GUADEC 2019 | Part 2: Inclusion, Conference Days, and BoFs

This is the second and final post in my GUADEC 2019 blog series 🙂 If you didn’t see my first post about GUADEC 2019’s board meeting, take a quick look. 

This year, I signed up to be a volunteer at GUADEC, and this meant that I wasn’t able to see as many of the talks as other years.

This post will be focused on what I did as a volunteer, a bit about the conference itself, and the BoF sessions at the end.

Inclusivity at GUADEC

My personal goal for volunteering this year was creating a welcoming experience. I really wanted to help make GUADEC feel inclusive, so that newcomers and oldcomers alike felt like they were welcome and able to fully participate.

Some Context

One of the things I championed while on GNOME’s Board of Directors was for the GNOME Foundation to explicitly say that one of its goals was to create a diverse community, so that we could prioritize it and justify investing resources into achieving this. Philip and I worked hard to change the travel policy, for example, before I left office this year in order to help increase diversity at GNOME. 

I commend Neil on making sure that there is gender diversity among staff, because it matters. We need diverse perspectives in leadership roles, and having gender diversity is a step towards becoming a stronger foundation. There are of course many things that factor into being a diverse community, and gender is only one of them. I encourage the Foundation to keep being thoughtful in how we continue to grow our community. 

When I first started the Inclusion and Diversity work group at GNOME, my goal was to first focus on creating an inclusive environment at GUADEC 2019. The thought was that by focusing on our flagship conference, and fostering diversity there, it could spill over into other conferences that GNOME ran later in the year and continue to multiply in online spaces as well.  

I thought this was a priority because GUADEC is our flagship conference and events have great potential to attract new contributors. 

The need for a group that focuses on Inclusion and Diversity is important. For example, many people commented on the fact that we have an all male Board this year, since Kat and I both decided not to run again (for me, it’s a matter of not having enough time in the upcoming year. I really loved my time on the Board and would definitely consider running for office in the future). If we don’t purposefully put thought and energy into changing things like this, it won’t happen. 

The How

The work on the inclusion goal started well beyond the beginning of GUADEC.

As mentioned, I created the Inclusion and Diversity working group with Kristi and Molly, and then we expanded to Gaurav, Stella, Sigu and Rhonda — and now have even more participants. 

We wanted to focus on two things at GUADEC:

  1. Make it a great environment for newcomers.
  2. Make it welcoming to womxn and minorities. 

While there is some overlap, with these two groups in mind, we were better able to think through the challenges facing each.

For those of you familiar with marketing practices, this is similar to creating customer personas 🙂 

Although we didn’t go through the entire exercise of coming up with customer personas, it may be something we try in future years. If anyone with a marketing background wants to join us and help with that, please message me! 🙂

Including Newcomers

Having an intuitive website

A way to attract newcomers is by making sure you have a great website. 

While the GUADEC organizing team did the hard work of putting together an initial website to promote GUADEC 2019, I spent time before the conference looking at it from a newcomer’s perspective and refining it.

The goal was to make sure that all of the relevant information was easy to find and that the website did not assume that viewers had pre-existing knowledge. In addition to imagining that I was a newcomer, and trying to view the website that way, I also asked Stella, Sigu, and Gaurav (some actual newcomers to GUADEC), to go through the website and tell me what was missing or confusing. 

We ended up filing a few issues for the website and asking the web team to rearrange the menu so that it was more intuitive. We also ended up creating a page specifically for newcomers, to make them feel extra welcome.

Another thing we paid attention to was the language we used. Was the website content written in a friendly tone? Was it clear and concise? Did we make sure we weren’t assuming knowledge? For example, newcomers may not know what a BoF is or how it works — so it helps to explain this. 

Genuine hospitality and creating tips

I loved that the local organizers added restaurant suggestions, and I wanted to expand upon that. What if someone is traveling to a new country by themselves for the first time? They probably won’t know the language or some of the basics. So, with the help of Esfathios (one of the core local organizers), I created a “Tips and Tricks” page. In that page, we included information about safety and what to do in case of an emergency.

Have any of you used AirBnb before and had a host give you a bunch of local tips?

I don’t know about you, but I always appreciate their putting in extra effort to make me feel welcome. This is a sign of good hospitality, and I think that it should extend to our conferences.

We should strive to be superhosts 🙂 

Activities and Icebreakers

I also wanted to plan activities during GUADEC that encouraged oldcomers and newcomers to interact and get to know each other. 

I drew upon previous experience planning newcomers things with Julita Inca, Carlos Soriano, and Felipe Borges. This year, Felipe and I were the main ones who planned something for newcomers. Felipe helped organize a pre-registration dinner for newcomers, and I planned a lunch the following day. 

Besides that, I also organized a raffle give away to encourage people to mingle throughout the conference. Those who wanted to participate were given a bingo sheet (thanks for helping me create this, Molly!), and they had until the last day of the conference to fill it out. We came up with prompts that would make it so that people were encouraged to meet newcomers and oldcomers to the GNOME community. We held the raffle at the end of the Annual General Meeting (AGM), as a way to also encourage everyone to come. Many prizes were given out and it was a lot of fun!

We received great feedback from the bingo and raffle. People told us that the activity allowed them to meet and talk to people they wouldn’t have otherwise, and they really enjoyed it!

Since creating new social connections is a key value proposition of any conference, I think it’s really important to have activities that encourage social interactions and which break down barriers of people interacting with others.

Including Womxn and Minorities

Creating welcoming environments for womxn and minorities at open source events is a challenge that many people are trying to solve. Here are some things we did to try to make GUADEC 2019 more welcoming for this group of attendees.

Creating Intentional Spaces

Two small things that we did to create an intentionally welcoming space was to have pronoun stickers for people to put on their badges, and also to designate gender neutral bathrooms. 

While these may seem like small things, we did not have them at previous GUADECs, and we decided to implement these things based on feedback we received for how to make our events more inclusive.

We also created a statement of intentionality on the website, to show attendees that we care about inclusivity at GNOME. I know that I personally notice things like that when I browse organizations’ websites, and I think it’s an important thing to include.

Photo Credit: Oliver Propst

Including Relevant Content

During GUADEC 2019, we decided to organize some workshops that were part of a community track  and which encouraged topics around inclusion and diversity:

I think it’s really important to not only have a variety of different technical talks (community building, design, development, usability, marketing, commerce, etc), at conferences like GUADEC, but we should strive to provide workshops that help build participants’ soft skills. 

In the future, I’d love to see workshops on things like communication essentials, giving feedback, having difficult conversations, microaggressions, being an ally, etc. 

Holding Relevant Events

This year we held the annual Womxn’s Dinner on the pre-registration day. 

