People, Personalities, and Planners: Who's behind your FOSS events? Ohio LinuxFest Planner - Esther "Moose" Filderman
In this interview, I talk to Ohio LinuxFest Planner, Esther "Moose" Filderman.
Amber Graner: Can you tell us a little about you and your role with the Ohio LinuxFest? How long you have worked on this event?
Esther "Moose" Filderman: This year, I'm the "Content Chair", a name made-up on the fly (by Beth Lynn Eicher) for the fact that I'm responsible for a sizable chunk of the programming content. I'm responsible for organizing OLFU, the Early Penguins, the Saturday speakers [although the awesome Phil Reiche is the Speakers co-Chair and deserves half the blame, er I mean, credit], the Diversity in Open Source Workshop on Sunday, and lots of little things that come up. I'm also one of the content "webmasters" for the new Ohio LinuxFest website.
I started in 2007 as being the liason/organizer for OLFU from the side of the League of Professional System Administrators (LOPSA), who still has the majority of the OLFU content. In 2008 I offered Phil help in picking talks for Saturday - I've organized speakers for a couple of other conferences, going back to 2001, and last year was the Speaker Chair when Phil became ill [he's not dead now], as well as the organizer for the first Diversity workshop. This year I've obviously lost my marbles. Have you seen any marbles lying around?
AG: Since most event planners in the FOSS community are volunteers, what is your day job?
EMF: I used to be a full time system administrator. I worked for two major universities, one for twenty years. I've worked with a huge pile of operating systems, from laptops to desktops to servers to supercomputers. Working at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center is how I got to know Beth Lynn.
Now I'm too disabled to work full time. I volunteer my time with the Ohio LinuxFest and another open source-based organization (The Organization for Transformative Works).
AG: How did you get involved in FOSS? What was your first Open Source/Linux distribution and when? What do you use now and why?
EFM: I fell into it. The PSC started looking towards FOSS as cost saving. We'd long used FOSS in the typical places: Sendmail, ClamAV, Majordomo & Mailman, BIND, etc. but then we started running more and more servers under NetBSD and Red Hat Linux instead of Solaris and Irix. The servers I was responsible for were happier under NetBSD than they ever had been when they ran on Solaris or Ultrix.
Now? Now I use... hope you're sitting down. Windows and MacOSX. I really, really like MacOSX, and I have Windows on the Windows laptop because of stupid warranty issues [long story]. But nearly every piece of software I run on both laptops is either FOSS or Free but may have some limitations. Firefox is my primary browser [and IRC client]; IM is done with Pidgin; editing is done in Emacs [Without re-re^nth-starting the emacs-vs-vi wars, let's just say I've been using some form of Emacs since 1981, ok? :-)]. Sadly there is more FOSS on my Mac than on my Windows box -- there still isn't, for example, a high quality Windows virus checker that's completely FOSS -- but I'm trying.
When I go to OLF with a Windows or Mac box, people say, "You organize this How can you not run Linux!" And that's my cue to point out that not everyone reacts well to being told what to do. ("Windows sucks, run Linux or you're stupid!") Sometimes the way to convert people to FOSS is to show them they can use some now, and eventually help them move over. And that said, once the windows thing is either fixed or out of warranty it's getting PC- or Net- BSD on it. :-) Sorry, I've always preferred BSDs over Linuxes.
AG: If someone wanted to get involved with the Ohio LinuxFest, how would that go about volunteering? What areas do you need the most help in?
EMF: Beth Lynn already pointed you at our How To Help Page. We're two weeks out and we can still use help! We need people to help introduce speakers and get questions spoken into microphones on both Friday and Saturday. We need people to help with things like the Bookstore and getting the Sponsors set up Friday night. And much more, and, yes, they're kind of grunt jobs, but show us today that you're willing to put in the time and effort with the little things and we'll ask you to do more stuff next year. You, too, just might go from peon to conference chair in a few short years.
AG: What are some of the challenges you face when planning the Ohio LinuxFest and how do you over come them?
