Impressions from the Southern California Linux Expo 9x

SCALE 9x wins more than Charlie Sheen

If you weren't in Los Angeles last weekend, you missed all the fun. No, not the OSCARS. I'm talking about the Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE). Once again, the SCALE folks put on one of the best FOSS community events on the planet and handled a 20% increase in attendees with few glitches.

According to Larry Cafiero, one of the SCALE guys (as well as being one of the "beards of open source," ahem), SCALE drew more than 1,800 attendees. And those are the ones who actually registered. The event moved from the Westin LAX to the Hilton LAX to cope with the attendance — and it grew by about 20% this year, so that the space was still close to capacity.

I missed SCALE last year, and regretted it. To make up for that, I made sure to get in early to attend Friday through Sunday, and I'm glad that I did. I missed the most horrifyingly inappropriately titled talk (which was a bummer, as I've heard great things about it) Friday, but caught Tom 'Spot' Callaway's "This is why you FAIL" talk. Callaway went into reasons that FOSS projects "FAIL" — or rather hinder their success. He's written the book, well chapter, on things projects should/shouldn't do. You can read the checklist on Spot's blog, but it was good to hear some of the backstory.

Saturday morning kicked off with Leigh Honeywell's excellent keynote on Hackerspaces. I'm not sure I talked to anyone after the keynote that wasn't revved up to check out a local hackspace after hearing Honeywell. The best keynotes are the ones by someone truly enthusiastic about their topic — and this was a prime example.

The problem with the rest of the Saturday and Sunday schedule was trying to pick the best of the talks. Finding enough time to hit the Expo was pretty easy, though. I'd advise conference organizers to take a close look at the SCALE schedule. They wisely provided plenty of gap time between talks for plenty of time for the conference "hallway track" and time to hit the expo.

In addition to the timing, SCALE's schedule is a great example of hitting a good mix of developer, enthusiast, admin, and general interest talks. Overall, the quality of talks that I attended were top-notch. I did ditch out of one "intro" talk after the speaker started right off the bat going over the heads of anyone who would likely attend an "intro" talk.

The only real down note for me was the Jane Silber keynote on Sunday. Canonical's CEO came to talk about the "cloud for human beings," but it was more of a commercial than a keynote. Silber is personable enough, and she got a few chuckles out of the audience (on purpose), but it was a very low-energy talk for a keynote and more of a sales pitch for big C. It wasn't a horrible talk by any stretch, just not sure it was worth being up early(ish) on Sunday morning after a late night out with other SCALE attendees. Props to the SCALE folks, though, for starting keynotes at 10 a.m. and not 9 a.m.

Overall, I consider SCALE 9x not only a massive success, but a good model for community run conferences. It really delivered on content, inexpensive to attend (good job on the hotel rate, too), and brought out a fantastic mix of FOSS enthusiasts, experts, and developers.

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