linux.conf.au - Meet the Team
On Friday 21 Dec we sold out of tix for linux.conf.au 2008. We only had 500 to sell and clearly that's just not enough. It's already a big conference. We've reserved 100 spots for speakers, mini-conf organisers and the media. Volunteers aren't counted inside the 600 limit our keynote venue holds... the team will meet today to discuss options re: over subscribing, or issuing tickets that don't give access to the keynotes.
We may have a few extra spots if sponsors don't take up their allocations, so we're starting up a waiting list...
Who'da thunk it? 5 weeks out? And here I was thinking I'd been slack in the promotions and publicity department... well I have been. That this conference has sold out is testimony to its reputation. linux.conf.au is internationally recognised as a significant event on the Free and Open Source Software calendar. I've spoken before about the responsibility I've felt to 'get it right'.
There are conflicting views, priorities and aims... but, despite that, at this point I'm feeling pretty confident we'll put on a good show. It won't be perfect, it will have it's glitches, I'll be disappointed certain things didn't reach fruition. We won't please all of the people all of the time.
But overall, so long as we have the venue, the speakers, and the attendees, we have all the major ingredients we need. Everything else is just spice, merely condiments or side dishes to the main course.
Don't misunderstand - there's still a lot to get done - but I think this is a good time to introduce the team, and acknowledge the support of a huge number of people who are all helping to make this conference possible...
So, in no particular order:
Zookeepr is our Conference registration system. From the time we asked for submissions for mini-confs, through the call for papers, paper review and selection, through to speaker and delegate registration, this is the tool we use for collecting and reporting the data we need. Jiri has almost single-handedly has reworked the Zookeepr code handed to us by the Seven team to do the job again for 2008. He has been responsive, methodical, patient and accomodating. John Ferlito has assisted along the way. As a non-developer I've relied on Jiri to turn the various scripts the 7 team used into a web based interface I could access to monitor our progress.
Networking has become a fairly critical element for linux.conf.au. I reckon free software would not exist without the internet, and access to the net is a lifeline for most of the people who attend the conference. Aarnet sponsor the conference by providing us with bandwidth, but we still need to find a way to use that bandwidth in the specific venues we're using at the Parkville campus at the University of Melbourne. This is a process of negotiation, and asking lots of favours. Seven left us a great legacy by purchasing piles of access points to enable us to set-up our network. Steve stepped up to the challenge of putting this together. He's also doubled as our Linux Australia liaison given his place on the LA Committee. Steve has been diligent and persistent. It's not an easy problem. HP is helping by providing us with some additional networking gear.
The linux.conf.au website is our shopfront. It is the face of the conference, and our main point of contact and information dissemination. The front end is running MySource Matrix which connects to the Zookeepr system. The website we had up as bid-contenders was plain HTML, edited by hand, by me - but it quickly became inadequate. We had much discussion about which tool to use. Avi had a natural inclination to use the tool he knew best, and it has been great. Without having to learn a new system Avi has been terribly terribly efficient at mangling, munging and managing our web stuff.
The mini-confs have surpassed their 'appetiser' status and become an important drawcard of the conference. Many people now attend linux.conf.au as a result of an affiliation with one of the mini-confs. Effectively we are running 16 conferences within a conference, and this requires a whole extra level of attention to detail in liaising with each mini-conf organiser. When James put up his hand to do this, I had no idea he would execute it with such aplomb. James has now also stepped up to fill in as treasurer. Sadly, this role has had to be be vacated by 2 members of our team for family reasons. Richard Keech and Grant Diffey have both played a part in setting up the policies and procedures that are now paying off as we got closer to crunch time. James is picking up where they left off to manage the financial recording and reporting of the conference.
Grant was one of the first people to give me his support when I stepped up to take over Melbourne's bid. Since that time he has been an active and contributing member of the exec team, providing necessary perspective and opinion. As a past recipient of the Regional delegates program, and an attendee at more LCA's than most of us, he has been the voice of the community. Grant was Secretary if the ctte but stepped into the treasury role when Richard had to step down.
Setting up the policies and procedures for conference expenses and reimbursements is an important, but boring and thankless task. Richard was our treasurer until he had to step aside, but his work handling the intricate details of expenses around the GHOSTS meeting back in March stood us in good stead. He has continued to be a source of careful thoughts and wise words, despite reduced involvement.
linux.conf.au relies on someone organising meetings and recording the minutes, maintaining the mail lists, acting as virtual sys-admin of our virtual machine, gatekeeper, keykeeper, budget oversee, papers-ctte liaison, organising foreign invitations, scam filter and telling me to "Step-away-from-the-keyboard-now-and-go-to-bed." Peter has been the Chief Sanity Officer. He said "What have you done?" when I told him I had taken over the bid to win linux.conf.au for Melbourne. Officially, he's Secretary of the Conference Committee. Unofficially, we'd all be up a creek without a paddle without him.
Ryan Verner, Julien Goodwin and Stuart (Cef) Young
Video of sessions went online before the end of LCA2007. This was a conference first, and significantly raised the bar for all who follow. The seven team, again, handed us a stack of useful equipment and documentation for carrying on. The challenge of meeting everyone's expectations falls to Ryan, Julien and Cef. They've been clarifying procedures, and sourcing equipment, putting together policies to try and make this aspect work as smoothly as possible. We've been very fortunate to get the support of Open Channel who have acknowledged our status as a volunteer-organised community conference and are giving us access to their Open Access program which gives us half price rates for equipment hire. IBM and Google are also supporting the video team with equipment and expertise.
