Conversation

One of my larger complaints about Linux Foundation events is that they are very much targeted at corporations with large budgets to send people to conferences.

For example, as someone who has mostly been an indie OSS maintainer over their career, I would love to go to Open Source Summit and meet up with people to discuss what problems they are having with the software I maintain and how we can collaborate on resolving those problems.

But my choices are to register as a "hobbyist" (a frankly demeaning thing to call an indie maintainer) at $249, which requires me to go ask them for a discount code (also frankly demeaning), or register at the full $949 rate, or maybe I could get the "small business" discount code which brings it down to *only* $500. Man, what a favor, huh?

I understand that putting on these events is very costly, but when indie OSS maintainers are given the option of paying nearly $1000 or having to go ask someone for a "hobbyist" discount code, it seems very disrespectful to the maintainers who are building the actual software that this summit is about.

Do you really think the guy in Nebraska who is holding up all modern digital infrastructure in his spare time has the money to spend $949 to go to a conference? For all the talking we do about building inclusive conferences, this has to include *access* for indie maintainers.

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@ariadne defcon is like $500 this year. conferences are super expensive unless they make deals with hotels.

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@ariadne Yeah, that's a huge problem. I organize a small time local IT-sec con and we're fighting to keep tickets in the humane price range.We haven't inflation adjusted prices and sell student tickets with a 50% loss but they still climb to 1500 SEK ($150) which is a lot if you're a full time student. It sucks.

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@0xtero @ariadne

Southern California Expo was $85 this year for 11 tracks over 4 days, and generally features a lot of the same speakers as the more expensive conferences. SCALE gets corporate devops attendees along with lower-budget projects, companies, students, and other people

http://web.archive.org/web/20240211215127/https://register.socallinuxexpo.org/reg6/

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@ariadne You should definitely try BSD conferences. The 31 May - 01 June 2024 takes place the BSDCan in Otawa, and we have grants from the FreeBSD Foundation & cookies.

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@ariadne there is probably a bit of an expectation mismatch as well as LF is primarily an industry consortium representing/coordinating the interests of its corporate members. I have no problem with LF charging $1k to Samsung, MS or Google staff developers. Take whatever rate makes sense to you, whatever they label the SKU they dont have feelings about it, they're a soulless company 😉

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@raven667 but that's the thing. i'm not a hobbyist, i am an indie maintainer trying to bootstrap a business.

why should i have to go grovel for a $249 discount code

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@raven667 @ariadne

They also do the maintainer stuff like Linux Plumber's though.

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Yeah really. It's so disrespectful! Great post, @ariadne, I completely agree. @raven667

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@ariadne @raven667 But a bit tounge-in-cheek, if this is the worst pridebreaking groveling you have to do to save your business money, you should count yourself a very lucky entrepeneur indeed… 😅

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@ariadne @raven667 yeah I know and rightly so - more power to you

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@ariadne I don't know if this is solvable, because in addition to the conference ticket, there is travel and hosting. Local conferences do better on these metrics but I feel like we're hitting a contradiction in terms, i.e. gathering contributors from all over the globe to a central place so they can collaborate in person - that's not a local event 😅

On top of all that, personally I think global conferences the way we do them today are an unsustainable practice. Idk if they can be fixed :/

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@jpetazzo lodging and travel are more affordable when the ticket isn’t nearly 1000 USD

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@ariadne as you said - the ticket isn't 1000 USD, it's more like 300. Yes it's annoying to have to jump thru hoops to get that price - although IME this hasn't been hard. What takes (again, IME) more spoons and effort is the other hoops (take train vs plane for environmental responsibility; share a room with a friend or with a stranger, or stay farther from the venue, to drive costs down, etc.) I agree that the LF can and should do better :) I'm just surprised that it's your larger complaint :)

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@jpetazzo being a native seattlite, i do not need to travel anywhere or get a hotel room so the ticket is the only decision point in this particular case

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@ariadne ah, that sucks. I mean, it's awesome that you're a local (that's super lucky of you!), and they have scholarships for that (typically giving you a free ticket if you're an OSS maintainer and can cover your other expenses), but it's unfortunate because the deadline to apply for that scholarship has passed 😢

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@jpetazzo yeah but all of this is silly. there shouldn’t be an application period, there should be “present your OSS maintainership credential of choice, get reduced ticket price immediately”

does not have to be zero, just not $949.

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@ariadne I 100% agree that the application time frame is silly. Then again it's $300 not $1000. (Being in a similar boat i.e. not employed by a company that would pay for it, that makes a difference 😅)

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@jpetazzo it is not $300, it is $949 plus tax. or $649 (plus tax) if you register early.

it is only $249 (plus tax) if they give you a code, which you have to go ask them for.

i see no reason to go beg the LF for a discount code when pkgconf, ifupdown-ng and many more libraries/tools i’ve written are foundational components of Linux systems around the world. i will just go “$949 ticket price?! LOL” and move on with my life.

