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Our Plans for the Future

For the past four years, the MacDeployment Conference has been held in June with two main goals:
1. To share current best practices in the area of Mac deployment and support; and
2. To help create community amongst Mac Admins in Alberta.
We've noted that attendance at the Conference has been lower the past couple of years, even though we are one of the least expensive two-day conferences to attend anywhere. We understand; we know financial times are tough. Had it not been for a few late registrations, we would have lost a significant amount of money in 2017, even with the support of our generous sponsors.

Our conference committee had to take a look at what path we should take moving forward to best achieve the overarching goals I mentioned earlier. We've already taken one action: to start holding MacDeployment meetups. Thanks to the support of our friends at Apple and Apple Retail, we're already off to a great start. We have a solid core group; I know I've already learned things just from the discussion around the table. This should help with our goal of building community. In fact, we're hoping that similar meetups might happen not just in Calgary but in other major centres; let us know if we can be of any assistance in this regard.

The other action we chosen to take might be a little more surprising: we've decided not to hold a Conference this year. Our new plan is to hold the MacDeployment Conference every two years moving forward. There are a few reasons for this.

As a small volunteer organizing committee (four active members), there is a lot of work to be done. This workload does not change whether we plan for a conference of 40 attendees or 100. Since the committee grew out of the University of Calgary, it's very effective to hold our committee meetings during lunch hours. However, this makes it nearly impossible to involve community members outside campus. That's not ideal.

To this point, we've leveraged the support of UCalgary to deal with some of the more technical aspects of conference organizing, like financial accounting, liability insurance, and other administrative support. Since UCalgary is undergoing a significant transition in how it manages Macs, they are looking to support training that is directly applicable to their situation. So while they would have supported the Conference running this year, it may have been more specific to Jamf Pro environments than in the past. As committee members who work for UCalgary, we also see where some campus-specific training could be really useful this year. Yet we value all the contributions of people in the open source community and would not want to exclude people from the Conference simply because they chose a different MDM vendor.

So what to do? Through discussion, it became clear that running a conference every year — in the way we have been doing it — is not sustainable. We need to find ways for people outside of UCalgary to get involved, lest committee members burn out. This will take some time. Nevertheless, we have already seen signs through past conferences and the new meetups that there is a core group of people willing to participate and grow the community.

So we're going to continue with regular meetups (our next one is February 28). Come this Fall, we'll start discussing the 2019 Conference at those meetups. We think this is a sustainable path that will allow greater community participation. The predictability of this plan should allow people to make plans to attend other conferences or plan training opportunities at their work site in the off years. That's where we're headed. Let's see how it goes.

Anthony Reimer, Chair
MacDeployment Committee

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