The future of YAPC::EU and YEF

Anton Berezin who runs YEF, the YAPC Europe Foundation gave a presentation: YEF - a Turning Point at YAPC::EU in Granada and he mentioned the YEF board is thinking about shutting down some of the activities of YEF.

YEF and YAPC::EU

In his presentation Anton explained that YEF basically has 3 tasks:

  • YAPC::Europe conference venue selection (or more specifically selecting the organizing team)
  • Provide kickstart donations for YAPC::EU and other Perl events in Europe. (Up to 1000 EUR for YAPC::EU and up to 500 EUR for other events.)
  • Handle the entrance fees and cover the approximately 2.5% of handling fees of the Perl events.

YEF's only income is the donations it receives. And its only expenses are the costs of having a bank account, the sponsoring of the online payment system, and the kickstart donations.

In some cases, when the event generates more income than expense, some of the kick-start money is donated back to YEF. Sometimes this donation is even higher than the kick-start money was. Sometimes the event does not make enough profit to make a donation to YEF. In the last couple of years YEF has be spending more money that was covered by the donations it receives.

That would not be a problem, but in the last 2 years most of the donations came from Liz and Wendy.

This is not sustainable. Liz and Wendy could spend that money on something more interesting such as ice cream or Perl 6 development.

So Anton told us in his talk, that the YEF board is thinking about removing the two activities that actually cost money and providing only the venue selection.

Unless there is some other direction.

Let's look around.

YAPC::Asia vs YAPC::EU

On one hand the Japan Perl Association lead by Daisuke Maki (lestrrat) managed to turn YAPC::Asia into an event with more than 2,000 participants with a budget of 150,000 Euro.

On the other hand YEF, the YAPC Europe Foundation is losing money and YAPC::EU events are around 200-300 participants.

What's the difference?

So what's the difference between YAPC::Asia/JPA? and YAPC::EU/YEF?

The former two are tightly related. The same person and (partially) the same team has organized the events for many years. (In the last 4-5 years about half of the team was retained to the next year.) They had their interest and possibility to build one event on top of the other. So when they were thinking about an event they had in their mind how that will positively impact the year after.

On the other hand YEF is related to YAPC::EU only by those 3 items above. There is no direct involvement in the organization. YAPC::EU is organized by a different team every year. Every year the team that has just finished organizing is happy to finally do something else. They might stay on advising the next team, though I don't know how often did this happen.

Every year, the YEF board invites two members of the previous YAPC::Europe conference organizing team to join YEF. These two YEF new members automatically join the venue committee, which decides where the future YAPC Europe conferences will be held.

YAPC::Asia that is repeated by the same people year after year has a clear interest in building long-term relationships with sponsors. Though as I was told actually the majority of sponsors were changing from year to year. As I understand from Lestrrat the main thing was that they provided innovative platforms for the sponsors that attracted them.

The YAPC::Asia organizers are also very focused on "keeping the hype". Which means a couple of things. For example they hire a professional photographer to take photos. They also make sure there is high quality video recordings of every talk. Its part of their long term strategy.

Maybe even the number of blog posts after the event is related to this. (400 people, 20% of the participants at YAPC::Asia 2015 have blogged vs 21 people 8% of YAPC::EU 2015)

In Japan there was a central driving force dictating the direction of YAPC::Asia. There was even one person (Lestrrat) who was part-time working on the conference. He was paid to do so by his employer. YAPC::EU is completely volunteer.

YAPC::NA vs YAPC::EU

YAPC::NA and The Perl Foundation have a similar relationship to each other as YAPC::EU and YEF and, I think, they have similar issues in Norh America.

A couple of obvious differences:

  • Most of the YAPC::NA events are in the same country, in the USA. Traveling from one state to another state is IMHO more "natural" than traveling among the EU countries. Even with Schengen in place. (I mean I think telling your boss or your partner that you would like to go to Spain or Transylvania for a Perl conference sounds much more as an excuse for a vacation, than saying you would like to got to Salt Lake City. Which means it is probably an easier "sell" in the US.)
  • Even if there are (were?) no border controls between many of the countries in Europe this is still not true for all the countries where Perl events take place (e.g. Ukraine and if I am not mistake Romania isn't either part of it yet).
  • There is no language barrier in the US. For Europeans it is an extra requirement to speak English at a a reasonable level to enjoy the conference. This also impacts the organizers. The local organizers will usually prefer to speak their own language and thus interaction with organizers from previous events requires some extra effort.
  • In the US there are no currency issues. In Europe not all the hosting countries use EUR and many of the guest have to handle the exchange.

As far as I know, in the last couple of years some people involved in organizing YAPC::NA have started to create a team that would stick around for more than one year, but I am not sure how well did that work out. One thing that worries me is that it seems for 2016, there is no local team for YAPC::NA yet and they have not settled on a venue yet.

