October 12, 2000

Nothing matters but the T-shirts

Author: JT Smith

By Emmett Plant
NewsForge Columnist

Speaking of GNU/Linux

(Even though Emmett wrote this column for the San Jose Linux World show a few months ago,
it applies just as much to the Atlanta Linux gathering he is attending this week,
so we decided to run it again. - Ed)
Next week, booth babes and geeks alike will descend upon San Jose for the
LinuxWorld Conference and Expo. Whether you're going or not, I'm going to
prepare you for the Linux tradeshow scene, which can be pretty exciting
and exhausting. Forget everything you know about conferences and
conventions, because the Linux community is a little different than
most. On to the action!Let's talk a little bit about the currency of the show. Some items are unbelievably expensive, like a $7 hot dog or $11 plate
of nachos. Other items are believably expensive, like rackmount servers
and big-ass displays bigger than your television. Other items are
absolutely free, and this is what you're really after. You don't really
want to attend the conference sessions. They're usually boring things you
go to to satisfy your boss. The Linux community is well-known for being
overtly social, so if you really want to know something about your
favorite Open Source program, the chances are good that the author is
running around the expo floor, trying to get as much free stuff as

Let's make one thing clear. You're supposed to go for T-shirts. Ignore
pamphlets. Grab sunglasses, not business cards. Take posters, not fridge
magnets. I'm not saying go for the expensive stuff, I'm just saying get
the coolest stuff. A lot of it will depend on how much you can carry. The
reason you want to get the cool stuff is this -- if you get cool stuff
fast, you'll still have cool stuff that you didn't pay for when the cool
stuff runs out. Eventually, you're going to meet someone cool who missed a
piece of cool stuff. You've got the cool stuff. Supply the shirt, and
convince the guy to teach you about what he does with Linux.

Avoid public relations people. They are your enemy. I'm not
kidding. They're going to be really super-friendly, and chances are good
that they're going to be beautiful. Remember, they're hired because
they're friendly and beautiful. They're being paid to get your attention
and keep it for as long as possible, or until you buy their
product. Resist. Please don't assume that the PR people want to date
you. They don't. They're hired to be interested in whatever you're talking
about. It amazes me that people who wouldn't be caught dead in a strip
club will attend trade shows, when the same forces are at work. OK,
they're not all bad, and they are humans, after all. They're a necessary
evil. Deep in my heart, I love public relations and marketing people
because of a deep love for my common man, but I don't trust these people
worth a damn. I'm a tech writer, and they recognize me because I'm at
every show, just like they are. They're so happy to see me. They even hug
me. But I never hear from them unless I'm at a show. Interesting, eh? Now,
this isn't absolute truth in every case. My friend Lynne from Corel does
e-mail occasionally, and not press releases. I respect her a lot.

I talked about the conference sessions earlier, and told you to avoid
them. I may have been a bit hasty. I guess I meant to say, "don't waste
your time." A lot of the stuff you see at these conferences is readily
available information on the wWb, so I would avoid stuff like security
panels and the latest GNOME tutorial -- you'll learn about it soon enough
from another source. But there are really great panels there that you
should avoid. I like attending "Linux and the Media" panels, and
conversational "Birds of a Feather" panels. They're fun. So, go to some of
the sessions, but make sure you're not wasting time there. There's free
stuff being given out upstairs.

Speaking of free stuff -- do you like to drink like a fish? Are you
interested in being lambasted on the Web for weeks after someone takes
your picture while you puke on Linus' shoes? Are you interested in
dancing? Music? Do you like to have conversations with other people by
screaming over loud club music? Then the conference party scene is for
you! There's usually a party every night of the show, and if the evil PR
people are working their magic, you'll know about all of them.

Remember, if your company sent you to a Linux conference, you owe it to
yourself to screw your current employer and get a job with one of the
companies exhibiting at the show! They don't appreciate your worth where
you are, anyway. I'm only kidding, but a decent percentage of people who
go these shows end up differently-employed when they leave. Keep your eyes
open and your loyalties shifting!


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