Don Marti

Mon 06 Oct 2008 05:40:50 PM PDT

2009: going somewhere?

Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier says yes, we do need yet another Linux event. In this case, the Linux Foundation's LinuxCon. Conference yes, trade show no.

Meanwhile, O'Reilly's OSCON 2009 will be moving from Portland, Oregon to San Jose, California. And LinuxWorld Conference and Expo is becoming "OpenSource World Conference & Expo".

So is everyone betting that regular IT customers will go to an "open source" event? Developers are an easy sell, since developing your own skills based on open source makes your work the complement to a free good, and makes you worth more. But to IT customers, "open source" is a dull, obscure, bullet point. Imagine a software vendor persuading you, the end user, of the advantages of "object oriented" software, or the vendor's "Scrum development" process. Yawn. People who want an application are going to attend the event for that kind of application, and the open source contenders are going to have to go there.

(Open Source apps vendors: you are not the slow class, and your Mom is not going to put your work on the refrigerator whether or not it sucks. You're at the same art expo with everyone else, and unless you can make something saleable, Thomas Kinkade is going to clean your clock. So why put your marketing budget into the software equivalent of the Special Needs School Art Fair?)

Yes, instead of a Linux event in the Bay Area and an open source event in Portland, there are now two open source events in the Bay Area.

Sounds like an opportunity. Two fundamental things are missing from the major Linux conference scene. Number one: hardware. I don't just want to see Intel and AMD. I want to meet the people who can build me the right machine for what I want to run and not give me any grief. No, everyone doesn't just buy Dell. Recently, the Dell box closest to what I wanted had Broadcom hardware on it, and I don't have time to put up with their driver shenanigans. ("I was gonna release hardware docs, but then I got high/Linux woulda worked right outa the box, but then I got high./Now everyone's buying Intel, and I know why, because I got high, because I got high, because I got high.")

Naturally, the companies that build quality Linux boxes to order have low margins and tiny marketing budgets, so you need to have a cheap location and bargain booth space packages.

The other missing thing? Riff-raff. And I mean that in the nicest possible way. The cheapest 3-day LinuxWorld Conference and Expo conference pass is $995. It's pretty easy to get a 20% discount, but that's still almost $800. OSCON costs $1690.00 for early registration.

Feet located. Ready, aim, fire. Those kinds of prices are a recipe for the Same People Talking To The Same People Conference 2009. Some of the best questions come from broke-ass hackers or people with a real problem to solve but whose job doesn't justify an big-time IT conference.

Sure, LinuxWorld has always offered a free or discounted Exhibits Only pass, but that's for the people who want to browse the show floor (for Linux boxes!) or the free T-shirt hunters. Where do you put the hobbyist who wants to learn enough about Linux to have a chance introducing it at work, or the Linux administrator whose company training budget got blown on Facebook and training for the developers? (Low-budget entrepreneurs I'm not worried about; anyone who can't BS his or her way into a conference for free will get eaten alive his or her first sales call anyway.)

Anyway, there is one West Coast conference where you can get the whole enchilada. SCALE is a 2-day conference, they charged $60 last year, and you can get your hands on real hardware in the expo room if you can elbow your way through the crowds.

Disclosure: I have been a speaker at SCALE the last two years. (Standing room only crowd! Yay me!) and am a program committee member for IDG's LinuxWorld Conference and Expo.