New Moves Needed for Open Source Trade Shows

by Ostatic Staff - Jun. 15, 2009

Times are very tough in the trade show business, but shows and conferences focused on open source remain critical as opportunities for developers and users and others to meet. Late last week, IDG announced that its Open Source World conference, coming up August 11th through 13th at Moscone Center in San Francisco, will be free for anyone to attend. During the economic downturn, that's not a bad move, and the show looks like it will be interesting. What else can open source conference promoters do to keep attendance up and still make conferences profitable?

Open Source World was previously known as LinuxWorld. At this year's event, there will be MySQL-related content, seminars on mobile development and security, and cloud computing news. With free admission, it sounds worth attending.

Still, trade shows of all stripes are in trouble, with dwindling travel budgets and other economic problems weighing on them. Perhaps it's time for creative thinking about how trade shows are delivered and structured.

It's good to see the Linux Foundation forging ahead with many events. Its upcoming LinuxCon conference in Portland, September 21st to 23rd, features many prominent speakers, including Canonical's Mark Shuttleworth and IBM's Bob Sutor. Hopefully, the various foundations focused on open source will continue to promote events where people can meet.

It may behoove organizers of open source conferences to look into free, online conference and virtual trade show offerings as well. This is a growing field. We've written before about Moodle, a free open source platform for delivering e-seminars and the like. It's used by U.C. Berkeley and many other organizations to deliver events online that large audiences can view and participate in with their browsers.

There are also many low-cost proprietary platforms for delivering entire trade shows online. InXpo facilitates many virtual tradeshows online for the pharmaceutical industry, the financial industry, and more. "Attendees" can ask questions during virtual events at the trade shows, by sending messages that show moderators pose to event speakers. They can also mingle online with each other.

As a short-term solution for some of the trade shows facing tough economic problems, virtual events may hold promise. Sure, they're not going to be as ideal to attend as physical trade shows, but they could keep some shows alive until the economy improves.

It also looks like a wise move for trade show promoters to consider following IDG's lead and offering free admission. That's sure to boost the size of the audience, and, no doublt, IDG will seek to keep the Open Source World conference profitable by pitching the size of the audience to potential sponsors.