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

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