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Somnath Manna asked us about the BOF sessions at the Community Day. I realized that this is still a pretty new concept and that the link to the BOF Wikipedia page may not be enough.  Here the excerpt from Wikipedia:

Birds of a Feather: This idiom is a shortening of the proverb “Birds of  a feather flock together.”, meaning that people (birds) of the same kind  or interest (of a common feather) enjoy spending time (flocking) together.  This proverb is believed to date back as far as Greek and Roman times, but  has become commonly used as jargon by various groups since the nineteenth  century. In the world of computing, BoF (Birds Of a Feather) can refer to: An  informal discussion group. Unlike Special Interest Groups or Working groups,  BoFs are informal and often formed in an ad-hoc manner. The acronym is used  by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to denote initial meetings of  members interested in a particular issue. A BoF session, an informal meet-up  at conferences, where the attendees group together based on a shared interest  and carry out discussions without any pre-planned agenda.

The focus of the whole Community Day is networking, knowledge exchange and having a good time doing it. We are very flexible in even breaking the Unconfernce Style rules 🙂  We are collecting BOF session suggestions already and will have most of the day’s agenda planned out before you arrive. Please check out the wiki pages with the current session suggestions:

Don’t be afraid to put your hat in the ring too.  Stage left enters http://www.sdn.sap.com/irj/sdn/weblogs?blog=/pub/u/251718145 [original link is broken] [original link is broken] [original link is broken] [original link is broken] [original link is broken] [original link is broken] who just experienced a SDN Community Day in Melbourne. It was only an afternoon and in general on a much much smaller scale. Still his lessons learned are very valid:

At first I created some powerpoint slides for the session but soon realized that this is not what a BOF is all about. In the end I had just a piece of paper in front of me with ~20 topics I could talk about. I also highlighted the ones which I thought were most important.  When the session started I was really glad that 7-8 people attended it. Normally testing is not everybody’s favourite topic. I was even more impressed that when I asked who was already writing unit tests nearly everybody raised their hands. I started the session by giving a brief introduction of the topic. Afterwards I just followed the discussion I tried to incorperate the topics which I found important.  In the end I was quite satiesfied with my first BOF session but I would do some things differently. The idea with the piece of paper in front of me works well and keeps you focused on the main topic. Especially if one discussion ends and you want to start another one. While the main focus of a BOF session is to have a good discussion I think it is also crucial to make sure that not one person takes over the session with her/his problem. Everybody should have a chance to raise questions and get some feedback. Moreover I would try to act more like a moderator since the session is not owned by one person. Overall it was a great experience and I hopefully I will be able to do another one soon.

Thank you Thomas for this summary. Some people are that good, that they can moderate a 30 – 40 minute interesting discussion around a topic by just having a paper with some written notes in front of them. If that is not your style, feel free to bring slides to help you through the session.  Thomas Jung did a session regarding UI technologies and when to use what. His session was on the other end of the spectrum, more presentation with questions from the audience woven in. It was lots of content in a limited time frame  and the audience size that made it impossible to do pure BOF style. Nevertheless people came out of the session very satisfied.  It depens on the theme how you approach your BOF session. A small intro supported by a couple of slides may be the best opening, followed by a discussion with the people in the room.  I think Thomas idea of preparing a list of points that you can talk about to keep the conversation flowing is excellent.  One word to the audience, you are part of the session, do your part to make it a success by being an active listener and share your experiences too.  We all are way to much trained by all the hours and hours of TV, radio and movie consumption to lean back and let us being entertained. Come alive and be a part of the Community Day. Can’t wait.

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