[Linux-aus] A greybeard pontificates on User Conference(s)

Leon Brooks leon at cyberknights.com.au
Wed Feb 23 13:35:11 UTC 2005

I have before my eyes the whiteboard snaps from a May 2003 LC Committee 

Should I publish them? I think so. Most of them, anyway. Comments from 
those who were present (Anand Kumria, Stewart Smith, Andrew Cowie, Pia 
Smith, Andrew Tridgell, Hugh Blemings) and/or the current Committe? 
I'll stick to reporting entirely non-contentious notes here, but will 
whack the photos up on a site somewhere for said individuals to check 

One of the very valid points raised was that LA should represent people 
who "don't drive the market", specifically children, seniors and other 

A user conference could be developed into a great way of doing that. 
Having (one of) the user stream(s) focus on just children (mostly, but 
not entirely education and games) for a day, and then (or in parallel) 
on addressing the special computing needs of seniors (speaking for 
myself as a doddering 42yo, a 23-inch 0.15-pitch LCD screen would be a 
good place to start :-), maybe another stream-day on general 
disabilities ("how my web page can avoid sucking when viewed by someone 
with a sight impairment", "how my GUI can be configured to assist 
someone with the use of only one hand" and so on), yadda yadda... well, 
if we're going to be condemned as socialists, we may as well be hung 
for a sheep as for a lamb, no?

The next interesting point is "LA is constructive and positive".

Having a user conference more than doubles the number of people who get 
to see that happening.

Another point, partly addressed by OSIA now, but nevertheless: enabling 
and supporting small businesses. A conference such as we run represents 
cheap training, cheap networking, motivation and all sorts of other 
good stuff that government provides only haltingly at best.

Another: "Benefactor, not parent". Encouraging a plurality of 
conferences helps the LUGs to stand alone, and demonstrates to other 
organisations that there is room in the Linux space to play.

It will actively engage more people. This is perhaps one of the hardest 
social ends to achieve, but with a Project (note capital P) afoot, 
people tend to be more inclined to pitch in, and this synergises with 
other LUG and LA activity too... which leads me to the core whiteboard 

"We have other programs that rotate around" - kind of redundant wording 
there, but even though I'm not Committee any more, I'd still like to 
bring that one to fruition. I can't clearly remember precisely what the 
proponent was aiming for, or even who proposed it, but the general aim 
of productive, shared activity is obvious.

"Road shows - demonstrations of (edu) software" - well, a user 
conference is half way to a roadshow.

BTW, I'd dearly love some government department to decide that it wanted 
a FOSS roadshow and hand me a bus, a flock of PCs and a fuel budget to 
actualise that with.

After that, the whiteboards address less tangible issues, among them a 
decire that LA be facilitators, be scaleable, be involved in 
development, remain informal, foster respect, and rounded off in red: 
"pragmatic and practical". I can't speak to pragmatic, but a user conf 
sure looks practical from here. We as a community have run one lots of 
times now, so doing a variant shouldn't be impossible.

It can also be a pump-primer for LCA - but OTOH, LCA is pretty much 
full. A conundrum. What shall we do about that? Do we have enough 
international speakers to supply two or more LCAs? Can we push some of 
the less technical but still technical stuff out to (a) user conf(s)?

Cheers; Leon

http://cyberknights.com.au/     Modern tools; traditional dedication
http://plug.linux.org.au/       Member, Perth Linux User Group
http://osia.net.au/             Member, Open Source Industry Australia
http://slpwa.asn.au/            Member, Linux Professionals WA
http://linux.org.au/            Member, Linux Australia

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