On feedback about the conference

    Davyd has some more feedback to go along with his incredibly helpful commentary on why it is a vital part of the conference to be allowed to float coke cans bearing liquid in a lecture theatre instead of say, outside.

    I'll comment a little more generally than is justified by Davyd's comments, as he is actually an extreme member of an entire class of comments we have recieved this week. I suspect this is because people with negative opinions always feel that they're more important to express than those with positive opinions. I'm going to assume that the 490 people who haven't expressed an opinion are largely happy with the conference.

    Well, I was going to say nice things about linux.conf.au, as really there was only a few tiny problems that I had issue with in what was otherwise a great conference. However, it seems that one particular organiser (who I will not link to) who I had not made a personal attack at (I was referring to someone else) has decided to get a little petty.


    Let's go back and look at what Davys actually said:

    "So, as well as the class of geek I have classed as the Adrians, there is a class of geek we will now refer to as the Alexes. These are the anally retentive geeks who won't let you experiment and play with things because it might possibly be a little silly. Commonly identified as stick in the muds. They spend so long thinking something through, that they never actually get to do it. They like to populate positions of pseudo-power, like being conference organisers. Resultantly, when you have developed a neutrally buoyant helium balloon and aluminium can rig, they sulk when you try to test it out. It seems that this species of geek has either been burnt in the past, and refuses to get back on the horse, or lacks the lateral problem solving skills to work out how to undo any unforseen side effects."

    That's the entire first paragraph of his previous blog post which is linked above. I take that as a personal attack. He didn't focus on the one issue at hand, adequately describe the circumstances, and then drew conclusions as to the entire organizational setup of the conference based on that flawed foundation.

    In rebuttal

    It seems that doctored IRC conversations (I can't find this conversation, verbatim, in the channel logs, if it did exist, someone mail it to me) are the order of the day. I mean, what the fuck? This is no way to prove that you're not a moron yourself now, is it? The doctor recommends a chill pill, a skin thickener and perhaps a nice lie down.


    The IRC log was not doctored, as comments from others in Davyd's blog has pointed out. It was a simple cut and paste from my Gaim session. Now, Davyd should either show the diffs between his logs and the one I posted, and therefore prove his case, or shut up. You'll note that both of Davyd's posts on this issue have involved making wild assumptions about the situation without verifying facts.

    Sure, perhaps floating things off balloons got a bit out of control (however, floating a wineglass got pretty classy) but I think perhaps you're reading much too much into this. This particular organiser is not an Alex (Alex doesn't act like a tool) and in general only proves something I've long thought about a large part of the free software community.


    The wine glass being in a room which wasn't 20 feet tall, full of electronics, and clearly marked as "no food or drink".

    For the record, I was on the lca '03 committee as a shit monkey, keeping the attendees, network and vendors happy. A job that I did so well, that Sun gave me one of their internal-issue linux.conf.au polo shirts (James Andrewartha got the other one). As a result, I was manning the desk in the network room and didn't manage to get into the group photo. As you might expect, someone has to be seated behind a desk, but your desk was a barrier in which all the organisers were located, all the time. It was rare to see an organiser out on the floor, with the community, except when running an errand.


    Whereas I am on the 2005 committee as someone who has actually organized things, and donated pretty much all my spare time for the last year to the conference. I object to after all that effort being labelled as a power hungry maniac because one little child couldn't play with his silly toy.

    It's disappointing to see this sort of reaction from an organiser, I can only hope that it doesn't reflect too badly on the event in retrospect or on your LUG.


    I'm not too concerned. I know that the opinion on PLUG and the computing club has decreased here because of your behaviour. I think people recognise that the organizers had a legitimate concern with your behaviour, that's certainly the feedback I've recieved. This is where the comments get a little more general... People seem to associate free software with the freedom to complain about, and the right to consultation about everything to do with events such as the conference. Why is having too much food at lunch such a big issue for example? It's not like the Pizza was made from clubbed baby seal or something...

    What was good about linux.conf.au 2005

    The venue was fantastic, this is by far the nicest facility that's been used. The addition of couches with power, wired and wireless access was a brilliant addition creating a vibrant atmosphere, although it did kill the terminal room.

    The selection of speakers was quite good. Although some of the talks I went to did turn out to be brouchureware, or were ruined by the loud-obnoxious geeks having an argument and the talk having to be rushed through. There was a slight fuckup with the scheduling on the Friday, and I admit that would have been hard to resolve at the time, but I was disappointed to see two of the talks I wanted to go to scheduled against one another at the last moment. Hopefully the Theora streams turn out pretty good.


    Both of the replaced speakers went home ill. As you say, there wasn't much we could do about it.

