People, Personalities, and Planners: Who's behind your FOSS events? SCaLE 8x Planner - Gareth Greenaway

The Southern California Linux Expo (SCaLE) 8x will kick off on Friday February 19, 2010. The 19th is proving to be a packed day with events like the Women in Open Source, Ubucon, Open Source Software in Education, SCALE-U, and more planned. The main SCaLE 8x event kicks off on Saturday with "Being a Catalyst in Communities - The scientific facts about the open source way" presented by Karsten Wade. Tarus Balog kicks off the Sunday Schedule with "So, You Thing You Want to Start an Open Source Business." Scale 8x is going to be a great event. Take a look at the links, and join in on all the Open Source fun February 19-21 at SCaLE 8x.

No event would happen without the many volunteers and planners for those events. Today we talk to veteran SCaLE and Open Source advocate - Gareth Greenaway. I had the opportunity to meet Gareth at OSCON '09 last year and enjoyed learning about SCaLE. I am looking forward to saying, "hello" to Gareth and all the planners from SCaLE I have had to opportunity to bring to you over the last week. Gareth thank you so much for taking time out of your schedule to share your knowledge of SCaLE and what it takes to plann such an event.

People, Personalities, and Planners: Who's behind your FOSS events? SCaLE 8x Planner - Gareth Greenaway

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

Gareth Greenaway: I've been with SCALE since the beginning. SCALE grew out of a much smaller event which I had organized along with the local Linux Users Group, the Simi Conejo LUG. We had hosted 4 of these events, one every six months until we teamed up with groups of USC and UCLA to host the very first SCALE.
I currently have two roles with SCALE. One role is conference operations where I'm responsible for the coordination between the SCALE staff and the venue, working with the show decorators for all the conference furniture, booth and registration items, and other bits & pieces that don't fit anywhere else. I also fill the role of community relations, where I get to handle all the dotORG and non-profit organizations that participate at SCALE. This includes groups that come as exhibitors as well as groups that are interested in hosting their own events at SCALE. We've had a few of those over the years including Ubuntu with their Ubucon event and Fedora with their Fedora Activity Day.

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

GG: Currently I work as a system administrator at an internet advertising company in Santa Monica, CA. We use quiet a variety of free & open source software, so I have the ability to bring a lot of the information that I learn of various groups into the work place.

AG: How did you get involved in FOSS? What was your first open source distribution and when? What do you use now and why?

GG: I first got involved with FOSS when I started looking for a job in the tech industry. I called a company who had a job posting online and was told that their programming environment was Unix. I started reading up on what Unix what and found it very intriguing, wanting to give it a try. During my searching I found two different kinds of unix like systems that were both free, Linux & FreeBSD. I ended up buying a boxed set at a computer swap meet that had CDs for several Linux distributions. I had wanted to use Red Hat, but as it turned out the CD drive that I was using stopped working right as I went to install. I then ended up downloading and creating some 40 floppy disks in order to install Slackware. Back then I was afraid to use the X window system, I had read that you could literally cause your monitor to explode if you did something wrong. The first time I started X was from under the desk reaching up to hit the keyboard to start it :)

While I usually find myself using primarily either Debian or Ubuntu lately, I still try to remain familiar with all the distributions of Linux, eg. including Fedora, openSUSE, Mint, etc. and also the non-Linux open source operating systems like FreeBSD, NetBSD, ReactOS, and Haiku. I think its important to always have lots of different options, we've all seen what happens when there is only a single choice available.

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

GG: The best way it would be to subscribe to our scale-planning list. We always need volunteers during the show, but are also actively looking for people who want to get involved in SCALE during the rest of year.

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

GG: I think the biggest challenges that most of us that work on SCALE face is that we're all volunteers. We have day jobs and other commitments that demand a certain amount of time. Unfortunately as SCALE continues to grow, the amount of work that it takes grows as well. Many of us have learned the subtle art of time management and delegation. For an event to be truly successful, its important to realize that you don't do everything yourself and that everyone has to ask for help eventually.

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

GG: One of the aspects of SCALE's future that I'm excited to see is the inspiration that it brings to other groups that are thinking about starting their own community show. We've already seen new shows spring up in Oregon, Texas, Florida, etc. Often times I hear people say that there are way too many FOSS shows around now but I completely disagree. I think we need more and in more remote areas, to let people know that FOSS is out there and available. I doesn't do much good to host a show in an areas where everyone is already aware of something, you need to go where they're not aware.

AG: SCaLE has diversity day, can you tell us why that is important and what as an event planner, and person in open source have you learned from those events?

GG: The free & open source community is a great collection of people doing really awesome things. Unfortunately we've also got some issues, one of those major issues relates to women in the community. For the past 3 years and continuing this year, SCALE has hosted a Women in Open Source conference. With this event we try to focus on the positive by showcasing active women in the FOSS community and what they're doing. We don't want to focus on discussing the problem of not having women in the community, rather provide positive examples and hope this will encourage women to join in.

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

GG: While there is a core group of people that are often credited with SCALE's success, it truly is a community show. The volunteers that come out each year to help make the show a success are essential and we couldn't pull off the show without them. If you're attending SCALE this year, be sure to thank the volunteers...I'm sure it'll make their day.

Gareth, thanks again for taking time to answer a few questions about SCaLE and your work with the event. Remember - SCaLE 8x is happening this weekend, there is still time to make plans to attend. Hope to see you there.


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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