LCA 2011 trip report

The LCA organizers have done it again; not even a natural disaster could prevent them from throwing a conference that lived up to the LCA standards: friendly, fun, and technical. As usual, there was something for everyone, from the hardened kernel developer to the person who installed Linux last week. Unique among Linux conferences, LCA’s partner program even makes the conference fun for people who think of Linux primarily as the source of irritating penguin-themed decor in their house.

I was ready to forgive any number of organizational snafus due to the conference being relocated at the last minute due to the floods, but found it unnecessary. Internet access was reliable, fast, and copious (even when I rudely downloaded an entire installation CD image in the middle of the conference). Projectors and microphones worked, with a legion of A/V assistants for each room to make sure things ran smoothly (and the talks finished on time). Several people said that all time slots had a talk they wanted to see, and many slots had several talks. LCA does a great job of soliciting talks that are both technical and fun, like Andrew Tridgell’s Linux-powered coffee roaster talk.

The conference atmosphere was, as usual, friendly and relaxed. This year many people put in a great deal of effort to make the conference more welcoming, including adopting an anti-harassment policy. I heard of only one major violation of the policy, which was handled with record-breaking speed and sensitivity. One of the keynote speakers, Mark Pesce, included several inappropriate images in his talk. The discussion that ensued between conference organizers, the speaker, and attendees was rational, speedy, and respectful. Within 6 hours, the conference organizers made a public announcement apologizing for the incident and promising to follow up on it. Within 2 days, Mark Pesce made a public apology for the images, without, to my knowledge, any significant flame wars or disrespectful behavior on anyone’s part. The controversy was over almost before it had a chance to start, and both LCA and Mark Pesce came out smelling like roses, in my opinion.

Both the LCA organizers and Mark earned my personal respect and goodwill. I want to personally thank the conference chair, Shaun Nyquist, for his grace and quick thinking in a difficult situation, and Sarah Smith, for leading the effort to adopt an anti-harassment policy for LCA. If the 2012 Ballarat team is anything like the Brisbane team, I’ll be back, and I’ll encourage my friends to attend as well.