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 travel-committee@gnome.org (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 booking.com 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: 

Email: travel-committee@gnome.org

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.

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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.

 

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LAS GNOME 2018

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.

 

Highlights

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 freedesktop.org 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.

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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!

 

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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.  


Highlights

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!

Takeaways

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. 

 

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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. 

 

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