Thank you for oSC13

As one of main organizers, I feel the need to personally thank all the people that made it possible to have oSC13 in Thessaloniki, Greece during 18-22 July.

This article is mostly about me thanking the people with whom I personally worked with closely before and during oSC13.
Mainly people that were part of the group of volunteers that I coordinated.
There were obviously many more people working for oSC13, than the ones mentioned in this article.
Me being a demanding person and a perfectionist, who also happened to be very stressed during the time of the conference, did not make things any easier for noone. My goal is always the best possible result and I rarely have to resort to damage control.
I want to thank all those people that were around me those days.
You kind of deserve it guys 🙂

And I am gonna start at the very beginning, even though I will mingle things up as I go.

First up is Kostas, because it was his idea to organize this conference in the first place.
There was this greek opensuse community meeting in IRC, when the issue came up and Kostas asked who is interested in helping, and at that point I was already more than willing to help (besides, I love event planning, everybody knows that) – as a volunteer, though. Not an organizer.
Well, things have evolved a lot since then and you probably all know that Kostas and I ended up being the main organizers of oSC13.
What Kostas did is rather obvious, that’s why I don’t feel the need to go into details (besides I would need hundreds of pages just to make a quick reference!)

So, THANK YOU Kostas for inializing all of this, and thank you for putting up with me all those months (I know I can be a handful sometimes, or even more often than sometimes :), but hey it was for a good cause!)

Next I want to thank the TSP team, which includes Kostas and Izabel. They are the ones doing the heavy lifting to keep the Travel Support Program running (because getting the funds is not enough) and for that they deserve a big THANK YOU. They are asked to do a lot of work which is not necessarily specifically defined, since they have to interact with people. I think they are awesome and they are doing a great work, and that’s regardless of the fact that they are my friends!
Moreover I would like to thank Izabel for being the one handling the sponsors for oSC. It’s a very important and demanding job to do, you have to be on alert 24/7, because an early reply to a sponsor can determine if the conference will have extra funds to do all the cool things the organizers want to arrange.
On top of all that, this kind of task doesn’t have specific deadlines. You start long before the actual event, you work hard during the event itself and you probably end up with one or two pending responsibilities after the event is over. Been there, done that and I respect the work put in doing such thing.

Along with Izabel, I want to also thank the openSUSE Board and Agustin, because they are people that also contribute to all of that, one way or the other. Agustin coordinates financial procedures of sponsors with Izabel and he is our link to SUSE for handling all financial/legal issues of the conference, and the Board, well it’s the board. Board members keep tabs about everything going on in the community and they are there to be the community’s voice. I plan on helping with the next conferences to come and I hope to have the chance to cooperate more with the Board in order to make our next events a success.

THANK YOU Izabel, Agustin, all Board members!

Following that, I want to jump to our sponsors and thank them. Because having sponsors and knowing your budget is critical when organizing an event. Specially when it comes to organized-by-volunteers conferences, sponsors are very important to us. And I am saying this in general, not just for oSC, since it is not the first time that I face the funds issue as an organizer.
And it’s not necessarily about having money to spend, but it is definitely about knowing exactly how much money you can actually spend. Depending on the budget you “build” everything surrounding your event. You make decisions about funds allocation and if you have a bit less than you needed, you find a way to compromise between the stuff you want to do. In no way do we, organizers, want to leave funds without utilizing them to their fullest or going over budget (which is one of the worst nightmares of organizers). Both cases are equally problematic.
I am quite satisfied of the amount of stuff we did for oSC13. Theoretically, there is always a better scenario of course. But regardless of some financial bumps we had to endure, we generally did not deviate from the original plan created.
oSC13 sponsors, THANK YOU for your support!

And then, after all the above was settled, the surprise came…
Yes, I am 100% surprised by the turn of events as far as volunteers are concerned (in so many ways in fact, but I am only going to focus on the positive ones). Order of appearance is completely random, as all of the below mentioned people deserve a huuuuge THANKS. (As I said before, I am mentioning people I personally worked closely with and that’s obviously not eeeeeeverybody that helped with oSC).

