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Time to think about Warpstock Europe 2006

by Robert Henschel, © February 2006

Robert HenschelRobert Henschel has been an OS/2 user since 1995 and runs the OS/2 User Group Dresden. He is studying computer science at the Technical University of Dresden and works on optimization of programs for SGI and NEC super computers. In 2005, he was chairman of the Warpstock Europe team in Dresden.

Warpstock Europe is one the few events that is dedicated to OS/2 and eComStation. Each year, people from several countries meet for three days to discuss the operating system, programs, and possible fields of application. Since the first Warpstock Europe that took place in Bochum in 1999, this conference has been an integral part of the OS/2 community and there is no reason why that should change!

Warpstock Europe is Important

There aren't many opportunities left for OS/2 and eComStation users to meet in person. Many have organized user groups that usually meet once a month, but, alas, not every area has a user group. Many users and developers underestimate the positive effect a user group can have. It simply feels good to exchange ideas and experiences with fellow users face to face.

Pan-regional events are scarce, and OS/2 users seldom meet at other events. Of course, this is partially because there aren't that many OS/2 users but also a result of a lack of presentation of OS/2-related topics at pan-regional fairs and conferences. One notable exception in Germany is the HobbyTronic where Team OS/2 Ruhr e.V. and Team OS/2 Köln/Bonn e.V. attend with a booth each year. In the Netherlands, we have the "HCC dagen" where Mensys still flies the OS/2 banner. Last year, Netlabs.org was represented at the Systems in Munich.

Larger OS/2 and eComStation events are even more rare! All in all, there are:

Personally, I think that it is extremely important for developers and users to meet each other in person. A community is largely nourished by direct contacts and these simply are easier to make in person than via e-mail or newsgroups. There are many things that can be discussed and solved much more quickly and effectively by talking person to person. Moreover, it often takes personal contact to come up with new ideas, and the eComStation community is in dire need of new ideas and suggestions. In this context a Warpstock Europe seems indispensable to me, and it is time to start thinking about a location for 2006.

How Warpstock Europe 2005 came to Dresden

In the following I'm going to talk briefly about the most important organizational issues of last year's Warpstock Europe. I also hope to show that there is no reason to be afraid of organizing such an event, and that it is worthwhile to be proactive!

As most people probably know, Warpstock Europe 2005 was run by the OS/2 User Group Dresden. We are not a society and have no legal status. The user group meets once a month to discuss OS/2-related topics. We were founded in early 2001.

When I was asked if the User Group would consider organizing Warpstock Europe 2005, I made that decision on two essential issues: First, the location; and second, the event team. At that point for me, all other issues were secondary.

Finding the location was more of an accidental thing. A poll among the members of the User Group showed that one their employers was willing to support us in terms of premises. To hold Warpstock Europe at the Leibniz Institute for Solid State and Materials Research Dresden surely was serendipitous. Nethertheless, I am sure that it is possible to hold such an event at other locations like public educational institutes or hotels. A certain degree of creativity certainly helps when choosing a venue, of course.

The event team is at least as important as the premises. Of course, you can get much running on your own, but in the end, everything becomes easier if the work can be distributed. In Dresden between five and eight people helped prepare the event at any one time. Everyone played a part from attending discussions on the organizational mailing list to helping at meetings.

Preparing for the Conference

What was required to get Warpstock Europe running? Well, personally, I would argue that one should organize things in advance and work on them here and there rather than rush to finish them at the last moment. So we started to meet and write down the requirements of such an event early on. There are quite a lot of things to be considered, and this works best if your group sits down and discusses them. Moreover, making notes about smaller tasks has proven worthwhile as well. Once you have nailed them on paper, or in a Wiki, the chance of something being overlooked, or a task duplicated, becomes less likely. You can regularly scan this list and see what still has to be done. At the organizational meetings, we assigned the remaining tasks or finished them. For further coordination of the team, we used a Wiki and a mailing list. Both were very useful. It may sound trivial but I still would like to emphasize the following general truth: You cannot communicate too much! Communication prevents the same work being done by two people or remaining unfinished.

During the preparation phase, talking to members of past event teams was very helpful. You do not have to start from scratch each time! Many things have stood the test of time, and the past organizers of Warpstock Europe events are willing to share their experiences. This is not going to change, and the OS/2 User Group Dresden heartily agrees.

The biggest organizational issues were:

As far as the premises were concerned, we were lucky to receive excellent support from the IFW. Nethertheless, don't underestimate how much has to be discussed and clarified.

A large part of our time was needed to create the web site. Visitors of Warpstock want to be informed of the details as soon as possible, and we worked to satisfy that demand. We also made the effort of offering nearly the whole web site in both English and German.

Preparing the session schedule turned out to be easier than expected. Well, it's not as if we got deluged with offers for sessions, but politely approaching potential speakers did indeed help in assembling an interesting schedule. As far as exhibitors are concerned, we, well, weren't exactly successful. In the beginning, we had hoped to persuade some commercial exhibitors to attend. Unfortunately, this didn't work out. For future Warpstocks, I could imagine, however, that more exhibitors could be acquired if a stronger effort is made. Communication with speakers and exhibitors is where it can be especially helpful to pick up the phone rather than depend on e-mail. That way, potential problems can be solved more quickly and directly.

Although I presume that every OS/2 and eComStation user has heard of Warpstock Europe, news of the conference has to be released on a regular basis. Many people decide to attend Warpstock Europe at the last moment, but timely information is also important. There are still people who want to mark Warpstock Europe in their calendar well in advance.

What's in store for 2006?

The latter also is an important reason for writing this article! In contrast to North America which has a central organization that promotes Warpstock, a team of people who want to hold Warpstock Europe has to find itself each year. This has advantages and disadvantages, of course. One disadvantages is that nobody takes the initiative and actively pushes the search for a new location. Last year, Roderick Klein from Mensys finally did so and searched for locations to host Warpstock Europe. I have the hope that a group of people who want to do Warpstock Europe 2006 is going to arise without external intervention!

From my own experience I can tell you that the experience of organizing Warpstock Europe is very different from just attending as a visitor. You get to know a lot of people and gain insight into the many tasks required during a conference. Once you have done this as an organizer, you get a completely different perspective when visiting a conference again. I certainly don't want to miss that experience!

Translation: Christian Hennecke
Editing: James Moe

Warpstock US: http://www.warpstock.org
Warpstock Europe: http://www.warpstock.net
Warpstock Czech Republic: http://felis.kky.vslib.cz/CZECH_WARPSTOCK_2005/
OS/2- und eComStation-Entwickler-Workshop: http://wiki.netlabs.org/index.php/Developers_Workshop_2006
OS/2 User Group Dresden: http://warp5.dyndns.org:8080/OS2Dresden
Leibniz-Institut für Festkörper- und Werkstoffforschung Dresden: http://www.ifw-dresden.de