Forum .LRN Q&A: Announcement: .LRN Spring Meeting in Heidelberg (2004)
Date: Friday the 23rd of April 2004.
As we slowly start to think about what we actually want to happen at the meeting we would love to hear suggestions and have people get involved in the planning (especially if they want to champion a .LRN project or cause to be discussed at the meeting). We want to make sure the meeting is as open as possible.
We are planning to hold the meeting in a building with 1-2 larger rooms for eventual talks and a few smaller rooms where existing and potential sub-projects, cooperations, and whatever anyone wants to talk about can be discussed face-to-face. We will make more announcements as our plan solidifies.
The day after the conference we will provide infrastructure for an OpenACS meeting, where anything and everything can happen. We could also organize a large room full of computers for a bug fest on Sunday and/or a boot camp (anyone interested?).
- We need to have a demo session of .LRN in German (if you think about getting champions from ASG (Austria, Swiss, Germany) region).
- It would be great to talk about data interchangeability (e.g. SCORM) and assessment system.
- How about a feedback form, asking users about their most important needs at the beginning and reask at the end, how OpenACS fared to fullfill their needs.
- If you are aiming for a bigger crowd, we should distribute the announcement across the GI (Gesellschaft für Informatik) lists (Michael should now, I can help as well). All parties with an interest in .LRN should invite their educational contacts.
- We might also channel this also through a press release. There are quite some educational magazines out there and maybe we can even make it into some events calendars. Best to work with the press department of the university here, but I assume some of us have also press contacts which could be useful.
- How about a meet and greet evening activity where we would open the chance for people with similar interests to meet up (e.g. by going through their feedback forms). You already got the rooms, but I would not focus them on "technical" projects. I'd assume a session on "how do I convince my IT department" would also be of quite some interest.
- I'm not sure a bootcamp of one day will yield many results, but maybe we could have a session (two or three hours) on coding standards with examples. One year after Copenhagen we have a released, international version of .LRN with a lot of new features. This Meeting can be really interesting .
Yes, I would be interested and love to get involved with the happening. Unfortunately the date is impossible for me so I can't make it there this time. My heart is breaking but still can't make it :(
For anyone who's wondering whether or not they should attend the meeting the answer is a definitive YES. There won't be many other circumstances where you can meet (and work with) so many smart, warm and positive people at the same time. Having a thriving online community is great, but you'll without question get an extra boost in working with OpenACS from a meeting like this.
I'd still like to see OpenACS people even this spring so if you've got some spare time on March 25th to 26th, have a look at this thread.
- World-wide press release. We will plan a series of local press releases and marketing efforts leading up to the world-wide release of .LRN.
- Consortium. Announcement of a formal .LRN consortium. On the wish list: announcement of a major grant.
Lessons from last year's OpenACS conference (which it seems you've already incorporated):
- Take the chance to get some actual pair hacking done; it's the best way to transfer knowledge and get everyone up to speed.
- Do training, so there's some hand-holding for people who aren't yet OpenACS hackers.
I am really locking forward to that. Malte you are right. A day boot camp is not very effective. But does anyone of the community see a way to organize something that could become a starting point for folks who want to become developers or worker bees? This might be a good start to define a concept on how knowledge could be transferred.
If others bring along their local brews, we can set up a tasting session before we head out to discover the Heidelberg brews.
What was the reason for the meeting again?
i like the items (press, marketing, consortium) you have
mentioned very much and would like to extend them a little
for the consortium we will neeed regular meetings including
election meetings. can we discuss about .LRN meetings on
a regular basis like "every half year, spring in dear old
Europe and atumn in Amerika"? This way we may get into some
of the important event calendars.
P.S. Some people have already shown their hands on wanting
to run the next european meeting.
Dates are solid and thanks to Michael's connections within the University we will be having the seminar in a royal venue (literaly).
We were able to reserve some rooms in what used to be the castle stables.
This stronghold makes up part of the ancient city walls, is on the bank of the idyllic Neckar river, and there is a student tavern with Heidelberg beer on tap on premises.
We will have a tower room in addition to two larger rooms for talks (with walls at least 1 meter thick to help with concentration).
