SCaLE 14x (2016) Event Report
At a Glance: What is SCaLE?
- What: Free and open source software conference in Pasadena, California
- Where: Pasadena Convention Center
- When: 21 – 24 January 2016
Our Ambassadors in the Field
This report is for the following Ambassadors:
- Perry Rivera (FAS: lajuggler)
- Matthew Williams (FAS: Lorddrachenblut)
- Alex Acosta (FAS: aacosta)
- Scott Williams (FAS: vwbusguy)
- Brian Monroe (FAS: ParadoxGuitarist)
What is SCaLE?
SCaLE is a four day event focusing on a variety of free and open source training and speeches.
SCaLE is the fourteenth annual event in the Los Angeles (LA) area. This year, the venue moved from the hustle and bustle of the LAX airport location to Pasadena, home of Rose Parades and tech.
The SCaLE conference showcases Linux and open-source technology topics among the international community. The event’s chairperson, Mr. Ilan Rabinovitch, is a very conscientious, helpful, and friendly individual that inspires the rest of the SCaLE team to create such a great conference.
Day 1: 21 January
We arrived in the area Thursday morning to deliver banners for the Expo portion of the conference. This allowed our Ambassadors to begin familiarization with the new venue’s layout, including parking. The loading and unloading situation proved a little challenging for some because certain lots were a block away.
We checked in at the registration booth to receive our badges and admired our surroundings noting just how spacious the new buildings are compared to preceding conferences.
I attended a SCaLE Speaker workshop, which provided valuable presentation tips.
Later that day, I attended the FLOSS Reflection event. I enjoyed hearing about the outlook of Open Source by Jono Bacon and Maddog Hall and learned of the unfortunate passing of Ian Murdock, founder of Debian GNU/Linux. Also felt inspired hearing Keila Banks discuss how she spreads the word about Open Source with her school classmates.
I also sat in on the Linux Sucks event, with presenter Bryan Lunduke. Bryan provides a tongue-in-cheek view of what could definitely use improvement in the Linux world as well as what’s great.
I later checked into my hotel. Although the conditions outside were average and the hotel was far (about 11 blocks away, enough for a car drive), the inside of the room was clean and comfortable.
Day 2: 22 January
On the 22nd, we returned to set up equipment at the Exhibit Hall. Brian rolled in a weighty event box, Matthew brought in a broadcasting setup, Alex Acosta arrived for assist, and I (with Brian’s help) carried in the banners. After introducing ourselves and saying hello, we set up, configured, and, where needed, tested the live stream hardware, OLPC, media / swag, and banners. As an added bonus, I threw in a bowl of lollipops which turned out to be quite a hit.
We finished setting up well before our start time of 2 P.M., and observed how convenient our spot was in a high-traffic area adjacent to the Red Hat and OpenShift booths. It also helped being near the Linux New Media, Python, Docker, and O’Reilly tables, as that brought in much ancillary traffic.
Since we had a fair amount of Ambassadors, we just took shifts as needed for meal breaks or attending the occasional workshop. We did notice that there were not very many inexpensive options for places to eat that were a quick walk away. Quite a few of the nearby eateries, including Starbucks, had closed down despite posted hours indicating that they should otherwise be open.
Since we have a finite amount of swag, we placed a few items here and there to stem “swag” vacuuming, and handed shirts out to really great questions and feedback. Our strategy for this conference instead of just advocating Fedora involved actively listening to the needs of passersby as well.
I also realized that people tend to approach the Fedora table more if Ambassadors stand in front of the booth table instead of behind the table. Rather than quiz people on Fedora trivia and hand out items, I sensed that some were actively interested in learning more about trying Fedora, or needed to express constructively why their needs have moved from Fedora.
General questions I asked others were open-ended (not direct “yes” or “no” answers), to engage people into discussion and establish rapport. Such questions included:
- So tell me what brings you here today?
- How do you use Fedora?
- If not using Fedora, what do you use and why?
- Do you have any suggestions or comments for us to pass back upstream to Fedora?
Notable news during the evening included Bad Voltage’s Family Feud segment that indicated that Fedora made number 2 on the Linux popularity list of surveyed participants. A few audience members exclaimed “Wow!” or “Awesome!” in pleasant surprise.
Other highlights from the Bad Voltage show were that there is apparently a Hannah Montana Linux distribution.
