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Download Squad talks with Jono Bacon about LugRadio Live 2008

LugRadio LiveIf the idea of four Brits talking smack about open source, Creative Commons, and each other appeals to you, then you'll love LugRadio Live. In its fifth season, the Fab Four - Jono Bacon (of Ubuntu fame), Stuart 'Aq' Langridger, Chris Procter, and Adam Sweet -- produce regular podcasts that touch on all aspects of open source. While the Four Large Gents may be a bit irreverent (not always safe to listen to at work), they are always entertaining and fun.

Always a popular show, it gained increased attention after the first LugRadio Live UK event in 2005. Billed as a "rock conference," the two-day show blends presentations from many widely-recognized names in the open source community, along with great music.

This year, LugRadio Live UK will get underway July 19-20 in Wolverhampton, UK, and the the first ever LugRadio Live US will be held in San Francisco, CA, April 12-13. Amazingly, tickets are only $10 bucks (£5 for the UK show). We caught up with Bacon to get the inside scoop on why to go, how to win t-shirts, and gong-a-thongs.
Download Squad: So, what's LugRadio Live all about? When when was the first event?

Jono Bacon: LugRadio Live USA 2008 is very much about taking the same fun, social and entertaining spirit of the LugRadio podcast and producing a full conference with 35+ speakers, 40+ exhibitors and lots of fun and interest events going on throughout.

We did the very first one in 2005 and it was a single day with 14 speakers. We expected around 60 people and over 200 people showed up. Since then, every year the event has become a full weekend and the UK event attracts nearly 500 people each year.

This year it [also] happens in San Francisco on the 12th and 13th April 2008 at The Metreon. Its going to be a lot of fun.

DLS: What gave you the idea to put something like this together?

JB: We went to a lot of conferences and they seemed overtly dull, dominated by commercial sponsors, and lacked much of the spirit of Open Source and free software. We wanted to bring the fun back to conferences and make something that felt inclusive and very community driven. As such we have created what we call a "rock conference" -- a conference with an edge, and a real focus on people having a good time, seeing interesting things and more. LugRadio Live has now developed something of a reputation for being a very different kind of event with a unique, social and inclusive atmosphere.

DLS: What kinds of turnout do you get? What's the audience like?

JB: Typically at the UK event, around 500 people come along. The audience is hugely diverse in terms of age, gender, technical background and interests. This is one of things we love about LugRadio Live - the range of topics is varied, but still based around Linux, Open Source, Digital Rights, Free Culture, Politics etc. As such, it generates a nice demographic of attendees. Also, the fun and social spirit of LugRadio tends to attract some pretty fun people to be around -- the atmosphere is always very open and friendly.

DLS: LugRadio Live is coming to the US for the first time. Should people pre-register or can they just show up?

People are welcome to show up on the day and get a ticket then, but we are actively encouraging people to pre-register, not only so we know how many people are attending, but if you recommend other people to come along and pre-register, you can win either an Asus EEE PC or Neuros OSD, your choice of O'Reilly books and a limited edition LugRadio t-shirt. As such, if you recommend a bunch of people to come along, they can specify your name when they pre-register as the person who referred them - if you referred the most number of people, you win the prizes. We also have a runner up prize. :)

Also, to make it sweet for everyone, every person you referred will win an O'Reilly book and a limited edition LugRadio t-shirt too. As such, pre-registering makes a lot of sense.

DLS: You have a really long list of speakers and exhibitors scheduled. How did you decide who to have attend?

JB: We always look for interesting speakers, not only in terms of their reputation, diversity and subject matter, but also people who will bring the right spirit to LugRadio Live USA 2008 -- we want them to be interesting to watch, fun, and useful in terms of content and material.

In terms of of exhibitors, we are always looking for a range of projects that cover many different areas, and to importantly ensure community groups and Open Source projects get as much of the limelight as commercial organisations. Another important factor is that we ask as many exhibitors as possible to bring along things to show off and play. We have some really fascinating things on show at this years event.

I am really pleased with the list of speakers and exhibitors we have, I think it will be a lot of fun for our visitors.

DLS: Tell us about the music. Where do you find the artists?

JB: To keep the atmosphere as loose and fun as possible, we regularly play music out through the main stage, during lunch and between talks. I take a particular interest in this, being a musician and a big fan of music, and this year we will be showcasing a number of Creative Commons artists. This is a great opportunity to come along and listen to some free culture music too.

DLS: One of the events at the US show is The Mass Debate -- a chance for the audience to ask questions "four luminaries of the Open Source and technology world." Any hints on who victims participants will be?

JB: Not yet -- its a big secret until the day. I think you will enjoy the participants though.

DLS: Just $10 to get in? Wow, is that enough cover all your costs to produce this event?

JB: It is a struggle, to be honest. LugRadio Live USA 2008 and the UK event are all about keeping it as accessible as possible for everyone -- we know a lot of community members can't afford to pay hundreds of dollars to get into an event, so we keep it as low price as possible. This is a real struggle when organising an event in the US as events are so expensive to organise and host, but thanks to our good friends Leslie Hawthorn, Cat Allman, and Kynan Dent at Google, and our other sponsors Dice and, we are able to cover it. Google have been unbelievable in their assistance -- we could have not done with without our good friends there.

DLS: What's the weirdest thing you've seen at past events? The coolest?

JB: Oh, plenty of odd things. LugRadio has become something of a cult hit, and we get a lot of fans who come along to the event wearing t-shirts with jokes from the show, the rather interesting gong-a-thong hour, some interesting jokes and banter between speakers, lots of photos and more. The coolest thing for me personally is seeing people enjoy the event -- its a real buzz to see all of the work pay off, particularly as the four of us do it all in our spare time. Oh, and doing the live recording of LugRadio in front of a big audience is always fun too.

DLS: Final thoughts?

JB: I just hope to see as many of your readers at LugRadio Live USA 2008 -- thanks for the interview!

DLS: Thanks, Jono!

Tags: gong a thong, jono bacon, lugradio, lugradio live, podcast