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People and finance

Organising a Hydra Connect requires a team of people, some Hydranauts who are passionate about organising a successful event plus one or two others (Hydranauts or not) from the conference venue who can make things happen there (book rooms, equipment etc). For HC2015 the program was handled by a Program Committee working in close partnership with a team from DCE on the ground; in 2016 again a Program Committee, this time working with folks at the Boston Public Library.  It is recommended that the venue for HC be sorted out at least eight months in advance and that no less than four months be allowed for the program team.

Meetings should have a designated facilitator who prepares an agenda in advance. Meetings/calls should be minuted and clearly identify decisions and action points (with names) within this wiki to support transparency and allow us to learn from one another for subsequent events. Someone should be given the job of checking on the page regularly to see that the action points are being dealt with in a timely fashion. The planning team should use a dedicated email list (hydra-connect@googlegroups.com), to make sure every member receives every email. 

For Connect #2, Connect 2015, and Connect 2016 the team was split with a logistics group first putting in place the organizational essentials and a program group later joining the process to flesh out the goings on at the event.  This generally worked well.

One of the earliest tasks of the conference team will be to arrive at a figure for the conference fee - one which is realistic in terms of covering the hire of rooms, refreshments, the "formal" evening event, equipment hire, conference give-aways and admin fees.   Matters financial are dealt with on the next page.

Dates and timing

Every effort should be made to ensure that the dates for the Connect meeting do not clash with other events that might draw on the pool of potential delegates.  It has been pointed out that late September and into October is the time of several Jewish high holidays which may prevent some of our colleagues attending.

The first Connect meeting spanned four days: a pre-meeting workshop day and then three days of meeting proper.  As noted below, there are potentially good reasons for loading such an international meeting towards the end of a week.  This model was refined for Connect #2 to have an explicit workshop day, two conference days and then a day totally committed to working groups.  It was noted that there was significant fall-off in attendance on the afternoon of the workshop day as people headed for the airport.  For Connect 2015, there was a workshop day, a day half-and-half between plenary and poster session, a day half plenary, half beakout (unconference) and a further day of unconference.  Connect 2016 had a workshop day, a day split between plenary and posters, a day split between parallel sessions and panels, and a final day with unconference in the morning and specific working groups in the afternoon.  This arrangement seemed to have dealt well with the final day lunchtime drop-off by timetabling only pre-arranged groups in the afternoon.

Facilities

From the beginning, the organisers need a clear view of the structure and outline content of the meeting because this has an impact on facilities needs.

These needs fall into a number of categories:

  • General needs
    • Access to reliable high speed wireless Internet is required to enable communications and aspects of the program. Hydra folks are hyper-connected to the Internet. Many will need Internet connections to present, some have ongoing coding responsibilities during the conference, still others need to track correspondence while attending the conference.  Of these a proportion will expect to be able to use VPN, IRC, and Github without difficulty.  Organisers shouldn't underestimate the load that a conference like this can put on local systems.  As a corollary: delegates will also appreciate access to power strips, if possible, to keep their devices charged whilst in Connect sessions; lack of accessible power was probably the biggest single complaint from Connect #2.  Despite the best efforts of the local organizers in 2016, BPL's technical folks woefully underestimated the wifi demands such that on the first day of the conference proper the "dedicated" wifi was overloaded to the point of being unusable for many, so people switched to the library's public wifi network - and pretty well took that down too.  It is strongly recommended that organisers engage their institution’s network engineering staff to communicate with venue staff to help validate whether wifi capacity will be adequate.
       
    • Refreshments and food.  At the first Hydra Connect we provided coffee each morning and, additionally, pastries on the first day of the meeting proper (which is to say not on the preceding workshop day): this service seemed to be much appreciated.  It is advised that participants do not have to stray far from the meeting in order to buy refreshments of their own during breaks - if they do, they will almost certainly be late back to the following session. 

      Connect #2 had morning coffee on the Tuesday workshop day (based on 75% of the full attendance), Wednesday morning and morning break coffee, Thursday morning and morning break coffee, and Friday morning coffee only (again based on 75%).  Pastries were provided first thing Tuesday and Wednesday only.  In retrospect, coffee during the Tuesday and Friday morning breaks would likely have been appreciated and we did hear some complaints that a more consistent approach to "breakfast" (pastries) would have been better. 

