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Video Video: Paul "Froggy" Schneider's Hard-Won Wisdom For Conference Organizers 35

Cleveland-based programmer Paul Schneider, better known both online and in person as Froggy, first organized Notacon after trips to HOPE and other hacker cons gave him the idea; there weren't any gatherings like it in Cleveland at the time, and attending HOPE cost more in money and time than many locals would have been willing to justify for a weekend. Froggy sensed there was a big enough community in Cleveland of hackers, musicians, artists and others to support one, though. So he wrangled space, put out the word, and lined up enough presentations to make it happen. Now, Notacon's been going on for nine years straight (and year 10 is already in the works). In that time, Froggy's developed some thoughts about how to pull off organizing a gathering that involves hundreds of people at a time — and not just any people, but ones with soldering guns, nerf guns, fencing sabers, a lot of electrical equipment, and sometimes (egads!) even children. Froggy is quick to credit the dozens of people — about 20 core staff, and others with smaller but important roles — who also take part in planning and running the conference. Finding hard-working, like-minded souls may be the most universal part of his advice on running a similar event; watch the video interview for more.
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Video: Paul "Froggy" Schneider's Hard-Won Wisdom For Conference Organizers

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  • what makes that guy tic...

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @09:40AM (#39793853)

    If you post a transcript, I'll scan it. Don't have time for video, SlashDot.

    • When you're done scanning it [] could you post the result? PNG preferred, but JPEG at high quality (disable chroma subsampling, please - it's so harsh on subpixel-rendered fonts) would be acceptable as well.

    • by johnnyb ( 4816 )

      I'm the opposite. I can have video on while cooking breakfast, but I can't very well read and code at the same time.

    • If you post a transcript, I'll scan it. Don't have time for video, SlashDot.


  • by Avatar8 ( 748465 ) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @10:32AM (#39794503)
    You can also learn and practice conference leadership, organization, funding and logistics skills through Toastmasters. []
  • Transcript (Score:5, Informative)

    by QuasiSteve ( 2042606 ) on Wednesday April 25, 2012 @10:32AM (#39794509)

    Title: Paul 'Froggy' Schneider Talks About the Excitement of Putting a Hacker Conference Together
    Description: Froggy has organized the annual notacon hacker event for nine years and, even though the 2012 notacon just ended, is already hard at work planning notacon 10. If you ever plan to put together an IT get-together or conference, you should watch this video first.

    00:00) <TITLE>
    A still view of the interviewee, Paul 'Froggy' Schneider' appears in greyscale and fades into color video as the SlashdotTV logo bar reads "Paul 'Froggy' Schneider talks about the thrills and chills of putting together the Notacon conference". Below the logo bar is the Notacon web address:

    00:05) Timothy>
    So, Froggy, congratulations on a fun conference.

    00:07) Froggy>
    Thank you very much!

    00:07.5) Timothy>
    How did you get into running a hackercon?

    00:10) Froggy>
    Well, I got into attending hackercons in 2000 when I attended my first Hackers On Planet Earth (HOPE) conference, sponsored by 2600 New York City.
    Then I started going to other local conferences like Rubi-Con, which took place in and around the Detroit area.
    When that ended, I felt there was a hole that needed to be filled.
    There was a market that needed to be served, there were people that needed this event.
    So - foolishly, since I didn't know any better - I thought "Well, how hard can it be?"
    You know, I'd been to some really bad events before, and I'm like "I can do this just as well as anybody else. So let's make it happen, let's find the right people and see what we can do to do it differently."

    00:52) Timothy>
    What has turned out to be your least favorite part of that process?

    00:55) Froggy>
    The least favorite has always been trying to figure out how to pay for it.
    Money is not something I like to worry about a whole lot.
    I'd rather focus on the technology and the community aspects, and doing cool stuff.
    So figuring out how to pay for it has always been really hard.
    Because I want everybody who wants to attend to have the ability to attend.

    01:18) Timothy>
    Well, on that front, what's the most satisfying aspect?

    01:22) Froggy>
    Seeing people discover.
    I'd like to say at Notacon there's 2 or 3 talks, or things that you're into that you know about, and there's 6 to 12 things that you didn't even know existed that you want to learn about now.
    Seeing that process of discovery, or seeing that person who learned to solder for the firs time, or who wrote their first bit of demo code - seeing them experience that discovery process is fascinating, and it's really, really rewarding.

    01:52) Timothy>
    You put a lot of time into this conference, can you quantify that at all?

    01:56) Froggy>
    I've been on the plate for the past 1.5 years, so I've been doing this basically full-time.
    Over the past 1.5 months I've probably put in 200 hours of work.
    I get up in the morning, work on it, and go to sleep.
    But throughout the year I would say, I myself, probably put in 200-300 hours of work, and my wife puts in just as much time.

    02:19) Timothy>
    You credit a lot of people obviously, in your brochure or program, with how much help they did.
    How do you divvy that work up - how do you delegate it?

    02:30) Froggy>
    My management philosophy in general has always been to let people do what they do best, and get out of the way.
    So I try to run kind of an enlightened despotism where there is a strict hierarchy, but we decentralize it as much as possible, and empower people in their particular areas whether it's network or demo parties or locksport[?].
    I give them the power and the trust to do what they do best, and they know that they can come back to me and say "Hey, here's what I need, here are the problems I'm having", and then I can work on that from there.
    So I try to sh

    • Thank you, you've just saved me 8:30 minutes.

      Videos have an extremely sucky information-to-time ratio.

  • I miss RubiCon....
    • Try 1 more click of elevation and two more clicks of left windage to put the rounds on target.
    • by sinnergy ( 4787 )

      I loved Rubi-Con the 3 years I attended. While Notacon is in some way an homage to it, I am well aware that Rubi-Con was a completely unique con.

  • by Guspaz ( 556486 )

    As senior management of a con about thirty times larger than notacon, I can say that there's nothing particularly bad about the advice he's giving, although there's nothing particularly insightful there either.

    • by sinnergy ( 4787 )

      I agree. I would have loved additional time to think about and clarify what I wanted to communicate. Unfortunately the only good time to talk on camera was during clean-up, when my brain was already fried and sleep deprived!

      Sometimes I think I should document my experiences in writing, until I realize others have done so in the past and did so better than I could ever hope to do myself.

  • This was interesting, its about nerds and gives a perspective that not all of us understand.... What would have taken it over the top would have been adding actual clips from the con, like that starship bridge thing, and maybe some demonstrations in action, not that Froggy's not an interesting guy but I read his shirt and the cleanup crew in the background weren't all that interesting to watch for the whole time.

    More nerd stuff please.

    • by sinnergy ( 4787 )

      That's a really great point. We do release all of our recorded presentations on line after the event, but woefully lack any real documentation of what goes on outside of the talks. If someone is willing to act as event historian or documentarian, I would certainly welcome their input and go out of my way to accommodate them.

  • Anime conventions have been doing gatherings for a while successfully.

    I only point to Otakon, since it's the anime con whose practices I'm most familiar . This con started with a few guys putting some seed money together and frankly losing money, because of insurance and liability costs that sometimes need to be acquired for larger venues. Then they went non-profit and things were greatly improved. Also the philosophy was very similar to most other conventions as how to run it.

    - Elect your corporate

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.