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From March 11-13, 2011, the PPI Conference and General Assembly has taken place in Friedrichshafen, Germany. I attended it as an official delegate from the Pirate Party of Russia.

I'll start with the positive feedback: Like at the founding conference last year, it was again a great feeling to meet Pirates from all over the world, to talk and exchange views with them. It is both very interesting and extremely important to broaden one's horizons and to discuss problems and perspectives of the Pirate movement as well as the individual parties with foreign Pirates.

Unfortunately, I'll have to add to my report of this year a rather large section labeled "negative".

The largest problem was the unconventional form of organisation which included relatively short voting sessions (held in a traditional style of plenar meetings with everybody attending) punctuated by long periods filled with "Open Space" discussion rounds. While the concepts of Open Space and/or Barcamps does surely have its advantages, it was a lethal blow to the General Assembly dynamics that these sessions were offered not outside the main event, but as a replacement for it over long periods of time.

Everybody who has participated in conventions or assemblies has made the experience that the participants need some time to build up the mood and the concentration that are a prerequisite for a constructive session including argument exchanges and voting. This is necessary for a smooth workflow. If this workflow is constantly disrupted as the participants split up into small groups talking about life, the universe and everything, the concentration is irretrievably lost.

Another massive disadvantage of Open Space sessions as the organisation form stems from the fact that the conference was a meeting of Pirates from many different countries who had had little or no contact with each other before. A convention where everybody sits together allows each participant to present their positions and arguments to all the others, who mostly haven't known about them before. On the other hand, a completely unstructured meeting - like the evening social events which were to a large extent responsible for the overall positive feeling that I take with me from this conference - allows to wander between different groups and individuals and talk to them one by one, which is also a good way to exchanging views and positions. Open Space is contrary to both these extremes as it is semi-structured so you can neither address everybody at once nor roam freely among the participants. Instead of creating a feeling of being a community together, the conference is fragmented into small groups.

I would also like to mention the voting system used (STV). It has been pointed out as problematic last year but has been used again. While I'm surely frustrated about the election results (and no, the fact that I have not been elected isn't the biggest problem here), there are theoretical and practical issues with the system which makes it unsuitable for the task at hand. It was also not sufficiently explained to the participants, so those who knew the mechanism could use it for tactical voting while those who did not ran the risk of their vote not having the desired effect on the result.

To conclude I can say that when the event is considered a get-together of international Pirates it was great fun, productive and interesting, and I'm very glad to have taken part in it. However, if viewed as a PPI General Assembly I must say that the last conference in Brussels - despite all the shortcomings and poor conditions, just think about the back room we had to access through a ladder behind the loos!;) - was a more successful event.