Alex is one of the people that admittedly I did not really count on helping during the organizing period, but I knew that he would be present to help during the conference. What I did not know was that he would become such a valuable volunteer. I hadn’t really worked with him to organize another event, so I had my expectations low (at least, as low as my expectaions can be). Alex is one of the people that have definitely exceeded by far my expectations (and people that know me, know that my expectations are higher than high – Kostas can vouch for that, he had to go through it for several months!). Alex has been pictured, so far, as the photographer of the conference. Yes we have some awesome photos because of him and with a combined effort we have had these photos up online almost immediately (as humanly possible ofc). What most people might not have realized is that he is so much more than that. He is the one that provided us with the music equipment we had at the bar outside (mixing console and speakers – and possibly I am forgetting sth here). Stuff that due to their size, in order to arrive to Thessaloniki for the conference in a cost-efficient way, Alex had to carry by car (which for him translates into driving around 500km, and another as much to go back ofc). In addition to that, he is one of the people that arrived since Monday (15th July) and became available to actively help with the set up of the venue (and trust me that involves some stress and carrying around). Furthermore, Alex became oSC13’s driver for several things that required a car.
(Moreover, and that’s not oSC direcly related but I have to mention it, after the conference was over, he ended up being the one driving us for a swim in Chalkidiki, which felt like paradise to me, since I didn’t have to drive myself.) – Oh, and one more thing: He is the one to thank for the cakes we had for dessert on Saturday’s party, which was also the perfect opportunity I was looking for to wish Happy Birthday and Happy Name Day to the friends that were celebrating those days.
And as if all of that were not enough, Alex brought a friend along, Iliana.

Iliana is not an IT person. She hadn’t attended such a conference ever before, she didn’t even quite know what we were doing there (at first, at least. Afterwards she became kind of a reg-desk guru!).

What both Alex and Iliana share in common is their activeness and initiative. She has also by far exceeded any of my expectations.
OK, from Alex I could expect stuff like him knowing what to do and kind of how to do it. He might not live in Thessaloniki, but he is part of the greek openSUSE community and he was following the mailing list and trello tasks.
But Iliana… I thought I would have to talk with her for 2 hours min. until she understood how to check if ppl are registered and give them their stuff (badge, backpack, t-shirt…), let alone show her how to create a new registration. Well I thought wrong, and I am so happy about it!
I talked with her for maybe half an hour, getting interrupted by people with questions. She pretty much was the face of the registration desk, as she was there since the beginning (and till the very end). She proved to be a trustworthy person (which made her end up with donations duty), with excellent english skills, able to work under pressure (my pressure to be exact) and able to improvise and take small decisions without having to ask for instructions. She got the work done. And that is not something you see everyday.
So THANK YOU Alex & Iliana, you both did great!

Of course the registration desk couldn’t possibly work with just one or two people. Everybody knows that…
A huge THANK YOU goes to all the staff of the registration desk.

One of which is George (or bratsaki), whose most help is not for the registation desk itself, but for all the article writing he managed to do while attending oSC13 and volunteering at the registration desk or doing sth else, in a noisy and fun venue. Well I know could never write 2 lines under these circumstances.

I am impressed by those skills I have to admit, so THANK YOU, George!
(His article is also available at the News Daily that Carlos coordinated during oSC13 – there is one for everyday 🙂 )

And since we talk about article writing… Jos is the one next. And it’s not just about the article writing that I thank him for. It’s a couple of things here and there that he did, help he offered, tips and ideas he suggested. Always available for a nice chat. He is one of those people that it’s very difficult for me to express one or two separate things that he did. He is also the one arranging all about our keynote speakers, which is great!
He is definitely one beloved member of openSUSE community and I want to thank him for all his support for oSC13!


Stathis Agrapidis is one of the people I so much have wished would help more before the conference. He is in Thessaloniki, so I happen to know him in person, and it is easier working with people whom you know (in terms of knowing what they can and cannot do, how efficient or good at meeting deadlines are).
Anyways, my thanks goes to what he did during the conference. Around one week before the conference was the time that we started gathering in order to get started with the set up and last minute tasks. Stathis showed up ready to work, and so he did. Him being a member of the greek openSUSE community for quite some time now, he knew his way around stuff. He volunteered in several positions all over the venue. What I want to thank him for is taking care of printing badges for the unregistered attendees (and trust me that’s so much more difficult than it sounds) and for running urgent errands outside, which involved buying stuff, ordering stuff… And all that he did without me having to be present or say much, which is awesome because I had to be at the venue during all those times 🙂
What most people might not know is that there was a bit of a printing problem with the badges and we had them re-printed. Stathis is the one that made that happen (and in a civilized way I might add).

