Linux.conf.au and the Penguin Parade

amcpherson's picture

This year I was lucky enough to attend Linux.conf.au in beautiful Melbourne, Australia. We were a sponsor of the conference, meaning that we did what we often times do: ensure talented speakers could attend. Many people don’t realize (or perhaps they do) that while a majority of open source developers get paid to work on open source by their companies at least part of the time, those companies don’t necessarily want to pay for them to speak or attend open source conferences. We believe it’s vital to the continued health and advancement of FOSS that the leaders from open source projects get the funding they need to collaborate with their peers. Thus the Linux Foundation Travel Fund was born.

Some highlights and thoughts:

  • Donna Benjamin and her crew did a fabulous job of organization. We organize our own conferences and it’s incredibly useful for me to see how they do it. For instance, they combine a standard conference program with quite informal mini-confs and BOFs. Our Collaboration Summits are much smaller and focused exclusively on working sessions; we have one day of presentations/panels that is a more traditional conference day. They did a nice job of combining centrally planned content with more self directed mini-confs. I also enjoyed the Lightening Talks concept very much. 3 minutes is really all anyone needs. I wish every conference would limit speakers to this. If you want to learn more, you can follow them the next day to a separate room. Let’s start a movement!
  • There seems to be a great deal of interest in who writes open source and why. (thanks Jon Corbet and Story Peters for pointing this out in their presentations and the reaction they’ve received.) Not sure why this is such a surprise to me given the novel psychological and economic underpinnings of open source. I think the LF could do some interesting work here.
  • LCA has an outstanding structure. Linux Australia provides the legal backing and fronts the money, with volunteers from various cities “bidding” to host and organize the conference. LA helps provide consistency but the volunteers really control the event. This seems to work extremely well. This is of interest to me since we provide similar backing for a new community event, The Linux Plumbers Conference. We have provided funds upfront and helped them get sponsors, but the conference is controlled and staffed by volunteers, most of whom are from the vibrant Linux developer community of Portland. I believe Plumbers will be held in Portland in 09 as well to help establish the conference with attendees, sponsors and volunteers.  Are US cities/communities similarly ready to bid and host community events, like Plumbers or LCA, backed by the Linux Foundation? Would individual LUGs have the motivation and volunteers to pull this off? I think Australian developers have slightly more motivation to entice speakers to Australia, given their geographic isolation. Are American Linux communities (both users and developers, as LCA appears to be) ready to take on this challenge? Or is the current line-up of non-volunteer events in the US good enough?
  • Yet another highlight (besides all the fine parties and the surprising streets of Melbourne) was the Penguin Parade I attended on Phillip Island, about an hour and a half away. (Insert Linux joke [ here ].) Every day at sunset, hundreds of penguins emerge from the sea  to make the waddle to their nests. You are allowed extremely close access to these Little Penguins. (They don’t like to be called Fairy Penguins any longer; they’re extremely sensitive to political correctness.) Absolutely no cameras are permitted so as not to distress the birds. It’s a bit touristy but I suggest any nature lover should experience this.

Next year LCA will be held in Tasmania and I hope to attend and make sure key speakers are able to attend as well.