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Other Linux Expos Can Learn a Thing or Two From SCALE


Actually, I just wish this were true.
SCALE 14x is getting cranked up for the first ever SCALE at its new home in Pasadena, Calif., and already it’s obvious why this is the premiere community Linux fest in the country. For one thing, there’s the roster of great speakers, topped by such household names — in FOSS circles anyway — as Maddog Hall, Cory Doctorow and Mark Shuttleworth. Then there’s all of the cool things not always present at a Linux fest, not the least of which is the side-by-side UbuCon conference/unconference featuring all things Ubuntu and which is included in the cost of admission.

In addition, on Sunday this year’s SCALE will be giving amateur radio enthusiasts a chance to take the test to receive a HAM license, and as reported last week by “Larry the BSD Guy” Cafiero, the BSD Certification Group will be offering the BSDA certification exam, also on Sunday. That’s not to mention the 130 scheduled talks and workshops, which are the backbone of any Linux or FOSS conference.

In other words, the folks behind SCALE seem to be doing everything right as they pull out the stops in their attempt to raise the bar for conferences which follow.

This morning as I opened my email, I realized they’re “getting it right” in surprising other ways as well. Specifically, the effective use of email.

This is surprising, as I can’t remember the last time anyone’s use of email impressed me. Spam, or course, has jaded me along with everyone else, but like most of you, I assume, I also get tired of follow-up emails from sites where I placed an order wanting to know “how did we do?” And I learned long ago to not give a dime to any political website — or even to take a survey on one — because then I’ll be inundated with weekly pleas for more money to fight the Washington bad guys latest bad ideas.

Usually when an email plops into my inbox, even from organizations I support, I’ll read the first line or two only before sending it to the ether.

But I realized this morning that the emails I’ve been receiving from SCALE — I signed up for them back before registration was open — actually brighten my day and do much to make me wish I could travel cross continent to take part. Indeed, I think that other conferences, especially the big ones, could learn something by taking a look at SCALE’s use of email — for not only do they offer information for those attending this year’s event, they plant the seed in those who couldn’t make it this year that maybe they might want to decide now to be at SCALE 15x.

So what’s different between SCALE and other conferences, email-wise?

  • Text instead of HTML: Most of the larger conferences go out of their way to design HTML emails filled with graphics in an apparent attempt to show how “professional” they are. However, as counter intuitive as it may seem, I feel much closer to the SCALE team when I open their text emails, because they look just like the emails I receive from friends and family. They seem to say, “We’re not big shots here, we’re just folks in your community.”
  • Adverts for sponsors: As SCALE has gotten closer to opening day, the emails have begun to include little “promotional breaks” between items. Again, as counter intuitive as this might be, I personally find these endearing.

    Here’s an example:

    Another promotional break: SCALE 14X would like to recognize and thank Datadog, whose support helps make SCALE possible. More information on Datadog, visit

    The emails from other big conferences always make mention of their sponsors, usually by including the sponsors logo along with a notice of the “level” of their sponsorship. This looks impressive, and certainly reeks of “professionalism,” but logos are easily ignored and don’t do anything to make the reader feel close to the company.

  • Writing style: The SCALE emails are written in a very conversational style instead of like a preparred speech. While most conferences’ emails read like Madison Avenue, these feel very grass roots, like you’re getting an email from someone you might know. Personally, from the style of writing, I feel like there’s the chance that I might actually be greeted with open arms if I were to attend SCALE.

  • Informative: There’s none of the self-promotional “we’ve worked so hard to make this the best SCALE ever” crap here. This morning’s email, for example, contained reminders about two rather cool looking after hours events on Saturday as well as some information about the HAM radio exam, with nary a word of self promotion.

I know this doesn’t sound like much, but it’s got me wishing I was going to be at this year’s SCALE. It’s also got me thinking I’m going to try hard to be at SCALE next year.

Larry Cafiero’s coverage of SCALE 14x on FOSS Force begins tomorrow.

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One Comment

  1. FOSS Force Staff FOSS Force Staff January 20, 2016

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