So here is the plan so far:
Friday the 23rd of April we will likely start at around 10 A.M. (so people from Germany do not necessarily need to spend the night) and will stop when it makes sense. The focus on Friday is .LRN and all things related. It is likely that Friday will be more structured than the following day(s).
Saturday the 24th of April the focus will be OpenACS and will be very free form and dependent on the people there.
Sunday-Thursday possibly some sort of boot camp type thing (and facilities for any OpenACS hackers that want to work on things face-to-face). The boot camp part is still rough and will depend on volunteers and organizational support from outside of Heidelberg. I can provide computer facilities (computer pool, servers, and beamers for presentations) at the medical faculty and Michael will back me up if we need more (e.g. more rooms at the computer center). This part needs to be discussed and the focus here will be on people wanting to actually get into the code behind OpenACS/.LRN and build packages. If there are institutions interested in helping sponsor materials for this and maybe even jetting in a good teacher please contact me so I get a feel for what is possible (one possible funding model is having attendees from institutions pay a fee that will be applied towards boot camp learning materials).
So, we should have information about accommodations and registration soon. We will be covering the costs for the first day (e.g. food and refreshments) and the second day will be very informal (probably no official catering, but a nice place next door to get something to eat and things for people to munch and sip on)
Okay... enough for now. Just wanted to get the dates out there for people coming from overseas so they can get tickets now.
I will try to to Heidelberg this year. I would love to meet you all guys!
"or the consortium we will neeed regular meetings including
election meetings. can we discuss about .LRN meetings on
a regular basis like "every half year, spring in dear old
Europe and atumn in Amerika"? This way we may get into some
of the important event calendars."
How about Australia every once in a while
I hope to see people from E-Lane show up as well.
I am not alone in my belief that both your team and E-Lane are powerful arms we have won that are going to help make .LRN a success in the near future in more places than it already is.
We just need to make sure that we sync up our visions for the future and avoid duplication of effort (showing up in Heidelberg would make it easier).
P.S. Australia once in a while would be great!
We should have online registration up within the next few days at the same address.
Arrival will be afternoon the 22nd.
Looking forward seeing you!
as e-lane, we would like to have a short presentation...
Our group would also like some time to show what we are doing.
We will make time for 2-4 presentations on the first day (Friday). I will get a preliminary agenda up for Friday later this week for discussion. Will also work on some more specific hotel recommendations (have been multiple requests).
If needed presentations and smaller meetings can overflow into the next day (Saturday) along with more technical demos and focus meetings (e.g. assessment). The second day will be informal and organized by participants based on the successful OpenACS meeting in Copenhagen. The Bug Bash will start on Sunday and end Monday (Joel Aufrecht will be running this). There will be a training course that will last 2-3 days for OpenACS newbies (the speed of course completion will depend on the progress of the students). There will be time from Saturday to Wednesday for informal meetings and discussions about present and future projects.
Please let me know if you have any problems.
several of us from the Madrid E-LANE team plan to go to the .LRN meeting in Heidelberg.
We can make some presentation. Is there a more concrete schedule planned for Friday?
Also, I would welcome some hotel recommendation in order not to be too scattered.
Thanks and kind regards,
1) TO move the ".lrn gardens" project the next step, as outlined by Nima in the last entry there (http://openacs.org/forums/message-view?message_id=167160):
---------excerpt from Nima's post -------------------------
2.1 First step
A dummy page is created using existing material to define a consistent style that can cover about 80% of what is described above without a single change required inside the packages.
The materials include:
* default-master template for the layout elements we have
* forms.css and lists.css for the builders we have
* default-master.css for the standard elements required for the site
The resulting dummy page will include most of what is required in the site and serve as test case for
* consistency of look & feel for all styles
* consistency for all style classes defined for the site
At this stage we will have a proof of concept which can be discussed broadly in the community.