Dealing with incoming queries, whether by email, fax or voicemail was being somewhat over looked until Kim took up the role of communications officer. He has been methodically handling or handballing the queries that come in on all our points of contact. As one of the original members of the melb-lca team Kim has consistently provided a voice of reason, and balance.
Accommodation for linux.conf.au can be a headache-generating area of responsibility. Campus Colleges don't have reservation systems to handle the hordes, so it becomes an administrative task of the conference, not to mention requiring hard-nosed negotiations to get a good deal for our delegates. Stewart became our Accommodation tsar and has had to deal with changing staff at a couple of our venues, and re-negotiated our arrangements more times than should have been required. If you have a bed at LCA - thank Stewart.
Picking stuff up. Dropping stuff off. Sourcing schwag samples, reminding people of stuff, and other incidentals. Rob has been Mr Logistics, and will continue to provide the kind of perspective and support that only he can.
Open Day was a huge success this year. Widely acclaimed with comments like "why haven't we done this before" we had no choice but to make it a tradition. Jacinta's experience in organising OSDC, and well, lot's of things, made her my first choice to tap on the shoulder and ask for help. Thank goodness she said yes!
Faye Coker and Katherine Phelps
The Partners Programme has a long history at linux.conf.au, and Katherine Phelps has been to many of them. Her advice and effort in Draft 0.1 of our PP was invaluable. When Katherine moved to Adelaide, Faye Coker stepped in to refine the plans and whittle down the selection of great things to do in Melbourne to put together a terrific program for "The Melbourne Stream" of the conference.
A late addition to the team, Erin will be looking after the registration desk, and the volunteers associated with related tasks. She's got lotsa experience with this kinda stuff - so I'm really pleased she got 'volunteered' by her husband to help out.
Other team members helping out along the way, with various tasks and contributions:
Stuart Young, Donald Douwsma, Daniel Patton, Lisa Bain, Lincoln Smith
And last but not least - The Flying Monkeys - these people aren't in Melbourne, but helping anyway!!!
Without speakers, there would be no conference. Without a speaker Liaison, there would be no speakers. Alli volunteered to 'help' with speaker liaison. She not only helped but took on the role and has sorted travel and accommodation for those who needed assistance, directed those who didn't to suitable alternatives, and has done so with extraordinary efficiency. And, saved us wads of cash by getting it all done as early as possible. The Linux Foundation has been kind enough to assist us by picking up the travel costs from some of our International speakers.
Janet and Kim Hawtin
Conference visuals are one of the few tangible things that bring identity to linux.conf.au. Janet designed our logo, which I've written about before, but she's also played a part behind the scenes, providing a voice of reason, and giving moral support when the energy ebbed rather than flowed. Kim's been contributing to the AV and Networking Teams and will join Janet in coming to Melbourne early to help with preparations.
The task of dealing with journalists, sorting through requests for media passes, and managing their needs at the conference has fallen to Kelly. Her media training has come in good stead, and her experience in dealing with the media during the Australian Open earlier this year has been invaluable.
The Papers Committee
Chaired by Rusty Russell and Mary Gardiner
"There is no Cabal"
Rusty is the Godfather of linux.conf.au with aprocryphal tales tell of CALU being funded entirely on his amex card. Rusty asked me if he could chair the papers committee. How could I say No? Why would I want to? I asked Mary Gardiner to assist on the strength of her writings on the matter, and her thoughts and suggestions from participating in Seven's committee. Their planning and work resulted in the phenomenal programme we have at linux.conf.au 2008. With 287 submissions for 69 slots, their job was not an easy one.
They were assisted by the Papers Review Committee.
Conrad Parker 101, John Ferlito 84 *, James Turnbull 77 *, Andrew Chalmers 69, Andre Pang 63, Stewart Smith 61 *, Peter Lieverdink 54 *, Anthony Baxter 54 *, Jacinta Richardson 53, Daniel Stone 52, Silvia Pfeiffer 52, Andrew Bennetts 50 *, Michael Davies 43, Chris Samuel 42*, Avi Miller 39 *, Rusty Russell 37 *, Mary Gardiner 34 *, Faye Coker 33, Elspeth Thorne 32, Daniel Patton 30, Kim Oldfield 25 *
Special mentions to Jacinta, for having an average score of nearly 1, Daniel Stone for averaging exactly 0, and André for a negative average score.
Each persons number of reviews is followed by * if they attended the face to face selection meeting in August.
Also - thanks to the Seven Team, and the Ghosts of conferences past who came before them - for their generous help and advice in passing on the torch. I'm very grateful for their time and assistance.
Seven: Jeff Waugh, Pia Waugh, John Ferlito, Silvia Pfeiffer, Matt Moor, Lindsay Holmwood, Sara Kaan, Ben Leslie, Jamie Wilkinson.
Ghosts: Michael Davies, Tony Breeds, Steve Hanley, Kristy Bennett, Mike Beattie, and the many others who've contributed their wisdom.
I'd also like to thank Hugh Blemings of IBM, Leslie Hawthorn of Google, David Thomas of Multimedia Victoria, Amanda McPherson of The Linux Foundation and from HP: Lori Carlson, Nigel Callanan, Phil Robb and Adaora Onyia, for not only coming on board as major sponsors, but for being helpful, supportive and offering their thoughts, experience and advice so freely.
And finally, the Linux Australia Comittee members not already mentioned elswhere: Jon Oxer, Terry Dawson, James Purser and Anthony Towns - I appreciate your ongoing cooperation, support and assistance.
These people have been phenomenal.
Thanks Guys - you're all brilliant - and - we're nearly there! :)