EMF: Argh. OK, at the risk of shooting myself in the foot -- bad communications. Email has become so ubiquitous that we take it for granted. Sometimes it's frustrating trying to do things over email when people are scattered to the winds. We try to get together once a week on IRC but not everyone can always make it.
Last year, Phil the Speakers Chair got gravelly ill just when it was time to figure out who was speaking. We missed him horribly but managed without him. This year we lost the main server just as we were about to officially open registration. We opened later than planned, and there were a few sleepless nights getting data back on the new server quickly, but we have a website, and registration is going strong.
I guess the short answer is: We overcome things with the magic power of CAFFEINE! :-)
AG: How do you see the future of the Ohio LinuxFest? What numbers do you hope to sustain?
EMF: I think we will grow and grow and grow. Good thing the Greater Columbus Convention Center is so big! Last year, on Saturday, we had three "general" speakers tracks as well as the Open Source Solutions stage. This year, on Saturday, we have scheduled four "general" speakers tracks, the Open Source in Medicine speakers track, and the Open Source Solutions stage. People are already complaining about there being too much to see and hear. (This, mind you, is the kind of complaint I love to hear.)
Last year we broke 1300 people for attendance. I'm hoping we can break 1500 this year, and I'd like to see us break 2000 within the next two years. Maybe I'm overly ambitious. But we also have a ton of quality programming on Friday, too.
AG: For people planning to attend Ohio LinuxFest what are the hastags you all are using for the Ohio LinuxFest for micro-blogging sites such as identi.ca and Twitter. Is there a Facebook Group? Where and what else can they do to help spread the word about the Ohio LinuxFest these final planning days before the event?
EMF: Hashtag on identi.ca and twitter is #ohiolinux -- we are not the OLF, we share those initials with the equally awesome Ontario LinuxFest.
Our Facebook Group can be found at: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/pages/The-Ohio-LinuxFest/123357071009599
As for spreading the word -- go to the How To Help page.
Print out some flyers and leave them at your local computer repair shop or library or coffeeshop or any other place around that lets you put up flyers about a FREE conference from a non-profit organization.
Grab one or more of the images and put them on your blog and/or website or any other place you'd like.
Podcasters are asked to please please play one of our promos that are linked on that page, and in Ogg format, the format created by Christopher "Monty" Montgomery, our evening keynote speaker!
Anyone who uses identi.ca, twitter or facebook, please follow OhioLinux, 'like' the Facebook group and retweet or share things you see from them.
And lastly, word of mouth is always the best recommendation out there! Tell your friends and your coworkers that you're going and why, or if you can't make it, tell them why you wish you were going, and why they should go, too.
AG: Is there anything about the Ohio LinuxFest that I haven't asked that you would like to tell me about?
EMF: The Ohio LinuxFest is highly committed to diversity and to having the highest possible standards for what is a grass-roots, all volunteer organization. We are here to share the love of all FOSS, not just Linux to everyone, even people who do not yet use FOSS, without any discrimination. We tolerate no harassment. We aim to be a family-friendly conference where all can come to share and learn and meet others. We warn and remind our speakers that not meeting these standards will cause their presentation to promptly end. This information is shared publicly on our website.
I was surprised to learn that this year out of 35 total speakers, 13 are women, and two openly identify as disabled. I don't know how many may be non white minority but it's something I'd like to find a way to encourage (long term) without blatantly being racist about it. ["Hi, are you not white?Please submit your talk to ... " Yeah, I don't think I'll be doing that!
Folks might think there's the implication that a female content chair intentionally picked all the women submitters, but I'm both happy and sad to say that some were turned away, just like some of the men. Between our anti bias policy and that we have had a growing number of female speakers, Beth Lynn and I believe that we are actively growing our aim to make the Ohio LinuxFest a conference that's open to everyone.
Moose thank you so much for taking time to answer my questions and I am really looking forward to seeing you and everyone else at the Ohio LinuxFest.
For more info on how you can download, use, participate and contribute to Ubuntu, visit: http://www.ubuntu.com/community/participate .
Questions, Comments suggestions can be sent to Amber at: amber [AT] ubuntu-user.com.