SE Linux Fest Highlights

>From June 10-12 this year, a thousand or so fans of Linux and Free/Open Source Software got together in Spartanburg, SC to get smarter, talk about what they believe in, network a little, and drink top-shelf booze paid for by sponsors. In all of those, and many other, respects the 2011 incarnation of Southeast Linux Fest was a huge success.

While it’s three days long, the climax of the event is Saturday, which has the vendor tables going strong and is bookended by keynote addresses to start and end the day. Somehow, though, the schedule this year had a few oddities that ended up giving me even more enjoyable time, and ended up providing my own personal geek peak on the first day of the conference.

Friday started with Jared Smith (, the Fedora Project Leader, delivering a talk about Open Source communities and how upstream and downstream communities ultimately benefit one another. It’s a great talk with even better visuals.  While I heard an earlier incarnation of it in October when he visited Richmond, VA (, it truly never fails to impress. It brings the whole idea of community into a crystal-clear focus that is often hard to find when talking about such an abstract idea when we’re all so used to dealing with regression tests and overloaded classes.

The last speaker on Friday, Leslie Hawthorn (, was perhaps even better. Reading Leslie’s bio is an experience itself. The work she’s doing is amazing on multiple levels. To hear her talk about the causes and ideas that the holds dear is the closest I’ve been personally to wanting to win one for the Gipper. She makes you want to devote your time and efforts (and maybe your life) to these amazing causes.

Lots of people are talking about the keynotes from SELF 2011, and they were both great. A particular thank you to Tom “Spot” Callaway, for slaying the 800 lb. cloud in the corner with his first few slides in the afternoon keynote address. But for my (meager) money, two of the best talks happened while the main rooms were still being set up. I wish they’d have gotten a little more attention at the time, and I hope they get a little more attention when the SELF folks get the videos online from all of the talks.

I met some great people who are doing the work every day to keep the concept of Open Source happening, and it always helps to re-focus my own thoughts on where I want to make my contribution.  SELF 2011 was certainly not an exception to this. For anyone who thinks Linux and free or open source solutions are the hear of technology’s future, SELF 2012 should go on to your calendars now.