While I think it was good to have an event like this, it was, unfortunately, the only event of its kind that we had. Not all attendees made it to Greece the day before the conference started, and I think it would be great to provide multiple opportunities for womxn to meet and connect with each other throughout the conference.

Talks & Conference Days

As I mentioned before, I was unable to attend many talks because I was volunteering. However, there were a few talks that I saw, and I really enjoyed them!

Here are a few of the talks that I saw and I recommend watching:

Some other highlights from the conference:

  • Seeing Carlos Garnacho get awarded the Pants Award! He’s been a rockstar around GNOME for many years now, so it was great to see him get this award!
  • Celebrating Caroline’s incredible contributions this year (she’s our star graphic designer and has helped with a LOT of things involving design and branding.
  • Presenting some of the Engagement team’s accomplishments this year at the Annual General Meting (AGM) with Britt.

Social Events

I didn’t participate in as many of the organized social events this year, but I still got my dose of fun and connection while at GUADEC. Here are some pictures from my time in Greece!


Birds of a Feather sessions (BoFs) are where people who are interested in the same topic will get together during a conference to discuss and/or work on that topic.

This year, I helped organize two BoFs: the Engagement and Inclusion and Diversity BoFs.

Engagement BoF

After going around and saying hi to newcomers and explaining what the Engagement team does at GNOME, we ended up splitting up into three groups to work on more specialized topics:

  1. Moving to MediaWiki – Britt led the group that talked about moving our current wiki to MediaWiki. Our current wiki is somewhat problematic since it’s locked down due to issues with spam. This means newcomers can’t easily access it, which kind of defeats the purpose of having a wiki. 
  2. University Outreach – Caroline led the group that talked about engaging universities and doing outreach to students. This is something that is really important to the longevity of GNOME. Lots of people seem interested in helping with this, but we need one or more people to lead the initiative in the longer-term. 
  3. Impact at GNOME – I led the group that talked about measuring impact at GNOME. We kept in mind the newly announced goals for the GNOME Foundation as we did this.

Before we left GUADEC, a few of us also got together to talk about a possible Website Redesign. A redesign is something that we have been talking about for a while now, and something that we need help with.

If interested in any of this, you can read the full Engagement BoF Notes, or reach out to get involved. We need more people to join the Engagement team! 

For those interested, the Engagement team meets regularly, and meeting dates and times are posted to the GNOME Discourse instance.

Inclusion & Diversity BoF

During this BoF, we talked about things that went well during GUADEC, things that could be improved, and general ideas we had around how to make GNOME events and the community feel more inclusive. 

We had a lot of GSoC, Outreachy, and newcomer participants, and we ended up having some really good insights. Something that newcomers mentioned is that, even with information about social events on the website, they did not feel like they knew what was going to happen, when, nor how to sign up and participate. 

Many of the social events this year required people to sign up beforehand, so it makes sense that newcomers felt a bit left out since they weren’t already on email groups or social media, especially if they hadn’t spent a lot of time on the GUADEC website. The interns who participated in our BoF mentioned that social events had been one of the highlights of the conference for them (because it helped them get plugged into the community), so they thought that making these social events accessible to everyone is very important.

For the full list of insights and more, check out our notes here: Inclusion and Diversity BoF Notes.

Ok, that’s it. Thanks for reading, or at least skimming, this super long post 🙂

GUADEC 2019 | Part 1: Passing the Baton

This year, GUADEC was held in Thessaloniki, Greece from August 23rd – 28th. I had a great time at the conference and took some time to travel after, so I was able to see some of Northern Greece, in addition to hanging out with some of the best people I know while at GUADEC.

Since there’s a lot of talk about, I’ll be doing two separate posts, one about the Board meeting (in this post), and one about the conference itself (next post). 

Board Handover Meeting

I arrived in Thessaloniki a few days prior to GUADEC for the Board handover meeting. I really enjoyed my time as President and Chair of the Board, so passing the baton to the new Board was a bittersweet moment for me.

For those of you wondering, I didn’t run for the Board again this year because I won’t have as much time to dedicate to GNOME in the upcoming months. I pride myself on being a really active and proactive member of the Board, so having enough time to spend working on GNOME-related things is important to me. 

Don’t worry though, I’ll still be contributing to GNOME. For example, I’m one of the lead organizers of the Linux App Summit, and am helping with some other big initiatives, such as our Diversity and Inclusion work, and measuring impact at GNOME

Setting Strategic Goals

Helping architect the strategy that the GNOME Foundation is following is one of my proudest accomplishments because I think it’s the most far-reaching thing that I’m leaving behind. 

When I first started on the Board in 2016, I began questioning a lot of our budgetary categories and pushing for the Board to consider goals for the Foundation and how to use the budget as an instrument of achieving those goals. I established an annual hackfest in order to start working more strategically as a Board and to do a deep-dive on the budget. 

Flash forward, and we now have goals for the Foundation! We started these at last year’s Foundation Hackfest, and Philip Chimento and I spent time earlier this year refining them.

During the Board meeting at GUADEC, we gave our list of goals as input to our Executive Director, Neil McGovern, and he helped us turn them into something that could be adopted by the Foundation and presented during the Annual General Meeting (AGM).

Here are the Foundation’s long-term goals:

1. Sustainable Project & Foundation 

  • Sustain and increase funding levels
  • Increase number of contributors
  • Create and sustain infrastructure for Foundation Staff

2. Increased User Base

  • Foster a vibrant Linux desktop 
  • Uphold reputation as the most accessible desktop
  • Support improving the basic function of a desktop for everyone

3. Wider Awareness Through Leadership 

  • Develop better marketing and outreach tactics
  • Become an exemplary FOSS community
  • Evaluate and adopt new technologies to stay competitive with proprietary desktops

If you’d like to learn more about what these goals actually mean for the Foundation, check out Neil’s talk about GNOME’s Growth

It’s important to state that this is just the first step. The Foundation still needs to create KPIs, or something similar, in order to track and measure the Foundation’s progress towards the goals. 

Having publicly announced the Foundation’s goals is a move towards being a more data-driven organization and for us to be able to measure the GNOME Foundation’s impact. It marks a new stage of maturity for the GNOME Foundation, and I’m glad to have been a part of it.

Defining Board Roles

Since this GUADEC was later than other years, we held officer elections a few weeks prior to meeting in-person and had most of the transition stuff already out of the way. 

For those of you who missed it, these are the new Directors and relevant officer roles: 

  • Rob McQueen – President
  • Allan Day – Chair, Vice President
  • Carlos Soriano – Treasurer
  • Philip Chimento – Secretary
  • Federico Mena Quintero – Vice Secretary
  • Tristan Van Berkom
  • Britt Yazel

This year, the Board decided to split the Chair and President roles and adopt the gender neutral term “Chair” instead of “Chairman.” The distinction here is that the Chair helps to run meetings, while the President has some differentiating management roles and special abilities, like signing power for the Foundation. The President is also usually the one who speaks at conferences on behalf of the Foundation, in addition to the Executive Director, although, really, any Director can do so. 