    The giveaways were also a nice addition. USB keys (big ones) were given away at the end of each talk. This could have been slightly improved if the speakers had prepared a method for handing them out earlier (some speakers did this, some were very creative about it). The additional giveaway of an IBM X40 every day also made sure that people made it to the keynotes, something I know that Bernard didn't manage last year.

    The professional networking session was a lot of fun. That was also an excellent choice of venue, the CSIRO Discovery Centre (kinda like Scitech, but with a Government name) did manage to accomodate enough people once they spread out, and there was more then enough to eat and drink.

    I'm not sure if I mentioned it, but the network ran fairly smoothly, and was available through the entire venue (even the GNOME miniconf, once we figured it out). Significantly less crack, and associated breakage then we had in Perth, and no routing the college through an 11mbit 802.11b connection, like I suspect was the case in Adelaide.

    I alluded to the Ogg Theora streams. Flumotion powered streaming allowed us to watch the Debian Miniconf from GNOME.conf.au. It proved significantly more exciting then my talk. I am told they are going to be combined with Annodex, and all sorts of things. This could be the most exciting LCA cd-rom yet.

    Eben Moglen received a literal standing ovation. Everyone in the theatre was standing and applauding at the end of his keynote. I've never seen anything quite like it. He actually seems rather brilliant, but possibly might fanboy RMS just a little too much.

    Things that were bad about linux.conf.au 2005

    The registration desk created a barrier between the conveners and the delegates that I don't feel gave a suitable opinion. Especially as at any one time, there would be four of them in there, simply using their laptops. Much too high a number. In my opinion it is the duty of the organisers to interact with the community, to really get a feel for how the conference is going, not to palm this duty off onto a number of sherriffs.


    I saw one talk during the conference (Mark Shuttleworth's). I know what happened behind that desk. That was us making sure that everything was organized, that people had a chance to ask their questions, that the catering was sorted out, and that the feedback email et cetera was being dealt with. For example, much of my sitting behind that desk was booking and organizing free hot air balloon rides for speakers. That took hours, but a delegate wouldn't even know if they didn't make the time to find out why people were behind the desk instead of just making assumptions.

    I also fail to understand how the Penguin Dinner cost $60 (need to check the price). The lack of a bar tab, and the fact that I didn't eat very much food does not make me feel like I really got my money's worth. The venue (the ANU Union Refectory) was no comparison to last year, but then again that was organised by a gay man, and as such, pretty swanky.


    We felt that people felt uncomfortable in 2004's dinner venue and that the serves were too small. The buffet was therefore an attempt to make sure people got what they wanted, and there was enough food. The lack of a bar tab is because we got significant feedback from the non-drinkers that subsidizing a few people to get off their faces is unfair, and I agree. There was food left over after the event, so I can only assume that everyone had enough to eat.

    The dinner was cheaper than last year, with a lot more food. I was one of many who went out for pizza after 2004's dinner because I was still hungry.

    I think the lack of free alcohol really showed in the lack of enthusiasm when bidding for the T-shirt. Sober people don't do as many stupid things unfortunately. While on the shirt, there seemed to be little interest in the charity, even though it is a great charity, and incredibly relevant and a very noble act on behalf of Steve. I think had some people known why he chose it, there would have been a lot more interest, the lady they got to talk up the charity (it was SidsForKids, incidently) did not do a fantastic job.


    We got $450 less for the shirt than last year. The auction was not a failure. Additionally, you do need to remember that it was just a 100% cotton made in Haiti fabric garment. How much money do you want for it? I think there are also ethical issues with taking large amounts of money from drunk people.

    Free tip for giving exciting public speeches, don't lean down on the lecturn when you speak, and don't just stare at your laptop screen. You need to stand straight, look confident, and make eye contact with people around the room, find the ones who are nodding. It also helps if you don't put all your jokes on the slides where everyone has already read them by the time you get to them. (NB. I'm not the world's best public speaker, but this seemed like a strong contention around the con).

    Oh, and I appear to have lost my favourite jumper (sweater), but this is hardly the fault of the conference organisers.


    Did you check with lost property?

    In summary

    I don't want to appear to overly negative, because I think the organisation of this conference was actually incredibly good. Especially as those of us embittered enough were making sideline commentry about whether or not this conference would be a success or a failure. I do tip my hats to you and your organisational, regardless of what you think of me and my commentry. I look forward to 2006 in Dunedin, in the newly aquired Australian State of South Zealand.


    By the way, the IRC thing was Tony's idea.

    Tags for this post: blog lca2005 opensource conference

posted at: 16:48 | path: /diary/lca2005 | permanent link to this entry