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First openSUSE Conference Sneak Peek

October 8th, 2012 by

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Less than two weeks from now the openSUSE Conference will start. The location itself is almost enough reason to attend: the openSUSE Conference 2012 is in the beautiful, historic city of Prague. For those jaded by gothic beauty, the conference program will provide all the motivation you need!

If you’re new to the world of Linux and software conferences, you might think that you’ll be out of your depth, especially when you recognize some of the leading lights in Free Software development and culture among the speakers. But there’s plenty at the openSUSE conference for the Linux newbie – in fact, it’s the perfect way to dive into the world of open source. Held in context with the local Linux Days and incorporating also SUSE Labs and a Gentoo miniconference, this openSUSE conference has something for everyone.

Read on to get a taste of the contents of the conference, with video and text interviews!

Video Interviews

We’ve interviewed Agustin Benito, our keynote speaker, who will talk about the importance of Small and Medium businesses for Linux World Dominance. See below or click here for a link to blip.tv

The second speaker we interviewed is Linux Defender Armijn Hemel from the Open Invention Network. Click here for a blip.tv link.

Getting involved

Monday afternoon offers some really useful talks for participants who are interested in getting involved in spreading the word about FLOSS and taking an active role in their project’s public face.

Isabel Valverde kicks things off after lunch with a presentation about the openSUSE Travel Support program. Many contributors are on a tight budget, so travel to events can be a real challenge. Providing direct assistance with travel and accommodation costs helps bring people together, creating a dynamic environment and allowing face-to-face communcation where problems are quickly solved and new ideas generated. Isabel explains how openSUSE’s approach to providing this assistance works and looks and costs and benefits.

openSUSE Ambassador Kostas Koudaras is the veteran of many conferences and events and has been heavily involved in developinng the Greek openSUSE community. Establishing successful programs for marketing and community involvement can be a trial-and-error process: you can never be sure how something will work until the ‘rubber hits the road’. In this talk, Kostas sets out the roadmap for the newly invigorated openSUSE ‘Ambassadors 2.0′ . Find out how you can get involved or leverage these ideas for your own FLOSS project.

Following on from Kostas is his countryman Ευστάθιος Ιωσηφίδης (Efstathios Iosifidis). Stathis was a driving force in establishing the Greek openSUSE community and is a key member of the translation team. He is also a member of the GNOME foundation.and participated in mentoring for Google Summer of Code. He also has experience at some huge events including a Thessaloniki International Trade Fair and FOSSCOMM.

Ih his talk on ‘nonverbal communication at the booth’, Stathis shares some tips on reaching out to attendees and creating a successful rappor. Linux events are building a reputation for being inclusive and welcoming. It’s not always easy to do – sometimes the most ‘natural’ assumptions can be wrong: you’d be right about my status as ‘just a user’, but that other grey-haired older woman over there – she’s been writing bare metal code since before you were though of. Meanwhile for those of us who are naturally a bit reserved (and who isn’t more comfortable behind a monitor?), the face-to-face interactions with strangers at a booth can be pretty daunting. I asked Stathis about his approach to breaking out of one’s shell.

“To begin with, I’ll look at the impression we create in the first few minutes – first impressions count! Things like clothes and body language are important if the visitor will want to interact with you or just pass by. Where you stand is the key. If you stand behind the table, it’s kind of defensive. You need to stand in front of the table, so that way the visitor will like you and feel more friendly.”

That makes a lot of sense – I’ve seen some booths where the tables felt more like a fortress and the attendants were hidden away behind them, and I felt like an intruder disturbing a private meeting. Not a nice experience! An openSUSE booth I’ve attended previously had a great solution to this problem, with a table for merchandise on one side, but open on the other, and attendants standing to talk to people at eye level. Of course, even then, some people, and especially new conference-goers, can be hesitant to approach.

“Many visitors are reticent and just check out our booth from a distance,” Stathis notes “When this happens you need to take the ‘offensive’ approach. Smile, say hi and talk first. Then you can give them promo materials and start the conversation.”

Stathis has identified some common mistakes that booth attendants make at open source events, but suggests that it isn’t really that difficult to improve your user experience.
“We don’t tend to let visitors talk, and we don’t listen, ” he explains. “Instead, we say what we want to say. What we are focusing on is not always what the visitor wants to listen to – for example, if the visitor wants to hear that Gnome is faster, has beautiful colours, has userful extensions etc, the chances are that we will be telling them that ‘openSUSE currently has Gnome 3.4 and soon we’ll have Gnome 3.6, that it has gtk3 instead of gtk2…’ – and that’s a huge mistake. “The key to everything is ask the right questions – and shut up and listen! It’s a point I really want to emphasise – it’s the visitor who should be talking most of the time, and not you. You do the listening. ”

Stathis feels that a personal connection is important, and evergreen wisdom still holds true. “Remember too that people like to hear their name, so try to remember names and use them in conversation.” That’s an ‘oldie but a goodie’ that I struggle with – thank heavens for conference nametags! Part of the process of the conversation is finding out why they are there and what they need from you. Stathis says “After you evaluate their statements and questions, then you need to either “forward” the visitor to someone from the group that knows best the answer, or depending the personality and the issue, give them some answers yourself.”

More advanced

Programmers who have mastered some coding skills will find many talks to help them enhance their ‘soft’ and ‘hard’ skills, exploring ideas around development as well as lessons and hands-on workshops.

‘Building RPMs for Starters’ is a fantastic choice if you’re interested in getting ‘hands on’ with Linux. Learn basic packaging skills that you can apply to your own software or even use to help maintain packages for the distribution. Straight after this talk is Stephan ‘coolo’ Kulow’s session on packaging Perl, Python, Ruby and Java.

Web developers aren’t forgotten. As part of the Linux Days proram you can catch Michal Čihař ;s ‘Online translation using Weblate’ at 11.30. You can learn how to make your software accessable to Linux users with Nelson Marques.

How will your software fit in the world of open source? Learn more about the ecosystem with Libor Pecháček’s ‘How software gets from the community to commercial enterprise’.

There are many more advanced sessions at the conference, see more in the schedule.

Be there!

The conference will start in less than two weeks! That means it is time to find accomodation, start planning your trip and of course make sure you are registered!

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