Suggestion / Feedback Box Items: 22 January
At our booth, we had a box for visitors to leave feedback, suggestions, and comments about Fedora. The following suggestions and feedback are from the box on Friday, January 22nd.
- Workspace: One felt burned (their words) by Gnome3. They were very unhappy by its instability and its incorporation into F23 without apparent ample testing.
- Spins: One requested an Raspberry Pi spin of Fedora, if it doesn’t exist. If it does exist, advertised awareness of its existence would be greatly appreciated.
- Usage: One person uses OpenBuild System and OpenQA (?) in their day-to-day.
- Newcomers: One expressed more accessibility for newcomers. Acronyms could be better spelled out in documentation.
- Newcomers: One felt that experts could be less condescending to the newcomers. These new topics have a high learning curve.
- Spins: One wonders if there was an e-commerce and/or web developer spin available.
- Newcomers: One felt installation for newcomers could be improved. They had to call a tech friend to finish off the installation; she never had to do this with one of the commercial operating systems.
- OLPC: One has an OLPC which gave him Broadcom headaches and he felt that could be improved.
- Newcomers / Dev: One felt there was a disconnected community. He cited that some type of on-boarding could help. Perhaps more classes at conferences or live demos online with how to get involved with the community and how to contribute.
- Marketing: One guest uses Ubuntu. This was his first time hearing about the Labs… his interest piqued. Sounds like more advertising of Labs / Spins could be done…
- Marketing: One uses Ubuntu Server. Describing how Fedora Server compares to Ubuntu might encourage him to switch.
- Embedded / Spins: One use of Fedora for embedded discovery. Could use a spin for that.
- Newcomers: One was requesting Fedora-sponsored and supported install-fests would be quite helpful.
- Comment: One commented they wanted something more modern.
- Firefox: One said it crashes. A lot.
- Workspace: One said that Ubuntu has some really nice fonts and has a nice look and feel. He wants nice stuff like that.
- Rosegarden: One commented that Rosegarden UI is glitchy. He commented a target model for that UI is something like Cakewalk™ GUI.
- Video drivers: One requested ATI driver support. Something that worked in 22 broke horribly in 23. He had to buy an NVIDIA card just to fix the issue, but wasn’t happy that it didn’t work cleanly moving up…
- Newcomers / Documentation / RDO / OpenStack: One requested that Fedora could be more user-friendly. They found RDO difficult and confusing. He also prefers Ubuntu to Fedora because it is more OpenStack friendly.
- Packaging: One mentioned something about “Package Marks”; he finds that he needs to reboot immediately when it does not appear to be necessary. Restarting later would be nice if it is recommended…
- Spins: A spin for ARM development was requested.
- SCaLE / Newcomers: A track like Ubucon but for Fedora was requested. Maybe it could include install-fest, getting started, and general application use.
- Docking/Request: One Ubuntu person commented that he really likes docking features and is hopeful to see inroads on the Fedora side of things…
- Bluetooth: One Fedora 20 person said that it couldn’t connect to his phone via Bluetooth to transfer files.
Day 3: 23 January
I had prep work for a large part of that day for my speaker presentation. See a recording of my talk here: Perry Rivera – Krita Presentation
I later joined in to assist and field questions from guests.
Suggestion / Feedback Box Items: 23 January
- RPM / Building / neovim: One person stated the RPM spec could be modernized and updated. The tutorials are ancient. Some training videos can be created or updated. How to translate from RPM, dpkg, pacman, and the universal installer would be greatly appreciated. Something like a Rosetta Stone for commands to use. The build process is confusing and could be demystified. What are the basic standards and best processes? A way to easily get neovim would be nice.
- Touch: One requested touchscreen support for Fedora.
- Newcomers: A few install-fest people stopped by and expressed enthusiasm for trying the Fedora distribution out.
- Newcomers: One currently uses Windows, but is interested in trying Fedora. He primarily uses his computer for browsing the web.
That evening, Game Night took place. Quite a fun and well attended event!
Day 4: 24 January
On Sunday, 24 January, we interviewed Ryan Jarvinen. We covered various topics, including CentOS’s history, Ubuntu, and Red Hat. We also covered the OpenShift project as it relates to building, deploying, and scaling. Finally, we asked him some big questions about Docker images.
We also interviewed Alex Acosta, Fedora Ambassador. We talked about his role as well as what interested him in becoming an Ambassador.
