Fedora @ Northeast Linux Fest 2013

The NELF for 2013 was held at Harvard University Science Center, 1 Oxford Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts.  The event lasted two days, from Saturday, March 16th until Sunday, March 17th which was St. Patrick’s Day, and coincidentally, Boston has a very large Irish & Irish-American population, who are very free-spirited, gregarious, interesting, clannish and mysterious inside an all-in-one unique cultural profile.

We arrived a bit late Saturday morning.  I was sick with bronchitis again, (same time every year) and was feeling poorly since Thursday, the 13th.
Once we arrived, we set up our booth, banners, balloons, swag and media.  I located the speaker’s hall/auditorium and the dedicated room for the
Fedora Day Camp.

Unfortunately, since I was alone, I was not able to manage the event booth and the classroom at the same time.  Lesson for future events, try to recruit
volunteers as early as possible, even months beforehand if necessary.  I was able to deliver two talks, one on Saturday and one on Sunday.

The original estimate of 5000 attendees now seems grossly astronomical since I only about 500 were in attendance, more or less.  There
are some basic challenges the organizers of this event must overcome in order to draw the needed participation.  I have made a promise
to work with both Jonathan Nadeau and Bruce Patterson so that future events can be planned with more experience, better organization
and real participation from hosting institutions.

Advertisements were not allowed on campus, and the university was charging over $2,800.00 for the usage of audio-visual equipment, which
nearly cancelled the event.  Last minute emails from the organizers were sent out encouraging all presenters to bring their own projectors.  I packed my own and was prepared.

I noticed stickers and pens are not moving as much and think we may want to REALLY consider new items, like mini-frisbees, or plastic cups,
mugs, anything other than stickes, pens, tatoos, and the same old conference fare.  We need some fresh ideas, please!

I was able to distribute everything, including some boxes of assorted items for the local user group on campus, and also the BLUG over at M.I.T.

The shirts were gone during the talks.  I had included slides with trivia questions, and gave away shirts to those who knew the answers.

Next year, the NELF will be at M.I.T.  Next year, the NELF will not be charged for the venue, nor for equipment, and parking will be free.
Hosting these events  on campus, during spring break, when the majority of students are away, is a primary reason for low attendance, low
participation.

If the organizers cannot improve with suggestions, then I recommend we skip the event in the future, we will give it one more try next year.

northeast linuxfest event report – saturday, march 17th, 2012

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Greetings Everyone!

I want to thank the Fedora Project Ambassadors, FPL, and Enthusiasts, Supporters and Friends who contributed so much to help me prepare for the event.  The collective efforts proved to be more than enough for the event.

This was my first event.  I have so many details to report, so let me answer the basic report questions first, then I will add my summary of the day’s activities at the end.  I appreciate your patience!  (questions are from the report content suggestions page on the fedora events wiki)

1) How many people were at the event? Was the Fedora booth busy?

The Fedora booth was the busiest, generating more traffic than OpenSuSE, Debian, FreeBSD, SkySQL, KDE, Ohlo, and others.  The estimated total visitors for the day, including sponsors, guest speakers, presenters, faculty & staff, students and registrants peaked just under 250.

2) What kind of comments did you receive about Fedora?

The majority of the comments were extremely positive, favorable and there was a lot of enthusiasm about Fedora overall, and only 2 minor complaints about issues with the glib and gnome3 desktop performance.  I addressed those issues and provided assistance.

I received numerous compliments and questions about Fedora 17 and even 18! Several attendees inquired about joining the project and I provided links and information.

3) Were there repeated suggestions for improvement in a particular area for Fedora?

Yes, there were several suggestions for improvement.  The most common suggestion was based on the theme for the event, which was “Accessibility” and it was suggested that Fedora develop an installed suited for people with special needs.  A comparison was made to the Ubuntu installer which allows F5 funtion key to invoke an audio based installer for special needs users.  I was not aware, but promised to relay the information and suggestions.

