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Video SCALE 11 is Coming to Los Angeles Feb. 22-24 (Video) 25

The Southern California Linux Expo (SCALE) is a venerable and-well regarded volunteer-run, regional Linux conference that draws over 2000 attendees and an amazing array of speakers and open source projects displaying their goodies in the exposition area. The tutorial and speech schedule is crazy-dense, with as many as 10 tracks going at once. Conference Chair Ilan Rabinovitch admits that there is no way you can take in all of SCALE. On the other hand, you are certain to find something new and interesting to learn if you have any interest at all in Open Source. And yes, we mean Open Source, not just Linux. This show has grown far beyond its humble roots as a get-together for a few local students interested in Linux. One last thing: When you register, if you use the promo code SLASH, the $70 pass for all three days is magically reduced to $35. And there are many other ways to get that discount or another one just like it, including affiliation with virtually any Southern California Open Source group or almost any Open Source project. SCALE is 100% non-profit, and wants to "spread the word," not make money.

Ilan Rabinovitch: SCALE is the Southern California Linux Expo.

Robin Miller: So, Southern Cal, oh okay. I couldn’t figure out earlier today what the A meant. Southern California Area maybe?

Ilan: It makes it a pronounceable name.

Robin: Okay. Got it. How long has SCALE been going on?

Ilan: This will be the 11th year that we are running the Southern California Linux Expo. We just had the 10th year back in January (2012). So this year we are going to be turning it up to 11, as they say. We started SCALE back in 2002. We were a group of students out of USC, UCLA, CSCI, and some of the local user groups. Now we’ve been doing it for 11 years. It has grown quite a bit since we started.

Robin: How many people did you have last year?

Ilan: Last year we had just under 2200 attendees. So it has grown sizably over the years. I think we had 300 attendees at the first SCALE. So it is probably not 11 times the size exactly, but we are getting close.

Robin: What do you think about this year, it is going to be more, fewer, gazillions?

Ilan: I think we are targeting about the same, it may be a little bit more. We are expecting about 2200 people this year. I think it is great. We are starting to actually hit the capacity in the venues that we are at. So it’s definitely at a point where we don’t necessarily get to know everybody’s name anymore but it is still lot of fun, we get to see the open source community get together in LA every year.

Robin: Where is it exactly?

Ilan: SCALE will be from February 22nd to the 24th at the Los Angeles Airport Hilton. So it is right by the airport. If folks are coming from out of town, maybe from somewhere with colder weather, there is an airport shuttle right there.

Robin: So you are actually in a hotel. Last week, something like that, we had a guy Bellingham, NorthWest Linux Expo. Now they don’t charge admission. But they are in a college. Do you charge admission?

Ilan: We do charge admission. We do charge admission for the show just to help pay for the cost of the event. As I mentioned, we are in a hotel, and those tend to be a bit pricey. We subsidized that significantly with sponsorship from our exhibitors and so we are able to keep the rates fairly reasonable. We are also able to offer discounts for all the local user groups in open source projects that one attends, so for example, for anybody that is watching us here, we have set up a 50% discount if you use the code SLASH for Slashdot, and so that actually gets you at about, it will be $35 for three days of events, three of the events with sessions, the expo floor and what’s turning out to be a fairly well known game night that we run on Saturday night.

Robin: And how much is that again?

Ilan: $35 with the code I just mentioned, so it will be SLASH.

Robin: Wait a minute. So even people who aren’t watching this on Slashdot right now, if they use SLASH they can get the discount?

Ilan: Yes, we would love to have them join us. So our goal with SCALE has always been to make it accessible to everybody that would like to attend. We initially started it actually for ourselves. We were here in LA, and there weren’t a lot of open source events that came down this way. We didn’t get a chance to see a lot of the leaders from the community that we would like to hear from. And so we started an event to make that available to ourselves.

So with that in mind, we always wanted to make the price very accessible for community members. And to offer good technical content, and not to focus too much on the marketing and the glitz and glamor of some of the more commercial shows. And that is why, one of the reasons is we make the discounted passes readily available to anybody that would want them from the local user groups and from open source projects.

We have similarly made our exhibit hall, a lot of events you will attend you will see there is a fairly small number of open source projects and nonprofit exhibitors and maybe a large number of commercial exhibitors. We have gone out of our way to make sure that that is a 50-50 split at SCALE. And right next to the HPs and IBMs, you will find some fantastic projects like Fedora and FreeBSD project or LinHES, which is a Linux home entertainment system open source project.

Robin: How many exhibitors do you get?

Ilan: So this year, we will have 101 booths at the show.

Robin: 101?

Ilan: 101 exhibitors this year. We have completely actually filled up the venue that we are at. That’s the limit of the number of exhibitors that we can have, so we are actually turning people away this year unfortunately. And some of those are open source projects.

Robin: Wow! And how many speakers?

Ilan: Speakers we are nearly approaching 100 sessions this year.

Robin: Wow! Good.

Ilan: And so that is across three days. On some days sometimes we have as many as 10 concurrent tracks going on.

Robin: Ten concurrently? So it is just impossible to see everything.

Ilan: You can see everything. We do our best to record it and make a lot of it available online later. Our goal is to provide some great content for the community, and unfortunately there is always some conflict, everybody always wants to see two things, and they happen to be at the same time. But we do our best to try to balance that by making sure that maybe that similar topics aren’t at the same time on the schedule.

One of the things that we have done in recent years is actually because of the growth of SCALE, we have had a lot of other projects and communities want to come host events at SCALE. So the Friday before SCALE, February 22nd, while you can’t get into that as a SCALE attendee, a lot of those events are actually organized by other members of the community. So, for example, a local MySQL community, they are running a whole one day track on MySQL. The PostGres guys are doing something similar on Friday. We have a Devops; the Devops meetups in LA are organizing their own sessions about devops related topics. Things around culture and communication between development operations organizations. So SCALE has never been specifically about Linux, it has been about open source in general. We have managed to grow that over the last couple of years to be something that touches on something for everybody really.

Robin: That sounds great. And I love the way you say it is spreading out, you are getting like subsidiary conferences and people doing things that are that’s wonderful. I guess anybody can just do that. Will you promote them at all?

Ilan: Yes. So a lot of times, we actually provide them with the space at the venue, we’ve arranged for space for all three days, and we will work with different communities, different local blend communities in open source projects to put that together. So for example, the folks from OpenNMS reached out to us and said that they wanted to do a training day on how to use OpenNMS open source monitoring system, and so we worked with them to arrange for some space.

Similarly, the folks behind Puppet wanted to do a full day on Puppet and we are working with them on that too. So there are lots of great events. They are listed on our website. I will go ahead and post some more information on our blog after or when we are going to post the video as well, but there is everything ranging from highly technical events to more advocacy and mentoring related items. We have a track called fast mentoring where folks are talking about how to become more active in the open source communities, how to grow your community, how to improve the interaction between your community members and things of that nature. That is also another one of these events that is coming on as a lead into SCALE.

Robin: That is an important one. That is one that I hope a lot of people get to. We need more of that. I worry that participation will slack off, it never does, but I worry.

Ilan: It is always great to have more people involved. One of the ways that we are helping to do that as well is that on Saturday at SCALE, we’ve actually added a track, this will be the second year that we are doing it, it is called SCALE the next generation, and we are actually targeting teenagers that want to talk about their involvement in open source and in technology and to try to get their peers to be more involved as well.

So we are trying to help build the next generation of open source contributors early that they can start while they are young. A lot of us started in this while we were in college or getting out of high school, and we want to help the next generation do the same.

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SCALE 11 is Coming to Los Angeles Feb. 22-24 (Video)

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