Suggestion / Feedback Box Items: 24 January
- Newcomers: Bumped into two install-fest participants. This couple was very happy to attend the install-fest and felt that the instruction was great. One person uses Fedora extensively on his work project.
- General kudos: Met someone from b3dtv who uses Fedora for operational day-to-day. He appreciates Fedora dev team’s efforts.
- Video-casting: Dual Monitor support for video-casting.
- Request: One guest uses Adobe Photoshop in his workflow, including keybindings, shapes, and tools. He was very enthusiastic when hearing more about the Krita software presentation from Perry Rivera.
- Request: One guest was wondering if someone could have Fedora meet-ups near Long Beach, assuming one doesn’t exist.
- Request / SELinux: One guest expressed that it should be advertised that SELinux is important, and perhaps train people of its operation. Also, make SELinux be less apt to be turned off by default in the main installer.
- KDE / Usability: One user had to downgrade from F23 to F21 because there were too many stability issues with KDE. He’s concerned that KDE5 crashes quite a bit. He suggested that perhaps until things get ironed out with KDE5, if it’s possible to retrofit it with KDE4 to keep it stable.
- Usage: One guest teaches Linux at UCLA extension and Santa Monica College. He expressed enthusiasm for Fedora.
- Kudos / GNOME: One guest mentioned that long ago, Fedora was heavy and not stable. Now, it’s very stable and more useful than other distributions, which are GUI- and app-heavy. He mentioned how he wouldn’t mind GNOME Classic to encourage this stability.
- Request: One guest wishes there was some type of static support e-mail address for people who don’t have access to or know how to use IRC.
- Pen Testing: One guest is primarily uses Kali for his day-to-day. Perhaps a Security Lab that is Kali-like for easier transition might be useful?
- Awareness and Diversity: (see Lessons Learned below)
We exhausted an entire box of F22 media by Friday, and an entire box of F21 media on Saturday. The peak day was Saturday. Based on the number of visitors, it seems like 4/5 of them use Fedora, and 1/5 do not, but might be willing to switch provided that their suggestions above might be incorporated. There seemed to be mostly support expressed for the Fedora distribution over the 4/5 group.
We did observe an overall, slight lack of diversity in attendance in relation to gender in visitors stopping by. It might help to study whether canvassing Ambassador participation from more groups and encouraging participation in conferences might yield a more positive attendance ratio.
Ambassador Requests / Ideas
- Perhaps someone might request Matthew Miller to do a possible future Keynote at SCaLE?
- Something like a Mini-Flock or Fedora Track at SCaLE. Also, a Fedora volunteer-run registration table for said event and activities to drum up interest.
- Another table perhaps if costs permit? The current setup seemed just a little cozy.
- Providing it is possible, sponsoring Game Night and/or supplying a Fedora display banner prominently during Game Night might prove advantageous.
- It is our thought that if we do order banners in the future that they may be lighter or with rolling mechanisms in case Ambassadors need to haul them certain distances.
Future ideas for the event box
- Newer distro media: A few requested F23 media. Although, in most cases, it almost doesn’t seem to matter, as people would generally take older media anyways. We had a few people politely wish for USB keys, but the same people generally took the install media anyways.
- Lollipops / candy: Minimal funds for reimbursement for donated sweets
- Ribbons for badges: Ribbons are gathering popularity and advertising interest at expos and conventions. It might be advantageous to make various sets of these for fun and pass them out.
- Stickers: More! Everyone loved them and want to use them for their boxes. Perhaps additional Fedora designs might garner popularity.
- Meta Key Sticker: An ambassador suggested making Meta Key Stickers that have the Fedora Logo to cover the Meta Key Logos…
- T-shirts: These were a hit and all disappeared by the very end. Could definitely use more.
- Pencils: The provided pens were very popular, but quite a few turned out to be duds. To avoid this awkwardness in the future, Fedora-branded pencils are all but guaranteed to work.
- Lanyards for the Ambassadors: It’s interesting to advocate Fedora while wearing the stock lanyard for a completely different organization because that’s what was received in the registration goodie bag. Having a Fedora-branded lanyards for the ambassadors to use at events would add value to our guests of the Fedora way.
It appears we left guests a lasting positive impression when they asked us if we work for anyone and when we responded that we donate our time to further the Fedora mission.
All staff members expressed a great attitude to be there. Feedback on talks and training given by SCaLE speakers indicated that many were engaged and instructed well.
That’s all the news from SCaLE 14x. Hope to see you next year!