I've been lucky enough to go to the last few OpenStack Summits and to the first two PTG (Project Team Gathering) events. This means I've witnessed the transition from the unified conference + design summit to the separated conference + forum and the PTG. I think I've got enough data to say that the transition is not yet complete and needs some additional effort to be optimal.
Part of this is because though there are documents, such as the Forum wiki page, which define what the forum is pretty clearly, there isn't complete agreement on that definition nor on the distinctions between the Forum, the PTG, any remaining mid-cycles, and why any particular individual might like to go to them.
The wiki page currently says:
At the Forum the entire OpenStack community (users and developers) gathers to brainstorm the requirements for the next release, gather feedback on the past version and have strategic discussions that go beyond just one release cycle.
That sounds pretty good, but it doesn't emphasize one of the primary benefits of the Forum versus the PTG:
At the PTG, and the mid-cylces that came before, it is assumed and expected that the people involved are active regular contributors (not necessarily, but often, developers) to the project; people with ongoing relationships with one another. They talk to one another regularly outside the PTG, in IRC, email, hangouts, etc. They talk to each other some more, with higher fidelity, in person, at the PTG.
At the Forum, the hope was that there would be enhanced feedback from, and interaction with, other people: users, operators, casual contributors, members of adjacent communities. All of this does happen, but with some challenges. Some members of the community who either fondly remember the design summit days of yore, or who simply don't appreciate the expanded feedback goals, tend to dominate the conversation, excluding others.
As a case in point, a Forum discussion was held to discuss the future of Mogan, up for review as a potential official project. After the session, I noted on the review:
The forum session https://etherpad.openstack.org/p/SYD-forum-baremetal-ironic-mogan-nova was frustrating and I don't think was able to really help move the discussion here forward in any substantial way. After an initial introduction of Mogan, the conversation turned to typically dominant members of the community who frequently speak to one another in IRC speaking to one another in the room to discuss solving problems in Nova and Ironic (and not Mogan) while other people listened. [emphasis added]
Elsewhere many sessions proceeded in an interrupt-driven style where only people comfortable with that style were able to participate.
Yeah we need to figure something different out. Often same voices making all the noise.— See Dent (@anticdent) November 8, 2017
Again this was often the people who already had established relationships, spoke to one another on IRC often, and were accustomed to each other's pattern of speech. This behavior sidelines other people in the room who can't or won't behave in what they may perceive to be rudeness. They become passive listeners rather than active participants and more than likely experience the clubbiness that has been identified as a limiting factor in developer satisfaction.
It's simple to say, but hard to do: If we want fulsome feedback and inclusivity we all must make a conscious and active effort to listen before we speak.