The following article has been contributed by Carla Schroder, Technical Writer at the SUSE Documentation Team.
LinuxFest Northwest 2017 was a real family affair, and attended by wider variety of attendees than I am used to seeing at FOSS conferences. There were many families there with young children, activities for the kids, and perfect beautiful weather for running around outside on the Bellingham Technical College campus.
There were a number of people in wheelchairs, a few vision- and hearing-impaired people, more women, and a wide age range of attendees. But still not much variety in skin colors.
Most of the sessions were fully-attended. There were evening social events, a 24-hour hangout room, a game room, all kinds of hands-on teaching, free SUSE certification preparation and exams, raffles, and a rummage sale.
SUSE’s Bryan Lunduke was busy from sun to sun giving openSUSE talks, broadcasting the Lunduke Hour Live, and hosting the evening Trivia contest, which my team won. (Thanks mainly to SUSE’s James Mason, who is fluent in weird stuff.)
My favorite session was “All Ages: How to Build a Movement”, which expanded on the Apache principal of “Community over code”. Build your team with the right people, teach and mentor, and always look to the future by finding and supporting new contributors. Diversity is everything; a lack of diversity creates a lack of imagination. FOSS needs people of all ages from all backgrounds to make it useful and relevant. If scratching your own itch is a primary motivator, then we need the widest variety of itches we can attract.
My second-favorite session was Ryan Sipes of System 76, talking about lessons learned as one of the major independent Linux-only computer vendors. System 76 is based in Denver, Colorado, USA, and like all hardware vendors partners with overseas hardware manufacturers. They are planning to move their manufacturing to Denver, and figure this will not increase their costs because they’ll save on tariffs and other costs of importing equipment. There is one hurdle, which I learned about through an unnamed source: thanks to legal marijuana, industrial space is in short supply in Denver. That’s right, legal weed is in the way of domestically-manufactured Linux computers.
I received a lot of feedback on our documentation, much of it positive. Doc team, we are appreciated and our heroic efforts are not unnoticed! Accessibility is still a largely-unfulfilled wish. The good news is the SUSE manuals, and most of suse.com, are text-reader friendly. This is huge, and something that most sites still don’t do.
But in general, we have a long way to go. Being accessible to everyone should be as core to Linux and FOSS as any basic functionality; anyone should be able to use a Linux computer with full functionality, and without needing special help.
Next week I’ll talk about some of the cool technologies on display at LinuxFest 2017, including rockets, robots, and amazing 3D printers.