openSUSE Conference: A Time for Introspection?

The latest openSUSE community event came and went. So what happened?

I don't want to be rude, but could somebody tell me what happened at the openSUSE Conference last week?

In case you missed it, and many seem to have, the second annual conference took place in Nürnberg, Germany on Oct. 20-23. The conference, which had the theme "Collaboration across Borders," seemed almost completely non-existent in the US tech media. Most of the coverage I could find was in the German trade press. Hardly any beyond that.

Now, I have to ask, is this the fault of the media or the organizers of the conference? I'll take the hit and say this was mostly our fault, because other than the run-up to the Ubuntu Developer Summit this week, there wasn't that much going on last week that no one could have paid attaention to this event.

But it is equally true that there wasn't much press being generated before or during the conference, which typically serves as a keystone event for the openSUSE development and vendor community. Why would this be the case?

I think it's a confluence of reasons, really. First, Novell, the platinum sponsor of the event, did not seem to put a lot of PR effort into the conference. This might be because Novell is supposed to be the acquistion target of VMware. "Supposed" to be because just because the media reports it doesn't mean it's a done deal yet. Presuming this goes forward, though, I can see why folks at Novell might be distracted.

I would also speculate that perhaps the openSUSE community didn't want a big fuss about this conference.

It's an open secret in the larger open source community that key members of the openSUSE project are less than thrilled with the guidance and ownership of Novell. This goes back to when Novell first bought S.U.S.E. GmbH, and then on more than one occasion cut personnel off the payroll.

Even more recently, a survey of the openSUSE community produced a SWOT document that displays two sides still trying to figure out their relationship.

With its new Community Manager Jos Poortvliet and renewed calls for finding a direction for openSUSE, I have a strong feeling that the openSUSE Conference was not about making headlines or generating a big splash within the Linux community. Rather, I believe it was used as a chance for introspection.

The openSUSE community has a lot of figure out: how it fits within the Linux community, enterprise business with SUSE Linux, desktop deployments with openSUSE, embedded space with the MeeGo interface, and even how it fits within Novell, which itself may be undergoing radical change. So I can see how this conference might have been a quiet one.

Let's hope they figure these things out soon--openSUSE has a lot to offer the broader community, and it will be nice to hear from them again.

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