Re: Disappointment about the appearance of our CLT booth

From: Andreas Tille <>
Date: Sun, 22 Mar 2009 09:34:25 +0100 (CET)


as the person who became responsible for the booth 5 days ago
before the event started I feel obliged to answer here. At first
I admit I see your point and I admit that it might not have been
the best presence of Debian at a booth. The reasons split up
into four parts.

1. Stuffing the booth with projector and posters.

  Debian logistics failed completely. I agree that this stuff
  should be there - but please do not blame the booth personal
  for this. And yes, Alexander, you did not do this - but I want
  to clarify this here. This definitely has to be enhanced.

2. Stuffing the booth with T-Shirts and other fan stuff

  Well, there was no such stuff. I could say: Well this was not
  my fault - people from Cebit failed to send stuff to Chemnitz,
  (see above) other people who usually carry the stuff did not
  attend. All people maintaining the booth were traveling by train.

  This was the point which was critizised by visitors. But for
  me the lack of a projector and some poster - perhaps about the
  new features of Lenny (hey, this was the first booth I was
  stuffing where not a single person asked: When will Debian
  be released?) would have done a perfect job.

  Thinking twice about the lack of T-Shirts and Co. compared to
  the lack of a projector I started wondering whether the main
  feature of a booth are really T-Shirts and stuff. You can buy
  this at several places for the same price with much larger
  collections and you are even served by professional sellers.
  I admit - I'm not a professional seller of T-Shirts and other
  things - I'm a computer expert.

  I always stick to the rule: Do those things you are good in.
  Perhaps that's the reason why I'm in Debian. If the main
  issue to handle a Debian booth is to sell advertising for
  Debian I suggest (and I nearly seem to be in one line with
  other suggestions of this thread but I'm intentionally
  overstretching the suggestion) to employ some nice looking
  girls (sorry, no offence against women here - but that's what
  I observe at Cebit - one reason why I do not visit such fairs
  any more) who are handing out some sweets and sell T-Shirts.
  There is no reason for developers to spend their time to
  have smalltalk with people.

  If you ask me - I would stop selling stuff at a booth at
  all - so the situation was not intended, but after all I
  liked it. And yes, I know that this is one feature visitors
  expect from a booth - but isn't Debian something that gives
  you *more* than you expect? We even provide knowledge and
  real help at the booth (now coming to the next point).

3. Attention to visitors.

  I agree that it looks friendlier if you show visitors your
  face. Perhaps we did not the best considering the photos
  you linked to.

  I have to say that I asked every visitor close to the booth
  whether we can be of any help. Other booth stuff did so
  as well. Several people seemed to not want any help - just
  looking. I do not see a main difference for people who
  are "just looking" if they see busy people working on
  Debian stuff.

  I was able to help several visitors by talking to them
  directly and we were able to solve several problems. As a
  sidenote we helped people of Debian child distributions
  and fixed problems of distributors which were running boothes
  you might regard as an example for a proper Debian booth.

  So I think that those visitors who had real problems or
  asked serious questions were served properly. Alexander
  you mentioned that people contacted you because they did
  not recognised the Debian booth. This sounds a bit strange.
  I admit that according to item 1 we were not as visible as I
  wanted us to be - but hey asking on the Sidux booth for
  Debian people or reading the booth map would have most
  probably working strategies - even if you might have addressed
  people to our booth if you was busy with other stuff might
  have been an option.

  So in the sense of item 2.: Do we want to show friendly
  faces or do we want to provide help to those who need.
  Do we want to just copy "established" methods to run a
  booth as we know it from professional fairs? If the answer
  is "Yes, we try to run boothes in what is called professional
  manner" I wonder whether our volunteers regard this as enough
  fun for them to spend a weekend off from home. The Debian
  project just attracts people addictive to hacking while
  beeing helpful to people who have problems and are able
  to report them (astonishing enough reportbug seems to be
  a quite hidden feature for our users - and several visitors
  I talked to did not know it).

  I guess people might consider words like this as arrogant,
  and I'm a big friend of enhancing personal skills and learn
  some softskills to work better on a booth. But I'm afraid
  we will not find enough volunteers to work on a booth if
  we require them to work as if it would be a professional
  booth on a commercial fair. At least I would like to draw
  a line between fairs like Cebit and probably LinuxTag
  which tends in this professional direction since several
  years and events where "you want to meet the hackers".

  If you want me to have less fun than I might like to have you
  will probably find me next year in "Praxis Dr. Tux" (were I
  applied for before I took over the booth job in replacement for
  somebody who were not able to attend) or at a different place
  than the booth. I love CLT because it gives a chance for both
  things: Meeting visitors *and* get some stuff with Debian people
  done. Getting things done is perfectly in the interest of
  people attending the event and if you make sure that people
  who need help really get help IMHO everything is fine.
  I would assess that we solved this job.

4. Handing over CDs/DVDs

  Besides the fact that we had no own CDs (see above logistics
  problem) we got a bunch of Lenny CD1 from Sidux people (thanks
  to them). But I admit I'm reluctant to just throw them away.
  It does not serve the environment if you hand over random
  people any CD and they feed their dustbin two weeks later
  with this.

  If I hand over a CD I always ask people for what purpose they
  want to use it. Call me penetrant but I just want to know
  my users better. Most people start mumbling well, I tried
  Distro A, B and perhaps C but "they were not stable enough"?
  Hmm, what does this mean "not stable enough". Honestly I
  do not think that our "competitors" are that bad these days
  that Joey Randomuser has serious stability problems. So
  I asked "What *exactly* happened" with distribution A, B or
  C and did you reported this problem to them? This question
  reveals quickly the "distribution hopper".

  If you ask me we should not waste those persons time and serve
  him just another CD which takes him two weeks time to notice
  "ahh, Debian is not stable enough" and switches to dist E.
  I think we should rather tell them to report bugs and try to
  stick to things he just spended some time to learn it to know.
  If we might loose a potential Debian user to Fedora or Ubuntu
  because I told him to try to find the real problem instead of
  just blaming his distribution about "not stable enough" this
  is pefectly fine for me. I want to spread Free Software and
  I can not bear uneducated people who just claim "dist A, B
  or C" are bad - these distros are not bad. People just try to
  cover their own failure in not understanding the Free Software
  principle. Make them understand this principle finally helps
  Debian as well and if we are *really* the best distribution
  those people will sooner or later come to us anyway - but we
  will not reach this goal by handing over random people Debian
  install media without any question.

  So please do not simply serve your visitors wish to any
  random CD but try to educate them Free Software principles
  when they have some missconception about it.

In short: The Debian project did not made the best job at CLT
his year but I wonder whether it is rectified to only blame the
booth people for this. And we should think twice whether we
should really try to copy "professional booth" behaviour for
events like this.

Kind regards


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Received on Sun Mar 22 2009 - 09:35:16 CET

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