OLF2008 Wrap-Up


Another Ohio LinuxFest has come to a close. It was, I think, as successful as ever. We did a lot right, and as usual we learned a lot about what to do next year to make it even better. We had, I think, around 1,100 people registered to attend, and we had about 950 confirmed check-ins. We know there were a couple dozen people walking around who hadn’t bothered to check in, so we’re pretty confident that we broke 1,000 attendees again this year.

As I’ve done for the last couple of years, I coordinated the check-in desk. Unlike the past couple of years, the conference started at 8 AM, so I had to be there and ready to go by 7 AM. A couple of volunteers arrived right about the same time as I did, and our first attendees were ready to check in right at 7 AM! We were able to process the check-ins, but we didn’t have any of the goodie bags, band passes, or t-shirts! Thankfully Mike Meffie arrived about 10 after 7 with all that stuff, and the check-in process soon got into full swing. We had three or four folks procesing the check-ins (including Owen, who I dragged down with me and then conscripted into helping. He was extremely enthusiastic about the matter), so I spent most of the early morning at the t-shirt desk, distributing shirts to attendees who had purchased the Supporter Package. As I expected, the check-in desk remained steadily busy until well after the morning sessions started. And as usual, I had a great time meeting people, and making sure that the check-in process went as smoothly as possible.

The layout of the show was very different this year. In years past, the check-in desk was at the head of the hallway in which the sponsor exhibits were located, and in this hall were doorways into the various rooms in which the sessions were held. This year, the check-in desk was in a hallway all by itself. Around the corner was another hallway filled with sponsor exhibits, and up an escalator were more sponsor exhibits and the ballrooms in which the sessions were held. The net effect of this layout was that the show didn’t feel nearly as crowded as in the past. There were certainly plenty of people milling about in all three locations, but there was always room to move and breathe.

I didn’t attend any sessions this year, because I was at the check-in desk through most of the day. I did, however, get to talk to a handful of attendees about their impressions of the show. Everyone I spoke to was extremely satisfied, and very happy to be there. A couple of folks had attended almost every OLF, and expressed real happiness that the show has been able to maintain its quality and usefulness through the years. I also spoke to a couple of first-time attendees who simply gushed at how excited they were to be attending. One fellow remarked that some folks in Florida are trying to establish a LinuxFest in their own neck of the woods, and their metric for success is “to be like OhioLinux”. That was a really powerful acknolwedgement for all the hard work that goes into planning and preparing the show every year. I wish the Florida crew the best of luck, and if there’s anything I can do to help, I hope they contact me!

The evening keynote presentation was by Jono Bacon, the Ubuntu Community Manager for Canonical. His remarks were extremely insightful. He spoke about community, and about the sense of “belonging”: what it means, how we can accomplish it, and the benefits to be had. He identified several things about the larger Free Software community that we should all keep in mind, the most powerful to me being his comments about the gift economy: people who contribute to free software projects are providing gifts, and we need to always be thoughtful of and thankful for those gifts. It’s all too easy, when looking at someone’s contribution, to say “That patch sucks”. The slippery slope is that it then becomes all too easy to say “You suck”, which is disasterous to any community. Just like you wouldn’t say “That sweater sucks!” when your great aunt gives you a horrible sweater for Christmas, so too should we exercise more tact and politeness when dealing with free software contributions.

After the keynote, we grabbed a quick bite to eat and then ventured back for the conference after-party. I didn’t stay at the party long last year, but this year we stayed very late. Dual Core performed again this year, and I actually paid attention to their performance: even though I don’t really get into the nerdcore rap, I really admire their enthusiasm and dedication. They were clearly having a lot of fun, and the audience was responding very favorably. I particularly liked the rap about the OLPC One Laptop Per Child – anyone who can rap about that earns my respect!

After Dual Core, Jono led a dance-off between representatives of various distributions. KUbuntu, Arch Liunx, and Foresight Linux were joined by a representative of CreativeCommons to take turns dancing. I didn’t catch what the actual rules were, if any, nor what the actual goal was. The first round was fun, and silly, and everyone had a good laugh with the dancers. At the start of the second song, the KUbuntu guy took things to a new level when he peeled off his shirt. The CreativeCommons guy one-upped him by unbuttoning his own shirt and performing a bit of a teasing dance. Everything went crazy when the Foresight Linux guy came out, tore off his shirt, and used it as a boa for a variety of lewd maneuvers. The audience was laughing and hooting, and loving every minute of the spectable. I left when a chair was brought onto the dance floor, presumably for some Flashdance style antics.

With God-knows-what going on inside the main party room, I joined Owen and Mike for a quick round of Zombie Fluxx. We were quickly joined by Max, and then by Ed and his wife, and finally by Matt and his girlfriend.

Mike, Owen, and I had played a few rounds of Zombie Fluxx earlier in the day during some lulls in the schedule, and I enjoyed it well enough: the Creeper mechanic adds a fun twist to an already fun game, and the opportunity for making outrageous zombie jokes are numerous. Playing with such a large group (and helped along by alcohol, no doubt) took the game to an entirely new level. Max played one hand that lasted nearly 10 minutes, resulting in his victory for that game. We were all, literally, laughing hysterically throughout his entire hand. Things quickly got more and more silly. Everyone enjoyed the rule that required us to groan like zombies whenever we played a zombie card.

When I realized that I had been awake and active for nearly 20 straight hours, I suggested it was time to call it a day. Owen was hungry, though, and demanded White Castle hamburgers. Never one to say no to sliders, I easily coerced Mike to join us so that I could force him to try the delicious chicken rings: imagine an onion ring, but replace the onion with processed chicken meat. It’s delicious. Mike tried to claim that they were merely “okay”, but there was no ignoring how fast he was shoveling them into his mouth!

So all in all, it was a tremendously successful Ohio LinuxFest! It was great to see some familiar faces I only see at this event, and it was great to meet new folks passionate about Linux and Free Software. Beth Lynn, Greg, Meffie and Paul all did a superb job planning and executing this year’s event. If you’re interested in helping out next year, please contact the team!

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