Unless you’re familiar with the OpenStack way of getting things done, an event called “The Project Teams Gathering” or PTG will probably remind you of something else that may have been misunderstood, “Magic The Gathering” or MTG.
One of these events promote collaboration, community and cross-project creativity, the other is a tradable card game that allows you to battle against friends in imaginary conflicts. I’ll let you guess which one I attended last week (if you know me, it might be hard to guess.)
Typically, this type of event was held in conjunction with the bi-annual OpenStack Summit held in an adjacent building or section of summit conference facility. It used to be called the Developer Summit and seemed to work well at the time, but as the projects grew, as well as the number of attendees, not so much.
As a response to this growing challenge the OpenStack Foundation and more specifically Theirry Carrez sent an email after the Tokyo summit that announced the plans for the concept of a PTG. He explained that this change, to a separate but equal (or better) event, would occur immediately after the Ocata release and be focused on Pike. So, with one extremely long sentence, Theirry explained that the new event would “restore the productivity and focus of the face-to-face contributors gathering, reduce the need to have midcycle events for social bonding and team building, keep the cost of getting all contributors together once per cycle under control, maintain the feedback loops with all the constituents of the OpenStack community at the main event, and better align the timing of each event with the reality of the release cycles.”
In my experience, this PTG did exactly what it was designed to do. Based on what I observed at this first event, the PTG was magical. The way that everyone comes together for a week and makes it a priority to only work on OpenStack projects is the real magic at the PTG (and you didn’t even have to bring trading cards.) I’ve been to quite a few of the Dev Summits but the PTG really provided me with the time to get to know some of the others on my project teams and to have the ability to collaboratively dive deep without interruption. Sure, we all had our laptops, and sometimes, myself included, had to step away for obligations to our employers, but for the most part, I was able to throw myself into my OpenStack projects. Normally at the summit, this wouldn’t have been possible with all of the customer meetings, strategy sessions, dinners, vendor parties, etc.
The PTG also helped enable in-person cross-project collaboration and communication avoiding the oft misunderstood email thread that sends everyone down a rabbit hole. Need someone from Neutron? He’s over there. Need someone from Designate? He’s sitting two chairs away from you on the left, his name is Graham. Awesome sauce. Normally I’d have to run from room to room looking for these folks based on the session that was happening, but at the PTG, most everyone was in organized conference rooms that had plenty of space and you could find pretty much anyone within a few minutes. Groups were welcoming, plenty of places to sit. Coffee, tea and water was in good supply and even the lunches weren’t all that bad.
As far as the Docs Team, we got A LOT done, which is a blessing and a curse since we’ve decided to do a lot this cycle but without the PTG this year it would have taken, at least for me, a lot longer to get my ideas socialized and turned into plans on etherpad.
I think we’ve all agreed, at least in the guides that we need to make sure the “what” and the “why” is completely represented before we dive any deeper into the “how.” Some guides, like the install guides for example are an exception to this rule, however, even those guides need somewhere to point when there needs to be a deeper discussion around why a topic exists and where it fits into the larger picture versus all of the available options. Look for great things in Pike from the Docs team and as usual, if you’re interested in helping, come see us at #openstack-docs or send a message to asettle, bsilverman, darrenc or anyone else on the docs team you may know. We would appreciate the help.
Overall, I think the PTG really brings us back to where this whole thing started, reminds us of what OpenStack really is, it’s the people, not the technology. It’s people with ideas who aren’t afraid to share, others who believe in those ideas, and the community of people who are willing to put everything aside, if just for a little while, to make this amazing project happen.
I’d like to thank the unsung Heros of the PTG for all of their work, especially Erin Disney and the rest of the Foundation Staff for putting this all together at the Atlanta Sheraton Downtown.