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

Today's People, Personalities, and Planners: Who's behind your FOSS events? we are talking Lei Zhang. Lei, thank you so much for talking time to let readers know a little more about SCaLE and the role you play in making sure it's a great event for all attendees.

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

Lei Zhang: I have been with SCaLE from the start. I'll take the credit for coming up with the "SCALE" acronym. I tried a little too hard to squeeze in the 'A' - originally we were the "Southern CaliforniA Linux Expo." The first few years I did the website and some artwork. Now-a-days I work on the registration system and other backend software for the expo.

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

LZ: I work on mostly Open Source software at Google in Santa Monica. You may know me as a contributor to Wine, Picasa for Linux, and Chromium / Google Chrome.

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?

LZ: I got Slackware from a BBS around 1997. It took a while to download on a 14.4kbps modem and many floppies to install. I'm still using Slackware, because it's what I'm used to and I've been happy with it, but of course it's not the only distribution I use. I have a Ubuntu MythTV box and a few Debian servers too. Every distro has its strength so I use them appropriately.

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

LZ: It's best to let us know via the scale-planning mailing list. SCaLE is what it is because many people in the SoCal FOSS community took the time to help organize it. We can always use more volunteers to help out with the show.

One area where we can use some help is with promoting SCaLE. Tell your friends about SCaLE!

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

LZ: Running a show like SCaLE is not an easy task. One memorable moment was a few years ago, when we (the registration staff) woke up to a mob of attendees wanting to get in. The registration area quickly turned into a warzone.

There is always going to be problems and room for improvement. The SCALE staff usually meet a few weeks after the show and spend an afternoon going over what we did right, what went wrong, and how we can do better next year.

For registration, we identified a few problems like having too few badge printers, and thought it would help if we had self-registration kiosks and people directing traffic. Of course, the only way to test our theories is through trial and error at the event the next year. After a couple years, we figured out what works and registration has been a much smoother process.

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

LZ: I basically want SCaLE to "keep up the good work" and continue to help support the FOSS community in the greater Los Angeles area. Hopefully as the FOSS community grows, our attendee numbers will grow with it.

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

LZ: In the spirit of open source, the code to our registration system software is available at

Lei, thank you again for participating in this interview series! Looking forward to meeting you and the other planners during SCaLE 8x.


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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