GNOME.Asia 2017 | Chongqing, China

This year was my first time at GNOME.Asia, and it just so happened to be the conference’s 10th year celebration. I feel very lucky to have been to the GNOME Foundation’s 20th birthday party at GUADEC, and then this outstanding celebration at GNOME.Asia.

I want to thank the conference organizers and volunteers for their hard work in hosting this event and for the many thoughtful touches they included to make this conference truly special. I also want to thank them for inviting me to give a keynote speech — I feel very honored to have been given such an opportunity.

The Conference

My first impression of GNOME.Asia was: wow this conference is so hot that it’s on fire! (Almost literally) 🙂

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It was so cool to see how the organizing team included traditional Chinese [fire] dancers in the opening ceremony to help make the conference feel extra special and give it a local flavor.

A few minutes after the welcome speeches, I was invited up on stage to give my first-ever keynote speech in front of about 300 people called “The future of GNOME is You.” In it, I encouraged newcomers to join GNOME by telling them more about GNOME’s history, the people and organizations that are part of it, my own story in becoming a member, and the ways that we’ve tried to make it easy for more people to contribute.

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At the end of my speech, I took a speaker selfie to document the event.

During the break following my speech, a few students came up to me interested in learning more about the opportunities that I had spoken about. I was especially excited that a few women came up to me asking about ways I’d mentioned they could contribute. There was also a lot of interest from students about Google Summer of Code. In the future, we may want to prepare some brochures with information on that, or provide better ways for students to connect with people who have participated in the program before.

Before going to China I had downloaded WeChat, and when the students came up to me during the break, I was really glad I had it. Telegram, IRC, etc are all blocked in China — so asking newcomers to join those was not really a good option. When people approached me, I instead added them on WeChat:

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(Feel free to add me)

This gave me the opportunity of  connecting with them and following up later. For example, I later posted about newcomers events that were happening at the conference, such as Kat’s workshop on the second day, and a few of the people I connected to ended up joining as a result. Win!

The Social Events

One of the best things about GNOME is that we know how to have fun! This conference was no exception.

The first night, we had hot pot. I learned that Szechuan peppers were not spicy in a hot sense, but rather spicy in a spice sense. And they numb your mouth. Needless to say, I discovered that I’m not a fan of the pepper. But I really loved the hot pot experience!!

Yes, we tried brains and blood. 🙊

The next night was the 20th birthday party event for GNOME, and the organizing team rented a boat for us. We were able to enjoy the city’s lights in style.


One of our sponsors also donated a lot of liquor for the event, which made it even more fun. I was honored with a special edition bottle to take back with me, but since I didn’t have space in my luggage, Sri helped take it back to the US since the plan is to enjoy it during LAS 🙂

Last but not least, we enjoyed a great day of touring Chongqing on our last day there. We split up into smaller groups and made our way through a Chinese market, then hiked up a mountain to see the difference between old Chongqing and new Chongqing, and finally had dinner at a restaurant that served a special spring chicken soup!

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GNOME.Asia in Chongqing was absolutely phenomenal, and I’m sure everyone who attended it will remember it forever more. Thank you again to all of those who made it happen!

Key Takeaways

Here are some key takeaways from the conference!

Newcomers events are key.

Since a lot of people who attend GNOME.Asia are not regular contributors to GNOME, it is important that we have newcomers events to help them begin contributing. After the first day, there was a lot of interest in the areas of coding and translations.

Kat put on a great workshop to help people get started with contributions; however, the workshop was planned while other speeches were happening and it was not widely announced. In the future, it would be great to see more of a focus on newcomers events at GNOME.Asia. Also, it would be great to make sure that some of the translation team attend, especially some of the language maintainers for the area where GNOME.Asia will be held.

BoFs should be planned.

From what I understand, GNOME.Asia is a shorter conference than GUADEC, and primarily held over a weekend. This means that the schedule has to be largely compressed. That being the case, I think it’s still important to try to have some time for BoFs so that it can evolve from just being a conference for newcomers, to one that brings more regular contributors to the table.

It would be great to see GNOME.Asia turn into a place for GNOME users and contributors, just like GUADEC is, and in order for this to happen, we need to designate some time for BoFs so people can get some work done. Having BoFs will help with global integration, and I see it as something crucial to the future of GNOME.

Having fun is important.

GNOME is people. In order to form lasting relationships that carry on into the online / virtual world, we need to have fun when we are together in person. I think that this is one of GNOME’s strengths, and certainly something that the GNOME.Asia organizing team did really well this year!

Establishing lasting communication channels is crucial.

This point seems obvious, but isn’t. We can’t be rigid in our communication channels and expect everyone to join IRC, or even Telegram. In China, for example, all of that is blocked. We need to have both global channels (IRC), and local channels (WeChat), so that people can join and be engaged at both local and global levels.

At GNOME.Asia this year, many of us connected first with people through WeChat and then got them to join the global channels over the next few weeks. As a result, the global engagement team has already begun to coordinate more with some of the event planners of this year’s GNOME.Asia. I’m personally looking forward to collaborating more with the GNOME.Asia team and helping to expand our activity globally!

Special Thank You’s

First of all, thank you to Max Huang, Emily Chen, and Wen Qixiang for providing the opportunity for me to keynote at GNOME.Asia!

I also want to give a special thank you to my friend Tom Pollock who helped me with my keynote speech in Berlin. I was quite nervous, as it was my first keynote ever, and his help and support made all the difference. THANK YOU, TOM!! ❤

Matthias Clasen, Julian Sparber, and Tobias Bernard also helped with their moral support before and during my speech. Julian and Tobias let me practice with them, and Matthias cheered me on before, during, and after my speech. Thank you!!!

I made many new friends at GNOME.Asia, but I wanted to give a special thank you to Anna for giving me my new Chinese name: 睿茜. It’s a name that sounds like part of my name, “ritzi,” and means something along the lines of “wise/clever princess” 🙂 I also want to thank Heather for taking such good care of us while we were there!

To Kat, thank you for braving the store with me when I wasn’t feeling well! It really helped, and I deeply appreciate it.

Last but not least, thank you to the GNOME Foundation for sponsoring my trip to GNOME.Asia! If you, dear reader, are interested in learning more about travel sponsorship, please take a look at: https://wiki.gnome.org/Travel/

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