2023 Open edX Conference

I wanted to share that tCRIL have just confirmed that the 2023 Conference is scheduled for the week of March 27th.

The conference will take place in the Boston area, in the US. This is a very expensive area to reside in, so we’ll need to be careful about the budgeting, and IIRC we’ll potentially have to make compromises about how many of us will be able to attend.

If we’re going to do a coworking week, we voted for doing it the week after the conference → the first week of April. We discussed flying to Montreal for the coworking week to cut down on costs (and spend time in a great city!).

There are, however, two potential issues with going to Montreal: weather, and cost.

The average temperature in Montreal at that time of the year is 2-6°C, with gray skies and melting snow. IMHO – not a great time to visit (coming from someone who lived there for many years).

Flying to Montreal from Boston will be around US $175 per person, and the average nightly cost on Airbnb is US$ ~100 per person per night.

I’ve done a quick search, and places like Colombia, Mexico and Brazil would be warmer and cheaper (flights might be a bit more expensive, but accommodations and eating out is much cheaper).

Anyway, I wanted to get the discussion going :slight_smile: @paulo is currently doing an RCA on the budget we spent for the 2022 conference, and the results will probably help us take decisions for 2023.

ticket to log time

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Yay! I’m glad the dates for the conference have been decided, and really really excited to see everyone again! :tada:

And :+1: to the idea of going someplace warmer and non-US for co-working… for lots of reasons. I’d be thrilled to return to Mexico, and see a different part of it than we did in 2019. And I’ve never been to Columbia, but I’ve heard that Bogotá is stunning. Will rely on the experts to chime in about Brazil :slight_smile:

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Well, this is exciting!! Hopefully the budget will allow for many OpenCrafters to attend.

@gabriel Thanks for starting the conversation nice and early; it really helps for organising visas etc. My two cents:

  • I choose warm weather over cold, any day :sun_with_face:
  • Columbia, Mexico, and Brazil are all very high up on my travel list! (to add to @jill’s note about Bogotá - I’ve heard Medellin is phenomenal too)
  • I like the idea of the co-working week happening after the conference so everybody can truly relax :palm_tree:
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I’m super excited for the conference! And I’m glad we’re starting the discussions early. All the options for co-working week sound great! One thing to consider would be that folks might need multiple visas, which could increase the charges. If it’s somewhere in Canada or Mexico, we would only need to get the US visa (which we’ll need to get for the conference anyway) since those countries allow entry with it.

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Good thinking @pooja . I hope we don’t have the same visa horrors holding us back next year!

I found this list of 49 countries that allow entry with particular US visas, but would need it vetted: https://www.visatraveler.com/blog/travel-20-countries-visa-free-with-us-visa/

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Thank @pooja - I see this applies for South Africans as well :tada:

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Great point, @pooja :+1: According to Jill’s source, there are 11 countries located in the Americas who accept US visas for all nationalities. Brazil and Colombia are much more restrictive, though, so maybe we need to look elsewhere.

Thanks for starting this early @gabriel it will sure make organizing this less stressful :sweat_smile:

It would be nice if we could get everyone to attend even if we have to make compromises for that. The budget reconciliation for the 2022 conference might give us some pointers on where we could cut to make this possible.

March and April isn’t the best time for south/southeast Brazil as this is the rainy season. We could look for a nice sunny place in the Brazilian northeast instead, in places such as João Pessoa or Natal. Another problem I see with doing this in Brazil is that very few people speak English, even in tourist locations like these.

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How about one of the islands? @antoviaque might know where there’s sufficient internet access… but Antigua and Bermuda are on the list of countries I posted, and flights from Boston look very reasonable… :tropical_drink: :beach_umbrella:

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MIT have begun sponsoring visas for the 2023 conference, but the sponsor process is only accessible for those who have already bought their 2023 conf ticket – which means that we’ll need to set things in motion soon, and decide who can attend.

Based on rough calculations, we’re looking at a budget of roughly €3k per person for the conference week, so if we bring the whole team we’re looking at ~ €100k for the conference week only.

I would personally rather have more team members present at the conf, and skip the coworking week if we need to make a compromise.

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Sorry for the delayed response here, I have it on my list for some time, but Aug/Sep have been packed. I’ll try to answer more thoroughly this week, as we also need to move forward with the talks submission.

In the current context we definitely won’t be able to bring the whole team to the conference though – besides being extremely pricey in Boston, we are not in a position to spend lavishly currently, with the sustainability and taxes issues looming.

We might have to only do the coworking week all together, and that’s if we can figure out a reasonable budget for it (any idea of the cost/person of that week alone @gabriel ? It would be good to keep the whole cost this year of conf+cowork below 50KE, including everyone’s time). For the conference week, I’m not sure how to limit it yet – maybe to the people who get a talk accepted, and/or the core contributors in the team?

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To my mind, the co-working week is the most valuable part of this exercise, from a team-building perspective. The conference is great, but meeting and working and hanging out together is priceless.

