An open letter regarding the DjangoCon Europe CfP

Posted by Chaim Kirby on April 22, 2024

As many of you are not doubt aware there have recently been some community conversation regarding a license agreement that was published as part of the DjangoCon Europe Call for Proposals for organizers. I believe it is fair to characterize the reaction as negative, with expressions of anger, frustration, and confusion towards the DSF for placing burdensome and one sided requirements for hosting a DjangoCon Europe.

I want to state first and foremost that I added the licensing agreement to the CfP. My deepest apologies for everyone who felt betrayed by it. I hold our conference organizers in the highest regard, for the equity, effort, blood, sweat, and tears they put into creating amazing community events that bring us all together. I considered resigning from the board for the pain and confusion that I have caused. I have not because I want to be part of finding a way forward and keeping DjangoCon Europe the calendar event that so many of us eagerly await. It will be up to all of you if I can be part of that journey back.

The most difficulty accusation to face is that of a lack of transparency and surprising former and prospective organizers with the license. It is difficult for me because I honestly believed I was increasing the level of transparency to organizers. This licensing agreement is not a new document, though I now understand that it is new to, well, everyone. The license has existed in the DSF legal documents repository since at least 2016 and has been signed for at least one DjangoCon Europe. In my years on the board prior to my presidency on several occasions there were todos to have selected organizers "sign the organizer contract". In addition I know that DEFNA is party to an almost identical licensing contract with the DSF. It was my intention to provide to potential organizers with the contract prior to making a proposal so that when a proposal was selected the organizers would not be taken aback when being presented with the license.

I was mortified when I heard, first in private and then publicly, that no DjangoCon Europe organizers of current memory had ever signed the license. The group of some of our community's most dedicated volunteers felt like with the click of a keyboard had turned into an arms length transaction among lawyers. At the same time I was mortified at the potential legal jeopardy the DSF had unknowingly been in by not having license agreements in place for all DjangoCons.

I'd like to touch on several points brought up in the discussion that has come from this.

The first regards the time window of DjangoCon Europe as laid out in the CfP. The DSF has long standing agreements with the PSF, DEFNA, and EuroPython to not adversely impact each other's conferences by scheduling them too close together. The agreement specifies that no two conferences should be within a month of each other. The sentiment of the agreement is well placed, but I believe it is time to revisit it. With new conferences coming into the fold (it was rightly pointed out the DjangoCon Africa is not mentioned in the license), the ability for conferences to have meaningful remote participation, and a calendar that due to weather often has the four stated conferences vying for a 5-7 month slot the one month gap is difficult to plan around. I am publicly proposing here that the interested parties to this agreement modify it such that the one month window apply to either region or theme, but not both. That would have, for instance, DjangoCon US avoiding Pycon and DjangoCons Europe and Africa but not EuroPython and vice versa.

The second point is in regards to the requirement to not schedule against major religious and cultural holidays. While I did not write that, I embody it. My first DjangoCon was DjangoCon Europe. I was unable to attend DjangoCon US in Chicago while I was living in Chicago as it had been partly scheduled against Rosh Hashanah. So I convinced my boss to send me to France instead and fell in love with the Django community.

Finally to the comments that the DSF does not care about organizers and has no interest in helping them put on a conference. Unfortunately DSF does not have inherent knowledge of running conferences, no legal entity outside the US to bring to bear, or the finances to backstop a DjangoCon. We ask for your help every year to run DjangoCon Europe because, quite simply, we can't. There was a meeting in Edinburgh of former organizers to discuss how organizing a DjangoCon Europe coule be improved. That meeting was the start of the European Organizers Support working group. It did take time to get started. We have it now. It is the sincerest hope of all of us that it is the first step in improving the experience of European organizers, and hopefully others down the line. It is a slow process, but one I dearly hope bears fruit.

I sincerely hope that we can all together still work to make DjangoCon Europe 2025 a reality. I will do all that I can to make that happen, if you will continue to have me. I do not participate in social media, but have started a thread on the Django Forum to continue this discussion. For most of the next week I will be unavailable due to the Passover holiday but it was imperative to me that I get this message to you all as soon as I could.

Thank you for your time, and for letting me serve you, Chaim Kirby President, Django Software Foundation

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