November 11, 2001

Usenix/Linux Conference in Oakland, CA - Why poor attendance?

Author: JT Smith

Michael writes "Poor attendance this year probably doesn't mean poor attendance at the next such conference, but it does echo the poor attendance at LinuxWorld. At Intel's sideshow there, everyone in attendance won a P4 chip. There were 27 vendors giving away t-shirts!

Certainly the recent terrorist events took their toll, but other factors need to be considered: 1)like everybody was busy attending dot com bankruptcy auctions and getting 1U servers with dual processors, etc. for $175 and P2 workstations for $25. And, 2) of course, reflective of the times, open source mavens are dropping like flies and can't buy booths that draw one person for every $100 expended -- I am going to arsdigita's auction this week. Then, 3) the Oakland Merriott is home to the local Computer Swap Meets several times a month, hardly a prestigious venue to follow so closely after LinuxWorld in pre-tower days. How bad was attendance anyway? Does the term "playing to an empty house" strike a chord? OK, the K stuff was well attended and competent.

This show's management were unresponsive to our request for a non-profit style show booth price (we were asking maybe a little less than 3 grand) posted over six weeks ago. We didn't see any free booths at this show at all, while LinuxWorld, which was at Moscone Center in San Francisco in August gave dozens of booths away to fill the hall --there were dot orgs oozing out of the carpeting -- so much for their rep as a "commercial" show. You either do a job right or don't do it at all.

Another difference -- with a few exceptions, to my mind, the conferences and stuff were dull dull dull in Oakland -- perhaps the so-called juried effect, compared to Linuxworld. There was trademark 101, interminable "ls" tutorials, monitor refresh remedial, and -- Who cares how xfree86 beat out x consortium anyway? That was a dead story years ago. Also, how much longer do I have to listen to Yet Another Clustering seminar, which I now rename YAC-YAC-YAC. A cluster in my home, a cluster in my garage, a cluster at my girlfriends, a firewall for gramps, but not a decent font do we own.

And while one book vendor had a lot of mediocre books no one at this conference in their right mind would buy -- I can get 20% off at Compusa -- another book vendor was showing books we wanted to buy but couldn't because they weren't ready for prime time! There is a joke there somewhere.

But, and this is the bottomline -- I met some of the greats, learned some stuff I didn't know, like why BSD is better than Linux, what happened to Walnut Creek CD-ROM, who is going to post exciting software Real Soon Now, got questions answered forthrightly by well placed technologists, and didn't give one hoot that all the t-shirts were for sale and not giveaways. You figure. If it comes to your hometown, be sure and go."


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