Rob and Allan will work as a team to manage Neil since we found that having a duo approach worked well last year when Rob and I comprised the management team. 

If you’re interested in putting names to faces, check out this year’s Annual General Meeting (AGM), where the Foundation Directors and staff were presented to the community.

Approving Committees

One of the things that the Board needs to do each year is to re-approve committees. We found this out while I was on the Board, when we were re-evaluating the Foundation’s structure and doing a deep dive into the Board’s delegated powers. So, now, we approve committees and members each year. 

In order to make sure that committees are functioning well and that they have the support they need from the Board, we decided to create liaisons to the committees last year. 

These liaisons are supposed to meet with the committee members they represent at least twice a year and try to understand any pain points that the committees may have, as well as to relate the Foundation’s goals and make sure that the committees think through ways to support those goals. 

Here’s a list of the new committee liaisons for the upcoming year:

  • Engagement – Britt Yazel
  • Membership – Tristan 
  • Code of Conduct – Federico 
  • Travel – Philip Chimento
  • Sponsorship – dissolved since we now have a member of the Foundation staff to work on fundraising for the Foundation

During the meeting, we also talked about re-evaluating the committee’s membership in order to make sure that only active members of committees have access to sensitive data. This is something that the new Board will be following up on this year. 

Handing Over Tasks

At the same time that the rest of the GNOME Project moved to using GitLab, the Board created a GitLab project in order to keep track of our open issues. This allowed us to prioritize initiatives and work more effectively on complex issues. 

Luckily, I had completed most of the tasks assigned to me, so there wasn’t much for me to hand over to new board members. 🙂


That’s it for this post. Now onto the actual conference and BoF days.

Nuritzi’s Travel Sponsorship Guide for GUADEC 2019

The deadline for GUADEC 2019 sponsorship is tomorrow, Friday, July 5th. That means you still have a whole day to apply if you haven’t already 😉

This week, I had the opportunity of helping some GNOME newcomers apply for travel sponsorship, and I wanted to blog about some of the questions that came up along the way. I hope this helps anyone else who is trying to better understand how to apply for sponsorship under the new travel policy. 

Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash

How to Apply for Travel Sponsorship

Philip Chimento and I helped rethink the travel policy this year as part of our term on the board. It was recently adopted and has a few important changes. Here’s a quick summary of the new process and what you’ll need to do to apply. 

  1. Read the GNOME Travel Policy. Make sure that you can receive money through one of the payment options that we provide, otherwise, you won’t be able to be reimbursed.

  2. Fill out the Application Form (you can copy and paste the template on the wiki page into an email).

  3. Send screenshots of your flight and hotel price search along with your application form to (you can do the price search on Kayak or Expedia, for example. Take a screenshot or save a PDF of the 1st page of results). Here’s more info on how to do this.

    Remember that low-cost flights often make you pay extra for a checked bag, so make sure you include the baggage costs in your request. Here’s our policy on allowed baggage.

    Note: Organizers will often book entire hostels, dorms, hotels, or homes for GUADEC and some of our other large GNOME events. Sponsored individuals are typically expected to stay there and will get a pre-paid room for the duration of their stay instead of a reimbursement for lodging. Read more about this in the FAQ below.

  4. Determine if you need a visa, and if so, request an invitation letter.

  5. Take photos during the event, if possible, and blog about your experience to help tell more people about what you did and learned at the event.

  6. After the event, you have 6 weeks to file a reimbursement report. You’ll need to include receipts of your expenses and a link to your blog post. Here is more info on what’s expected. 

FAQs and Troubleshooting

Who can apply for sponsorship? 

Anybody who is interested in contributing to the GNOME community is encouraged to apply! You do not need to be a Foundation member; however, Foundation Members and event speakers get preference.

We have limited funds available, so if you’re not a Foundation Member, make sure to let us know why you’re excited about attending, how you’ve contributed or participated so far, any relevant participation you’ll have at the event (Volunteering? Attending a hackfest, workshop, or BoF?), and how you might participate in GNOME beyond the event. 

How do I know if event organizers provide pre-booked accommodations and what happens if they do?

If you are traveling to one of our main conferences, it is likely that event organizers will have pre-booked accommodation for conference participants. Sponsored individuals are expected to stay there and will be given a pre-booked room instead of reimbursement for lodging.

Event organizers will typically post about pre-booked accommodations on their website. For GUADEC 2019, for example, the pre-booked options are listed on the GUADEC 2019 website.

In your travel sponsorship application, you should list any special requests that you have for the pre-booked lodging options (e.g. requests around accessibility, single sex rooms, etc.). Accommodation of those requests is not guaranteed, but the travel committee will take your requests and preferences into account.

You can read more about lodging options and expectations in the “lodging costs” section of the travel policy.

Can I extend my travel dates so I can do some sightseeing after the event? 

Yes, you can extend your travel dates, but the GNOME Foundation can only reimburse you for the actual dates of the event + travel days. 

This means that screenshots of flight and hotel comparisons that you send with your application should only be for the event + travel days. 

If your request is approved, you can then book your flight for whatever dates you want, but you will only get reimbursed up to the amount that the travel committee approved you for.

Read more about this here.

What if I can’t afford to pay for my own ticket? 

The GNOME Foundation normally can’t directly pay for people’s tickets and only reimburses people at the end, but with this new travel policy, exceptions can sometimes be made. 

Please add any requests like this to your application, and the Travel Committee may contact you about it since these requests are decided on a case by case basis.

Flight prices have gone up since I sent in my request, what do I do?

We saw this happen a lot in previous years, so we are trying out this new policy to help. Check out the “expired airfare” section of the travel policy for more information.

The visa application process is confusing — help!

I’ve heard this a lot, and I commiserate with those who need to apply for a visa to travel to our events! 

Here are some tips that might help: 

  1. Book cancellable flights and hotels. In some cases, you may not have to actually book flights and accommodation before your visa is approved. Instead, you can just provide an itinerary of your trip. Make sure you understand your visa requirements before trying to book something.

    If you do need to provide booked flights, try using a local travel agent. They can usually put a hold on tickets for some days — usually a couple of weeks. This means the tickets will be booked, but not paid for. You will have to pay the travel agency a nominal fee for their services. Make sure to talk to the travel committee about this before you engage with the travel agency and see if they can reimburse you the extra amount, if needed.

    For hotels, there are some sites like that let you cancel without penalty up to some days before the date of the trip. This is great, just in case your visa doesn’t get approved, you decide to stay somewhere else (like the pre-booked location that the event team might organize), or in case your travel plans change a bit as the travel dates get closer.

