First: to survive, one must attend, in person or remotely. Attending in person involves either asking for sponsorship from Canonical, or paying your own way. Attendence is free, so local folks can register and walk in. Without the encouragement of my fellow Ubuntu-Women team members, requesting sponsorship is not something I would have considered. However, the application process was painless, and I was sponsored! My flight, food and lodging are all included, which is amazing.
Since I have a wonderful friend who lives close to Orlando, Florida where this UDS is being held, I flew in Friday, and spent two wonderful days on the Wekiva River, paddling and boating up and down the river. Besides hours spent catching up on our lives (years spent separated by an entire continent!), we ate simply and slept when we were tired. So I arrived Sunday night rested and ready to work.
Second: Promptness is appreciated. Rooms are shared with a room-mate, so set your alarm early enough to allow time for both of you to shower, dress, eat, and arrive for the first events at nine in the morning. This involves going to bed the night before, rather than spending it at the hotel bar!
Third: Set up what you will need to participate fully in your sessions before they begin. If attending in person, a netbook with good battery life is best, with Quassel-with-a-core installed, along with your favorite browser(s), Gobby (*UGH!*), and time to review the documents associated with the sessions you'll be attending. This involves first reading the blueprints of the issues you find important, subscribing to them, and registering your attendence as essential if this is so. The scheduling software (Summit) attempts to allow every essential person to attend all their sessions by shifting the timing of the sessions. I haven't found a way to go back and change subscribing to subscribing and must attend if there is a way. There are a couple I had to miss because I didn't check the essential box. Once you find out the name of the rooms, join all the room channels in Quassel so you don't have to do this later. I chose Quassel on my netbook because it is lighter in weight than my favorite Konversation, but I didn't have time to set up a core account. I wish I had done, so I had all UDS sessions in IRC.
If you are attending remotely, you'll need to connect to the streams through Amarok or your favorite music/streaming app. Fire up IRC, join all the room-named channels, and you're ready. You might want earphones since some of the voices are far from the microphones. Don't be afraid to "speak up" in IRC, and ask people to repeat things, or to speak more clearly/loudly. If gobby is being used in your session, be prepared to help take notes, fix spelling errors, clarify points, etc. This is a collaboration. Etherpad may be used as an alternate, if the session leader chooses.
Fourth: Eat enough - there are good meals provided, with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. I tried to sit down most of the time with people I did not know, and fix that. :-) Drink enough -- not at the bar, silly! Drink enough water to keep you healthy. Coffee is provided, along with tea, pop, snacks, etc. Sleep enough -- this is the hard part. You will be meeting all the people you've been working with all year, many for the first time. The temptation to spend all your time socializing will be strong! Don't exhaust yourself. Have fun -- yes, the work is fun, but there are opportunities to party, to visit local cool sites (here, Disneyland, of course! And Universal Studios, Sea World, etc.). Choose wisely, take lots of pictures, and you'll have a time you'll never forget!
Fifth: Take time to blog, tweet, dent about what you are doing. There are countless people who want to know, or need to know. Be eyes and ears for them.
PS: If I sound preachy, it's my future self I'm preaching to. :-)
PPS: Pictures in a bit.