Rethinking Your Welcome Wagon

Rikki Kite

ROSE Blog: Rikki's Open Source Exchange

Mar 24, 2011 GMT
Rikki Kite

This week the Palmetto Open Source Conference (POSSCON) attracted a lot of students and people who are new to open source. Our web editor Amber Graner attended the event and said that this pool of attendees helped add energy to the event. Red Hat's Ruth Suehle also attended POSSCON and wrote an article, called Students in open source -- How do I get started?, about the talk Leslie Hawthorn (OSU Open Source Lab) gave. "Conferences and unconferences are an easy way to get started," Ruth writes. "You'll not only get contacts and potential opportunities, but you'll also see the energy and passion behind open source," she says.

Today Sarah Milstein, co-chair of Web 2.0 Expo, posted Would I Attend My Own Conference? She writes about injecting new ideas and energy into conferences by increasing diversity among event speakers. "I don’t need to hear more of the same prominent voices, and I don’t get much value out of an environment that takes a narrow, old-school view on who’s worth listening to." I understand what she's saying -- we have a lot of interesting people in our community, and only a few of them speak at events. If you go to several events each year, you'll see familiar names and talks popping up over and over again in the event guides. Although that reliable pool of speakers can guarantee some top-notch, popular talks, fresh ideas and new talks can breathe energy into an event just like first-time conference attendees can.

Sarah discusses real-world tips for encouraging women to submit conference talk proposals, and she links to Gina Trapani's recent article called Designers, Women, and Hostility in Open Source. In her article, Trapani discusses approaches they've implemented or are considering at ThinkUp to help increase diversity in their community. "Diverse teams are better-equipped to make things that shine because they serve a wide range of people," she writes. She offers some tips for welcoming and mentoring new members of your community. "Mentoring new contributors is also a powerful way to grow and diversify your community, and create long-term, loyal contributors," she says.

I'm happy to write that we've recently added a new author to our pool of Linux Pro Magazine/Linux Magazine contributors. In our upcoming May issue, you'll see Carla Schroder's first article in her new column. Last month she emailed me with the news, saying, "I am now your official interesting and obscure Linux projects columnist! w00t!" I replied, "Yay! Congrats!" (And because Carla and I have a similar, surly, sarcastic sense of humor, I added, "I hope you don't suck." But I wouldn't recommend this approach when you are welcoming new members to your community. Maybe just stick with something safer, like, "Welcome to our team! We're so excited to work with you!", which is actually how we feel about working with Carla.)

Are you thinking about submitting (or have you recently submitted) your first talk proposal? Which upcoming events are still accepting proposals? And which upcoming events are particularly friendly for first-time speakers or conference attendees?

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