      Connect #2 was big enough that the eatery obviously available to delegates for lunch was overwhelmed; in retrospect we might have warned them!  In fact there was a large food court 2-3 minutes from the conference sessions that most delegates failed to find on the first day.  Lessons:  if there are only a few of them, make sure the obvious local eateries are forewarned; make sure delegates know in advance where to find lunch close to the conference rooms.

Connect 2015 served a continental breakfast each day and morning coffee.  There was no afternoon provision (for which we got some negative feedback).  Connect 2016 concentrated on breakfasts and morning coffee.


    • Social event(s):  Part of the fee charged for the first two Hydra Connects was used to fund food on the evening of the first formal day: such a social event is a good way to get people networking.    Connect #2 provided wiki sign-up sheets for ad-hoc dinner groupings on the Monday evening preceding the event and an optional beer bus (charged separately) on the Tuesday night.  Connect 2015 arranged an optional conference "dinner" charged separately.  About 65% attended.  In 2016, the costs of arranging an evening dinner (in Boston) were just prohibitive - but a number of people commented that the event was "missed".
       
    • Conference goodies:  It seems that conference goers (and Hydranauts are no exception) like some conference goodies.  These may be bookmarks, stickers etc.  At the first two Hydra Connects part of the conference fee funded t-shirts.  Ideally these will be of a different design to any Hydra t-shirt offered at the summer Open Repositories conference.

    • Dates: The timing should ideally be loaded to the end of the week - so, for instance, pre-conference on a Tuesday, conference proper Wednesday - Friday.  This will allow folks who need to stay a Saturday night to get cheaper air fares still to have the option of coming in for the pre-conference day or not without forcing an extra non-meeting day on them.

    • Hotel(s):  The conference organizers should try to arrange preferential rates at one or more local hotels.  Rather than commit to a large number of bookings, at Connect #2 we managed to arrange that we guaranteed only the first 20 bookings but then the hotel added more rooms, 20 at a time, with no further commitment. The welcome proximity of the conference hotel (where we had arranged preferential rates) was favorably received by many participants in Connect #2.  HC2015 was similar, as was 2016

  • Space needs
    • What is the balance between needing a plenary space and breakout spaces?  Which rooms are needed which days?  Don't forget an "unconference" space for those who want to skip a particular organised session.  A room for developers to work together, or designated public space for individual work, can also be helpful.
    • If at all possible, the plenary space should be available for a "round-up" session at the end of the last day (though experience shows that people prefer to head for the airport!)  In 2016 we decided not even to try...
    • The acoustics in large plenary spaces are frequently poor.  Such a room will need a microphone at the podium and roving microphone(s) for questions etc.  Ideally, an engineer should be on hand to deal with sound problems.  Acoustics were a problem with a couple of rooms again in 2016.
    • Experience suggests that using such a plenary space also as a breakout space is not ideal unless one of the breakouts is very large.  The acoustics of the ballrooms used at UCSD and CWRU were not good for a small group.
    • The ideal space is probably one plenary space and at least four breakout rooms. We were commended at HC2015 for finding a plenary space that was a room (not a ballroom or lecture theatre) with seating at round tables.  The lower ceiling made it more "cosy" and people naturally gathered there to chat prior to sessions using the room.

  • Equipment needs
    • General sound and vision: The plenary space will need very good projection facilities and sound.  A roving mic should be available for Q&A sessions.  Breakout rooms needed for working groups will need a projector.
      • Note that equipment and A/V support costs are usually quite high and may not be included in an initial space cost estimate
    • Poster "Show and Tell" session:  There needs to be adequate provision for people to display posters they have brought.  Communicating a maximum poster size in advance is helpful (preferably in terms of a standard paper size such as "A0" or "A1"). Some people may want the ability to give demonstrations and will appreciate a good monitor. Other people may want to draw so flip charts might also be desired.  At HC2, HC2015 and HC2016 we had local printing facilities which meant folks didn't have to struggle with poster tubes on planes.  If possible, the ability to leave the posters up after the formal session will be appreciated.
    • Planning the unconference sessions:  The use of the software "Sessionizer" in HC2015 and 2016 was seen as a great improvement over a messy session with flip charts and post-its.

 

 

 

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