February 10, 2007

Linux.conf.au videos

Author: Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier

Linux.conf.au 2007 was held January 15 through January 19 at the Kensington campus of the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. We've already run daily reportsfromtheconference, but I also brought back some video from the conference that's worth watching as well.

The Linux.conf.au folks did a fine job of getting video of the talks during the main conference, so if you weren't lucky enough to attend -- or if you missed a session or would like to see one again -- you can download any of the talks from the main conference and some of the ones from the miniconfs as well. Videos are in Ogg format, which should be easily viewable on any recent Linux distro. If you are on another platform, you might try the VLC media player.

I took a few videos of my own as well. On Wednesday, Dr. Andrew Tanenbaum gave the keynote for the day, and was introduced by none other than Linux creator Linus Torvalds. After the talk, I had a chance to sit down with Tanenbaum and Torvalds for a short video interview.

The last day of the conference, I talked to Linux kernel hacker Dave Jones, and Chris Blizzard of Red Hat and the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project. Jones and Blizzard were kind enough to take time out of the activities at LCA for short interviews as well.

Amazing what volunteers can do

What's really interesting is that LCA is run entirely by volunteers, and yet it runs as smoothly as (in some cases, more smoothly than) professionally organized conferences. That's no small feat, and I asked organizer Pia Waugh to talk a bit about the process.

Not only is LCA run entirely by volunteers, but it's run by a different set of volunteers every year. Waugh says that different teams "bid" to run the conference, and the winning team is selected by Linux Australia to handle running LCA for a year.

That might sound like a recipe for disaster, since it essentially means an inexperienced team every year, but Waugh says that Linux Australia has "a great knowledge transfer system."

"Every year the previous team (and selected members from previous years) meet with the current team as a sanity check and to pass on their knowledge of event coordination. This ensures that a high standard is maintained. The Linux Australia committee, which is separate from the Linux.conf.au organizing committee, also acts as a sanity check to the conference organization, and we haven't had a bad event yet."

Waugh says that Linux Australia also provides a legal umbrella for Linux.conf.au, as well as insurance and fiscal guidance, as part of its larger mission. However, the yearly team is mostly left "to run it as they like," which gives each event its own flavor.

The show has a fairly large budget for a volunteer-run show, though it's probably a pittance compared to what for-profit shows are budgeted at. Waugh says that this year's budget was in the neighborhood of $400,000 AUD, compared to a typical budget of $250,000 AUD, which comes from sponsors like Hewlett-Packard and IBM, as well as the fees paid by attendees.

How many people does it take to put on LCA? This year, a core team of seven organizers (appropriately dubbed "The Seven Team") ran the show with about 40 helpers.

LCA attracted about 800 attendees this year, with about 600 from Australia, and the US, New Zealand, and Finland the next three countries that delivered the most attendees. If you're wondering, why Finland, think Nokia. I don't have stats on this, but I'm pretty sure that Colorado delivered the most attendees from the US, with myself, LWN's Jon Corbet, and a large group of HP employees from HP's Colorado offices.

Though this year's LCA was the largest ever, Waugh says there's no pressure to deliver a similar showing next year. She says that they grew the conference on purpose, but that it's expected that the numbers will go up and down from year to year. This year, LCA also managed to draw quite a few women, comparatively. Women were about 12% of the attendees, thanks in part to the LinuxChix miniconf at the beginning of the week, which seems to have been quite a success.

See you in Melbourne

After spending a week at LCA, I can see why the conference gets such high marks from people who've attended. The conference draws many of the big names in the open source community and has a laid-back atmosphere. There are very few conferences where you'll find Linus Torvalds attending just for fun.

If you're curious about the talks from this year's LCA, check out the Programme page, which has videos of all the main LCA talks, and videos of many of the miniconf talks as well.

It's not too early to start planning for LCA 2008. Next year's Linux.conf.au is scheduled for January 28 through February 2, 2008, in Melbourne, Australia. Watch the LCA 2008 page for more details.

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