In which I turn into an international shipping operation4 min read

In months prior to the GUADEC 2015 conference, both the board of directors and engagement team were kept busy with an above-average workload, so the GNOME Foundation‘s Annual Report had to wait until things settled a bit. After the core days of GUADEC, we held an all-day meeting among members of the Engagement team (and whoever was interested in joining the fun, really):
Among the topics was the annual report. We devised a plan of action, aiming to publish it by the end of September. Given that we were already near mid-August, that’s fairly ambitious; those of you who have already worked on magazines or quarterly/annual reports can probably attest to the complexity of the process—now, imagine how tricky it gets with a team of volunteers spread across the world with a short timeframe to do everything. So we spent the next month and a half writing articles (from scratch), revising (multiple times) and laying out the contents of the report. In the end, we managed to publish close to our set deadline.

Oh hi, I heard you like logistics

It was now time for printing and shipping. I spent some time getting quotes from various places in the USA and Canada, then making calculations and scenarios: I was trying to balance the cost of printing, the cost of shipping, convenience and the time to delivery (I was asked, for instance, if we could have copies shipped in time for the Boston Summit).
At the end of my analysis, it became apparent that the cheapest and simplest option was to have me print & ship everything from Montréal. There are a few factors involved:

  • Since 2010 or so, the annual report was typically being printed by GUADEC organizers, which meant the layout was made for A4 paper size.
    • Most USA printing shops can’t handle that (“What do you mean, it’s not US Letter? Pfff. Give me that in fractions of inches and furlongs, we don’t do this metric thing here, punk!”)
    • Good printers in Montréal are used to being in-between the Old and New continents (because that’s Montréal, by definition). My local printer offered to print in A4, saving us the headaches.
  • The Canadian dollar is currently quite cheap compared to the US dollar. With the friendly local printing company, I was able to undercut all the other offers.
  • Shipping to the US and anywhere in Europe is pretty convenient (again due to the geographical location).
  • I had enough time and insanity available to do it.

Whatsmore, the paper and print quality offered by my printer was above average (seriously, the result is stunning). I also trusted them to do the job with care and competence, which is not something that can be said of all printing shops.
With the estimates on hand, I requested authorization from the board for the budget, fronted the money to place the order, and got the reports out of the printing press. Here they are:

Notice how the covers match the color of my turf. Amazing.

Some more pictures, up close:
2015-10-11--15.58.07 2015-10-11--15.59.17 2015-10-11--16.00.08


Interestingly enough, this time we’re snail-mailing more reports than we ever shipped in the past… and yet the whole operation will cost less than in previous years (at least 2007, 2008 and 2009—don’t know for years where it was printed at GUADEC). This is in part because I made an exhaustive list of people and organizations that we should be targetting this year, so the scope is simultaneously broader and more focused. Picture that.

My groundbreaking, high-tech tracking system for letters and report shipping

Since that was clearly too easy so far, I decided to crank it up a notch and add a personal touch:
For almost every report being shipped, I wrote a custom, hand-written letter, using the exquisite art of the Jinhao Five Point Exploding Fountain Pen technique. A handful of recipients that I know well got a short note instead of the longer introduction, and 2-3 people got a printed letter (in the cases where my handwriting would not be compact enough). So, in total, I wrote somewhere between 30 and 40 letters. It was actually pretty enjoyable. No, I don’t have a television, why do you ask?
Pictured: cheating.

The first batch to be shipped looked like this (you can see the letters sitting on top of individual envelopes before being sealed):
Once the most urgent ones were shipped in the first batch, I prepared a second batch, which I’m planning to ship this week:
I have some stock left, so we can look at reaching out to additional prospects if we want. There might be some that I didn’t think of. Are you related to an organization/individual that may be interested in sponsoring GNOME events or getting involved through the GNOME Advisory Board? Send me a quick email and let me know, I’ll see if we can send a printed copy. You can also share the PDF version of the report yourself, if you prefer.



3 responses to “In which I turn into an international shipping operation”

  1. psychoslave Avatar

    Totally impressive! Thank you for all the hard work. The personnal messages is a really great idea and show how human and warm atmosphere the gnome community can be.

  2. Sébastien Wilmet Avatar
    Sébastien Wilmet

    we managed to publish on time, at the very end of the fiscal year

    Small correction: at the end of the _next_ fiscal year.
    But let’s be positive instead, the report is well written (from what I’ve read), and the extra mile is a great initiative! Thanks for your blog post, it’s nice to have some news about the GNOME Foundation besides the meeting minutes.

    1. Small correction: at the end of the _next_ fiscal year.

      Oh! You’re right. Y’know, even I can get a bit confused when we have so many “year” types to keep track of:

      • Calendar year
      • Fiscal year
      • Tax year
      • Election year
      • The Year of the Linux Desktop

      As always, we could use more help in the Engagement team to make the Annual Reports happen much sooner in the future!