Manchester transport consulation

Manchester council is running a transport survey at the moment.

There’s nothing I like more than ranting into pointless online forms, and here’s an extract from my response:

This lane (from Mad Cycle Lanes of Manchester) is a favourite.

Manchester is not the worst city to cycle in due to having largely quite
wide roads, but cycle infrastructure is almost always an afterthought
with many issues. Most cycle lanes pop in and out of existence, forcing
cyclists into the road at dangerous points. For example London Road
going south just past the A57(m) overpass has a cycle lane which
suddenly ends forcing cyclists to pull out in front of fast-moving
traffic that has just come off a motorway. Cycle lanes sometimes
coexist with tram lines, which is very dangerous as mountain bike wheels
are just wide enough to get stuck in the tram lines. When wet, tram
lines are also very slippery which makes them dangerous to cross on a
bike. I have been injured twice as a result of cycle lanes that cross
tram lines. There are also cycle lanes which go onto narrow stretches of
pavement, for example the corner by London Road Fire Station and
Munroe’s Hotel which is painted to look like a cycle lane but is also
clearly a walk way and is too narrow to function as both. In some places
there are cycle lanes which are rendered useless by cars parking in them
or next to them.

Walking should be the main mode of transport to get around the city. At
the moment walking around takes longer than it should because so much
time is spent waiting at traffic lights.

I actually don’t mind cycling round the city too much, and the traffic jams are actually great for cycle safety because cars generally don’t hit you if they aren’t going anywhere. But the absurdity of our existing cycle infrastructure needs to be recognised.

There are more great examples from round the country here and here.

GUADEC 2017: timeline

After the statistics perhaps you are interested in reading a timeline of GUADEC 2017! In particular you can compare it to the burn down chart from the GUADEC HowTo and see how that interacts with reality.

Of course lots of details are excised from this overview but it gives a general sense of the timings. In some follow up posts I’ll go in more detail about what I think went well and what didn’t. We also welcome your feedback on the event (if you can still remember it 🙂

Summer 2014: At some point during GUADEC 2014 I start going on about doing a Manchester edition.

August 2015: Alberto and Allan both float the idea of doing a Manchester bid with me; it seems like there’s just about enough of a team to go for it. I was already planning to be away in summer 2016 at this point so we decided to target 2017.

Alberto has a friend working at MIDAS who gives us a good start and we end up meeting with the Marketing Manchester conference bureau, the University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University.

The meeting with University of Manchester was discouraging (to be honest, they seemed to be geared up only for corporate conferences rather than volunteer-driven events) but Manchester Metropolitan were much more promising.

Winter 2015: We lost touch with MMU for a few months (presumably as University started back up), but we eventually got a proper contact in the conferences department and started moving forwards with the bid.

Spring 2016: Our bid is produced, with Marketing Manchester doing most of the content and layout (as you might be able to tell). Normally I would worry to see only one GUADEEC bid on the table but, having been thinking about our bid for almost a year already I was also glad that it looked like we’d be the main option.

Summer 2016: GUADEC 2016 in Karlsruhe; Manchester is selected as the location for 2017. Much rejoicing (although I am on a 9000 mile road trip at the time).

August 2016: Talks begin with venue drawing up contracts for venue and accommodation. The venue was reasonably painless to sort out but we spent lots of time figuring out accommodation; the University townhouses required final numbers and payment 6 months in advance of the event, so we spent a lot of time looking into other options (but ended up deciding that the townhouses would be best even though we would inevitably lose a bit money on them).

September 2016: We begin holding monthly-ish meetings with myself, Alberto, Allan and Javier present. Work begins on sponsorship brochure (which complicated by needing to coordinate with GNOME.Asia and potentially LAS), talks continue with venue.

December 2016: Contracts finally signed for venue and accommodation (4 months later!), conference dates finalized. We apply for a UK bank account as an “unincorporated association”. Discussion begins about the website, we decide to hold off on announcing the dates until we have some kind of website in place.

January 2017: Basic website finished, dates announced. Lots of work on getting the registration system ready. We begin meeting each week on a Monday evening. Initial logo made by Jakub and Allan.