I have a different idea: what if we give preference to people who haven’t had a chance to attend an Open edX conference before? This balances out the seniority effect, and can give more people an opportunity to connect with the community and/or find a place as core contributors.

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Hiya!

Just a note from a Boston resident - you may be able to find significantly cheaper lodging if you’re willing to look further afield. I know from Lisbon’s conference that staying aways out from the conference is annoying (plus the transit around here closes rather early - around 12 am for the orange line, and probably 10 or 11 for the last commuter rail), but, can save a bunch of dough - it’d be up to you guys if that’s an option for you. I’d look along the northern portion of the Orange Line, or along any commuter rail line that goes through Porter Square or South Station - places like Acton or even Providence, RI, for example.

Let us know if we can help at all - we know the area pretty well!

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I’ve analyzed the cost of attending various locations for the coworking week.

  • The cost for one week in Boston for 12 people will be around €45k (or €3800/pers), including 2 paid days for attending the conference. If we find much cheaper accommodations, this could be reduced, but probably only by €2-5k total, accounting for additional transit costs.
  • The cost for one week of coworking for 26 people at the cheapest destinations (Mexico, Colombia) will be around €31k (or €1200 per person).

We’re talking about a total of [45k + 31k] = €76k, which is 1.5x the budget you mentioned. We’d need to send 5 or 6 people only at the conference to match a ~€50k total budget.

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@gabriel Thank you for running the numbers! At the end this year that’s going to be what determines most of our constraints.

Budget

To stay with the 50KE budget, we’ll likely have to:

  • Reduce the number of people attending the conference to ~5-6 people, to bring down the cost of the conference week to ~23KE, and be able to preserve the week of coworking with the larger team (at 31KE, we’re already above budget at 54KE).
  • We might be able to bring the number of conference attendees up a bit if we find cheaper accomodation (thanks for the tips @sarina!), and if some or all of the conference participants are core contributors, since then the time spent could come from the existing core contributor budget. The time spent at the conference would still be a cost, but not an additional one specific to the event, so we could remove it from the conference budget for core contributors.

Coworking location

I agree that Mexico makes a lot of sense for this year, both for weather and pricing. In particular, Mexico City is an amazing city, with reasonable prices, and good/direct flights at reasonable prices from most places. Doing it after the conference also makes sense.

I would avoid islands due to the often poorer internet connections there, as well as higher prices. Central & South America sound great too, but afaik flights become increasingly more expensive as we go down south from Mexico.

Conference attendees selection

I like the idea of bringing new members to the conference, but besides the previous point about budget, I also think it’s important to have the people who are the most involved in the community to be able to attend and participate to the discussions there. We’ll already be have less representation of the team due to much smaller numbers of OpenCraft attendees, so we need to maximize the impact and still be able to represent the team. For newer members, already getting to spend a week with the whole team should be a good first step, and hopefully in future years we’ll be able to get more people at the conference too.

Since we currently have 10 core contributors, that doesn’t solve it all, we still need to pick the 6 attendees. To again maximize the impact, we should probably prioritize those who get a talk accepted. Maybe we could also use this to help keep the attendance open to non-core contributors team members? I.e. we would get all core contributors to submit a talk, but also everyone else in the team who would be interested in attending the conference & giving a talk too? That could balance a bit the odds, and give a better chance for any non-core contributor who does attend to have an impactful interaction with the larger Open edX community?

Btw, with the submission of talks topics now open, we need to schedule the tickets to brainstorm & submit them.

Conference sponsoring

This year, still due to budget issues, we won’t be able to sponsor the conference like in previous years – but there is a “in kind” sponsoring tier which we could (and imho should) still contribute. It’s actually something on which we can bring more value to the conference than simply with contributing money, even if both are important to make the event happen and be interesting. @gabriel Do you already know how that time would be provided & what it would be used for?

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All of this makes sense, thank you @antoviaque !

That sounds like a great way to balance the attendance.

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Hell yeah to Mexico! :mexico:

@gabriel P.s. If Mexico ends up as the chosen location, my friend who knows the country well recently sent me a detailed email about the different areas and the rough costs for things in each of them. I’d be happy to share it with you if it would be useful.

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I don’t – aside from my own CC time for helping co-organize (and maybe run, if I go) the event. I’ll ask for more details.

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I like this idea, but it might be problematic for those of us who need a visa to only start the application process when talks have been accepted. I took a quick look, and the waiting times for embassy appointments in South Africa are crazy. Cape Town would be my (and @keithgg’s, I think) closest embassy. I’m sure there’s a way to expedite this, but I just wanted to mention the urgency for those of us who would need a visa to travel to the US (and/or to wherever we decide to go for the co-working week).

Bureaucracy :roll_eyes:

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@Ali Woa! That’s definitely quite a long wait.

@gabriel @sarina Do you know when the results of the talks selection are planned to be announced? We might not be the only ones using this approach to pick the conference attendees :slight_smile:

@Ali Depending on the timing, it could maybe make sense to book an appointment before we know, and then either go or cancel it depending on the outcome?