------------end of excerpt from Nima's post --------------------
2) To improve the organization and documentation for newbie hackers like myself and those that will follow us who want to customize the dotlrn interface. At present, I navigate to (1) "site-wide administration," (2)"Developer's Admin", and to customize the front page I am delivered to (3)"Using templates in OpenACS", and failing to comprehend that (I am "differently abled"), I click (4)"Learn More: OpenACS Documentation", then (5)"Learning OpenACS", choose the simplest of the choices, (6)"Help Configuring an OpenACS Site", and then find some otherwise VERY friendly and helpful advice on the things I want to do but written for people with more programming experience and patience than me. Please don't get me wrong, this is good stuff for probably 99% of the programmers implementing dotlrn over the past year, but my concern is for the next year, including non-programmers like myself and my three professor clients who have been happy using dotlrn 1.0, who signed up to use 2.0, and who want to customize it next week -- but will wait three weeks more because I've asked them to and because showing them how to fiddle with the wonderful translator/messages feature will keep them busy until then. I want them to click at step 1) and find a tutorial that will help them put up their class logo, install and start using the photo album and lars blogger, and move things around -- in ways we will discover as soon as we make it easy for them do so so.
My business plan, and the one I think might help our cause, includes getting such "early adaptors" hooked, help them "own" the technology by helping them make it their own, and more generally, developing implementations that include a research component that might lead the way to needs assessments / interaction designs based on a finely-grained analysis of uses by those who are using it. I want them to be able to redesign their pages like they organize their desktops and notebooks. Dotlrn does this already to a wondeful degree, and its success in doing so invites more flexibility yet!
Hence, I want to rewrite the otherwise excellent "edit-this-page" and subsite building documentation for my early adapters so I/they can better grasp the learning/interface problem, and having done so, be better positioned and eager to argue for and eventually hire "real programmers" -- like those who write the first generation dotlrn documentation -- to build the next generation functionality.
My hunch is that when Joel, or any of the other wonderful openacs wizards I've had the pleasure of getting to know, walks me through the "How Do I" (http://openacs.org/doc/openacs-HEAD/how-do-I.html) documents, I'll "get it" quickly, in a few hours have a decent grasp and enough to find my way, and from there might be able to figure out how to rewrite the documentation for mere mortals.
That is, I'm trying to figure out what would interest me AND what might contribute to the community at the same time. Here are two suggestions: I'm hoping some people will sign up for both AND will come up with others I might sign on to help with, too. What do you all say?
1) Now that we've reduced the Priority 1 and Priority 2 bug lists down to the nitty-gritty things that can't generally be fixed in a bash, we can start on the Priority 3 bugs and the non-core bugs.
2) Documentation for tclwebtest-based tests is almost complete - we could start writing tclwebtest tests for the core modules.
I'd add performance testing.
it is wonderful that you are going to be able to come. Due to the nature of Heidelberg (small, ancient, beautiful, and packed into a tight valley) there are a lot of small hotels and lots of tourists. We have added more information to this page: http://dotlrn.org/events/2004-heidelberg/ on lodging. The most efficient way to find a hotel at this point is to call the visitor's office and having them help you reserve a room (I talked to them just this afternoon and there are still rooms available and they are happy to give general info in addition to actually reserving the rooms +49-6221-142224).
We also put up some more event registration pages where you can sign up for additional gatherings (e.g. Dinner). At this point it is important to sign up for the .LRN event and/or OpenACS event so that you will receive general bulk mails we might be sending out as the dates approach.
Sign up now (e.g. our social coordinator has organized two dinners at two different Heidelberg breweries where spots might be limited).
I will be working with Sloan on getting up the specifics of the .LRN meetings this week, with a preliminary posting of "the source" of the agenda here for suggestions and modifications.
Joel, the plan sounds good. On one of the Mon-Wed days some of us may want to gather for another day of .LRN-specific bashing.
How much money should I bring along? Cash, traveler's checks? How plentiful are ATMs? I have already verified with my bank that my ATM card will work, and I have the big three credit cards as well.
What sort of weather should we be prepared for?
We hear that "everyone in Europe speaks English these days" but I suppose that's not universally true. If I need to ask directions, find a bathroom :), etc, how likely am I to be able to do that in English?
How long does it typically take from plane landing to picking up luggage when we return? How much screening are they doing on this end?
Any other travel wisdom to share?
>How much money should I bring along? Cash, traveler's checks?
Enough to get to Heidelberg (by train) and get out of trouble if you need too (50-100 Euro cash should do it). You can buy your train tickets with credit card in Germany.
>How plentiful are ATMs?
