This article is part one of four, each focusing on a different aspect of my trip to Manchester, United Kingdom, for the 2017 edition of the GUADEC conference. Sponsorship from the GNOME Foundation has made it possible for me to attend, thanks a lot!

This one is about the days before the conference. Part 2 is about the talks. Part 3 is about the unconference days and the overall conference experience. Part 4 is about my touristic experience in the country.

Early arrival

My travel experience was unusual as my journeys generally have a first trip from Strasbourg airport to Amsterdam if there is no direct flight to my destination, but this time I flew with Air France via the Charles de Gaulle airport. The first leg was on a TGV from Strasbourg central train station to CDG. Air France was taking care of the whole trip, which means my train had a flight number! I checked in and left my luggage at the Air France desk located in the train station. It felt weird hopping on the train without my suitcase but it’s nice not to have to carry it around. I was handed my plane boarding pass at the train station as well, thus when I arrived at the airport I could just head straight to security check and then to my gate. I reckon this is the first time taking a plane felt that straightforward, so big kudos to Air France. Oh and I was also handed a voucher to redeem a drink on the train, which was definitely appreciated. The only minor let down was the lack of Wi-Fi on the train, but I was still able to hack so all was good.

Then to contrast with the excellent service of Air France I was confronted with that of the British railway companies, as one has to take the train to get from the airport to the city of Manchester. I was welcomed by a few non working ticket vending machines, and a line to the working ones. Next I had to figure out what train would take me to my destination, Manchester Oxford Road. I couldn’t find that information from the displays as the only info they had about each train was the final destination. Not super useful when one doesn’t know the various routes (and given this train station is at an airport, I’m willing to bet a large proportion of the people there are in that situation). I could get a few seconds of attention from a person who was busy checking tickets from people heading to the platforms and they told me which train to look for. While I was waiting on the corresponding platform, I could hear the announcements for the cancellation of three trains I should have taken. A local told us tourists on the pier that it was “typical and expected of British railway companies” and we should just wait for the announcements as eventually there would be a train for us. After an hour at the train station, I finally caught a train and headed to my hotel where I chilled out for a bit and then crashed.

On Wednesday we had a full day board meeting at MadLab. It was productive, but felt too short as we had many items on our agenda we didn’t have time to cover. The board usually meets in person once a year (at GUADEC) and we think it would be good to do it more often, as we get much more done in such a focused event than we do when we have to accommodate other bits of our respective schedules during a standard week. That’s why we hope we can hold a hackfest sometime soon to work on some of our pending tasks.

Amongst the tasks we did do was the election of officers. Nuritzi and Allan retain their positions as Chair and Vice chair. Cosimo and I switched seats, I am now Secretary and he’s Vice secretary. Carlos is taking on the Treasurer role and our outgoing board member Shaun very kindly accepted the position of Assistant treasurer to share his valuable experience with him.

We met on Tuesday at the same location but with our Advisory board this time. This is an opportunity for us to keep them up to date on what the community has been busy with in the past year, and for them to tell us about their work and expectations, but also to discuss amongst themselves ways they could work together towards common goals. If your organization wants to be part of these exchanges and support GNOME, get in touch with us!

As the day ended, I went to check in at the accommodation and then headed to the early bird party at Kro bar. As usual, it was good to see so many familiar faces, but quite a few new ones too!

I collected my badge, grabbed a local beer, chatted with and hugged people as I met them, and even did a really quick interview for our social media. That night was a lot of fun and a good conclusion to those two pre-conference days!