I'm no stranger to the annual open source shenanigans of Linux.conf.au. Indeed, the 2012 event in Ballarat marks the seventh time I've attended this conference, but it feels strange this year for two particular reasons. It's the first time I've ever chosen to use the on-campus accommodation and I'm actually doing a presentation this year, which means that I'm both reverting to a student lifestyle and panicking like crazy.
Staying in campus accommodation is a consequence of the University of Ballarat's out-of-town location. Every other time I've covered Linux.conf.au, I've had a hotel room near the relevant campus (the event is always held at a university) and popped in and out during the day. That isn't practical in Ballarat, where the accommodation choices are relatively limited and a little too distant for easy walking. There's a choice of bus services from the conference organisers and for locals, but they're not quite frequent enough to be practical either.
And so I'm staying on university premises for the first time. When I went to uni all those years ago, I always lived off-campus, so my experience of these spaces is restricted to occasionally dropping in on friends. If Ballarat is any indication, things have improved a little since those days. The bedroom I've got isn't smaller than many hotel rooms I've paid for in the recent past, and has a generously-sized desk you can actually work at and an entirely free Ethernet connection. I'm just amused that the wardrobe doors have holes rather than handles, which presumably cuts down on maintenance.
Anyway, everyone always tells me that half the fun of this kind of event is the socialising. That might be true if I wasn't planning to spend most of my free time making sure my presentation is up to scratch. I've done plenty of presenting in my career, but it's been quite a while since I had to hold a crowd for a whole three-quarters of an hour, especially a crowd filled with intelligent people who will readily pick holes in my argument.
So why do it? Partly precisely because I haven't done it, and it's good to challenge yourself. Partly because after six years of grabbing stories at this conference, it only seems fair to offer something back. But mostly because I had an idea for a presentation topic back in January at the last Brisbane event, so I couldn't resist offering it up.
Anyway, I don't get to do my presentation (which will, unsurprisingly, get published on Lifehacker soon after its public performance) until Thursday. I arrived on Sunday afternoon ahead of the official kick-off on Monday, which involves specialist mini-conferences. I'm always impressed at how a volunteer-run event can work more efficiently than commercial conferences, and that has held true so far this year as well.
Being here a day in advance is mostly about giving myself time to compensate for my exceptionally poor sense of direction. So far, I have only become lost twice. With luck, that will have stopped altogether by tomorrow.