All over the place (but know the pin numbers: the order of the alphabet on the numeric key pad is different or missing all together -> friend of mine who spelled his PIN out using the alphabet and caused his card to be blocked by messing up more than twice in a row)
>I have already verified with my bank that my ATM card will work, and I have the big three credit cards as well.
You should be fine. Plentiful ATMs make traveler's checks more of a hassle than a help.
>What sort of weather should we be prepared for?
Spring weather. Sunny, possible spring rain shower, cool, not cold.
>We hear that "everyone in Europe speaks English these days" but I suppose that's not universally true. If I need to ask directions, find a bathroom :), etc, how likely am I to be able to do that in English?
Very likely (also: English is just a German dialect anyway so you should be fine).
>Any other travel wisdom to share?
Take as little as possible with you and do not panic, things tend to work out here too.
The Euro costs $1.20, the fancy evening dinners planned by Carl cost 20-30 Euros, lunches 10-15, so I'd plan $60. per day for the power meals on Friday and Saturday and $45. for the rest. Breakfast will be served at your hotel. If I were you I'd pay for the hotel with credit cards, but buy AMEX travelers checks for the meals as we will be eating many meals in large groups and asking the waiters to process 6-12 credit cards is no fun. You know you will spend x per day eating, so bring the cash. Plus, if you buy AMEX checks in Euros, you will probably get a better rate than your credit cards will give you. Nonetheless, you will find machines that take MC/VISA with pin all over the touristy city centers, and I've seen visiters like yourself lose their credit cards in machines and discover that their colleagues are quite willing to extend credit.
Bring a face cloth as the hotels will offer only lots of big towels, and a plastic bag to put it in the last morning. If you like to exercise, bring your swimsuit or running shorts; your hotel will likely let you know where the closest pool or gym is. Bring a half-liter water bottle to keep filled from the tap. I always carry 50 cent pieces for restaurants, in tourist areas, that charge for using the toilet. The German word for "toilet" is "toilette," and this one word with sufficient need and 50 cents will open just about any door for you. You probably know to drink a half liter of water per hour on the airplane, stay away from alcohol on the plane, don't watch the movie but instead put the eyeshades on as soon as possible, and sleep as much as you can on the overnight trip over as the morning will arrive sooner than you can imagine and you need that dark for your internal clock. I bring one of those inflateable pillows and ear plugs, stick my head in both from the start, show up for the plane two hours ahead of time, and do everything I can reduce the stress so that I might actually be coherent and functional and have fun the day I arrive. Build in plenty of extra time. Bring a pair of thick wool socks to wear on the airplane. As soon as the plane doors close look for three free center seats where you might sleep on the floor as keeping level as almost as good as keeping the feet up. Wear loose shoes as your feet will swell. My wife does all of this but thinks the only thing to be done, and to look forward to, is to let some big strong man (me) carry all the bags, open the windows, buy the food, while she takes a hot bath and goes immediately to bed, so that at noon, she can go to sleep and sleep until the next day at noon. Best to travel a day early. No matter how well prepared you are, an no matter the promises of all manner of advertising, the chances are very good you will be delayed. Count on it, and arriving on time will be a wonderful suprise.
Bring layers: a light sweater, a heavier sweater, a thin jacket (especially waterproof) and an umbrella as EVERY conference I've gone to in the springtime in Germany has featured at least one refreshing shower. When I'm travelling long distances to strange places I'm always either too hot or too cold. Bring lots of extra underwear, a new toothbrush, and lotion to keep the face from drying out on the plane. Don't eat garlic the day before. Plan on being searched in the U.S. at least three times, and if you are not happy about that, plan on being searched a fourth time. When in earshot of security people, put all ironic comments on hold.
If you are flying to Frankfurt, the train to Heidelberg leaves from the airport every half hour and costs 22 EUR each way, with a discount if you buy a round trip ticket. The travel time Frankfurt/Heidelberg is 52 minutes, trains leave every half hour :53 and :20. At Frankfurt you follow the signs to the trains at the basement level, but as you go look for the "DB" or Deutsche Bahn sign to buy your ticket.