  2. Request an invitation letter. As mentioned above, you can request an invitation letter for GUADEC 2019. The local team is the only group who can help you get a letter, not the travel committee.

  3. Financial stability requirement: Generally visa applications will require you to present your bank statement for the last 3-6 months. This is done in order to assess your financial stability and make sure that you have enough of a financial buffer to bear additional expenses in the foreign land if needed.

    If you are a student, you can submit an attested letter from your parents/guardian, specifying that they can cover addition expenses (if any). If you do this, you will need to attach your parent/guardian’s bank statement in your application and specify this in your personal cover letter.

  4. Talk to the travel committee. The travel committee is a group of volunteers who really wants to help improve this process for the GNOME community. If you have specific questions, or face challenges along the way, make sure to contact them.

A huge thanks to Umang Jain, a member of the Travel Committee, for helping me create these tips!

I still have more questions, who can I ask for help? 

The travel committee can help you answer more specific questions. Here’s how to contact them: 


IRC: #travel (here’s how to use IRC… it’s basically what we use to chat)

Riot: #travel (that link will help you join the correct channel via Riot, a chat client many of us use. Thanks for creating that link, by the way, @Carlos Soriano!)

Ok, that was a lot of information, but I hope it helps! 

See you in Greece 🙂

GNOME Foundation Hackfest 2018

Last year, I proposed that the GNOME Foundation Board and employees have a hackfest in order to build out a more strategic and expansive budget, and in order to work on initiatives like restructuring board and committee relationships. We found the hackfest to be really useful, so decided to have another hackfest this year at the beginning of our fiscal year.

This year’s hackfest was held in Cambridge, UK because four out of the nine people attending lived in the UK, and two lived in Cambridge. As with last year, we met for three days, from October 17th to October 19th. Collabora kindly allowed us to use one of their beautiful conference rooms for our hackfest, and Kat helped make sure that we were well-fed and felt at home there.

While we were at the hackfest, Robert McQueen posted about what we worked on and accomplished, and I highly encourage you to check it out: Foundation Hackfest 2018 – By Rob McQueen. In this post, I won’t repeat what he said, but instead will talk about a few of the things I spent time hacking on.


GNOME Travel Policy

One of the things that I’m personally eager to improve at GNOME is diversity in all its forms, and I think that changing the travel policy can help us do this. This may not seem like the most intuitive thing right off the bat (how does our travel policy affect diversity within GNOME?), but in-person events are incredibly powerful as a vehicle for motivating current contributors and connecting the dots on a newcomer’s journey to contribute more regularly. I myself am an example of how someone who was lurking on a mailing list became an active contributor after their first GUADEC.

If we see events as catalysts for contributions (both conferences and hackfests alike), it makes sense that our travel policy can be used to affect who contributes to the project, and by extension, affects the diversity of our project.

Here are a few examples of how the travel policy can affect diversity:

  • Funding people who normally can’t afford to go to events brings more voices to the table. Unfortunately, covering just flight and hotel is not enough for some people (food away from home and transportation can be prohibitively expensive!). How can we better support community members who have the most need of financial assistance?

  • Most of GNOME’s hackfests and conferences are in Europe and the US, and perhaps as a result, most of GNOME’s core contributors are based in Europe and the US. How can we use the travel policy to encourage more geographic diversity within GNOME’s core contributor base?

  • Right now the travel policy makes it seem like only Foundation Members can apply for travel sponsorship so newcomers often don’t feel like they are allowed to apply (in truth, anyone can apply but Foundation members and speakers get preference). How can we use the travel policy to encourage more newcomers like creatives, project managers, user testing experts, and underrepresented groups in free software (including racial, gender, etc) to attend events and start contributing?

Sure, there’s a lot more to achieving diversity than just changing the travel policy, but it’s a start. It’s also something that only the board has the power to change, and it’s a fundamental part of our infrastructure that can support our community’s growth. So, I was excited to work on this while at the Foundation Hackfest this year.

So how far are we in making the changes? The tl;dr (Too Long; Didn’t Read) version is that Philip Chimento and I are still working on a final proposal that the board can approve.

We can’t guarantee any changes to the current travel policy since the board hasn’t approved an official update yet. However, it’s my most sincere hope that we can update the travel policy in a way that will support diversity at GNOME and foster more growth and innovation for the Project .

GNOME Engagement Committee and Budget

The Engagement Committee was set up as the budget holder for the Engagement budget, which is split into two buckets: marketing and small events. This year, we decided to allocate $6K USD for marketing and $3K USD for small events.

Marketing costs are things like stickers and SWAG, or stocking and shipping the Events Box that allows community members to set up GNOME booths across Europe at various conferences and events.

Small events are things like release parties, social events at hackfests, GNOME meetups, newcomers workshops, etc. As a plug, if you’re interested in putting on a small event, check out this handy wiki page for tips and resources: GNOME-Related Events.

The process for requesting funds from the Engagement Committee needs drastic improvement and promotion, and we need to fix a few other things before we can call this new way of handling Engagement budget requests a success. However, I feel excited about the direction that this is heading since we went from a time when we barely had an Engagement team or budget (when I first joined), to now having Engagement hold more importance within the budget, and by extension, within the GNOME Project.


Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to take many photos of the Foundation Hackfest this year because Collabora has a strict policy around photographs in the office. Here are a few pictures from our time getting around Cambridge, and from the punting adventure that Neil, Rosanna, Matthias and I had on the day after the hackfest ended.




This year was the second time GNOME has organized the Libre Application Summit, and this year I participated again as a volunteer.

The conference was held in Denver, Colorado, at the Parkside Mansion. The venue is typically a wedding venue, but it was cozy and had the right amount of space for a small conference. It  gave attendees a chance to participate in the talks and then break out into smaller sessions and BoFs on the last day since it had many small rooms to pop into.

Since I was part of the organizing group this year, I’ll be using this post to talk about some highlights from the conference as well as lessons that we learned as organizers.



Lots of great talks

There were a lot of great talks. They were high quality and really interesting. As a non-developer, some of the talks that I got the most out of were the ones centered around design, science, and outreach. I’d like to highlight a few of those. Unfortunately, there were technical malfunctions so videos might not be posted for each speaker, but I’ve posted links to the Live Tweet of each of these for those interested:

Research Science and Libre Computing: A Scientist’s Perspective

By Britt Yazel

Live Tweet

Britt gave a talk about the opportunities around introducing free software to scientists. He is a great speaker, so the talk was full of the usual Britt humor, and it was really interesting to get a peek into the life of a scientist. Britt himself uses free software as much as he can and has started to make others at his school use it as well.