February 2017: Trip to FOSDEM, where we put up a few GUADEC posters. Summer still seems a long way off. Codethink sponsorship confirmed. We start thinking about keynote speakers. Javier and Lene look into social event venues, including somewhere for the 20th birthday party(with hearts already set on MOSI). The search for new Executive Director for GNOME finally comes to a close with Neil McGovern being hired, and he soon starts joining the GUADEC calls and helping out (in particular with the search for sponsors, which up til now has been nearly all Alberto’s work).

March 2017: After 4 months of bureaucracy, our bank account finally approved. After much hacking and design work, we can finally open registration and the call for papers. We have to finalize room numbers at the University already, although most rooms are still unbooked. Investigation into getting GNOME Beer brewed (which ended up going nowhere, sadly). Requests for visa invites begin to arrive.

April 2017: Lots of planning for social events, the talk days and the unconference days. PIA sponsorship confirmed. Posters being designed. Call for papers closes, voting begins and Kat starts putting together the talks schedule.

May 2017: Birthday planning with help from the engagement team (in particular Nuritzi). The University temporarily decide that we’ll have to pay staff costs of £500 per day to have the canteen open; we do a bunch of research into alternatives but then we go back to the previous agreement of having the canteen open with just a minimum spend. Planning of video recording and design. Schedule and social events planning.

June and July 2017: Continual planning and discussion of everything. More sponsors confirmed. Allan does prodigious amounts of graphic design and organizing printing. Travel sponsorship finally confirmed and lots of visa invitation requests start to arrive. Accommodation bookings continue to come in, along with an increasing amount of queries, changes and cancellations that become quite time-consuming to keep track of and respond to. Evening events being booked and finalized, including more planning of the birthday party with Nuritzi. Discussions of how to make sure the conference is inclusive to newcomers. Water bottles, cake and T-shirts ordered. Registrations keep coming in until we actually hit and go over 200 registrations. We contact volunteers and come up with a timetable.

Finally, the day before GUADEC we collect the last of the printing, bring everything to the venue and hole up in a room on the 2nd floor ready to pre-print names on badges and stuff the lanyard pouches with gift bags. We discover two major issues: firstly the ink on the badges gets completely smudged when we run it through the printer to print a name on it; and secondly the emergency telephone number that we’ve printed on the badges has actually been recycled as the SIM card was inactive for a while and now goes through to some poor unsuspecting 3rd party.

guadec-badges.jpgWe lay out all the badges to try and dry the ink out but 3 hours later the smudging is still happening. We realise that the names will just have to be drawn on with marker pens. As for the emergency telephone… if you look closely at a GUADEC 2017 badge you’ll notice that there’s a sticky label with the correct number covering up the old number on the badge. Each one of these was printed onto stickyback paper and lovingly chopped out and stuck on by hand. You’re welcome! (Nobody actually called the emergency phone during the event).

Javier pointed out that we should be at the registration event at least an hour early (it started at 18:00). I said this was nonsense because most people wouldn’t get there til later anyway. How wrong I was !!! I’m used to organizing music events where people arrive about an hour after you tell them to, but we got to Kro Bar about 17:45 and it was already full to bursting with eager GNOME contributors, many of whom of course hadn’t seen each other for months. This was not the ideal environment to try and set up a registration desk for the first time and I mostly just stood around looking at boxes feeling confused and occasionally moving things around. Thankfully Kat and Benjamin soon arrived and made registration a reality leaving me free to drink a beer and remain confused.

And the rest is history!

GUADEC 2017 by numbers

I’m finally getting around to doing a bit of a post-mortem for the 2017 edition of GUADEC that we held in Manchester this year. Let’s start with some statistics!

GUADEC 2017 had…

  • 264 registrations (up from 186 last year)
  • 209 attendees (up from 160 last year)
  • 72 people staying at the University (30 of whom had sponsorship awarded by the travel committee)
  • 7 people who were sadly unable to attend because their visa application was refused at the last minute

We put four optional questions on the registration form asking for your country of residence, your age, your gender identity and how you first heard about GUADEC. The full set of responses (anonymous, of course) is available here.

I don’t plan to do much data mining of this, but here are some interesting stats:

  • 61 attendees said they are resident in the UK, roughly 32%.
  • The most common age of attendees was 35 (the full age range was between 11 years and 65 years)
  • 14 attendees said they heard about the conference through working at Codethink

We asked for an optional, “pay as you feel” donation towards the costs of the conference at registration time and we suggested payments of £15/€15 for students, £40/€40 for hobbyists and £150/€150 for professionals.