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@ariadne I personally don't see how asking for a discount code is different from "here's the foundational projects I maintain, can I haz cheap/free ticket" but I might be missing some clues due to e.g. cultural differences. I also don't find "hobbyist" insulting (maybe similar reasons).

I 100% agree that you do essential work, deserve to attend if it's valuable to you, and that LF process could be better. But I also think that by the time we took to banter on this we could have asked them :)

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@jpetazzo @ariadne I mean, it depends on what we consider the LF should be doing. If we consider that getting maintainers together is beneficial for the community long term, we could simply ... pay for travel and lodging. But at this point, it has become quite hard to know what the LF *does*. They communicate a lot, but not a lot of that communication seems to come from a mission-based outcome.

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@ariadne it's not my department, but I'll see what I can do about the "hobbyist" part.
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@ariadne I have opinions about them:

https://landley.net/notes-2010.html#18-07-2010

https://landley.net/toybox/roadmap.html#sigh

This is why I only go to events I'm speaking at. I'll sing for my supper, but I refuse to pay for a membership.

This is also why the last time I spoke at a Linux Foundation event was 5 years ago (but I just got back from Texas LinuxFest, which is a hobbyist run event that was $50 for the weekend if you don't want a t-shirt but I gave a talk anyway).

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@ariadne One way around the problem, of course, is to propose a talk about some interesting work you are doing. OSS is starving for good technical content, and that makes the admission-fee problem go away.
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@corbet yeah, I get that. to be clear, i do not mind paying $249 as an individual, but having to jump through hoops to get that rate is too much effort when I can just say “$949 for a ticket?! LOL”

and sadly although i am fairly good at technical writing, i don’t think that necessarily translates well to giving talks 🙃

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@ariadne There's another problem. These corpos. Don't often work with funding orgs..

If I had $20 for everytime the state or another disability org tried to pay for a conference ticket with federal $$$ on my behalf and couldn't because the organizers didn't want to supply the invoice in the right format. I'd have a months rent at least.

Yet my sister who is the 911 diversion specialist for our county. Basically she decides when the crisis team responds instead of the popo.

She gets to go to a con in Las Vegas, on a grant from the same govt office, because the con organizers make an effort to attract such people.

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@landley in this case, the process was basically

1. oh, they are having this thing in Seattle, so I can just like go to it, and catch up with people I haven’t seen in a while. cool.
2. visit website, see the ticket is $949 or you can jump through hoops to get discount code.
3. “$949 ticket?! LOL”

but yes, I otherwise largely agree with you on this

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@ariadne I note that both the Embedded Linux Conference and the O'Reilly conference happened in my hometown and I didn't bother to go to either.

And at the first day of Texas LinuxFest, after eliminating every talk given by a CEO or about kubernetes, the first thing I wanted to see was at 4:30 in the afternoon. (Mostly hung out in the dealer's room...)

Still, I got a t-shirt from this decade.

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@dmarti @ariadne that's pretty impressive price point!

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@0xtero @ariadne yes, they have an impressive team

I have been a speaker and a trade show exhibitor for SCALE and for much higher-priced conferences. SCALE is a better experience than most events in lots of ways including booth services, WiFi, speaker help, registration lines...

https://www.socallinuxexpo.org/scale/21x/about-scale

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@0xtero @ariadne I like how they mix up the "community" and "corporate" booths in the exhibit hall, too, even the year I was working a version control booth next to the Fedora project's open-source guitar effects demo

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@landley but if I go I can see a talk about how the army has used open source to figure out how to bomb people more effectively, followed by a diversity luncheon

sometimes life imitates art, I guess?

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@ariadne @landley sure, you can be a diverse so long as you want to help kill people.

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@ariadne Alas I had to submit my talk proposal before seeing the schedule because that's how temporal causality works, and this was the first in-person conference they'd held since the pandemic.

The O'Reilly conference in Austin, I looked at their previous year's schedule and decided not to get any of that on me.

ELC I'm torn about because it was a great conference in 2006, before it was swallowed in the Linux Foundation's accretion disk.

https://landley.net/notes-2010.html#27-10-2010

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@ariadne [brain spinning in circles trying to shoehorn "diversity luncheon" into Eleanor Rigby]
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@dysfun @landley i’m just saying i have enough “lived experience” to understand what is meant by decision advantage here

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@ariadne @landley We too can be mercenaries for industrial death cults? I feel so seen, so empowered.

/s

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@ariadne Yeah, the LF conferences fill the economic niche that OSCON used to (which was also $1000).

One challenge for lower priced conferences in the US is that the economics are becoming impossible. Venues and insurance keep getting more expensive. That's why so many more cheap/free conferences are in Europe.

