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Doug Loss: Linux trade shows and the Linux community

Jun 25, 2000, 08:07 (7 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Doug Loss)

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[ Doug Loss of SEUL writes: ]

I'd like to talk about something that many of us have noticed, and that I think we need to address. It seems to me that increasingly the many Linux trade shows around North America at least (and I suspect other parts of the world too) are being run by groups that just don't "get" the Linux community.


Representatives from our project, SEUL (Simple End User Linux), were at a few shows during the first few months of this year. At all of them we noticed the paucity of representation of anything other than commercial companies. Where was GNOME? Where was KDE? What about Debian? They weren't there.


Friends, I'm afraid this is giving a very distorted view of the Linux community to interested attendees of these shows. They're going to think that Linux is pretty much like Windows and MacOS, dominated by corporate interests. Aside from technical differences, what do they see to distinguish us from the computer milieus they already know?


We need to find ways to increase the participation and visibility of the non-commercial portion of the Linux community at these shows. I have a suggestion for a way to do just that. This idea comes from my friend Pete St. Onge. This will only work if the organizers of the shows buy into the idea, but I think it will be a win for everyone if they do. Enough. The idea is: make a condition of participation in the show for each commercial organization be the sponsorship of one or more non-commercial Linux projects's attendance at the show. The number could be set by the organizers in any manner they like. This sponsorship should probably include help with transportation and lodging, as those are often the biggest impediments for small projects to participate in shows.


As I see it, the commercial groups would be allowed to sponsor whichever groups they like. I could see IBM sponsoring Apache, Corel sponsoring Debian or WINE, Red Hat sponsoring GNOME, O'Reilly sponsoring the LDP, etc. These sponsorships could provide very useful positioning in the Linux community, as we seem to be most supportive of those companies that are supportive of us. By the same token, I suspect the sponsored projects would have good feelings toward their sponsors and might be interested in developing the relationship further. The shows would benefit by having more exhibits and a much greater and more interesting variety among them.


Pete came up with this idea as a regularization of something that actually happened to us. We were contacted by a commercial organization (I won't name them without their permission) about sponsoring SEUL to attend LinuxWorldExpo in NYC last March. It was short notice, so initially we said, sorry, no time. They were very enthusiastic about having us, though, and offered to cover lodging and transportation (within reason) of some SEUL representatives. Members of the Linux Knowledge Base (a SEUL-affiliated project) decided that they could put together a presentation quickly enough, and agreed to do so. We were astounded by this generosity, and certainly are interested in working with this commercial organization in the future. We think this sort of thing could work on a larger scale.


This is a way to increase non-commercial project participation in trade shows; I'm sure it's not the only way. Please, let's discuss this idea and come up with others. It will help us all to show the world what the Linux community is all about.