Another type of suggestion was made concerning tablets and personal devices.  One attendee asked about future plans to make Fedora tablet ready and for smaller devices, like smart phones.

4) Did you meet anyone using Fedora in an interesting way or on a large scale?

A brokerage firm employee in attendance described in great detail how his organization is using Fedora, especially clustering their critical applications.  Most of the visitors were using Fedora for personal use and for educational use as well.

5) Did you have a ‘Birds of a Feather’ session? What did you cover? How many people attended?

I did not cover “Birds of a Feather” per se, but I did speak about Open Source, Fedora’s core values.  I delivered as much information as possible to all visitors who approached the booth and was also interviewed by a campus journalist and another student from Queens, NY.

6) Were there any Fedora talks or sessions as part of the event? What were they about? What was the attendance?

I was not able to deliver a talk since the schedule had already been filled.

7) How much swag did you give away or sell? (i.e. did you run out of DVDs? Sell all the T-shirts?) What swag was popular?

The T-Shirts were the most popular.  I only returned with 3 shirts.  I did not sell the T-Shirts since I did not know about that in advance.   The other sponsors in attendance did not charge a fee for their T-Shirts.

About 75% of the media was distributed and some of the tatoos and stickers.

I provided helium filled Fedora balloons for children and guests.

8. Did you have a Live USB creation station? Were there any other interactive demos at the booth (OLPC or other)? Were the demonstrations well-received?

Yes, I provided free installation of Fedora 16, via kickstart using my PXE/TFTP based laptop server and also via USB.  I also offered custom installations to those who had more time.  I allowed visitors to demo the OLPC and all feedback was positive and there was a high level of energy and excitement at the Fedora booth.

9) Did you sign up any contributors (ambassador, packager, infrastructure, artist, etc)?

I encouraged several young students, (one who is the President of the Computer Science Club at Worcester Polytechnic Institute) and others to join the project and contribute development, package maintenance, and other talents.

10) Include pictures in your blog post if at all possible.

I will post all of the pictures from the event.

11) What other distros or companies were at the event? Did you hear or learn anything interesting from other organizations?

Debian, FreeBSD, Google, OpenSuSE were all in attendance (RedHat did not appear).  The only differentiator from Fedora and the other distributions was the backdrop banner and logo.  The Fedora booth did not have a banner, or event stands.  Nonetheless, I was creative in my planning days before and from the pictures you will notice some changes and improvements.

SUMMARY & CONCLUSION:

The venue for this event “Worcester State University” did not advertise the event at all, not on campus, not in the student calendar, not on the web site.  There was zero effort to publicize the event, despite charging the organizers fees for renting space.

Given this is a state sponsored, public institution, and the event organizers were from the special needs, people with visual, hearing and other physical impairments, not to mention alumni, I was disappointed to learn how the campus treated the event overall.

I promised to help Jonathan Nadeau to organize the next event and I will take the lead in negotiations and assist in moving the event to another campus nearby.

Given the existing circumstances, I arrived two hours early and was the first sponsor to setup.  I did not use any cardboard boxes, and neatly tucked everything away out of sight.  All SWAG was neatly displayed and presented in matching containers and organizers.

The shirts were folded four-square the evening before and neatly organized by size and color.

Fedora balloons were filled with helium along with balloons matching the color scheme and were affixed to each end of the table, above the Fedora table cover (see pictures).

I provided media to the event registration and other swag to ensure Fedora was presented as soon as visitors arrived, this accounted for the most of the media and pens being distriibuted very early.  And a few hours later, some of the other sponsors followed suit.

I introduced myself to everyone and distributed pens, stickers, buttons, and business cards to faculty, staff, interns, organizers and other sponsors.

Fedora was the only sponsor with a camera at this event and requests were made for emailing pictures of the event.

I will attend this event next year, however I will heavily involve myself in negotiating the arrangements to make sure the event is publicized, advertised and properly funded.

It was a good learning experience and extremely enjoyable!