How Can You Make Your Open Source Project Attractive to Students? Preparing Student to Join FOSS Communities

By Heidi Ellis and Gregory Hislop

Live Tweet

Two professors gave a really interesting talk about how we might get more students involved in free software. Key: you appeal to the professors. They gave some really interesting insights into how professors create their curriculum, and what kind of incentives they have.


Developers, Developers, Developers—How About Creatives? Solutions to Bring More Yin to the Yang of the FOSS community

By Ryan Gorley

Live Tweet

While free software tools for graphic design exist, it’s not exactly an easy transition from Adobe products to apps like GIMP and Inkscape for someone who has been using Adobe their whole professional life. In his two talks, Ryan talked about some of the challenges that designers face with the current free software tools available, and he talked about how his business (FreeHive) is a model for how you can use open source tools for design. He also had a really inspirational message, where he said that free software shouldn’t try to achieve product parity with proprietary software, but that it should instead innovate and provide something that the proprietary software doesn’t.  


Student participation

Several students from a nearby college attended LAS GNOME this year. We originally did not have enough space for lightning talks, but we ended up making some time for them and it was great to see the students use the opportunity to speak. There were some really interesting lightning talks, such as one about keyboards! At least one of the students has decided to keep contributing to GNOME on the Engagement team (Mac Grove), and he is interested in getting involved in other ways within GNOME in the future. It would be great to get more students to attend LAS in the future!

Women’s Dinner

Private Internet Access kindly sponsored a Women’s Dinner at LAS this year. We went to a rooftop restaurant in Denver and socialized over drinks and some great shareable plates. It was a really fun time, and it’s always great to connect with other women in free software. As an added bonus, we went to an ice cream shop next to the restaurant that had a line around the corner most of the night. I had the best ice cream I’ve had in a really long time — I think it was called the space jam or something. It was delicious.

Inclusivity Workshop

Our keynote speaker, Audrey Eschright, gave a great workshop around inclusive writing and interactions. We learned things to look out for in our writing that can make people feel uncomfortable, or are discriminatory, and I found ways that I’d like to improve my general communication. For example, I’d like to get better about asking people about their pronouns, and asking questions that leave out gender as much as possible.  

Getting to know more System 76ers

One of the benefits of hosting this year’s conference in Denver is that we were able to hang out with the great folk of System 76. They graciously helped with the conference organization, organized a trivia night, and hosted a social event on the last day of the conference where they included a tour of the new System 76 warehouse!

Strengthening KDE <> GNOME communication

Four members from the KDE community attended LAS this year, including a board member, Aleix Pol. It was really nice to meet more members from KDE, and they participated not only by giving talks, but also by being on the papers committee. I hope to see more KDE folk at GNOME events in the future, and vice versa. Aleix expressed a strong interest in helping to organize the next LAS and has already been extremely proactive in helping to make that happen — so that’s definitely a great start!

Interest in more cross desktop events

Several attendees mentioned that they really enjoyed some of the cross desktop conversations that happened naturally as part of the conference, and that they would like more of it in the future. While the notion of having a free desktop summit might not happen right away, we started to discuss how we might try to maintain this part of LAS next year. We also talked about how might help us do more cross-desktop communication more regularly, since it’s pretty much dead right now.

GNOME Engagement BoF

We organized an Engagement BoF at LAS this year and talked mainly about how to create an updated marketing design asset repository and marketing assets for the upcoming year. As a result we created a new project on GitLab to house marketing design assets, and also for people to request new ones. If anyone is interested in getting involved, Caroline is a great person to contact about this.

Social events in Denver

As always, we organized a few social events for attendees to enjoy during the conference. These included a night where we went to grab some pizza to celebrate the latest GNOME release (and had a great birthday cake), and then went to an arcade. It was a lot of fun trying out my basketball and skeeball skills, as well as shooting aliens with Alex Larsson (who is a great shot btw). Unfortunately, the arcade was for 21+ only because they served alcohol, so the students weren’t able to join us for that portion of the night.

In a last-minute effort to see some of Denver, a student and I helped plan a tour of the greater Denver area because a lot of us were interested in seeing the beautiful fall colors of Colorado. We went to Mt. Evans, which is a beautiful area! Some people had to leave early, so only a few of us were able to try some delicious pizza at a place called BeauJo’s in Indian Springs, and then go to a hot spring. All in all, it was a fantastic day packed with great sights of the Colorado wilderness, and some quality time with new and old friends alike. Special shout-out to the students who helped plan the activity and show us around!


Lessons and Takeaways

This is by no means an extensive list, but rather just a few things I’d like to highlight.

Live Tweeting

One thing that we tried this time, thanks to Adam Jones’ suggestion, is Live Tweeting the talks. Since it was a spur-of-the-moment decision, there were some things to learn from for next time we do it. For example, we should get a stand for the phone so that the person tweeting doesn’t get tired during the 45 min-1 hr talk, and we should also have a battery pack handy for obvious reasons. A really good internet connection should also help make the videos less blurry. Unfortunately, the internet connection wasn’t great at the venue so the Live stream came out with rather poor quality (which makes it hard to read slides, for example).

GitLab for conferences worked well

This was the second conference I’ve been involved in organizing that used GitLab (the first was this year’s GUADEC), and it worked quite well! One of the things that I like best about it is that you can easily involve new people in the conference organization because all of the tasks are kept in once central location. In the past, GNOME conference organizers have used things like spreadsheets to keep track of tasks, and it is much less easy to coordinate tasks with a group and get new people involved.

More inclusive events

Based on my experience at GUADEC this year, one of the first things that I checked out once at the venue is that there were gender-neutral bathrooms. Unfortunately, these were located upstairs, in an area where people with accessibility needs would be unable to use. It’s important that conference organizers try to work with the venue beforehand to see which bathrooms are gender neutral (or which ones can be converted during the event), so that this can be announced at the beginning of each conference.

Another thing that is important is for conference organizers to keep in mind that there will most likely be people attending who have some sort of food allergy. This means that organizers should make sure to have vegan and gluten free options at a minimum, but preferably they should work with the caterers (if applicable) to know if there are other common allergens in the food (like nuts, shellfish, etc). For conferences where food is not provided, organizers should put together a list of restaurants where you might find gluten-free and vegan options.

Muddled target audience

Since LAS is a pretty new conference (this was its second iteration), and it’s one that aims to include communities outside of GNOME, it is still defining its identity and honing its target audience. Partly due to organization timeline issues, there was a limited amount of speakers this year and the topics tended to be for platform developers, rather than application developers. Also, while Flatpak was a big focus, it was not the exclusive app distribution technology showcased. In the really early stages of the conference, back in 2015/16, we had planned on having the focus be on Flatpak and getting people to start using it. In future iterations of the conference, we need to better define LAS’ identity, and figure out how to include others in this space so that we can collaborate more instead of compete. If The Year of The Linux Desktop is ever going to exist, we need more collaboration and less competition among ourselves in strategic areas where we can all benefit.