THANK YOU, Stathi for all your efficient work!

And it’s Carlos’ turn. He overwhelmed me with information and drafts for the past couple of months. I got notifications from every account I had (trello, email, IRC, gtalk), all at the same time! But that’s how we ended up with our nice artwork. Needless to say that there were other people contributing to artwork! But Carlos had the courage to work closely with me, even though our timezones were a challenge. I am not an artwork person, so Carlos had to do the little bit extra for me, such as show the tshirt designs on people, so that we could decide which one we like best. And then he would create new drafts for every single difference I wanted to see (because my skills begin and end in resizing an image using gimp and my imagination is walking on a similar path). I know some people currently hate me for that, because our git has soooooo many files and needs organizing. Still all the late hours talking with Carlos, staying awake to fix the last detail in the designs that had to be sent for printing in 5 hours, overcoming timezones and language barriers, they were all worth it. Because they resulted in nice banners and fancy posters, cool stuff like geeko money and soaps and nice reminders for our attendees such as t-shirts, backpacks etc..!
On top of that he worked some artwork magic during the conference for last minute things that came up.
Don’t forget to check news daily, that was his daily task for every single day of the conference – it’s not the easiest thing to do.

So THANK YOU, Carlos for all that hard work the months before the conference and for surviving me! Truth be told, you are one of the people I didn’t get to spend as much time as I wanted, specially under a non-stressful situation, but I hope to see you again soon 🙂

Anastasia: Another non IT person that showed up for the very first time. I still cannot understand if Kostas dragged her there or not, but what I do know is that she was more than willing to help in any way possible and even do the little bit extra. Anastasia you would see next to Iliana at the registration desk, our 2 radiant and smilling girls! Anastasia was the guardiant of our geekomoney but you know she did the printing of badges of unregistered people when Stathis Agrapidis was not there, and she is the one that brought you the little bit extra stuff for the Saturday party. And she as well would just go get stuff done. And I have no idea how much more she might have done in the weeks before the conference!

Anastasia, THANK YOU so much for being there!

Tolis is another impressing example. Didn’t even know he was coming until the moment he actually showed up! Our Gentoo friends keep surprising me 🙂 Tolis was the guy that made sure there is enough cold beer at the bar, that you are listening to music while relaxing outside by the small pools, and of course he is the one that arranged for your food during the conference! Apart from that he also did some heavy lifting, setting up the venue but also getting stuff out when we were done. Alex and Tolis are the 2 people that helped me quite a bit on Monday afternoon to collect our stuff, put it in the right boxes and put the boxes in the right car.

THANK YOU, Toli for being there out of the blue and taking initiative to do all that stuff!

My next Gentoo friend, Pavlos. You should all know him by now, because the is the one that made our promo videos. What you might not know is that he is also the one that made one of our our conference roll up banners (the one we had onsite during oSC13) along with same design flyers, which we used to promote our event in other events and communities. Pavlos also undertook the great responsibility of working with me for artwork stuff, when it came to the flyers and the banner. Getting the flyer done was fairly easy (I mean he did all of the work!), but the resizing for the roll up ended up being a challenge. And we had very tight deadlines, too little time to do everything because we wanted the banner ready before we would leave for our national greek FOSS conference. As expected, trouble was found during printing and again Pavlos had to run and finish everything in time! I mostly thank him for that, because pre-conf promo is important and even though Henne worked on promo material a lot too, at that point people were still working for oSC13 in a more relaxed way.
Pavlos learned his lesson, so during oSC13 he was part of the video team and stayed away from me.

