I'm back from LinuxTag 2010 in Berlin. Four days. Seven or eight parallel tracks. Hundreds of talks, of which I heard at most 14 per day. Dozens of booths on the floors run by e.g. Linux distributors and other groups. LinuxTag tickets are inexpensive. Catering is lacking: there was one severely overworked little pizza stand and the fair's restaurant is quite lousy. Funny how, for so many people, there weren't more "traveling salesmen" wishing to sell food -- there's certainly enough space both indoors and out.
Some of the speakers where excellent, and I particularly enjoyed Microsoft's James Utzschneider who divulged his company's commitment to Open Source, SugarCRM's Larry Augustin who spoke about selling software and how to make revenue, and Canonical's Mark Shuttleworth himself who told us what's happening in Ubuntu Land. Another very good presentation was given by Linbit's Florian Haas with a technical presentation on building a resilient, distributed, highly available, Open Source, iSCSI SAN.
I was disappointed by many a talk, and you can make me happier next time if you want to:
- Don't turn your back to me to read off your slides; I read better and faster than you do, and I didn't travel to watch you read. I know you're nervous or badly prepared. For the former, chew your nails. For the latter, don't bother coming. I'm a bad listener if you bore me, which is why I walked out of many talks.
- Taking a newborn to an IT conference is a very good way to give it in-depth IT knowledge in the shortest possible time, but a thirsty, hungry, bored, or uncomfortable infant is not a suitable participant during talks.
- As a speaker, you know you're going to connect your laptop to a beamer, right? Why didn't you practice at home with an old 800x600 VGA monitor? You could also have practiced sur place! Familiarize yourself with the settings you have to tweak and don't make me wait up to 10 minutes for you to start. You have 30 minutes only, so that is cutting 30% off your speaking time, and it is a PITA. (On a related note, make sure you know how to launch your presentation without stabbing around the filesystem searching for it.)
- The talks for conference are in German or English. If you are German and hardly speak any English, why didn't you submit your paper in German?
- Linux has been around for almost twenty years, and there are dozens of evangelists who don't tire of advertising the advantages of Linux on the desktop. That is a good thing when presenting to "suits" who don't know what Linux and Open Source can do for them. Giving these business people reasons such as "My mother uses Linux because Mahjong runs better on it than on Windows" just doesn't cut it; you are doing more harm than good.
One important thing I learnt? I need an iPad. The iPhone is too small for doing research or taking notes during the conference, and the MacBook is too large to have with me all the time.