LugRadio Live 2006 review

What a fantastic weekend! On Saturday and Sunday, we put on the second LugRadio Live and almost all my hopes were exceeded.I’ve said it many times, but here it is again: our main reason for starting LugRadio Live was to provide an event for the community. With the two (now one) London-based expos, corporate IT buyers were the focus. There’s nothing wrong with that, but the free software world thrives on the personal relationships between its members. The warmth of friendship that I felt throughout the event meant that we had succeeded; everything else was a bonus.

Friday – setup and pre-LRL drinks

Friday afternoon, the four of us met early-arrivers for lunch, then headed to the venue to set up. This year, we hired Wolverhampton University’s Student Union. With several rooms, a large stage and the promise of air-conditioning, it was a massive upgrade from last year. Seeing our very stylish new banners in place – thanks OpenAdvantage and Bytemark – was particularly exciting.

As we’d publicly requested that no one turn up to help, unless specifically asked, only a handful of people arrived unannounced šŸ™‚ Just in case anyone’s wondering why we didn’t want people to lend a hand, here are our reasons:

  1. It’s often more time-consuming to explain to new people what you want than it is to do it.
  2. We were putting on a show and didn’t want people seeing it half set-up, thereby spoiling the surprise of what we had planned.

With most things in place, including many exhibitors, we headed off to meet more early-arrivers. It now appears that the beer garden (yard, more like) at Wolverhampton’s Hogs Head pub has been firmly chosen as the venue for pre-LugRadio Live drinks. In 2005, we were stunned when fifteen or twenty people turned up, including some we’d never met online. This year, it was fantastic to see between forty and fifty people from almost every habitable continent (I didn’t speak to anyone from South America).

It was so good to meet friends from the LugRadio community, and new people. I was particularly pleased to finally meet Sun’s Patrick Finch, who looks after OpenSolaris’ marketing, TMM, ScotLUG and HantsLUG guys. I’m sure I was also pleased to meet many other people, but lack of sleep and plenty of real ale have dislodged the memories.

Saturday – Day 1

Arriving at 7:30am, I was pleased to see more exhibitors already setting up and members of our yellow t-shirted crew, plus one or two international visitors whose flights had arrived at some awful hour.

The next two and a half hours passed as though they were minutes. Shifting tables, gaffering eletrical cable to the floor and answering a hundred questions meant we hardly noticed that the time to open the doors was fast approaching.

Following last minute sound checks, the crew opened the doors to a satisfyingly long queue. The venue filled quickly and, again, it was great to see some familiar faces and many new. At 10:50, we opened the show. What a fantastic feeling that was: after months of planning, and a few minutes with fears of an empty venue, hundreds of people had turned up!

Not one of the rooms looked empty. With three talk stages, an exhibition room and three BOF points, everywhere looked reasonably busy.

My highlights of the first day were:

  • Bruno Bord‘s obsessively-researched “Swearing in LugRadio” talk, which drew a massive audience and was very funny – great bloke is Bruno.
  • Our recording of LugRadio Live and Unleashed – this year much more like a real LugRadio show.
  • The Mass Debate, which Jono and I thoroughly enjoyed compering.
  • Mirco Muller’s amazing Low Fat – a new interface for handling documents.
  • Gerv Markham’s “How to destroy the free software movement”.
  • Low tech wiki.
  • Seeing members of our community coming together in a way they wouldn’t have otherwise.

The exhibition
Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to sit and enjoy many talks. I did, though, get to meet lots of cool people in the exhibition area. This year, we divided the work of organising the event and I took on the exhibitors.

Novell’s Ted Haeger and Erin Quill (not Brokovich or Bokover) put on a fantastic show, bringing a touch of west coast America to Wolverhampton. O’Reilly did another storming trade, with Josette’s pile of books seemingly halving in size each time I visited. MythTV wowed people with their PVR wizardry, Red Hat, Debian and (K)Ubuntu met their users and many organisations that were new to me seemed to draw good crowds. It was also good to see Simon “Phippo the Clown” Phipps sitting behind the OpenSolaris stand; seems to be a normal bloke and happy to chat.

Saturday evening

As we’d hired the venue all weekend – and it was mostly bars/club area – we decided to throw a party on the Saturday night. What could be better for an event based around the importance of community?

Sharing beers and shouting over the dodgy DJ, I reinforced old friendships and made new ones. That is what LugRadio Live is all about.

As the night wore on, and the dance floor grew heavy under the weight of geeky dancing, it was great to feel that we were all one. Any laughter was with other people, not at them, even during the Macarena šŸ™‚

Ken Fallon gave Lyne and me the wisdom of his parenting experience, Felim Whitley bought me beers and Patrick Finch gracefully listened to my ramblings.

Tramping home with MrBen and Pickle, we had a great conversation about my pet subject – marketing free software – and finally fell into bed gone 3am. What a long, fantastic day.

Sunday – Day 2

An early morning following a late night. Day 2 had a different feel, perhaps more relaxed.

We opened the show and I managed to catch a few talks. Mark Shuttleworth’s “N Big Challenges” was interesting. Over the course of 13 points, Mark outlined what he feels we need to address to ensure free software’s success.

He said a great deal that I agreed with, although talk of an immersive experience seemed rather more “movie OS” than a present concern. However, much of what we do now would have seemed like sci-fi twenty years ago, and we can’t innovate without going beyond what we now consider likely or necessary.

I was disappointed not to have been able to grab a quick chat with Mark, but he was a man in demand.

Closing the show was a sad but satisfying moment. I threw the remaining Chupa Chups from the Sun stand into the audience. I am not Christopher Biggins. We also thanked those who had helped us and the people who came.

Packing away was tiring. Thanks to Barbie and the Debian guys, it was quicker than it might have been.

Sunday evening

With many of the #lugradio crowd staying on until the Monday, and plenty of D’s champagne still to drink, we rounded off the weekend with a surprisingly relaxed and hilarious evening in the hotel bar.

This was the perfect finished to an awesome experience. Friends sitting around, enjoying each other’s company. That is what LugRadio is about and LugRadio Live is a celebration of my favourite aspect of free software – the people.

**Final thoughts

My main regret is the number of people I failed to meet or have time to speak properly to. It was only after the event that I found out Canonical’s Chris Kenyon was there and came up to speak to me, but he said I looked busy.

Next year, I’d like us to make more use of the fantastic #lugradio guys in planning the event. Perhaps some division of responsibility with them would be good.

I can’t wait until we have the chance to do it all again. That’s why the #lugradio chaps are planning a social gathering in the near future. Maybe the much discussed LugRadio On Tour will also happen!

Thank you so much to everyone who came, helped out and made the weekend so cool. Sorry if I didn’t speak to you, it wasn’t intentional!

Here’s to next year!