October 4, 2003

Ohio LinuxFest: An InterLUG Gathering

- by Paul Ferris -
Behind every good idea is a dreamer. I have known Mike Meffie for several
years now. He was an early member to the Canton Linux Enthusiast user
group, and he's been extremely active. He shares his knowledge of Linux
in many ways but recently he went above and beyond the call, and started
the first Inter-LUG event in Ohio; Ohio LinuxFest.

The first Ohio Inter-LUG event was planned quietly. It wasn't known how many
people might show up to the event and space was limited. The usual LUG
problems also complicated matters: Cash for example. It's an amazing
feat of accomplishment. A web site,
planning mailing list and the arrangements more or less happened by
volunteers. I've watched it unfold at a distance, and honestly, I'm in awe
of how quickly it happened and how well the event was planned.

Given the goals of the group and the size, it's amazing that they've pulled
it off so smoothly.
The LUG gathering is slated for October 4, 2003 (likely you're reading
this after the fact; They didn't want any press that might get Slashdotted
and cause the event to be overrun).

Mike and I get to see each other about once every couple of months lately, as
my work keeps me from regularly attending the local LUG where we gather. I
caught up with him via email for this short interview.

  • PF) What made you think of doing this (InterLUG)?

MM) I have always found the Canton Linux User Group (officially called
the Canton Linux Enthusiasts) to be entertaining and educational. It's
a great place to pick up little tips from the experts and to see what
kinds of new applications people are trying out.

We have a diverse group that come to the meetings and hang out on the
mail list. Some are technical, some are just trying to make the most
of their PC. Just the same it is a relatively small user group. Some
people started talking about evangelizing Linux to a wider audience.

It was after some of these discussions, I realized there are many more
users out there in other user groups all around, and I wanted to meet
these people, and share and learn with them. So instead of trying to
evangelize, I wanted to try to do some bottom-up organization and bring
some of these groups together.

PF) How hard was it to get started?

Yes. First we set up a mail list and I sent out announcements to every
LUG in Ohio I could find. That was surprisingly difficult. There is no
"official" organizational structure to go to find a definitely list
of User Groups. I was able to find most of the active groups on web,
and on sites like http://linux.org and the Linux counter.

After we had a number of people on the list, we talked about the
possibility of an InterLUG meeting, but the concept languished
until I read about the success of the LinuxFest NorthWest
(http://www.linuxnorthwest.com/). It inspired me to push harder.
I started contacted people to find a suitable place to hold the meeting.

The breakthrough occurred when I found the Open Source Club @ Ohio
State University, an active student organization. After some emails and
IRC the president of the club, Nick Hurley, graciously offered to host the
InterLUG meeting at Ohio State. Once that occurred, things moved very quickly.

An interesting point is that all of the organization for this event has
occurred over the Internet. Email, web, and IRC. I will be meeting Nick
for the first time at the event.

PF) What importance do you assign LUGs in general, and
how do you envision this (The gathering) helping Ohio

Obviously, LUGs are important to the users to provide a tech support
structure for new comers. In addition to the tech stuff, I see other
social aspects that seems to buck the general trend in America
for people to disconnect from our community. My hope is that our LUGs
can work together for common goals and pool resources when needed.

The planners of this event have expressed a desire to expand. Things like
facilities and the less obvious questions (resources and money) for
next year are likely going to be in focus today and for the months to come.
If you have something to offer, you might want to contact Meffie for next
years event.

In general, Linux User Groups are extremely important to the success of Linux.
They present one of the most formal, first and front-line faces to the new
Linux user. I personally hope the InterLUG event in Ohio helps expand
the number of groups and the number of LUG attendees. This promises to be
an awesome start to something that will likely turn into a yearly event that
draws a far larger crowd.

I can't help but comment on one more thing. For all the worries about the
commercialization of Linux, events like this shine the light of day on
what's really going on: GNU/Linux is still a grass roots movement.


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