August 18, 2000

Tired feet at LinuxWorld

Author: JT Smith

By Robin Miller
Editor in Chief

As the show winds down, exhibitors and attendees limp out of the hall. After three days of constant Linux, there are thousands of sore feet in San Jose.The estimated paid attendance figure I overheard in the press room was 20,000, which means 40,000 feet. From the awkward gaits of the people I saw streaming out of the main doors of the San Jose convention center as the show came to a close, at least 25% of them, or 10,000 feet, seem to have had all the standing and walking they could handle.

Tending a trade show booth eight hours a day for three days is a wearing task. It's fun the first few times you do it, but after that it's simply tiring. Many of the people at this show were veterans of computer shows in general and Linux shows in particular. After a while you recognize faces, and I saw many familiar ones here.

A growing number of companies apparently believe it is good policy to regularly send sysadmins or programmers to shows like LinuxWorld to attend sessions with titles like An Introduction to Writing Linux Device Driver Modules or Porting Windows NT Server Software to Linux. These tutorials are the true heart of this kind of show. They are where the serious learning takes place. There are keynote speeches too, of course, and they were as well-attended at this show as at any I've attended, but when you come right down to it they tend to have a certain sameness to them after you've heard 10 or 20 of them. The only experienced Linux show attendees I know personally who go hear these speeches at every single show are journalists who are expected to write stories about them, and they usually do not look forward to this duty.

The exhibit floor is where most of the milling-around is done. That's where you run into old friends and make new ones. Bars and hotel lobbies near the convention site serve a similar purpose, with the added advantage of offering a non-work atmosphere that encourages conviviality in a way a formalized, salesperson-filled exhibit hall cannot.

The summer LinuxWorld show grows every year. A tidbit I picked up from a conversation between two employees of IDG, the company that puts on LinuxWorld, indicated that they turned down 45 major corporate exhibitors who wanted in on this year's show but inquired too late; all available space in the San Jose convention center was filled to the point that the show keynotes were held in a hall across the street. This overflowing, not the lack of convenient places in San Jose to hold large all-ages parties, is the main reason next year's summer LinuxWorld will be held in San Francisco, not San Jose.

But we can discuss that later. Right now I am tired, and so are many other people here. There is always a strong feeling of letdown as one of these events comes to an end, especially one where the heartbeat group at its center is not the business crowd but a clannish bunch of people who are motivated more by community feelings than by money, as is the case with the inner core of the Linux movement.

The next stage, of course, as the LinuxWorld-type shows become increasingly marketing-dominated and less friendly to the original Linux people (and are held in increasingly expensive places) is for the inner cult crowd to put on its own series of smaller, less commercial shows. These shows could either be non-profit events or under the aegis of a Linux-oriented company that remembers that the LUG-based community of developers and users, not the people wearing company logoed polo shirts standing in $500,000 trade show booths, is the real reason for the whole get-together.

Category:

  • Linux
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