Tips/warnings/suggestions for Newcomers
We can read below tips, warnings, suggestions from experienced attendees to you join DebConf19 and have a great event!
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- Bring a computer, join IRC and #debconf on OFTC.I you don't, you miss about half the communication.
- Subscribe to debconf-announce and debconf-discuss mailing lists.
- It's a great opportunity to meet lots of different people and talk about many interesting things.
- Don't do things you don't want or like to do, just because you feel obligated to do them, eg because you got bursaries.
Label your stuff, really
- When trying to do things, you won't fail once, you will fail many times. Don't let this keep you from still trying again.
- Don't be afraid to join people - if you sit alone at a table, they will assume, you want to be left alone, and they will. Not because they don't want to talk to you, but because they respect your privacy.
- If you subscribe for something, be actually there to do it - if you can't, remove yourself, preferably not on very short (like 2 minutes before) notice.
- Take the opportunity to try/do new and crazy stuff. It's never to late to learn something (and it's never too late to have a happy childhood).
- For volunteer debconf work, easiest to join is the video team - they always crave people to record all those talks and to review recorded talks, and they provide training and they are at #debconf-video, btw.
- You are allowed to be in the hacklab, even if you aren't a hacker.
Almost every year, I see people chat online and get along great and then they realised they were both at DebConf and didn't even meet each other. Make a point of saying hi to as many people as possible and put some names to faces, it's an important aspect of DebConf.
Before going to DebConf, learn the extreme basics about what public key infrastructure is about (at least making sure you understand what a public key and a private key is used for), generate your keys before DebConf and participate in the keysigning party. It might sound like something that you think you don't need, but at some point you might want to step up your involvement in Debian and then you might regret not having a key that's trusted by other DDs(also something that I've seen a few times over the last few years).
They are just people like you who aren't being paid for their work at DebConf, and have also traveled a long way and is also tired and have been dealing with all kinds of strange demands since before you got there. Being nice to front desk goes a long way if you ever need help down the line, it's also important to remember that they can be bribed quite easily with local snacks.
Everyone who has been at DebConf has been in at least one BoF where someone really tries hard to prove how clever they are and just can't stop talking about their anecdotes, their opinions, etc without at all contributing to the session. Before you talk, it's important to consider whether it's really contributing to the session, especially if it's not your session and you've already done most of the talking.
- Pay some attention to your talking volume, and if someone asks you to quite it down a little, don't take it personally, even I've been told I'm too loud a few times! (On that note, don't take anything too personally, sometimes someone is just stressed or tide and something comes out worse than they intended it to).
DebConf is made possible by regular people like you who put in lots of volunteer time in order to make it happen. There are many tasks during DebConf that are divisible between attendees which ranges from helping with social activities (like cheese and wine party), putting together swag bags, checking food tickets, video'ing talks and more. When you're on the volunteering system you can sign up for certain slots, so signing up doesn't mean you have to do a job the entire DebConf, try to sign up for at *least* one task while your there, your DebConf experience will be better for it.
As old-fasioned as IRC is, it's a great way to stay up to date with live discussion during DebConf, ideally host your IRC somewhere where your session can stay alive.
- Try to be quiet when you enter/leave your room when your roommate(s) might be sleeping. Clean up after yourself and take them into consideration.
For every person you see at DebConf, there's probably at least another person trying to follow remotely. When you want to speak, make sure you have a microphone so that everyone can hear you, don't say "No it's fine I'll just speak loudly". If you have your laptop with you, check on the room's IRC channel regularly if there are questions/feedback, make notes in gobby. If you run a session, announce both the channel and gobby address at the beginning of the talk. If there's a free projector available, through them both on screen.
- It's tempting to decide on a day trip on the last minute, but rather sign up as early as you can, it helps a lot with organisation. If there's a job fair, go talk to the companies at the desks even if you're not looking to change job now, the networking is still valuable both ways (just don't monopolize their time) and it's interesting to learn more about the organisations that uses Debian and what their needs are. Maybe slightly controversial, but learn to play Mao it will teach you some valuable skills in making it through the NM process.
You can send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org at any time (during DebConf or after). It gets anonymised and dispersed in documentation so that certain problems can try to be avoided or improved on in future DebConfs. Feedback like "You suck!" or "You're awesome!" isn't something that's easy to make action items or notes of for future DebConfs, so try to be specific about what you liked or didn't like about the DebConf. Having been involved for a few years now I like to think that we've improved in a few areas and hopefully that could be sustained.
Look after yourself / take care of yourself. DebConf is so full of impressions, experiences, people, languages, new and fun and exciting things that it can be exhausting. It's perfectly fine to tune out and take a nap or go for a walk or spend some hours in a park or cafe or <insert whatever you need to relax>.
Conferences have a lot of talks and sessions. I have found though that the networking and connections and personal interactions at conferences are far more valuable in the long term than the sessions.
I find that going to a few of the sessions sparks ideas, but that it's way to easy to get overwhelmed by the sessions and not get a chance to actually act on those ideas.
Typically at a conference like this I only make it to one or two actual scheduled sessions a day. I spend the rest of the time brainstorming, talking about sessions, hacking, connecting with people, and processing what I've learned.
Debian is a big family, scattered all over the world. DebConf is our big yearly gathering. It's a great place to listen to others and learn more about Debian, and also to share your ideas and make friends!
- Meet new people, and find out what they're interested in and why they're doing stuff in Debian. There are many many stories, and people will want to hear yours too.
- Don't worry about feeling like an outsider or a newbie. Everybody started somewhere. Debian people are amongst the friendliest and most accommodating people around, so don't be scared to join in.