I want to give a huge shout out to Britt and Caroline! They joined the Engagement team this year and have done an amazing job of helping with events and conferences in a variety of manners. Britt has become the ever-enthusiastic doer of all tasks, while Caroline is a very talented graphic designer, and has helped create material for many GNOME activities since she joined. For LAS, she created the brand identity and all of our banners and materials. Both are simply awesome. Thank you so much for everything you’ve done so far, Caroline and Britt!



GNOME.Asia 2018

I’m long overdue for a series about my activities representing the GNOME Foundation at conferences and events within the past year. I’ll start off with my time at GNOME.Asia.

I’ve attended two GNOME.Asia conferences so far, and this year’s conference was a different format from last year’s since it was co-hosted with COSCUP (Conference for Open Source Coders Users and Promoters), and OpenSUSE.Asia.

The conference was held in Taipei City, Taiwan, and I was able to attend and speak about the new things happening within the GNOME Foundation this year, such as the Foundation’s expansion plans and the positions we are hiring for.

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In this blog post, I’d like to share a little more about the highlights of the conference and some of the key takeaways I had from it.  


Meeting more of the GNOME.Asia committee in person

In the months proceeding GNOME.Asia this year, I joined the GNOME.Asia committee (via mailing list and IRC), in order to help this year’s organizers have a direct line to the Board and to the global Engagement team. It was great to meet some of the members from the GNOME.Asia committee in person, and to see some of the ones I already knew!


Meeting and learning from OpenSUSE

One of the great things that resulted from co-hosting the event, was spending time with many OpenSUSE community members, including some of the OpenSUSE Board of Directors. I was able to chat with Ana María and Simon about how their Board is involved in allocating funds, and learning more about the type of things that their Board handles. One of my takeaways is that OpenSUSE tends to place a lot of trust in their community, so credible requests for marketing funds are generally granted. This seems to be working well for them. While I think that the GNOME community has made some great strides recently towards its marketing activities, for example with providing a budget for things like GNOME events, there’s room for improvement.

One of the things I’d like to help do in the upcoming months is to make it easier for people to know about and access the marketing and events budget the GNOME has. I think that the future Program Coordinator we are hiring for will be a huge help here as well.  


International attendees

A handful of GNOME contributors from outside of Asia flew in once again this year, which I think was really important. Typically, GNOME.Asia attracts a lot of users (or potential users), and promoters. While this is great, it would be awesome to also get more newcomers interested in contributing to other GNOME project teams. Having core contributors from various projects within GNOME attend GNOME.Asia helps attendees of the conference meet people they will be interfacing with if and when they join the global GNOME community.


Getting to know Kat and her interest in making GNOME events awesome

Kat and I gave a keynote speech together where we talked about the importance of free software, about GNOME, and about how to join our community. As a result, I had some really good bonding time with her over writing the keynote speech, and later once in Taipei, attending midnight Board calls. We have a lot in common around wanting to help improve events at GNOME and strengthen ties with community members all around the world. Kat is working on some great initiatives to help standardize the conference bidding process and to help make it easier for interested people to organize GNOME conferences.


Touring Taipei

Max and the local organizers put together a great tour of Taipei, where they organized a bus to take us to the national museum, an amazing dumpling lunch, and Taipei 101 (one of the world’s tallest buildings). Unfortunately, there was limited space on the bus, so not everyone interested was able to join. However, this made the trip more intimate and allowed the participants to get to know each other better.

Conferences that include some kind of touring activity have a level of thoughtfulness and intimacy that really makes participating in them special — not only because you get to become more familiar with the people that surround you, but also with the places and culture that surrounds you. I’m really glad that our conferences tend to have this aspect!


Understanding the trade-offs with a co-hosted event

While I really enjoyed meeting members outside of the GNOME community, a trade-off is that there seemed to be fewer people attending GNOME-related talks. The range seemed to be somewhere between 10 – 60 people at any given talk, even for keynotes. In contrast, last year’s conference seemed to be attract audiences of about 50 – 200 for any given talk.

In the future, it may be nice to organize some BoFs along with members from the communities that we co-host with as it may encourage us all to cross-pollinate more during talks and work with other community members in general.


Planned sprints and BoFs

We had a GNOME BoF this year that centered around organizing GNOME.Asia and fostering a community in Asia. Unfortunately, while I was physically present, my jet lag hit me really badly and I was unable to really participate.

The structure of this BoF was different than others I’ve attended since it was announced as a general GNOME BoF. Typically, BoFs I’ve attended have been centered around various topics of interest, such as “Flatpak,” “Engagement,” “Docs & Translations,” etc. The other difference was that each community’s BoF offered participants dinner (e.g. OpenSUSE provided sushi and GNOME provided pizza), since it was late. This drew people to participate in BoFs after the conference ended for the day.

It would be great to have more planned sprints and BoFs that are similar to the ones at GUADEC. This could encourage new contributors to core areas of GNOME, since newcomers can get involved. If this part of the conference is planned for, GNOME.Asia might end up getting longer. Right now it’s a weekend event with the next day being an optional tour, but if we move to a new structure that includes BoFs, it could perhaps be 2 days of talks and at least 1 day for BoFs — or perhaps there could be at least one half day of BoFs to start off.


Newcomers workshops & information about GNOME internships

Unfortunately, there weren’t any newcomers workshops this year, but they have been great to have in the past and I hope that we can hold them in upcoming years. GNOME.Asia tends to attract a lot of students and newcomers, so having lots of information about internships and how to get involved is something we should absolutely do. 



Taipei was a great place to host the conference, and Max and the local team did an excellent job! During the conference, Max made an announcement that he is stepping down from being the chair of the GNOME.Asia. For all of you who know and love Max, don’t worry — he isn’t disappearing, but he will join in a more advisory capacity like Emily has. Max has so much experience and is great at representing GNOME in Asia, so while it’s sad that he won’t be as involved, it is great news that he will still be around!

Ok, that’s it for my GNOME.Asia post. Next up: LAS GNOME 2018. 




Traveling in Berlin, 2017

While I’ve been to Germany several times before, I’d never been to Berlin. Naturally, I was ecstatic, especially when I found out that my friend Tom would be there at the same time for a QT conference. I wasn’t thrilled about the QT part, but more so just about Tom, because he’s awesome.


In this blog post, I’ll write about what I did while in Berlin (spoiler: I mainly worked), and some pro-tips I have as a result of my time there. I hope to go back sometime soon, especially since it turns out that I think I really like Germans. 🙂

Pro Tips for Berlin

Lodging: If you want a quiet stay in a cute part of town, I recommend the Prenzlauer Berg. It’s walking distance to Alexanderplatz (where the big tower is), and has lots of nice coffee shops and restaurants. Note: I don’t love the grunge style that characterizes other parts of Berlin, so this part of town appeals to my scandinavian furniture / hipster preferences. I highly recommend the apartment I stayed in and you can see photos of that below.

