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[Linux-aus] About a User Conference (was...)

On Mon, 2005-21-02 at 21:37 +0800, Bret Busby wrote:

> The issue that was pertinent, was the pre-existence of a conference of 
> Linux Users, which was replaced by the current conference, whatever you 
> may want to call it.

That the original conference evolved into something different doesn't
bother me. LCA is terrific; but I certainly don't feel beholden to
whatever the incipient state of the art was in 1999.

> There are a number of possible audiences for Linux conferences, and 
> catering for all of these, could probably be done at the same 
> conference, if it was wanted.

No. The trend has been (across many organizing teams) to hold the number
of attendees < 600 people in order to maintain the intimate feel and
interaction that are hallmarks of the conference.

With that kind of a cap (not to mention turning people away as that cap
is hit) and a absolutely jammed program (of the sort AJ described),
there isn't scope to add other constituencies to LCA.

Which is why we're having a discussion about the possible merits of a
user conference.

The trouble is, conference economics tend not to cooperate. It goes
something like this:

You want to keep the cost down so that users (especially newbies and/or
non-Linux users-but-interested) can and will come. [It could even free,
although THAT's a price you can never raise, and is even harder to
provision for; see below]. The trouble is covering venue costs. LCA is
inexpensive because it is small, collegial, and typically run quietly on
a university campus. A user conference could very well end up being
large and requiring an equally large commercial venue to host it in.
Those sorts of things are never inexpensive. Neither are logistics.

So, you probably want sponsors to defray the cost instead of attendees
footing the entire bill. The trouble is, that most of the people who
might be interested in sponsoring such a thing (I'm judging by other
international events' experience here) tend to be vendors trying to sell
products and services to businesses.

And there's the rub; a trade show, let alone a conference which appeals
to a business audience [and therefore would be the kind of audience that
vendors would be willing to pay to try and reach], is potentially a very
different atmosphere to a "user" conference (whatever "your" idea of
that happens to be).

An interesting instance of how this can work out is LinuxTag, which is
half conference (sorta along the lines of LCA, but only sorta) and half
trade show (sorta along the lines of LinuxWorld or InternetWorld or PC
Expo). It's mostly free to attendees (one of the days' tracks cost $$)
but it certainly didn't have any new users walking around - indeed, it
really wasn't a "users conference"; their tag line ("where .com
meets .org") is a good one for what they are.

I'm not so big on LinuxWorld or LinuxTag's style that I'd recommend we
blindly do either, but that does somewhat bring us back to where we
started: how do we compose a user conference that attracts the audience
we're interested in AND the sponsors we're interested in.

One final thought, seeing as how we're right off the deep end:
*personally*, I really like the idea that some of the OSIA people have
been bandying about of a road-show: a conference that we'd pack up and
(in the space of a few weeks) do in 4-6 major cities. The aspect which
was interesting was a notion that 50% of the exhibitors would be local
SMEs which would of course be different at each location, whereas the
other 50% would be a backbone of larger national organizations with an
interest in reaching a nationwide audience.

I like the idea; it would be awesome for Linux in Australia were we to
do such a thing successfully. The organizational demands, logistics,
cost exposure, and risk exposure of such an idea is staggering, and I'm
not sure I could advocate it unless it was very professionally organized
(ie not a band of merry volunteers), and that's probably pushing our
mandate and ability as an organization.

[Reigning the flights of fancy back in, I will mention that Mikal is
considering working on something at the much-smaller end of the scale.
I'll let him discuss that if and when he sees fit]


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