What are the objectives of YEF/YAPC::EU and the Perl Workshops?

Before we get to the suggestions, let's see what is really the objective of YEF and the events. The stated objective of YEF is to promote the Perl programming language in Europe primarily through public events.

Here is how I would expand that to details:

  • Provide an event for people involved in the development of the Perl Ecosystem (Perl 5 porters, Perl 6 developers, CPAN contributors, etc.) to meet in person, exchange ideas, build stronger relationships, and to make development smoother.
  • Reach out to people using Perl but not involved in the Open Source Perl community to let them learn more about "the Perl community" and about new developments in Perl and CPAN.
  • Try to get more people be involved in the development of the Perl Ecosystem.
  • Reach out to companies using Perl to contribute back to the Open Source Perl Ecosystem, by sponsoring events, sponsoring development time, and encouraging their employees to be involved in the Ecosystem.
  • Reach out to people not yet using Perl and get them interested in Perl-based solutions.
  • Use the opportunity of YAPC::EU to energize the local Perl Mongers and to make some noise around Perl.

For some of these activities the local Perl Monger meeting could be enough, but having a country or area-wide Perl workshop gives the locals a bigger boost and a better opportunity to talk about Perl. A YAPC::EU can bring a lot more people together and can generate a lot more attention to Perl.

Perl Workshops tent to have between 20-120 attendees. YAPC::EU is usually somewhere between 200-400 people.) A Perl Workshop is usually 1, max 2 days long. YAPC::EU is 3 days long sometimes with a Hackathon day and/or training days around it.

What are the objectives of the organizers?

In order to provide good service we should also try to understand why do some people want to organize a YAPC? What are their goals? Do they even have any specific and stated goals?

A few ideas:

  • To gain personal fame.
  • Want to get a White Camel and this seems like a good way.
  • Want wife/husband/children/other person of interest meet Gloria and Larry Wall.
  • Want to promote Perl in ones city.
  • Want to promote their business which is providing outsource services for Perl development or Perl training.
  • Would like to have beer with others Perl Hackers.
  • No one else does it and someone has to do it.
  • Enjoys organizing things and this sounds like a cool project.
  • Don't know.

It would be also important to know what part of the organization would they prefer to be handled by a central team?

Solution: YEF providing less

Anton said that people on the YEF board are thinking about stopping the two financial services YEF has been providing to YAPC::EU and some European Perl Workshops. That is certainly one solution to the problem YEF faces and I don't think it will have any measurable impact on the local organizers. The local YAPC::EU organizers will just take in account some more expenses and adjust their budget.

Actually I think this should be done regardless of other solutions. I think YAPCs and Perl Workshops should be at least self-sustainable, but probably those events could even make a profit that could be donated to YEF or TPF. For example to have development grants.

Solution: YEF providing more services

Another direction would be for YEF to provide more services. Both to YAPC::EU and to the European Perl Workshops.

I think we can assume that YAPC::EU will keep moving from country to country as that's quite nice and it provides an opportunity to focus the outreach on a different place every year.

That also means the local team changes from year to year.

However there could also be a centralized team that would provide services for multiple events. There is actually already something called the "cloud orga" that provides help to the local organizers. Though I don't exactly know who considers themselves as part of it and what do they provide. They are also not a centralized organization.

As I imagine this central team - probably related to YEF - would do some of the work. This body could provide services to YAPC::EUs and the Perl Workshops around Europe. If the local organizers want it.

What kind of service could this team offer?

  • Handling contact with sponsors. Primarily with international sponsors, but can also provide help with local sponsors. Getting sponsorships. In this case when contacting a sponsor YEF could offer a list of events and could help the organizers with various innovative ideas for sponsors.
  • Working with the local team on maintaining the budget. Especially if some of the budget comes from the sponsors via YEF, it might be important to have someone give advice on how to handle the budget to break even or even to have some extra money.
  • Maintaining the Facebook, Twitter, Google+ accounts of YEF and using them to promote the events. Using the YAPC::EU mailing list (for organizers and for participants). IRC channels, LinkedIN etc. for the same.)
  • International PR and outreach. Building and maintaining relationship with news outlets.
  • Sending out information about the event to the people already registered.
  • Help with the local outreach by providing ideas and providing material that can be translated.

Conclusion

There is no conclusion here. The board of YEF will decide on their future in the coming months. We can raise ideas and/or we can volunteer for some of the tasks.

I myself am thinking if I would like to step forward and offer my help in this central team. I am just not sure if the local organizers would welcome it and I am not sure if others would join me in this?

Published on 2015-10-13 by Gabor Szabo
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