Idea for the taking: Freedom Fest

Note: this isn’t commentary on 2011 in particular, I’ve been thinking about this vaguely for a couple of years and it’s time to release the ideas into the wild where someone might actually do something about it. Also, it should in no way be read as a commitment to me actually ever doing this. Steal this idea.

Consider the miniconf system, in which there are single-day community organised streams occupying the first two days of the conference. Now… consider that as its own conference. That is, I envisage an Australian open source conference that has the organisers take care of the boring chores centrally: insurance, registration, venues. Then the space is provided to representatives of various communities to run their own stream. Because I am a control freak, I would probably also do the following centrally:

  1. provide a common timetable for all rooms, to allow attendees to move around between talks
  2. provide conference volunteers to act as session chairs, in order to make sure the talks actually end on time
  3. check people’s program, and take away slots if they are filled with things like “TBA” and “Lightning Talks TBA”. Shorter streams than a full day should be possible.

(And yes, needless to say, I would want some kind of central management of conduct/harassment policies too. Which would be hard if the policy is to apply to talks that aren’t centrally selected. But then, LCA has this problem with miniconfs already.)

It would also be important to be more flexible on registration than is (almost always, there were small exceptions in 2008), that is, to allow people to attend for a single day without paying for the whole event. Generous provision of hack or unconference space would be necessary!

This would mainly advantage communities that don’t overlap really well with LCA. Typically if they try and hold a miniconf they struggle both to get core members to attend (because they have no interest in Linux or in the main program) and to get LCA attendees along. One day registrations and the brand distinction would help a lot. It would also perhaps bring smaller communities together for the first time. The main disadvantage would be adding another major conference to the calendar, potentially competing directly with LCA if events like Haecksen moved to it. (People who use annual leave to go to conferences will likely only go to one long one.) If it actually replaced the first couple of days of LCA, perhaps not so much.