  • 47 attendees (22%) chose to donate nothing
  • 29 attendees (13%) chose 1-15
  • 75 attendees (36%) chose 16-40
  • 51 attendees (24%) chose >40
  • 7 attendees somehow chose “NULL” (I think these were on-site registrations, which followed a different process)

Note that we told Codethink staff that they shouldn’t feel required to donate from their company-provided conference budget as Codethink was already sponsoring at Platinum level, which should account for 15 or more of the people who chose to donate nothing with their registration.

The financial side of things is tricky for me to summarize as the sponsor money and registration donations mostly went straight to the Foundation’s bank account, which I don’t have access to. The fluctionation of GBP against the US dollar makes my own budget spreadsheet even less reliable,but I estimate that we raised around $10,000 USD for the GNOME Foundation from GUADEC 2017. This is of course only possible due to the generosity of our sponsors, and through the great work that Alberto and Neil did in this area.

My van did 94 miles around Manchester during the week of GUADEC. My house is only 4 miles from the centre so this is surprisingly high!

 

Manchester

Last night an suicide attack took place in Manchester killing at least 22 people. I don’t have much to comment on that apart from that everyone’s thoughts are with those who have been injured or lost friends and family to the attack, and to quote a friend of mine:

If you think you can sow disunity in Manchester with a bomb, you don’t know Manchester.

GUADEC accommodation

At this year’s GUADEC in Manchester we have rooms available for you right at the venue in lovely modern student townhouses. As I write this there are still some available to book along with your registration. In a couple of days we have to give final numbers to the University for how many rooms we want, so it would help us out if all the folk who want a room there could register and book one now if you haven’t already done so! We’ll have some available for later booking but we have to pay up front for them now so we can’t reserve too many.

Rooms for sponsored attendees are reserved separately so you don’t need to book now if your attendance depends on travel sponsorship.

If you are looking for a hotel, we have a hotel booking service run by Visit Manchester where you can get the best rates from various hotels right up til June 2017. (If you need to arrive before Thursday 27th July then you can to contact Visit Manchester directly for your booking at abs@visitmanchester.com).

We have had some great talk submissions already but there is room for plenty more, so make sure you also submit your idea for a talk before 23rd April!

GUADEC 2017: Friday 28th July to Wednesday 2nd August in Manchester, UK

I'm going to GUADEC 2017

The GUADEC 2017 team is happy to officially announce the dates and location of this year’s conference.

GUADEC 2017 will run from Friday 28th July to Wednesday 2nd August. The first three days will include talks and social events, as well as the GNOME Foundation’s AGM. This part of the conference will also include a 20th anniversary celebration for the GNOME project.

The second 3 days (from Monday 31st July to Wednesday 2nd August) are unconference-style and will include space for hacking, project BoF sessions and possibly training workshops.

The conference days will be at Manchester Metropolitan University’s Brooks Building. The unconference days will be in a nearby University building named The Shed.

Registration and a call for papers will be open later this month. More details, including travel and accommodation tips, are available now at the conference website: https://2017.guadec.org/

We are interested in running training workshops on Monday 31st July but nothing is planned yet. We would like to hear from anyone who interested in helping to organise a training workshop.

Inside view of MMU Brooks Building
Inside view of MMU Brooks Building

 

GUADEC 2017 accommodation survey

We are looking at accommodation options for GUADEC 2017 in Manchester and we would like some feedback from everyone who is hoping to attend!

Manchester’s hotels fill up quickly in summer so we are going to do one or more group bookings now to ensure we have enough rooms for everyone.

There are 3 potential locations we’ve found. I’ve put some details about each place here: https://wiki.gnome.org/GUADEC/2017/Accommodation

If you are hoping to attend next year’s GUADEC, please take a minute to fill the survey here: https://goo.gl/forms/DYcnQLiBBZSSQlH23. If you prefer not to use Google Forms, reply to this mail on guadec-list@gnome.org instead (the questions are listed in the email).

If anyone has data from previous years that could inform our group booking for 2017 then please share it with us. I think the last time GUADEC did pre-booking of accommodation was in A Coruña back in 2012, so if anyone has numbers on how many rooms were taken and how many nights each person stayed for that year, or any before, it would help us a lot.

