Interview with Amanda McPherson of LinuxCon in Portland

I had the pleasure to talk to Amanda McPherson, one of the minds behind LinuxCon, "LinuxCon is a new annual technical conference that will provide an unmatched collaboration and education space for all matters Linux". Where and where: September 21 - 23 2009, Portland.

Amanda, you are one of the people behind the LinuxCon, one of the most exciting Linux conferences out there. Can you give us some details?

Linuxcon is a new conference created by the Linux Foundation and the Linux community. It is designed to fulfill a need as a technical developer and user conference for all matters Linux. In addition to keynotes, roundtable panels and 75 conference sessions, LinuxCon will bring a range of tutorials, lightning talks, BoFs and other programming. It's being held September 21 - 23, 2009 in Portland, Oregon, co-located with the Linux Plumbers Conference.

How many people at the Linux Foundation worked on it?

We have a pretty small staff at the Linux Foundation, and because of that a big event like Linuxcon involves virtually everyone. (Even Linus is helping!) Primarily the team that will take all the credit (I won't even mention blame) is Angela Brown, Craig Ross and yours truly.

Did you get a lot of speech proposals? Who assessed them, and what was the rejection rate?

I must admit I was pleasantly surprised at the range and depth of the proposals we received. They weren't all from the usual suspects (people who I've known for years and who regularly speak at our events.) The quality of submissions made our job more difficult of course, since it's hard to reject good quality content. I was surprised at the in depth tutorial submissions we received, so attendees will really have a great opportunity to enhance their knowledge -- and careers -- by attending the conference. Craig and I worked with a really fantastic program committee to prepare the content. Off the to of my head, I'd say the rejection rate was about 60%.

A few important names...

To me they're all important, but here are a few very well known indivuals who are speaking at Linuxcon: Bob Sutor, VP of Linux and Open Source at IBM, Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Ubuntu, Greg KH, kernel developer, Matt Asay, Alfresco executive and popular CNET blogger, Joe Brockmeier, OpenSuse Community Manager and some guy named Linus Torvalds. :)

OK, the fun part: was there a moment when you honestly wondered if you'd be able to pull the conference off?

My mind goes back to the genesis of Linuxcon. The Linux Plumbers Conference community team approached us about starting a bigger and more broad Linux conference, and I thought it was a great idea. There is a need for something technical, fun and community-based (not run by a for profit who is most interested in money). The only time I wondered if we would pull it off was during the presentation on Linuxcon I gave to the board of directors of the Linux Foundation. I did my spiel and then held my breath during a short pause before they responded. Soon enough they all just started asking question and agreed that it was a great idea. Ever since then it's been smooth sailing.

What was the funniest moment in the whole process? Hopefully this is something you are allowed to share...!

I'm not sure how funny it is, but people frequently call Angela Amanda and Amanda Angela. Even one of our co-workers is known to do it, which we find amusing and a little puzzling. We also of course had dozens and dozens of developers submit proposals at the very last minute (or after) but I think that happens to all conferences.

Tell our readers why LinuxCon is unmissable!

I think it's the only place where you can meet and learn from the true leaders of Linux. At many conferences you'll have developers talking to developers and business people talking to users. At Linuxcon we aim to have all of these audiences collaborating and communicating. At Linuxcon you'll see kernel developers and senior executives from IBM, HP and Novell; you'll see large end users from some the largest companies in the world and you'll see students and everyday users of Linux. In fact, we're launching a web site where people can make connections and network ahead of the conference so you can start a conversation with a speaker, for instance, and set up a time to meet him/her at the event. I don't think you will find these types of opportunities at any other conferences.

Thank you for your time, and see you there!

Fantastic. I'm so glad you're attending!


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