September 24, 2009

What I Learned at the openSUSE Conference

Article Source Dissociated Press
September 24, 2009, 3:54 pm

Has it really been a week since the openSUSE conference kicked off? The time passed far too quickly!

Since I didn’t have a chance to participate in the “what I learned” lightning talks, I thought I’d write a few thoughts down on my blog. I’ve taken a few days to reflect on the conference while I was attending the Linux Foundation’s initial LinuxCon (more on that later).

As with any major event, I’m feeling glad that it’s behind me and it appears to have been quite successful. I’m also a bit sad that it was over so quickly and I didn’t have quite as much time as I wanted to talk to many of the contributors who attended. Of course, with more than 200 kick-ass people at the conference, it was impossible to spend much time with every openSUSE contributor I wanted to talk to in greater depth.

It was fantastic to meet so many people in person for the first time. Putting faces to names (or IRC nicks) was a lot of fun. Funny how people so rarely match up with the mental picture you form of them over a network connection!

No Network

The only consistent complaint I’ve heard about the conference was the lack of WiFi. We knew that would be missed, but unfortunately the choices were either no network or a very crappy network. We opted for no network so that the speakers could still have a wired connection for their presentations, if necessary, and a “email garden” where a limited number of connections were available.

I know that there’s quite a lot of withdrawl for contributors when they’re separated from email and so forth — and some sessions benefit from connectivity. However, in general, I think that the lack of network was additive to the conference rather than a problem. Seriously, it forced everyone at the conference to mix and talk to one another and give primary attention to the presentations and the people at the conf.

Over the last ten years, I’ve attended more conferences than I care to count. It’s been my experience that the better the network, the more likely it is you lose attention to whatever is on the other side of the network — be it Twitter, email, IRC, or whatever. Yes, it’s inconvenient to be disconnected. But you don’t fly across the planet to do email — you go to meet with folks face to face.

To sum up: I think the advantages of focusing attention outweighed the problems associated with no WiFi network. Next time we do this we’ll probably have better acccess to a faster and more robust network. We need to think hard whether we want to utilize it, though.


I think there was some skepticism around the BarCamp/unconference format prior to the conference, but it looks like the format proved very effective. For the most part, the unconf sessions and BoFs were booked solid and seemed to be very productive.

I wish I could have stayed Sunday for the lightning talks. I’ve seen the photos of the talks, but I would liked to have been there to see how well they went over.

The keynotes seemed to be well received, so we should probably look at doing something similar next time around. Maybe we should add more keynote slots? I’d love to hear suggestions for future keynotes.


The openSUSE Conference couldn’t have happened without a lot of hard work and planning. I’ve been involved in planning conferences before, but not as directly as this. I learned a lot in the process, which is to say that I had many assuptions about planning a conference that were corrected during the process of putting on the openSUSE Conference.

I’d like to thank (in no particular order) Michael Loeffler, Alexia Henrie, Jacqueline Junghams, Ulrike Beringer, Robert Lihm, Karl Cheney, Henne Vogelsang, Jan Blunck, the openSUSE Board and everyone else who volunteered their time and effort in organizing the conference. Each of you brought a great deal of energy, talent, and enthusiasm to this endeavor and it’s hard to overstate how important your contributions were to the project in general and the conference in particular.

I’d also like to thank our sponsors, B1 Systems, Linux Magazin, Aeroaccess, and (of course) Novell.

Finally, I’d like to thank all of the contributors who not only showed up, but jumped in with both feet and participated while having a lot of fun. Without you, none of the planning and organization would have made a difference. It was a distinct pleasure seeing so many openSUSE contributors together and getting to know one another. I have no doubt that we should do it again and again. Speaking of which…

Next Year

We don’t have an exact date for the next conference, but the current plan is to co-locate the next openSUSE Conference (we still need a snappier name!) alongside Brainshare Europe in May, 2010. We will publish additional details as soon as we have them.

And, of course, we’ll continue to attend and participate in other events like FOSDEM, LinuxTag, SCALE, and other important FOSS events.

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