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Re: [Linux-aus] Goodbye AUUG, hello phoenix


"Linux" is the word that most non-FOSS people recognize.  At Software Freedom Day
yesterday we were handing out Ubuntu CDs in the town library.  When we started to
hand the CD to the person, they would say "what is Ubuntu?" and we would tell them it
is a new distribution of Linux, and when we said "Linux", their eyes softened and
they reached for the CD.  This was true even of some people that had used several
other distributions of Linux before.  The point is that "Linux" is still the thing
that a lot of people associate with "Free Software".  And, like it or not, most people
call the entire distribution "Linux", mainly because to call it:
"GNU/Linux/MySQL/Sendmail/X11/vim/....." would be too long.

I still remember the conference called "The Bazaar" which was held in New
York City many years ago.  Named after ESR's paper "The Cathedral and the Bazaar", it
was held at a large conference center while a PC show was happening on the floor
below.  No one came, even thought the Bazaar was basically a free, walk-in event.
Unfortunately this was also at Christmas time, so a lot of people may have thought
that the "Bazaar" was a handicraft show, and walked on past. On the second day we put
up a sign that said "The Linux Operating System", and then the "PC people" started
coming to the event.

Secondly, while most people now recognize the phrase "Open Source", over the years
I have come to agree with Richard Stallman that the most important part of the software
is that it is "Free as in Freedom".  Ergo I usually refer to it as "FOSS" or "Free
and Open Source Software".  You can argue that the term "Open Source" made it more
palatable for some people, but I wonder if the community did not make a mistake by
not putting more effort into getting people to understand the freedom that they are
loosing by using proprietary software.

Third, I am beginning to question the concept of the huge "everything" conference (as
many people in this thread have questioned).  If you take FOSS to its limit ("World
Domination") and if all software in the world is FOSS, then "LinuxWorld" becomes
"Comdex" and "linux.conf.au" becomes something I can't even imagine.

USENIX made special efforts to have "Linux" tracks and "BSD" tracks and other
tracks, but each group still wanted their own separate conference, so they could
concentrate on what they wanted to talk about.  Perhaps it is better to have the name
more distinctive and focused, and allow the other people to go off and "do their own
thing".  Or make plans that the parent organization is federated, and you still have
more focused conferences, each with a name that focuses them:

	o linux.conf.au
	o bsd.conf.au
	o database.conf.au

I will also point out that "federated" conferences often have a harder time getting
sponsorships than more focused conferences.  When the funding people ask "What is the
conference about", they will often come across with money if you can say "Linux"
or "BSD" or "databases" rather than "Free and Open Source Software".  Something to
think about.

In addition, I think that large conferences held in select places attract the
"choir", but lots of the congregation stay at home and the sinners never leave their
chairs.  I realize that linux.conf.au was never meant to be a "let's get newbies to
use FOSS" conference, but if you are thinking about changing Linux Australia, its
conference title and such then why not look at the big picture and see if having
more focused smaller conferences and events (and more of them) along with a larger
federated event might also be the ticket?  This might allow proprietary software users
to be dragged along to these smaller, closer, less expensive (both in travel time
and money) one or two day conferences and "get the religion".

Finally, Naming and Branding mean a LOT.  In the Unix days I remember many managers
coming to me and saying that their company was not using Unix, they were using AIX, or
Solaris, or HP/UX or Ultrix, and then I would try to help them understand that these
were all "Unix" systems.  I fully believe that one of the reasons why Unix died was
the lack of rallying around the word "Unix", and the companies pushing their own
brands.  I get nervous when I see "Linux" vendors push "Red Hat", "Unbuntu", "SuSE"
and other names without pointing out the fact that they are all "Linux", when we
still (IMHO) need to push the fact that these are all one operating system.  I get
nervous when I see a perfectly good, cute logo (Tux) get side-stepped for Iguanas and
Fedoras.  And quite frankly I get nervous when I see a successful organization called
"Linux Australia" with a successful conference called "linux.conf.au" talking about
changing their brand and perhaps changing their focus.

I do not think the operating system battle is over yet, and that is why I push
"Linux" and cute penguins.  While I recognize other FOSS operating systems (*BSD,
TinyOS, FreeDOS), and why I would always welcome them to an event, the marketplace is
fickle, and we need to keep the "customers" focused.

So while the choice of what your organization and your events are obviously yours
alone, I do urge caution.  I see no urgency to the matter, but lots that can go wrong
if you do not do it right.


Jon "maddog" Hall
Executive Director           Linux International(R)
email: maddog@li.org         80 Amherst St. 
Voice: +1.603.672.4557       Amherst, N.H. 03031-3032 U.S.A.
WWW: http://www.li.org

Board Member: Uniforum Association
Board Member Emeritus: USENIX Association (2000-2006)

(R)Linux is a registered trademark of Linus Torvalds in several countries.
(R)Linux International is a registered trademark in the USA used pursuant
   to a license from Linux Mark Institute, authorized licensor of Linus
   Torvalds, owner of the Linux trademark on a worldwide basis
(R)UNIX is a registered trademark of The Open Group in the USA and other