As organizing team, we gather to evaluate all possible venues that we have contacted. This is important to start planning all logistics. Even that we don’t have final approval yet, we need to start working on preparations.
We came up with several considerations: Conference halls number and capacity, Laboratory number and capacity, internal distance, Internet connection and internal infrastructure, facilities for guest regarding lunch area and catering, availability of food places in campus or near by for people attending the event, public transportation service and walk distance from the nearest bus stop, support staff available and finally media liaison for promoting the event. About supporting staff, we will like to have students from tourism degree. This is to avoid someone interested on the conference to been entangled with things to do and not been able to attend conferences or hacks.
We looked at UAM and considered that the walking distance from the nearest bus stop is a long walk. There is a very nice food court within campus, but the capacity is limited. It is easy to find the ways in the university as there is good signalization and short distances. There are few places nearby to eat, all with a long walk and most of them with prices ranging from medium to high. The conference hall capacity and labs is low. Although there is plenty of small conference rooms, there is shortage in labs. We are not sure about internet connection, but they have a very good internal infrastructure. We should look for external catering. There is no special place for lunch, but sure enough they can provide a class room. There is a pending item about Saturday, they were asking to not have activities on that day. It is unsure the support in staff and linking with the media.
Then we went to evaluate UNAM. The bus stop is right on the campus, but it has limited number of lines serving that bus stop. They have several big conference halls, but few small labs. The distances are ;ong between buildings, most building are called by numbers but the order need a bit of familiarization and there is no signalization. They have good internet connection, but the internal infrastructure is mostly directed to labs and staff. We can secure a class room for lunch, but we need to hire external catering. There is plenty of small places to eat at low cost within the campus and nearby the bus stop. It is unlikely that we can arrange supporting staff or help with media.
UCA was our best pick. Plenty of conference halls in different sizes, plenty of laboratories in different sizes, even at least one of them with Linux. The word is that it has Fedora installed, not sure it will be the same this year as they usually work with CentOS. Walking distances in the campus are long with low signalization. There are several small places to eat on the campus and nearby. Lunch must be in a classroom or under a tent, if we decide for hiring external catering. There are several restaurants that are in reasonable distance. They have good internet connection, but they have some weird setup for the internal network. One internal fiber optic link with commercial grade wifi access points, restricted bandwidth and close ports and most of the time overcrowded. At any rate any wireless communication is overcrowded, may be 3G, Wimax and even there is drops on cellphone calls. It is possible to have support staff. The external communication department can arrange a media plan for us with appointments in radio and TV, most likely we will be going without university staff. The bus stop is next to the university and there is plenty of lines serving that bus stop. They have an extra, they will link academic staff to propose talks for the event. This can go either way, good talks or talks just for fulfilling a requisite. All this went down as the asked for a monetary contribution for using the campus. There was an agreement to not publish prices, but it will take a good share of our budget.
Last it came UCC. This is a small university, every building is easy to finger point. Their conference hall is mid size, the have a second conference hall and some small conference rooms. The have some medium size labs. We are unsure about the internal internet infrastructure, although they have a internal fiber optic ring. The have a good internet connection. There is a nice place with picnic tables that can be used for lunch. They have a big place for lunch within the campus, and they can provide us lunch if we arrange that before hand. There are many small places to eat nearby. We can even choose to go to restaurants for lunch, as there are some in reasonable distance. The nearest bus stop has a long walk to the university, but the bus stop has plenty of lines serving it. They want to provide support staff, and they want to work side by side in the communication plan. This may end up that any TV or radio visit will be escorted by a university staff, which is not bad.
In the end we are moving from UCA to UCC for our event. It is not as big and fancy as UCA. The provide nice in house eating option, for us and for people attending the event. There are many business nearby, like banks, computer stores, mobile cell phone offices, office supply stores, convenience stores and supermarket. UCC has sponsor some free software events in the past. They are showing commitment to work side by side to make this a success, not only a working agreement for using facilities of the campus. We had split decision before the UCA asked for money. After we went all in favor of UCC. There is still the concern about the walking distance and also the main street of the neighborhood has rush hours near 8:00am , noon and 5:00pm. Delays in transportation can be expected, both for public and our guest transportation.
We have to formalize a working agreement. Part of this will be a visit from all the organizing team to see the venue. Now that we have settle venue, we can start to look for lodging options that are in reasonable distance or provide transportation options for our guests.