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Re: [Linux-aus] About a User Conference - grand plans

Tim Bowden wrote:
On Tue, 2005-02-22 at 23:20 +0800, Leon Brooks wrote:

On Tuesday 22 February 2005 18:38, Tim Bowden wrote:

Do we really need to cater to newbies?

Yes, very much so, but perhaps not in the manner that I suspect most of us imagine.

I must admit to not having given much thought as to what a typical
newbie might want from such a conf, or how likely they are to come.
After all, you need to have made a significant emotional commitment to
linux before considering investing money & time off work etc to attend.

If the event is on a weekend, then no one is missing any work...

I know they are /very/ important, but the type of user conf that
might work better (at least initially), is one that is aimed at
'professional users', ie, dba's, small time(?) web/sys admins,
serious desktop users (oo.o, gimp...) and so on, who are not
kernel developers and not well catered for at lca.

That type of user profile would not have any problems with a uni
type venue and would be more accommodating to a numbers cap.
Surely there would be vendors who would support such an audience,
even if not with the same $$ as with lca- Novel? HP? Oracle? Does
anyone have any concrete idea of how they would view such an

I am thinking that a user conference should operate as a kind of combined recruitment drive and set of boot-camp seminars. It should aim to attract and to some extent add credence to two major groups of users, what you might call user-users and admin-users.

So long as the conf is not aimed too low, as you will miss those who can add most to it, ie, those who have been using linux as a desktop platform for a few years and feel comfortable doing multi-boot, installing software, swapping distros, know what /dev/hd.. is, like to play with different window managers, fiddle with iptables and so on.

Those people are speakers / mentors at the event though. You encourage them to come along in a different way to the people who are there to learn...

IOW, it should be a FOSS conference rather than overtly Linux-specific, and pitched both at people who want to use The GIMP better, and at people who are (considering) adminning Linux (or *BSD) workstations and servers - with just enough glue for the part-time admins (call them "power users") to keep them happy too. It should not have sessions on dprobes or porting device drivers to the Power platform. If Linus appears there, it would be a cameo on the first or last day as he was on his way to/from LCA.

Make the content FOSS focused, sure. Perhaps we could call it FUC- Foss Users Conf. Perhaps it would still be wise to have the name linux in there somewhere...

I can't see that it would be productive use of Linus' time for him to
drop in.  From what I understand he likes to keep a few layers between
him and users, and with good reason.  Holding the two conf's close (time
wise) would also stop people from going to both- say 4 - 6 months apart.
Without a doubt, there would be some overlap of attendance, especially
in the home town of the conf.

Hey, no one has even said Linus comes to all of the LCAs! I would never expect to see Linus at a user's conference for much the same reasons as you. We do need to remember he isn't a performing monkey and does have work to do.

So, for example, you might have five streams: call them user1, user2, power, admin, meta.

User1 and user2 are for the GIMP jockeys and learning how to use Konqueror for fun and profit.

Power is "How to boot Ubuntu and then install it on your system" or "My LAN has fallen and it can't get up - but I have this live CD..."

Maybe I've been using linux for too long, but is that really a power user exercise? An enquiring novice with reasonable winXX experience would find that interesting.

Admin is "Integrating Linux workstations into an Active Directory evironment" and "Migrating from IIS to Apache".

Why migrating from IIS? Why concentrate so much on migrating from windows servers? There has to be plenty of small time apache admins who have never seen IIS who would attend an apache admins session. The same goes for small time admins who have had to tackle ldap and samba for serving to windows desktops and have no idea what the microsoft solutions is.

I agree that migration of servers isn't a user topic -- that's an admin topic for one of the established admin conferences.

Perhaps my own experience as a part time small business sysadmin is
atypical, but I would tend to shy away from a "migrating from..." type
session, as I've never used windows for anything more complicated than
sharing a printer or basic directory sharing on a lan (and I try to
avoid even that like the plague).  I have always used linux based
solutions for firewalls, web/ftp/file/whatever servers, but have never
had any formal training or courses.  I'd jump at the chance to hear the
experts share their experience.  If such a conf offered a LAMP stream,
I'm sure you would get several hundred turning up without once
mentioning "migrating from..."

Meta is "Overcoming legal barriers to opening your source", "Minimising patent exposure with Open Source Software" and "Finding the balance: practical economic analysis of Open Source deployment within your organisation".

The grand vision is to both grow the FOSS (and by implication Linux) "market" and also to introduce more technical people to it in a practical sense. Growing the userbase is all well and good, but if they're starved for support several bad things will happen:

 * Users will be left helpless, and FOSS will get a bad name;

 * Sharks will move in to take advantage of the above, and
   FOSS will get a bad name;

 * Money will continue to go to paper tigers and get shipped
   overseas to people who aren't exactly cash-starved rather
   than going back into the pockets of working Australians.

By staging conferences like this, we will familiarise people with FOSS and specifically Linux, and show them that something other than their friendly neighbourhood geek is happening in the area.

With this in mind, it would make sense to have such conferences in every capital city and perhaps a handful of regional centres as well, but to put it simply, we don't yet have enough people to pull that off.

So let's scale back a bit, and have a small user conf to /start/ with that keeps its focus on those who are already well down the FOSS road, but aren't interested in being kernel developers. There is a huge gulf between introducing newbies to FOSS and what LCA caters for. See how it goes. If it works, it will take on a life of its own, as lca has. It will go where the users want to take it, not where the marketing machine thinks it is needed.


So... what _I_ think we should do is send up a trial balloon later this year, maybe in August or September, in one of the capital cities, and if that works out we should have *two* running more or less back to back in widely separated cities for 2006. Maybe do that again in 2007, or maybe split out to *three* cities, and maybe make one of them Kiwi, and so on, expanding gradually until we have one in every capital city each year.

That is turning into a linux user marketing exercise. Why not let the lug's do the running (with la support) if a user conf looks to be of interest to them?

At the moment we don't have the resources to properly handle the
conf/roadshow type interest of newbies, so instead of saying it's too
hard, lets cater for a need we can see and relatively easily fill that
already exists in our own community.  Concentrate on those already in
the FOSS world who are one step below what lca caters to.




Michael Still (mikal@stillhq.com) | "The geek shall inherit
http://www.stillhq.com            |  the earth"
UTC + 11                          |    -- The Simpsons

Linux.conf.au 2005 -- Quite like an excellent Linux and Open Source
conference. http://lca2005.linux.org.au