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@fuzzychef yep, its all too rich for my blood though. maybe after Series A anyway

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@ariadne I don't blame you, I wouldn't be here if work wasn't paying for it.

But ... does this mean we can get you to speak at KCD-LA/SCALE?

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@ariadne I totally agree. I have never seen a Linux Foundation event that seemed targeted to someone like me. I'm not corporate, I go elsewhere.

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@ariadne I suppose it needs to be pointed out that the Linux Foundation is a vehicle to exert control and protect the interests of big tech, and incidently get some brownie points at the same time.

The interests of indie developers are definitely not those of the LF.

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@simon no, it really didn't need to be pointed out, but enjoy your reply-guy energy

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@ariadne just having too much it :-) after the LF was framed as a hero for hosting valkey, instead of just legitimately looking out for the financial interests of its controlling entities.

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@simon

do you think that Redis Limited's behavior is poor?

do you think that the redict maintainers are also working to shore up "big tech" with their fork of redis?

are you aware that "big tech" has evolved to largely be a fascist dogwhistle?

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@ariadne I don't think Redis Limited behaviour makes any sense, and is likely not in their own best long term interest. And for the companies involved in valkey the hard fork makes sense for financial reasons given they were already contributing, simply no heros required.

As to interpretation of "big tech" not all of the world is the US.

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@simon

no, "big tech" is basically universally used by alt-right people around the world to describe what they perceive as a nebulous conspiracy in the tech industry to censor their views. i have seen it used this way in europe just as much as in the US.

it is just straight up a fascist dogwhistle.

instead, describing the very real monopolistic practices of the dominant tech companies (google, amazon, microsoft, etc.) directly is far more helpful for driving actual conversations which lead to a positive intervention.

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@ariadne As far as I'm aware, Big Pharma doesn't have any fascist overtones. (Because the right doesn't believe that oligopolies are bad.)
Sounds to me that Big Tech could be used in the same way.

Not that I care much in this particular case, but what does annoy me is the left's tendency to yield ground on the field of words and expressions, censoring ourselves from saying this or that because were you aware it's a dogwhistle and if you say it then you're a Nazi.

Like, no? We should fight for words instead of letting assholes claim them and put hidden meanings and codes in everything? I'm pretty sure these guys enjoy it a lot when someone uses a dogwhistle accidentally and the left immediately cries out. It's a game to them and we shouldn't let them enjoy it.

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Faith Ekstrand 🏳️‍⚧️🏳️‍🌈

Edited 3 months ago

@ariadne Yeah, I've never liked the feel of Linux Foundation conferences. I've attended OSS and ELC a time or two and it's just not what I want out of a conference. And that's with a company paying the fee! They're way too focused on helping companies build widgets and not on the tech itself.

When you contrast that with the X Developers Conference, which I attend every year and which is free, zero bullshit, and all technical, the difference is night and day.

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@ariadne yeah we're with you about "hobbyist" being insulting. it implies a normative idea of corporations being the normal and real way to practice technology, and everything else being lesser.

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@ariadne frankly we wouldn't even call ourselves an indie. we're a hacker, in the oldschool MIT sense, the organic one with no exact boundaries. we refuse to define ourselves in terms oriented around respectability or fitting in other people's boxes.

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@irenes @ariadne

But what if the box was a cardboard box and you could neocat_box

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@wakame @ariadne any cat can tell you it makes a huge difference whether you're choosing to sit in a box, or being forced into it :D

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@ariadne this thread sure sparked a lot of dialog, which is great. IMO, there should be more inclusive conferences, especially for open source.

For security conferences, I’ve always found that OWASP regional and global appsec conferences to be super inclusive and affordable. Additionally, OWASP chapter meetings are free and open to anyone to attend.

BSides are also great to attend. You get some super talented individuals, usually on the offensive or research side, attending them. Again, super affordable. Local security cons are also great. I'm in Chicago and attend THOTCON whenever I get the chance.

For open source, I'd love to go to FOSDEM, but have never had the opportunity to go. It’s difficult to justify the expense of travel, etc, for attending it when my primary day job is not open source. Now, if there were a North American FOSDEM or equivalent, I'd be able to justify that much easier.

But I also try to avoid the big conferences when possible. I attend RSA every 5-6 years because I try to avoid the circus. But this year, I will be there. But it's the same reason I've never attended an LF conference. They're too big. I love to go to conferences where they're small enough that you can sit down with speakers and other SMEs and just talk. I remember my first time going to OWASP AppSec Cali (since been renamed) and it was an amazing experience. You had some of the brightest minds in application security at this small/regional conference and you could just sit and talk with people without all the corporate things getting in the way.

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@stevespringett yep i’m going to be at BSides Seattle this year if you find yourself there. would love to catch up with you about CycloneDX!

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@ariadne Fantastic. Would love to catch up with you. Let me see if I can make it up there this month and will let you know in a day or two.

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