Mexican food: As a Mexican American Californian, I know what Mexican food is. Sadly, most of Europe does not. EXCEPT BERLIN!! When someone suggested we try Mexican food in Berlin, I was really worried that I would find the fake stuff I’ve seen anywhere else in Europe (any place that does not know what carne asada is = fake). However, I was pleasantly surprised. The place we went to eat seemed pretty legit. Apparently, lots of Californians have moved to Berlin and have started burrito and Mexican food restaurants. Interesting, and great. So, if you’re in Berlin and have a craving for Mexican food, chances are you’ll be able to find some decent stuff.

Beware wasps: If you’re allergic, make sure you keep an eye out for them. A member of our party got stung while eating currywurst near Alexanderplatz.

My Trip

Although I mainly had to work during this trip (first during the GNOME Foundation hackfest and then to prepare my keynote speech for GNOME.Asia), I did get a chance to see part of the city. Unfortunately, I didn’t see as much as I wanted to, but I got a general feel for Berlin, and am already looking forward to the next time I’m there.


My Airbnb & neighborhood

I stayed in a lovely Airbnb in Prenzlauer Berg, near Alexanderplatz (~15 min walk), and I would definitely love staying there again next time I’m in town. It was modern, newly renovated, had a beautiful garden, and was on the ground floor so I didn’t have to lug my huge suitcase up the stairs. The hosts went out of their way to make me feel comfortable and included many thoughtful details to make my stay great (like a map of places they recommended in the area, and slippers).

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What I loved about that neighborhood is that it felt really quiet, clean, and safe. There were many young parents walking around with strollers, and older people out for leisurely strolls. I felt really comfortable walking around during the day and even in the evening. If you’re looking for more of a party scene, or place with lots of bars, this probably isn’t the right neighborhood for you.


I didn’t get to see much of Berlin, but I did venture over to Alexanderplatz and took some photos along the way.

Time with friends

As mentioned above, one of the reasons I was especially excited about being in Berlin is that my friend Tom was going to be there too. He claims that Berlin is the best city in the world, and I was hoping that he would help me see it in the magical light that he sees it.

Since Tom is so nice and awesome, it was easy to have fun. We went exploring one night, and found a Google Pixel exhibit there as part of the Festival of Lights. In typical Tom fashion, we befriended the people running the exhibit, and took many photos. You can see our group selfie below followed by our amazing gif dance.


I know, you’re now jealous of how cool Tom and I are. Sorry.

Cafes & restaurants

Muse Berlin

This restaurant was a couple of blocks away from my Airbnb and was very cozy. I had some vegetarian tikka masaala while siting on a coach and practicing my speech. The staff was really friendly, and the environment was pretty hipster (which we already established is something I love).

Hilde Cafe

This became my basecamp. They have good food, espresso drinks, green juices, and lots of couches and outlets to plug in your computer. Their wifi is fast and reliable, too. I highly recommend this place if you’re in the area and need to study, work, or meet a friend for brunch or coffee. In fact, I met these Italian-in-Berlin friends over brunch here and it was excellent.


(btw thanks for meeting me there and letting me practice parts of my speech on you, Tobias and Julian!) <– and see how I use “btw,” Tobias? 🙂

2017 GNOME Foundation Hackfest

This year, the GNOME Foundation Board decided to do a hackfest to work on financial policies and other work that has been piling up. From what I know, this is the first event of its kind, and I’m proud to be part of the group who made it happen.

As most GNOME Foundation members may know, the Board usually gets together two days before GUADEC starts to meet in-person for one day. I’ve been on the Board for two terms now and each year having just one day of meetings is simply not enough when you’re trying to be a really proactive Board.

So that’s the backdrop for why we decided to do the hackfest in the first place, and after considering everyone’s location and costs for travel, we decided that Berlin would be the perfect place to do it this year.


The Work Stuff:

Entering the hackfest, there were a few topics front and center that had surfaced and we wanted to cover. Here’s a summary of the topics we covered and where we left each of them.

  • Budget allocation and approval: The GNOME Foundation fiscal cycle is from November to October of each year. One of our top priorities for this hackfest was to approve the budget for 2017-2018. However, we wanted to make sure that the categories and line items made sense. Basically, we wanted to make sure that the reports that we pulled later in the year could help us actually understand what we were spending our money on with enough level of detail.We also discussed how the expenditure for our new Executive Director’s salary will affect this year’s budget. We talked about how much run rate we wanted to have, and what we considered to be our overhead costs of running the organization. We decided that we want to have about 1 year run rate and then we backwards planned our targeted budget based on that.By the end of the hackfest we had restructured the categories to reflect our goals for the upcoming year, and approved the budget. We will be sharing this budget with Foundation members in the upcoming weeks.
  • Travel: We’ve heard a few concerns from the community around travel policies and practices. For example, a lot of people send in price estimates for their travel plans and prices have gone up by the time that they receive an answer on approval. Other concerns have been around not knowing if non-Foundation members can apply for travel sponsorship too.Instead of coming up with solutions of our own that we then impose on the travel committee, we’ve decided to have more of a working relationship with them to problem-solve together. As we progress with this plan, we hope to build more transparency into travel committee processes. Alexandre was nominated as the Board member representative to speak with the Travel committee and he’ll be planning a meeting with them soon.
  • Easier reimbursements: If we want a larger community with lots of local events and representation around the world, we need to create ways for people to know when and how they can access GNOME funds. We’ve started to do that, but the tools we’ve used for reimbursement have made it difficult for some people to participate. For example, reimbursements through Paypal in Peru make it so that people being reimbursed lose almost half of the money we sent them in fees. We heard from our community that we needed a new option for money transfers, and we’re happy to say that we’ve acted on that.TransferWise is now a payment option for those seeking reimbursement from the GNOME Foundation. This means lower fees for the recipient. We hope that this will encourage more people to participate in GNOME activities.
  • Committees: This was one of our hot topics — so much so that it resulted in a new drinking game (with tea and water), where we drank every time one of us mentioned the word “committee” at the hackfest. Basically, we want to have a closer relationship with our committees and we want to start a couple of new ones. We’ve already announced the Sponsorship Committee, which will help us secure funding for our major conferences, and we are thinking of creating one for the Engagement team — so that they can allocate funds for marketing and engagement purposes.As part of this, we also talked about budget authorization levels and how much budget holders could spend without needing approval from the Board. This will give more power to the community and will reduce the amount of time that the Board spends arguing over tiny things in the budget such as how many balloons make sense to pay for at an event.
  • Marketing, engagement, and small events: I’m particularly proud of the progress that we are making on this front. We are starting to more actively recognize the importance of community building, marketing, and engagement. When we asked for the community’s feedback on where they’d like to see more funding, one of the things they brought up was small events at Hackfests and other meetings. So, you hollered and we listened. We’ll be rolling out more funds for small events, guidelines, and resources to help people organize events that can help us build a stronger community.
  • Privacy funds: We’ve had these restricted funds for too long, so one of our priorities was to start acting on spending them for the purpose they were originally meant to be spent. Previous Boards have fluctuated between using the money for internships or hiring contractors. We’ve decided to do internships, and Carlos and Zeeshan met during the hackfest to begin planning, building on what Cosimo started during this the 2016 GUADEC. More updates on this to come, but I think we’re finally going to get some momentum on this. Fingers crossed.
  • Empowering our employees: An interesting thing that came out of the hackfest was the realization that our employees (Neil and Rosanna) are not empowered to actively participate during Board meetings. Since their such an important part of the Foundation, we are looking into ways to change this, so that they can help the current Board, and future Boards, be able to make the best decisions possible. I can’t count how many times Rosanna’s historic knowledge has helped the Board, for example, and it’d be great to formalize a way to ensure that she can have more of a voice within the Foundation.We’ve reached out for legal advice and are looking into how other organizations approach this.

