August 16, 2009

OpenSource World

Article Source Dissociated Press
August 16, 2009, 1:06 pm

LinuxWorld Expo was one of the first shows that I went to when I started working in the Linux industry. That was way back in the day when it was crazy talk to think that Linux would go anywhere and we were all (it seemed) 29 years old and full of optimism and enthusiasm. LinuxWorld was a rarity — a chance to get together with other folks in the Linux community and show off our wares, and find out what everyone else was doing.

This year, LinuxWorld has become OpenSource World. It’s a sign of the times — Linux has become so mainstream that the organizers feel that Linux alone isn’t a big enough draw. It does make sense to branch out to embrace the entire open source market — still lots going on, and Linux is at the center of much of it.

I was on the presentation committee for OSW, so of course I wanted to attend — and I was also speaking at the event, but also just really wanted to see how the change would go over.

In the end, I think it was a mixed bag. I don’t have an attendance count, but I think it was down from last year, and last year’s LinuxWorld Expo wasn’t as well-attended as years past. The show floor was pretty sparse, and the hours were very short — a few hours in the middle and at the end of the day. The plus side for this, according to some of the exhibitors that I spoke to, was that they got some bursts of traffic and then didn’t have to stand in a deserted booth the entire day.

And the quality of attendees seemed pretty high. IDG was going for “qualified” attendees, rather than just trying to herd as many people in as possible. I think this proved to be a good strategy. One of my friends that worked a booth said that they were seeing more interest at OSW than at OSCON — and felt it was worth attending. In the end, it’s not just sheer numbers that matter — it’s also the quality of the attendees. By “quality” I mean, whether or not they’re the right audience for the vendors or talks. Most exhibitors would rather have 10 people that are the decision makers they want to talk to than to try to address 100 people who aren’t the right demographic.

There was also a push to make the show a more “community” show — but this didn’t work out so well. The space allocated to .orgs was in a separate room and, well, I’ll just say I didn’t hear good things about that decision. It was better than no space at all, but not by a lot. I’m not at all disappointed that I decided not to spend the money to have an openSUSE booth at this show. Maybe next year they’ll do it up right and we can return, but as long as the .orgs are crammed into a single room that doesn’t get reasonable traffic flow, openSUSE should focus elsewhere. It’s not like there’s a shortage of events!

The talks were very well attended, and I heard almost nothing but praise for the selection of talks and the general quality. I ran the System Troubleshooting track, and it seemed to go very well. I skimmed some of the feedback, and the speakers got great reviews.

The show exceeded my expectations as a speaker. I wasn’t sure how many attendees to expect, but I had about 80-100 people in my talk about the openSUSE Build Service (a general overview of the build service, nothing in-depth since it’s hard to get in-depth in 45 minutes…) and that seemed to go over well. The audience had great questions and I noticed several people taking note of the “further information” URLs at the end. Was surprised to see that, despite a lot of media attention over the launch, the SUSE Studio awareness was at about 5% of the audience. Just a reminder that PR and marketing is a marathon, not a sprint…

Stormy Peters was kind enough to invite me to the desktop / netbook panel in the morning, along with Jono Bacon and Todd Finch from Dell. That had an even bigger turnout and was a good bit of fun. For maximum fun, though, panels need to have some disagreement — we were largely agreeing and amplifying each other, not so much disagreeing. But it was fun and (I hope) informative.

So what happens next year? Not sure. The program committee is supposed to have a call this week, and I’m curious to see how that will go. Have any feedback on OSW? Feel free to comment here, I’d be happy to pass it on.

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