OpenStack Summit Survey Results

As we gear up for the next OpenStack Summit in Hong Kong, and look forward to two more Summits in 2014, it’s a good time to take a look at the feedback from the April 2013 Summit in Portland.

We surveyed all Portland attendees, and almost 400 people responded. In this post I’ll break down some of the key findings and highlight a few changes we’re implementing in Hong Kong and beyond.

TL; DR Key Findings:

  • Overall: 96% of people rating the overall Summit as Good or Excellent. 
  • Top areas to improve:  Clearly the Network and the Session Rooms (size, acoustics, equipment) were unacceptable.
  • Format: Stackers favored keeping the Design Summit co-located with the rest of the Summit sessions by a margin of 4:1 over breaking it out separately

Ratings:

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Regarding the “Session rooms” (size, acoustics, equipment), I attribute most of this to crowding issues, but there were also some technical glitches with the presentation equipment.

The Format Question:

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Among Active Technical Contributors (ATCs), who make up the majority of Design Summit attendees, the results were similar, but with more interest in making some change to the format. That said, keeping the overall event together was still preferred 2.5:1 over breaking it out completely:

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While the current format is the clear “winner” in the survey, there is always room for improvement.  Over the past 6 summits, we’ve had the most success when making incremental changes rather than completely overhauling the format.  Given the results of the survey, including the 96% rating of “Good or Excellent” I think this approach continues to make the most sense.

There were two free form questions, so I picked a few choice quotes:

“What did you find most valuable about the Summit?”

  • “The ability to get a large amount of information on OpenStack projects, progress, ideas, walkthroughs, and case studies, in a relatively short amount of time. Much better than web-based because it gets folks out of the office and thinking more constructively and creatively about OpenStack, and more passionate about it. This was my first summit, and attending it truly invigorated and greatly amplified my interest and enthusiasm in OpenStack in general.
  • “People, from all different backgrounds – both “world”-wise and Openstack-wise.”
  • “It was my first, so I was just racing from one talk to the next trying to soak up as much knowledge and personal connections as I could.”
  • “Workshops I attended & being able to speak with others who are right in the mix of OpenStack…”
  • “Hands-on labs and real world implementation strategies in the operations summit.”
  • “The fact that customers are now starting to show up at this summit is exciting.”
  • “To be able to finally meet people who I met on IRC and participate in design sessions. To be able to talk to customers.”

“What is the biggest area of improvement you see for the next Summit?”

  • “I think some logistics could improve; better wi-fi or even wired touchdown spots would be nice, since many of us need to keep working even as we’re enjoying the conference, and better sizing of the rooms to the presentations. Also the bag check idea I think would be excellent since the conference was not co-located with hotel. But overall a very well-run conference with lots of great content!”
  • “Removing barrier for non-native English speaker. They can do tremendous jobs in spite of their poor English.”
  • “Make sure participants can continue to ‘mingle’ while the number of attendees continues to grow…”
  • “1. Provide breakfast again :) 2. One evening event that accommodates all summit attendees 3. Better communication around the design sessions so they are not packed with non-ATCs.”
  • “- IRC nicks on badges – Better wifi, maybe have an on-site etherpad server since chunks of session time was lost to etherpad connection issues – Cold drinks available on site all day – don’t mind paying but never have time to go far – Conference being away from the hotel meant jetlag hurt more since going for a short nap was difficult”
  • “More seating!”

Planned actions for Hong Kong:

  • Network: We participated in a debrief with the networking company and are planning to evaluate additional vendors for Hong Kong, as well as engage with other organizations who have hosted conferences at Asia World Expo to learn more about their experience and any unique requirements we should be prepared for.
  • ATC Designation: We’re planning to make the ATC designation more clear and recognizable on the badges and include IRC nicknames. We’re also communicating that ATCs should register for the Summit with the email tied to their Gerrit ID in order to receive ATC designation on the badge.
  • Capacity & Crowding: In Hong Kong we are limiting “Full Access” passes – people who can attend the breakout sessions and Design Summit all four days — to a reasonable capacity based on room sizes, and offering a “General Session & Expo” pass with one track running Tuesday & Wednesday to better manage our growing base of attendees. Also, the “curtained off” area for the Design Summit received positive feedback in Portland and is a model we’ll pursue again for Hong Kong.
  • Design Summit Productivity & Scheduling: It has been proposed to move the PTL “project update” sessions to a series of webinars post-Summit, so they won’t conflict with Design Summit sessions, PTLs will have a chance to gather thoughts/feedback from the Summit and more people will have the opportunity to participate and ask questions online. ATCs were fairly split on having an additional moderator participate in the Design Summit sessions to help manage the room, slightly favoring bringing on the moderator.  Both of the topics are still under discussion. Regardless, we can take steps to more clearly identify “Design Summit” sessions within the online schedule and help educate Design Summit session leaders and attendees with best practices for a productive session.
  • Food & Drinks:  We will not be able to provide breakfast at the event in Hong Kong, but many of the hotel room blocks and budget-friendly recommendations offer free breakfasts. We are requesting healthier snacks for the developer’s lounge, per feedback from several developers, and we’re also planning to offer larger, reusable water bottles instead of the small plastic cups.

For 2014 Summits, we would like to continue evaluating the format, and considering the possibility of starting the Design Summit a day early (or ending a day later) relative to the other content, to reduce the scheduling conflicts for ATCs.   The data doesn’t scream out for this change, but I don’t want to dismiss it yet either for 2014.

Please keep the feedback coming! And start making plans for Hong Kong now!

@sparkycollier