forum has been more active than the mailing list, demonstrating the community at work. And twitter has certainly been alight with comments!
There have been numerous people also sharing their experiences, as collected on the event wiki page. And as promised, I have at least one or more articles germinating.
So… what and whom did I forget?