As mentioned, this is just a short summary of the many things we discussed and worked on during the 3 day hackfest. By the end we were exhausted, but we definitely made some great progress. We hope to make hackfests like this a regular event of the future.

The last thing I’ll say is that, apparently, whiteboard markers can be wiped off of plastic with lots of chemicals and patience. If only we had realized that we were writing on plastic sooner. I guess we’re only pretty smart when it comes to some types of board stuff.


The Social Stuff

We decided to rent an Airbnb to make it less expensive and to promote bonding, and everyone was able to join except for Zeeshan. He was busy apartment hunting in Berlin since he just started working at Kinvolk. The apartment was great, except that the WiFi situation was pretty spotty.


The first night we were in town we had dinner with Lennart and Kai. Unfortunately, I didn’t take a picture of that first dinner because I was dead tired. However, I did take pictures of our dinner outings the following days.

One of the social highlights of our trip was going to C-Base, the old hackerspace in Berlin. We ordered pizza (which despite some Italians’ protests about the quality of pizza in Berlin, it was actually not too bad), and we had some beers. I also learned about Ingress because C-Base had a cool map that showed which places belonged to each team.

We also happened to be in town for the Berlin Festival of Lights, which was awesome. Here are some pictures from that.

Yes, I bought a light-up flower crown. Yes, it was fabulous.

Thank Yous 

I wanted to include a few shout-outs:

  • Cosimo & Alexandre: thanks for helping us plan the travel logistics around the hackfest.
  • Kinvolk: thanks for being such gracious hosts! Your office is awesome and you guys are da bomb.
  • Zeeshan: thanks for being such a good sport about having us around even though it was his first week starting a new job.
  • Julian & Tobias: thanks for coming to all of the GNOME social events and hanging out with us.
  • Tom & Carlos: thanks for being my moral support as I prepared for my keynote speech at GNOME.Asia!

… And a huge thanks to the GNOME Foundation for sponsoring my travel to Berlin!



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) 🙂


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.


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:


(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:


LAS @ GiNA Planning + GNOME 3.26 Release Party in SF

Wow, so many acronyms in my title! Don’t worry, I’ll demystify them. Here you go:


First a quick explanation of the acronyms:

LAS = Libre Application Summit (formerly called “LAS GNOME”).

GiNA = GNOME in North America (this isn’t official, but it’s the name we’re proposing for the event in North America that is a consolidation of the Boston Summit and the West Coast Summit)

Ok, so what is LAS @ GiNA? So glad you asked. Basically, we are combining a bunch of events to make it easier for us to plan and also to gain traction. The idea is that we want to incubate LAS within The GiNA Summit for the first few years until it can take off and have a life of its own outside of GNOME. LAS is meant to promote agnostic Linux desktop application technology, but for now, we want to help it grow by putting GNOME’s support and organization behind it.

We met for the planning session at the new Endless office in downtown SF. It has a much more urban feel than the last one.


Most of us “global LAS organizers” are in SF, but Sri joined us from his temporary AirBnB in Denver (congrats again on the new System 76 gig, btw, Sri!).



After 3 hours of planning, we made a lot of progress. We were able to define how a co-hosted event would look like, when it should be, and evaluated the bids we have on the table so far. Here are the basics so far:

  • Timing: we’d like it to be a 4 day event (Thursday – Sunday) sometime in April or May of 2018.
  • Possible Locations: We have 3 possible locations right now (Denver, Montreal, and SF), and will be spending the next couple of weeks tightening up the bids for each location. We need to select a bid by November so we can announce the CfT (Call for Talks) in December.

There’s a lot more I could go into about the results of the LAS planning session. If you’re interested, let me know!


GNOME 3.26 Release Party

While we did order some food for the LAS planning session, we ended up saving some of our appetite for the GNOME 3.26 Release Party.

We were originally going to Golden Gate Park to enjoy some sunshine, corn hole, drinks, and snacks… but we ended up having to change the venue to make it easier for the LAS planners to go to the Release Party. We ended up picking Gott’s Roadside restaurant, a burger joint, at the Ferry Building in SF. It’s about a 15 min walk from the Endless office.

gotts roadside.jpg


We were happy to see that the Ferry Building looked especially fabulous when we arrived. It was a beautiful day with lots of sunshine, and we decided to sit inside in the air conditioning instead of in the direct sunlight. There was plenty of natural light in the building though, so we didn’t miss out on the sun.


We used some of the money that the GNOME Foundation made available to Release Party organizers to buy some appetizers for attendees. Zana suggested zucchini fries, which were a big hit, and we ordered a few sweet potato fries and garlic fries as well.

Thank you, GNOME Foundation for they yummy fries! The sweet potato ones were my favorite, so double thanks for those.

Oh, and dear reader, do see that shake in the background? That’s a chocolate malt shake and it’s delicious. Definitely try splitting one if you go to Gott’s. You’ll make new friends because the shakes are amazing, and you’ll save yourself the agony of trying to drink a whole sugary concoction all by yourself. In small quantities though: it. is. amazing.


Besides eating and drinking, we had a great time talking about all the GNOME stuff happening in the next few months, which happens to be a lot! Some of us are about to travel to some GNOME hackfests, and to GNOME.Asia. Don’t worry, I’ll post about each of those as well.

K, well thanks for reading this post, and if you’re ever by the Ferry Building, now you know that Gott’s has some pretty great sweet potato fries and chocolate malt shakes! 🙂