THANK YOU, Pavlo for working with us since the very beginning and maintaining tight deadlines 🙂

Another Gentoo friend, Dimitris (aka Skiarxon) is one of the people I want to extend my thanks to. The months leading up to the conference you wouldn’t have seen him active, but I would always bother him on IRC in private and have him help me with some important stuff we had to write down (such as official emails to get our awesome internet connection at the venue, and that’s only one single example). I believe this work is very important (just as important it is to do it fast, really fast). Dimitris was part of the video team too, well we were preparing him for that since oSC12 as he was there too and literally did not leave his video post for a min. I am pretty sure he did some extra work with Tolis outside at the bar. And he is one of they ones staying for cleaning up on Monday.

So big THANK YOU to you too Dimitri!

Henne, wrote a thank you article to our volunteers in news, but he obviously did not thank himself.
Well… Henne quitely worked on several stuff all that time before oSC13. He didn’t make much noise about it, he just got things done! Our lovely website was a creation he started (even though it was not his task to do so, but he still stepped up and did it when time came). And what you might not know is that, Henne did all the scheduling of the talks and workshops you attended. And that includes some severe last-minute changes that were a true nightmare.
And I am so thankful Henne was there to take care of it, because even though Program Committee started as a really strong team with Robert leading the action, in the end it was practically me and Henne left with the chaos of finalizing accepted proposals and putting them in a schedule for our attendees – and at the same time me, along with Kostas, as local organizers, we had to talk to a hundred people and arrange for local stuff.
In addition to all that, Henne prepared our posters for the boards we had at the venue. I liked them very much! I hope that Henne, you equally liked them printed in one piece, instead of putting the A4’s together 🙂

So, Henne, THANK YOU for being there and getting stuff done!

Last but definitely not least, I want to thank Juergen and Lars. They arrived on Monday in Thessaloniki with the sole goal to take care everything related to network and video. Well it sounds easy and simple but it’s a chaos only they could attend to. They are 2 people that had really a looot of work to do during the conference. I am not sure how much you manage to enjoy from the conference, but I am sure your work has made it possible for all of us to enjoy it a bit more. Thank you both for your patience and dedication, it has been really important to us that organized oSC as volunteers for the very first time. Specially thank you to you, Juergen, for answering all of my, often silly, questions and explaining to me all that stuff about video in advance so that we could be prepared. And of course thanks for taking the time to train our volunteers in the video team that do such a hard and good work.
Keep up the good work guys!
THANK YOU so much Juergen & Lars!

Last but definitely not least, Theo, who in fact goes a long way back. Theo is one of the organizers of oSC12 and organizer of Gentoo Miniconf that was cohosted with oSC12. Last year, he made sure that I knew what was coming to me this year that I was an organizer myself! He has been my sounding board for quite some months now (you know, that person to whom you go in order to whine about stuff and express your anger for that supplier that is delaying so much). He also was the perfect combo: past oSC organizer, with knowledge of event planning from previous experience plus knowledge of osc-specific procedures, plus he is greek and on top of that he knows Thessaloniki just as well as I do. And for those that haven’t met him, he is one of those people that can get the job done right. So by definition he kinda became the go-to person whenever I wanted something more “fancy” done. He did not specifically occupy himself with one thing. He was my backup on everything, when I wanted something done but I had to do something else, he knew what to do, how to do it and do it right and tell other people what to do too. He was also useful for stuff outside of the venue that required someone knowing a little bit of Thessaloniki and the streets. Needless to say he did a lot of heavy lifting himself during setting up and tear down (ok, it doesn’t show when you look at him, but trust me he wasn’t off the hook!). When I didn’t make him run around the venue with tasks, he was at the video team. But the real important work he did, as far as I am concerned was being there for the pre-registration party. I haven’t even kept track of the things I had him do that Thursday. And I think he is one of the least visible people that helped with this conference.

And for all that, I THANK YOU so much, Theo!

As far as I am concerned, having capable and efficient people that you can trust is very important. For me is like the magic combo for organizing a successful conference!

And to complete this post, I would like to say a heartfelt THANK YOU to all the people that have worked so hard to make oSC13 possible, there are many more than the ones mentioned in this article and many of them I didn’t have the chance to personally work with, but still a well deserved thank you to all 🙂
And I would also like to thank all those girlfriends that had to endure these last months while their boyfriends were working for the conference. You are our volunteers too! And we thank you ALL!