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Video Another Year of LinuxFest Northwest (Video) 12

We last interviewed LinuxFest volunteer Jakob Perry in January, 2013, when he and the rest of the crew that makes this event happen were gearing up for their 14th version of this outstanding regional Linux/FOSS conference. Now they've gotten through LinuxFest 15, which makes this one of the longest-lasting Linux shows around. And Jakob is still helping to put it together, as he has since he was a teenager. Since he's been with LinuxFest Northwest since the beginning, this gives him some serious longevity cred, especially when you realize that he has been volunteering with LFNW since he was 15 years old -- and hasn't seemed to lose a bit of his enthusiasm in all that time. (Alternate Video Link)

Tim:Jakob, we are sitting here at one corner of the show floor here at LinuxFest Northwest.How did this come to be?

Jakob:It’s pretty amazing. I’ve spent half my life on LinuxFest Northwest. I was 15 and just a high school student when LinuxFest started back in 2000.Now I am 30.And it is definitely a bit different than what we used to have.We started with only three rooms. We had two presentation rooms and we had a classroom for exhibits.I remember putting up, we had cardboard written printed signs that looked really hokey.Like a science fair.As another cofounder Bill Wright would say, “It was a geek science fair.”

Tim:Right now, we are at a community college up here in Whatcom County, in Washington, about two hours from Seattle.


Tim:What was your inspiration for starting a Linux fair?

Jakob:Besides not being able to drive to Seattle, we decided at a Christmas party in 1999, because the world wasn’t going to end, we thought, we decided that we wanted to do an installfest but a little bit more than that.And because we were bringing up our presentation ideas, okay let’s just do aSaturdayevent, where we can tell people about Linux and try to get a little bit of advertising.We had about 50 people show up at our first event.

Tim:So you weren’t sitting in a basement, armed waiting for the looting?

Jakob:We are sitting at Boundary Bay drinking well I wasn’t drinking beer because I was still quite a few years from that. But we were having pizza and we were like oh we need to have a little event like this.

Tim:Now practically speaking, you have organized an army of volunteers here. Can you talk about that works?

Jakob:Yeah.When we expanded in 2005, no in 2004, when we expanded in 2004 we went to the whole campus, we had the president of BTC and we went to them and said, “Hey,” we have a computer program here called the BTC CNET program.

Tim:I should say the BTC is the Bellingham Technical College.

Jakob:Yeah, Bellingham Technical College.They do the CNET program.I never was a student at BTC except for one little night class for Linux back in high school.And then what they said is we are going to put our students as volunteers.It started from getting some student volunteers, to now it is part of their program.Not only has it pooled out 120 student volunteers and a whole campus that costs something very low, it costs us money but not much.But we have all these volunteers and we have all this facility that we can use.

Tim:Now for people who might be interested in organizing any kind of a conclave like this, one thing you’ve madehere has attracted a lot of sponsors.How do you go about doing that and what sort of sponsors do you get right now, because Microsoft the booth right near us here?

Jakob:So we’ve had sponsors from SCALE adn OSCON and Supercomputing.You may have seen us at one of those events, basically talking to various people and talking to various companies.I work for Acquia and my wife works for MongoDB, so we are both in open source companies and have gotten to know other people around the open source community.So we talk to them and say, “Hey, we have this event that’s actually fairly inexpensive.Our largest sponsorship is $2000 which for those who do other sponsorships that’s pretty small.So having just a small budget makes it really possible to go along with our sponsors.And that’s what it makes it free for everyone to come.

Tim:And how many people end up coming here? What’s your best guess right now?

Jakob:Yeah. So right now, we had 1150 badges go out yesterday.We had 1380 people free registers.So the attrition rates of people who register and don’t show up is actually quite small compared to some Drupal events where we almost have 50% attrition rate.It is pretty impressive to see that most people who register are actually here.

Tim:And some of the people may have just arrived today.Because it is a two-day conference.

Jakob:Correct. So that was yesterday.I know that we have another 100 or 200, I am looking at the badges and we are down to only one tray of badges left.So I think we are going to easily our 1300 badges.But since registration is not required, my parents came through yesterday and looked at stuff and I’ve seen other people walking around without badges. We will be probably 1500 or so by the end of the day.

Tim:And one thing that I know that you told me earlier that you’ve now moved away from the Bellingham area up here in the corner of the country. So what’s the future of you driving as an organizer for LinuxFest Northwest?

Jakob:Yes. I moved down to Vancouver Washington the other Vancouver.And now that we have the resources of people in Portland which is also a big open source community, I am hoping to use some resources that people want to come up with here.We have a lot of people from Portland and Seattle as well as Vancouver, BC, here at LinuxFest.And with Google Hangout and IRC and all the other ways to chat it is becoming easier to be distributed as we organize the fest. So we have a large group of people here able to do stuff on the ground, but we can still do a lot of technology things as well. So our website is using COD conference organization distribution and we have Drupal on our website and we are using some other software that is all open source contributed.Yeah, we would love to see people, if they want to be involved they can get involved by going to the website and just emailing to the contact link.

Tim:And with something like people who are in Minnesota or from other countries entirely can they organize something on the same lines?

Jakob: Yeah.Actually there are many sites using Drupal. A few of them are using COD and we are hoping this year to get COD into beta. It is definitely a volunteer effort.There is a little bit of paid support from Acquia but besides that there isn’t really anything else.It is just what people contribute. So go you can help make your website better for your conference and make ours and everyone else’s too.

Tim:Will there be a year 16?

Jakob:Year 16?

Tim:There WILL be a year 16.

Jakob:Yes.There will be a year 16.And we are looking at various tweaks but I think we’ve sort of hit a nice recipe.We’ve done tweaks every few years and the latest thing was we moved from the cafeteria to this brand new building.BTC actually designed part of this building thinking of us.So it is pretty cool to see that we are thought of by the state.

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Another Year of LinuxFest Northwest (Video)

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