Here are the options in brief (see the wiki for more details):

Youth hostel

  • 4-bed dorms
  • £33 per night
  • Breakfast £1.95 extra (must be quite a small breakfast 🙂
  • 1.2 miles from venue
  • Near the city centre
000165_manchester_beds_034000165_manchester_exterior_001

University ‘townhouse’ residences

  • Single bedrooms with 12 bedrooms in each house
  • £43 a night, or £52 including buffet breakfast
  • Right next to the venue, about a mile from the city centre
bir0
17318143172_2bb2c7b6e0_k

Jury’s Inn Hotel

  • Hotel with single/double and twin rooms
  • ~£94 per night for a single, ~£51 each if you can double up.
  • Breakfast £10 extra.
  • 0.6 miles from the venue and right in the city centre.
manchester-exterior-1manchester-bedroom-5

Please fill out the survey to have your say on which accommodation you’d prefer to have!

Manchester GNOME 3.22 Release Party – Friday 23rd Sept. @ MADLab

We are hosting a party for the new GNOME release this Friday (23rd September).

The venue is MADLab in Manchester city centre (here’s a map). We will be there between 18:00 and 21:00. There will be some free refreshments, an overview of the new features in 3.22, advice on how install a free desktop OS on your computer and how contribute to GNOME or a related Free Software project.

Everyone is welcome, including users of rival desktop environments & operating systems 🙂

release-party-invite

Pro-UKIP / anti-Green bias in the Manchester Evening News website

Screenshot of http://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/ from 2015-05-09 19:45

What’s missing in this picture?

I sent a little complaint about this to the MEN (newsdesk@men-news.co.uk):

Hi
I noticed that you have a graphic on the front page (in fact, every page) of relating to election results at the moment. I’m confused why you decided to include UKIP in this graphic (who have 1 MP) but not the Green party (who also have 1 MP). In my ward (Gorton) the Green candidate actually came second, higher than the UKIP candidate, so they are clearly relevant to people of Manchester and should be included anywhere that UKIP is included.
Sam

It could be an accident of course, or some “totally fair” algorithm just happened to select those 6 parties to include, but bias is bias whether deliberate or not!

The Gagging Law

I just got back from a public meeting with my MP John Leech, about the Lobbying Bill (the “gagging law” that is going through parliament at a breakneck pace right now.

Firstly, it’s great to see the UK’s democracy in action, in person. You can never get the full picture of how the country works through the lens of the media. It’s great that John sacrificed his Saturday night to come and see us and great that enough people came out that we filled the moderately-sized Chorlton Central Church.

There were some excellent points made and the bill certainly makes more sense to me now. Sadly, it was not really a discussion and there was no kind of outcome to speak of. There was quite a lot of ignorance and repeating the same thing over and over, both from John and from members of the public who repeated previous questions (and non-questions) again and again, rewording them slightly each time.

The bill is in 3 sections. The main criticism of part 1 is that it does nothing to address party donations, does nothing to counter the enourmous power wielded by Conservative party donors such as Lord Ashcroft[1], and nothing to counter the huge amount of political campaigning done by the tabloid press. John accepted that completely, although his only constructive point was that the Liberal Democrats continue to campaign on these sorts of things in some way (I forget exactly the details).

Section 1 of the bill introduces a statutory register of lobbying companies. This government already “proactively” (I’m not sure if that means that they could stop whenever they want to) releases quarterly details of which lobbyists MPs have been taken out to dinner by. The register would allow us to find out who these lobbyists are actually working for, which seems pretty crucial information.

Plenty of people felt the need throughout the evening to make the same points about the fact the bill doesn’t address media lobbying and political party donations, although with no concrete suggestions of things they would like John to do about this in the future. It’s a fair point, for something which is being referred to by the government themselves as the Lobbying Bill, but is also being reasonable when he points out that no bill is perfect, and the fact this bill doesn’t fix everything is no reason to throw it out, *on its own*.

Section 3 of the bill didn’t get much time, which is a shame because it seems quite important. Life is hard for trade unions, which it must be if the Coalition are going to continue to shaft almost every public sector worker throughout their term. Section 3 apparently makes life easier by tightening the already tight regulations on the accuracy of union membership records? But several union members pointed out that they already spent lots of effort on ensuring address etc. are up to date because they can be prosecuted over the tiniest discrepancy if not. Again, John didn’t acknowledge their points that this is a problem for them, and the union spokespeople didn’t propose anything they would like him to do, other than oppose this bill which is not in itself going to help them much.