Everyone who goes to university speaks English well, many of the 70% who do not typically speak it poorly. Many businesses, like hotels and clerks in big train stations put English speakers at the desk, college student waiters speak it, but your bus driver will likely not speak English so well and be happy to take your 2 Euro plus change from your outstretched hand. Some people who work for trains and subway systems just don't like foreigners and tourists and will play dumb: if that happens to you, you can tell right away, so just go to the next station or take the next bus. I suspect Heidelberg is friendlier, by and large, then my adopted Berlin, where the city's arrogance is worn as a badge of honor.
Beware that thumb-sized bus and train tickets need to be stamped by you in machines on the train tracks before you get on the train: regular tickets (about 4x7 inches) will be punched by the conductor.
You need not worry about your personal safety, but don't leave valuables in hotel rooms. The hotel desk will mind your laptop and probably lock up your wallet and passport if you asked them; if you much checkout by 11am but want to leave your bags until the afternoon, the desk will mind them for you, too. There are two more things you should look out for. First, watch out when getting on and off busses and subways: those moments when everyone is in motion, surveillance is obscured, and you have only strangers as company. I've seen purses snatched at the JFK or BOS airports, getting on and off busses, precisely as I have seen them snatched on the stairs going down into the subways here: the sidewalks and platforms are safer, for the eyes are on the street as Jane Jacobs famously said, but movement is distracting, and there are all sorts of criminal gangs who want your passport and credit cards and, like the people on the street hiding the coin under one of three cards, they know precisely when you will be distraced and can make their move: they will snatch your purse, ship it to Portugal by courier after courier, and use it repeatedly before you even know it is gone and have called your bank: they do not want to injure you, they just want to play the credit system. This is not Russia, where you have to worry about a blow to the head. You don't have to worry about the sntaching of purses in cafes, right out in the open, as they do in Italy and Spain, but I would keep my hands or feet on my bags. Most of the violence against foreigners here is to the asylum seekers who are stuck in poor districts next to the skinheads, or if you end up in nowheresville on Friday night when the local boys have been drinking. Breakfast in big fancy hotels can be dangerous, too: don't leave your laptop or purse unattended on your table while you go to the buffet. I don't mean to scare you: as in the U.S., most of the criminals are either already in jail or in elected office! The greatest threat to your health will be the cigarette smoke and the schmalz. The people you meet will see that you are a tourist, will be on their best behavior, and go out of their way to help you. Except when I go to wierd places to photograph, I feel much more comfortable in cities here than I do in many American cities, and for good reason: they are, statistically speaking, much safer: there is less social inequality, more police, and for most of your trip you will be living in a wonderfully protected tourist bubble.
As for your baggage question: I count on 45 minutes from the time the plane lands until the bags arrive at the end of the belt. Mark your bag on all sides with silver or red tape as . I know that only 1% of bags are lost, but many more are delayed: carry your laptop, drugs, toothbrush and at least a change of underwear in the event your bags are delayed a day (happens often enough). Pack anything that looks like a weapon, including your fingernail clippers and nail files. Security on the way back will not be as obnoxious as the U.S. (where they seem to scrutinize your soul), but I would still plan to be at the airport two hours early, if only to reduce stress, and so you might read something you've always wanted to read, like "Design Patterns" by the Gang of Four, or if you are have a life, Christopher's "The Timeless Way of Building:" surround yourself with cotton wool, go into a time warp, buy your way out of discomfort: do everything you can to reduce the noise, thirst, anxiety, of what is a routine, industrial transportation process, to a minimum, so that you will have the energy and presence of mind, once you finally arrive in Heidelberg, to devote to your colleagues.
I hope you find this advice as helpful as it has been to me in writing it! Looking at it now, I'd say I'm homesick!
All the best,
Is there any more detail yet on exactly which days will contain "bootcamp" training for OpenACS newbies? Earlier comments in this thread suggest Sunday-Thursday but the schedule at http://dotlrn.org/events/2004-heidelberg/#schedule suggests to me that Monday-Wednesday will be the time for this. I am trying to determine which days to attend and this is my primary reason for attending so clarification on this would be immensely helpful.
it will be from Monday to Wednesday.
Will post more information here asap.
you must be homesick. Nice post.
Where are you from? I just "assumed" you were German but if you are homesick I guess you are from somewhere else.
I will probably have more questions as I start packing, but this is a great start. Sorry it took me so long to come back to this thread and acknowledge your post!
The official language will be English.