Flock 2014 is just three weeks away and conference organization is getting into its most intense phase. I’d like to periodically blog about organizational stuff and our progress in the last couple of weeks before Flock. To make things that seem to be a bit behind the scenes more open and transparent.

Venue – the venue has been secured for some time. We originally planned to have everything in one shiny building that is shared by the Faculty of Architecture and the Faculty of Information Technologies. We had a deal with FIT, but people of FA, which is charge of the large lecture rooms, started being trouble makers and asked for much more to rent the rooms. FIT managed to rent two large lecture rooms from the Faculty of Civil Engineering. They’re in a different building, but the buildings are connected and the walking distance is not so bad. Moreover, the large rooms will only be used for the first two days, then Flock will only take place in rooms of FIT.

The campus is otherwise a perfect location for us. The building of FA and FIT is right next to a new library building where you can find a cozy café. It’s a 5-minute walk from a metro station from where it’s just 10 minutes to the city center. You can get there from the airport in less than 20 minutes without having to change buses.

Accommodation – this was actually a hard task. Prague is one of the top tourist places in Europe and August is high season. All hotels are booked and rates are pretty high. We checked all possible hotel options in the neighbourhood and the only suitable was Diplomat Hotel. They gave us a flat rate €90, but then a lot of people noticed that their current rates were cheaper. So we asked the hotel to match the price and they gave us €80 (+Internet connection which is not normally included). But some damage had already been done and I guess a lot of people had booked their rooms directly which left us with a lot of unocuppied rooms. So if you’re planning to stay in the hotel (either sponsored or paying for yourself) please book your room ASAP because we have to cancel reservation of unused rooms.

Because quite a few people couldn’t afford the hotel, we came up with a low-cost option which is student dormitories very close to the venue. This option is considerably cheaper (€17 for a double-bed room), but it’s also not so comfy as the hotel (bathroom is shared with other rooms on the same floor and no breakfast). It’s great that both options are within a few-minute walk from the venue and the stop where all buses from the airport go is even right in front of the hotel, so if you’re coming from the airport, you just can’t miss it.

Lunch – this also seemed to be a hard task. There are no large restaurants around to accommodate 200+ people within 2 hours. We explored the idea to give people meal tickets they can spend in restaurants around like last year in Charleston. Unfortunately widely accepted meal tickets are tax deducted and are only intended for employees in the Czech Republic.  Student cafeterias are closed during summer and they didn’t seem to be interested in making some extra money by opening one of them for us. We asked catering companies how much lunches that they would bring to the venue for us would be and the quotes were ridiculous (above $20). We even started planning to use food supplier of our office in Brno and ask them to bring lunches from Brno every day. But that would be a logistic nightmare. Fortunately Miro found an academic restaurant in nearby dormitories which is able to handle such a large group of people and gave us reasonable quotes. So we won’t let you starve at Flock!

Coffee at the venue, another crucial element of every conference, is yet to be solved, though.

Social events – we explored a lot of options because Prague offers quite a few interesting venues for parties. Now, it’s narrowed down to two or three. We’re still working on it. I don’t want to reveal the options to keep it as a surprise. I think most of us want to go for something memorable, not just yet another pub party. On the other hand, the number of sponsors is much lower than last year and it has inevitable impact on our budget.

SWAG – I think Maírín made a really nice artwork for conference t-shirts. They’re already ordered. We ordered them when there were 220 registered people, we ordered a few extra, but if you registered too late we might not have one for you. But there will probably be some late cancellations so I guess everyone will get one. And other SWAG? It’s more or less treated as nice-to-have if we have any money left.

Information for attendees – we understand you will be coming from all parts of the world and to make your trip and stay as smooth as possible we’d like to provide you with as much information as possible. Luděk Šmíd has prepared a Flock app for Android. Check it out and report problems! Jaroslav Řezník is also working on an app for BB10 and Jozef Mlích on a version for SailfishOS.

I’ve also started working on a guide for Guidebook.com. I used the app for the first time when I attended FUDCon APAC in Beijing and I found very useful that I can download all important information to my phone even for offline usage. I’ve added maps, info about accommodation, useful websites and apps for Prague, public transport. Let me know what kind of information you expect there. It’s a pity there is no such solution as Guidebook.com that would be open source. There are so many open source conferences. Why not to create an ultimate solution for all of them? We have actually started thinking about evolving some of our conference schedule apps into something like Guidebook.com.

Invitation letters – we sent out quite a lot of letters of invitation. It was mostly done by Květa Mrštíková. I just created a template and then signed prepared letters. And I had the first call from an embassy. A consular office of the Czech embassy in New Delhi wanted to confirm two applicants who hadn’t had a history in the Schengen area. I hope everything went through.

Looking forward to meeting you in Prague!