[openstack-dev] [all][tc] Proposal: Separate design summits from OpenStack conferences

Eoghan Glynn eglynn at redhat.com
Fri Feb 12 11:17:59 UTC 2016

> Hello all,
> tl;dr
> =====
> I have long thought that the OpenStack Summits have become too
> commercial and provide little value to the software engineers
> contributing to OpenStack.
> I propose the following:
> 1) Separate the design summits from the conferences
> 2) Hold only a single OpenStack conference per year
> 3) Return the design summit to being a low-key, low-cost working event
> details
> =======
> The design summits originally started out as working events. Developers
> got together in smallish rooms, arranged chairs in a fishbowl, and got
> to work planning and designing.
> With the OpenStack Summit growing more and more marketing- and
> sales-focused, the contributors attending the design summit are often
> unfocused. The precious little time that developers have to actually
> work on the next release planning is often interrupted or cut short by
> the large numbers of "suits" and salespeople at the conference event,
> many of which are peddling a product or pushing a corporate agenda.
> Many contributors submit talks to speak at the conference part of an
> OpenStack Summit because their company says it's the only way they will
> pay for them to attend the design summit. This is, IMHO, a terrible
> thing. The design summit is a *working* event. Companies that contribute
> to OpenStack projects should send their engineers to working events
> because that is where work is done, not so that their engineer can go
> give a talk about some vendor's agenda-item or newfangled product.
> Part of the reason that companies only send engineers who are giving a
> talk at the conference side is that the cost of attending the OpenStack
> Summit has become ludicrously expensive. Why have the events become so
> expensive? I can think of a few reasons:
> a) They are held every six months. I know of no other community or open
> source project that holds *conference-type* events every six months.
> b) They are held in extremely expensive hotels and conference centers
> because the number of attendees is so big.
> c) Because the conferences have become sales and marketing-focused
> events, companies shell out hundreds of thousands of dollars for schwag,
> for rented event people, for food and beverage sponsorships, for keynote
> slots, for lavish and often ridiculous parties, and more. This cost
> means less money to send engineers to the design summit to do actual work.
> I would love to see the OpenStack contributor community take back the
> design summit to its original format and purpose and decouple it from
> the OpenStack Summit's conference portion.
> I believe the design summits should be organized by the OpenStack
> contributor community, not the OpenStack Foundation and its marketing
> and event planning staff. This will allow lower-cost venues to be chosen
> that meet the needs only of the small group of active contributors, not
> of huge masses of conference attendees. This will allow contributor
> companies to send *more* engineers to *more* design summits, which is
> something that really needs to happen if we are to grow our active
> contributor pool.
> Once this decoupling occurs, I think that the OpenStack Summit should be
> renamed to the OpenStack Conference and Expo to better fit its purpose
> and focus. This Conference and Expo event really should be held once a
> year, in my opinion, and continue to be run by the OpenStack Foundation.
> I, for one, would welcome events that have no conference check-in area,
> no evening parties with 2000 people, no keynote and
> powerpoint-as-a-service sessions, and no getting pulled into sales meetings.
> OK, there, I said it.
> Thoughts? Criticism? Support? Suggestions welcome.

Largely agree with the need to re-imagine summit, and perhaps cleaving
off the design summit is the best way forward on that.

But in any case, just a few counter-points to consider:

 * nostalgia for the days of yore will only get us so far, as *some* of
   the friction in the current design summit is due to its scale (read:
   success/popularity) as opposed to a wandering band of suits ruining
   everything. A decoupled design summit will still be a large event
   and will never recreate the intimate atmosphere of say the Bexar

 * much of the problem with the lavish parties is IMO related to the
   *exclusivity* of certain shindigs, as opposed to devs socializing at 
   summit being inappropriate per se. In that vein, I think the cores
   party sends the wrong message and has run its course, while the TC
   dinner ... well, maybe Austin is the time to show some leadership
   on that? ;)

 * cost-wise we need to be careful also about quantifying the real cost
   deltas between a typical midcycle location (often hard to get to,
   with a limited choice of hotels) and a major city with direct routes
   and competition between airlines keeping airfares under control.
   Agreed let's scale down the glitz, but let's keep the accessibility
   where possible. Aim for Prague or Portland, as opposed to Bristol or

 * timing-wise the summit can't be all things to all men^H^H^Hpeople,
   all some projects aim for early and fixed deadlines in the cycle
   (specs & non-prio feature freeze etc.) whereas others are more fluid.
   Also some contributors in the community have a post-release-tag
   productization crunch to contend with. So while earlier is good,
   maybe not the week after the release tag?

 * finally, let's be careful also about projecting the travel budget
   policies (read: perverse incentives) of individual companies onto
   the entire community ... some companies incentivize conference talks,
   others try to optimize for working session involvement, some aim for
   a balance etc.


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