People, Personalities, and Planners: Who's behind your FOSS events? SELF10 Planner - Jeremy Sands

In this People, Personalities, and Planners interview series I am catching up with Southeast Linux Fest 2010 (SELF10) speaker coordinator, Jeremy Sands. Jeremy is the master negotiator and sets out to get the best price as well as return on investment for the event. Jeremy has the ability to keep the SELF10 Staff and other volunteers laughing and enjoying what they are working on with his relaxed Southern mannerisms, humor and witty banter. Even though Jeremy isn't running Ubuntu on any of his machines right now, we'll forgive him, he does however, encourage Ubuntu users to get involved in the community whether it is through events such as SELF10, LUG groups or other FOSS projects. Jeremy helps remind people that regardless of what OS they are running on their desktops or servers there is a place for everyone to get involved.

Introducing Jeremy Sands --

Amber Graner: Can you tell us a little about you and your role with SELF? How long you have worked on this event?

Jeremy Sands: I am the speaker coordinator. It's like herding cats. Very smart, very cool, very interesting cats. OK so it's nothing like herding cats.

AG: Since most event planners in the FOSS community are volunteers what is your day job?

JS: I'm a full time student at USC Upstate, and a full time employee in the form of IT Director at a marketing firm, and I run my own company.

AG: How did you get involved in FOSS? What was your 1st OS distribution and when? What do you use now and why?

JS: I got a brand new Compaq Presario (7000Z?) custom desktop, with an AMD Thunderbird 1 GHz (woohoo!) way back for Christmas of 2001 I believe. It came preloaded with Windows Millennium Edition. Yea, so in the search for something -- ANYTHING -- that worked and I had a few people recommend Mandrake Linux. It was version 7.0 at the time I believe.

I had a few issues that required elbow grease early such as my Audigy MP3+ sound card, but I got everything working. I became interested in MythTV, and in a fit of rage at having to completely redo MythTV every time Mandrake upgraded, I went through a whirlwind of probably 7 or 8 distros before I settled, laughably, on Gentoo. Sure, it took a lot of effort to get it off the ground, but when I had it setup like I wanted to, it took very little effort to maintain, and it did exactly everything exactly how I wanted to.

I met another Linux guy on the Revision3 forums, and we started a podcast reviewing Linux distros. This just happened to be when Gentoo was suffering a developer exodus and lost their non-profit status, and really began to suffer on the desktop. My co-host introduced me to ArchLinux, and I quickly became hooked, especially after being seduced by AUR. To this day I use Arch Linux on all my desktops, and Gentoo on my servers.

AG: If someone wanted to get involved with SELF, how would that go about volunteering? What areas do you need the most help in?

JS: Jump into #southeastlinuxfest on Freenode or send an email to the mailing list or use the contact form on the website. We need volunteers for all kinds of things right now. Everything from helping vendors setup at their booth to being room monitor in a speaker track to manning the registration table to, as David Nalley calls it, "gophering". If you are specifically interested in volunteering, you can contact the volunteer coordinator at:

AG: What are some of the challenges you face when planning SELF and how do you over come them?

JS: Becoming legit and being taken seriously is probably the hardest. "Hello potential sponsor, want to send money to this organization you've never heard of with no track record so we can be able to afford getting a venue and getting equipment to have people speak on and talk all about Linux. Yes I'm aware there's a host of other such events you could sponsor reliably and with a firm security in your investment, particularly in California or in Europe...." You get the picture. We overcame that one largely due to David Nalley, as well as Dave Yates, who uses his Honda Civic as a 75 mile per hour bully pulpit podcast arena.

Another problem is getting people who would attend to get in there and sign up early so you can plan logistics. We haven't solved that one. :( Computer users procrastinate, and they're generally lazy. I got nothin' here.

And the last problem is getting a core group of people who are dedicated, reliable, and have the time to sink into the event to pull it off. We have an advantage is that a lot of the people who put on SELF are in UCLUG, and so we see each other usually at least once a month. There is an issue with attrition for people who are long distance, simply because it's easy to forget about or downplay when everybody else is a long way away. It takes somebody with drive to hang in there who is long distance.

AG: How do you see the future of SELF? What numbers do you hope to sustain?

JS: I want at least 1,000+ every year, and we're hoping to pull that off this year, but I am easily deluded by visions of grandeur. I will however do whatever it takes to make sure SELF maintains its identity --down to Earth, informal, Southern, funny, laid back, and yet incredibly informative with tangible long term value to the community worldwide through the release of presentations, and greater awareness and education.

I very much like the fact that SELF is as user friendly as possible for the attendee (Option to attend for $0) and for the community (the people in the trenches of FOSS development who you probably haven't heard of, but have A LOT of interesting things to say). Too many conferences are just about rockstar speakers and have an exorbitant price tag. "So you have a free software conference ... that I still have to pay several hundred bucks to attend AFTER I've shuttled myself across the country? LAME!"

I also really enjoy rewarding the little guy you probably haven't heard of but has cool stuff to say and has done a lot quietly with talks --the Alan Hicks types of the world. Although Alan Hicks is a rockstar in his own mind, so maybe that was another bad example on my part.

AG: Are there plans in the future to include a diversity day similar to SCaLE or a WIOS track at SELF?

JS: Well I can't speak for all of SELF, and the entire board decides things like this, but (Disclaimer: I am a Ron Paul fan and consider myself a "Goldwater Republican") I don't like the concept of having a special event for (insert minority here). That only reinforces the idea that because they're a minority, they somehow deserve some special recognition or benefit. True diversity is when those groups are all mixed in together with everyone in one big productive melting pot without anybody noticing, without the need to call attention to it, and without it being viewed as some sort of extra merit onto itself. I don't care what the gender, sexuality, nationality, ethnicity, or religion (or lack thereof) a contributor is. I only care about the quality of their code/contribution/productivity.

AG: Is there anything about SELF that I haven't asked that you would like to tell me about?

JS: I think you should definitely ask Alan Hicks for his favorite A-1 based recipes. Safety not guaranteed. He has only done this once before.

Jeremy thanks again for taking time out to let Ubuntu Users and others know about SELF10 and how they can get involved.

For information on attending, volunteering, being a vendor or a sponsor for Southeast Linux Fest 2010 please go to:

For more info on how you can download, use, participate and contribute to Ubuntu, visit:

Questions, Comments suggestions can be sent to Amber at: amber [AT]


Follow along as Ubuntu enthusiast and Community organizer Amber Graner helps put the "You" in Ubuntu.

Amber Graner is an active Ubuntu community member and organizer who encourages everyone around her to participate, support, and learn about Ubuntu and Open Source. With a smile and a sense of humor, Amber reminds people that there is a place for everyone in the Ubuntu community – regardless of technical skill level (or lack thereof). She is constantly looking for people, places, and events within the Ubuntu community that help inspire Ubuntu users to participate actively within the Ubuntu community. Email Amber at amber AT ubuntu-user DOT com.


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