Section 2 of the bill is the big boy that all of the charities who organised the event are concerned about. It imposes limits on how much an organisation campaigning for or against a specific party or candidate can spend in each constituency, but several lawyers, and the Electoral Commission, have warned that it’s unclear who will be covered by the law and who won’t. John began by explaining that the activities of almost all the charities who attended were not covered under this limit at all, and are in fact prohibited from being party political by charity law. Since the second hearing of the bill, the rules for what does and doesn’t fall under the limits are the same as in PPERA (2000), which has caused no trouble at all for charities and campaign groups in the 2005 and 2010 elections.

This was the biggest disagreement of the night, I think. While John’s point is great on its own, he gave no reason why we should ignore the advice of the lawyers and of the Electoral Commission who say that the law is still ambiguous. If the law is unchanged since PPERA (2000), then their concerns must be equally valid with the law as it stands today. Scrapping the Lobbying Bill won’t fix that, of course, but either way we can’t ignore these concerns. The concerned parties have set up a commission to do the consultation on the Lobbying Bill that the Government failed to do, and I hope that whatever happens with this bill, any problems found with the law today are fixed.

John stated again and again that there would not be any problems for charities in the future. Now that I look back though, I realise that he was talking about *only* charities. Since they are prevented by law from political activity already, I’m sure he’s right. But that doesn’t make life any easier for campaign groups, and this is where the ambiguity lies. He even picked up a flyer produced by 38 Degrees to promote the meeting as something that might fall under the new law.

At the same time, it’s a failure of 38 Degrees to not mention PPERA (2000) in their campaigning over the issue and to make it clear that the definitions in the law have not changed, only the financial limits. I think it was only in an amendment of the bill that this became true, so perhaps that’s understandable. If I’m understanding things correctly John is also correct to say that 38 Degrees have muddied the issue by saying that charities as well as campaign groups need to be concerned about the bill. They are hardly the only people saying that, though.

There were many other points made over the course of the evening. I didn’t make notes of anything so I’ve not got them all here. John made it clear that the bill was badly drafted in its original form, but that he was happy with its state by the time of the 3rd reading. He reminded everyone that lobbying is not an inherently dirty thing, and is not a clearly-defined one either. Where does personal lobbying end and corporate lobbying start? He also gave an example of one (and there seemed to be only one) non-theoretical positive effect the that the act would have, which is to greatly reduce the amount of money the campaign group “Young Britains,” who are apparently a Conservative-funded campaign group who happen to exclusively support Conservative candidates, can spend on lobbying in a single constituency.

He ignored some of the concrete examples of negative effects that were raised. A spokesperson from HOPE Against Hate pointed out that their campaigning against the fascist BNP would be hugely limited in the next election to just 2% of what the BNP would be permitted spend. John spoke out against the BNP in response, and entered into the hypothetical situation of a counter organisation to HOPE Against Hate who, if this law was not passed, would continue to be able to spend up to almost £800k in a single constituency campaining in favour of the BNP, but would be limited to £10k if the law was passed. Which is true, but John would have done well to acknowledge the reality of the situation which is that there is no huge pro-fascist organisation at present, but the good work HOPE Against Hate have been doing is going to be hugely impacted at the next election. Instead, he ignored the direct question. It seems to me this bill is more about solving theoretical problems than real ones.

John pointed out that he’s had very few people contact him about the bill who weren’t directed via 38 Degrees, and nobody who spoke about against section 1 or 3 of the bill at all. He also made very little of the fact that the bill had no consultation, was published on the last day of Parliament before the summer reccess, and had its first debate on the first day back after the summer recess.
At no point did he admit that the bill should not have been rushed. At no point did he acknowledge that there should have been a consultation. The reason for the rush was apparently so that it can cover the May 2014 European elections … but if PPERA does much the same thing, why is this bill so urgent?

I am going to go and take a moment to acknowledge how great it is for the UK that campaign spending is limited at all. There are holes that big money interests get through, but big money will always find its way through a hole somewhere, because there is always a grey area and there is almost no limit on what you can do if you have a huge amount of money. And that is the real problem in the world.

1. It seems Lord Ashcroft’s money is already out of the picture