The Mitaka Nova Midcycle was held in Bristol, U.K. on January 29-31. I will not be discussing so much of the technical aspects but the experience of the Midcycle from the perspective of a new contributor.
The Midcycle meetings happen in between the larger OpenStack Summits. The Summits happen every 6 months, so the Midcycles happen every 6 months as well. While generally they are based in the U.S., occasionally they take place outside of the U.S. as in this case. When you work on an OpenStack project team, you should expect to have opportunities to meet and interact with your team mates every 3 months. This is really key for teams who span the globe and who have some members that may never be online at the same time. Face time also is important for providing a personal connection and context among team members, which I believe leads to a deeper emotional investment in the project. This pattern may have originated with the Canonical community, which is where many OpenStack folks came from.
Anyone can attend the Midcycles, they are public and open. In fact, I'd highly encourage anyone who is interested in getting more involved with a particular team or project to consider attending. These are, however, fast paced working sessions, so don't expect a lot of context or explanation. It is easy enough to prepare for the Midcycle and get context. I'd argue that even members of the team that have been focused on their own projects might benefit from such preparation as well.
Here are some tips for preparing for the Midcycle (or Design Summit for that matter):
1. Read the priorities document for the current cycle (usually located in an Etherpad, ask in irc)
2. Read over the reviews listed on the priorities document
3. Read the mailing list, particularly paying attention to discussions around high priority items
4. Review recent IRC meeting logs for team and subteam meetings around priority items.
Following these tips will ensure you're up to speed on discussions around things you might not have been particularly focused on, specifically so you can follow the context of the discussions. Note that people are nice and if you ask they will usually explain things. You want to avoid interrupting the whole group discussion however as there is limited time at these meetings and many of your questions can be answered during breaks.
The format for the Midcycle was loosely structured. We had an agenda in an Etherpad with topics to discuss, and people took notes on those topics and items were decided, or follow up items were identified and assigned. Anyone could add an item to the Etherpad. The sessions started at 9:30am and ended around 5pm with several short breaks and an hour lunch break in between. Thursday was more of an unconference/open hack day where people just worked on various items and took the opportunity to pair with each other or to discuss things.
Overall I'd say the Midcycle was an incredibly positive experience. It gives project team members the opportunity to interact outside of the madness of the larger Summit. A key importance of the Midcycle is reinforcing a social bond. The group was friendly and inclusive, going out for dinner and drinks together each evening. Anyone was invited to join but our group tended to stay around 15-20. Many of the Midcycle attendees were locals who had lives and families to attend to. Others were just less interested in the social aspect for their own reasons.
I originally attended the Nova sessions during the Design Summit. This was my first time meeting many folks on the Nova team and I admit I was incredibly shy. This was my second time meeting many of the Nova folks including some who hadn't been at the summit. At the time of the Mitaka Midcycle, I had been working on Nova for 4 months, participating in both IRC discussions and the mailing list. This time when I introduced myself to people they had some idea of who I was and what I was working on.
I'm looking forward to seeing everyone again at the Newton Design Summit in April!