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Editor's Note: Shows Don't Have to Be Big to Be Useful

Oct 07, 2005, 23:30 (3 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Brian Proffitt)

By Brian Proffitt
Managing Editor

For those of you who might not believe in an supreme entity, I think I have proof not only that there is such a Deity, but that He has a sense of humor as well.

My evidence? Picture, if you will, the Ohio LinuxFest nestled snugly within the huge confines of the Greater Columbus Convention Center, all 750 guests hellbent for leather on learning all that is good and Linux. As you might imagine, a large portion of these attendees were of the geek and nerd end of the spectrum, much more so than at a larger trade show like LinuxWorld or the Open Source Business Conference, where a large portion of the crowd are suits or people who look uncomfortable in anything but.

So imagine such a collection of individuals sharing the same convention center with, I kid you not, the Top Talent Star Model Search. Meeting. Get-together. Thingie.

When I went to the food court for lunch, I was amazed to see huddled masses of male Linux folk huddled in conspicuous places, staring open-mouthed at all of the women. It was like the worst cliché come to life.

I wanted to tell them to get in there, chat with them, assure them that according to a recent pseudo-science surveys found in such authoritative publications as Cosmo, women like geeks, because supposedly we--I mean they--will devote themselves eternally to their female companions.

Alas, love was not to blossom in Ohio that day.

But, oh, was this a fun event!

The organizers did very well in keeping the sessions moving along, and keeping people entertained and fed. And, from a press standpoint, the show provided a number of excellent speakers who really knew their stuff. Even the hardcore vendors did not stray too far into commercial land, which was a pleasant surprise.

Everyone I spoke to seemed to have gotten something out of this show, which is all the organizers could have asked. As for the partying, well, I missed out on all that, since I had a three-hour trip back to the homeland that night.

The reason I bring the show up at all is not to give a travelogue or review of the show. But, rather it is to point out that shows like these are desperately needed for a growing segment of the Linux community: the independent contractor. I spoke to a number of such contractors at this event, who were all seeking more ammunition to convince their customers why Linux is the most important IT step they could make. Many of them have never been to a LinuxWorld, since they are too far or too expensive.

All geek kidding aside, small shows like this are very needed to get a lot of people into the Linux education and support loop in larger numbers, quickly. There are scads of consultants--system admins and developers--who need to have a social and business exchange available to them.

I know the trade show organizers, and they won't put a lot of money into this kind of show. Potential vendors (who pay the most to keep a show going) will shy away from the noncommercial-types who would also need to attend these shows. No vendors, no money, no incentive for the organizers.

Which is why such shows need to be organized at the local level. LUGs, colleges, and other computer organizations could do well to follow the model set by the Ohio LinuxFest and the SoCal Linux show. A grassroots effort is what is needed, and I think now is the best time to get started.

Interest in Linux and open source has never been higher, and we need every opportunity we can to educate all comers to this technology.