People, Personalities, and Planners: Who’s behind your FOSS events? SELF10 Planner – David Nalley

[Originally posted by Amber Graner on, You-In-Ubuntu Blog on 18/04/2010 2:44 am.]

SELF2010 In this People, Personalities, and Planners interview I talk to David Nalley–board member, Southeast Linux Fest.  I have to pause here and mention that SELF09 was the 1st Linux Fest I had ever attended and throughout the last year have gotten to know many of the attendees, volunteers and planners that I met there. It is my hope that through this and the upcoming SELF interviews that you will get to know them as well.

Introducing David Nalley

Amber Graner: Can you tell us a little about you and your role with SELF? How long you have worked on this event?

David Nalley: I think of myself as one of the lead gophers. I technically hold the title of Secretary on the SELF board of directors.

AG: Since most event planners in the FOSS community are volunteers, what is your day job?

DN: I am a unix admin for Confluence Watersports.

AG: How did you get involved in FOSS? What was your 1st OS distribution and when? What do you use now and why?

DN: I was introduced to Linux and F/LOSS by Lamar Owen, who was the RPM Packager for PostgreSQL at the time. My first Linux distro was RHL. I use Fedora now, because it’s teh awesum and I am a contributor to the Fedora Project.

AG: If someone wanted to get involved with SELF, how would that go about volunteering? What areas do you need the most help in?

DN: I’d first say – ATTEND – we need people to show up. Second, I’d say get a room at the conference hotel. Not only does this mean that you get to participate in the hallway track far longer into the evening it significantly helps SELF. Part of the ability to make SELF financially viable is contingent on the hotel getting a certain number of room reservations booked to the SELF account.  Please use the SELF hotel booking code – SLXSLXA when marking your reservation. If we don’t hit those numbers SELF will be financially obligated to repay the hotel. We also have food and beverage commitments. that we have to meet, so that can likewise help us. Third, we’ll need some volunteers the day of the event, handling everything from the speaker room, to helping vendors get set up. While we have a GREAT crew of volunteers, we can always use help. There is a mailing list that you can join, though most of our work happens in irc, at #southeastlinuxfest on If you are specifically interested in volunteering, you can contact the volunteer coordinator at: We desperately need people who can help us get the word out about SELF. Part of the challenge that we have seen with every conference is how to get the word out effectively with what is essentially no budget. That means it’s largely word of mouth. We have been endowed by a number of places such as Linux Pro Magazine, Linux Journal, and Ubuntu User who are running ads for us, and that helps tremendously, but we can always use more awareness and publicity.

AG: What are some of the challenges you face when planning SELF and how do you over come them?

DN: The challenges are essentially the same as with just about any thing. Money and Time tend to be the big constraints. We have a very passionate volunteer group, but arranging schedules, or sometimes even just getting the time to get things done and keep up $dayjob, $F/LOSSinvolvement, $family is a huge challenge. Money is also a real challenge – putting a conference on can be a bit challenging. Our sponsors last year were wonderfully gracious and helped us put on a great conference. Unfortunately it was such a success that we could have used more room, so now we are looking at a venue, and the venue, while relatively affordable, is not even in the same price league as “basically free because it’s on a university campus”. That will be a bit challenging, but based on the response we’ve had thus far from both new and veteran sponsors of SELF, we don’t think it will be a challenge.

AG: How do you see the future of SELF? What numbers do you hope to sustain?

DN: Honestly – I hope it remains a fun community-oriented conference. I do think there is a fear of growing too large, though I don’t think that we are at that point yet.

AG: Are there plans in the future to include a diversity day similar to SCaLE or a WIOS track at SELF?

DN: We’ve tossed that idea around, but at least at present a couple of things stopped us from doing so. First, we have a ton of things going on at SELF, and having a diversity day, while great, brings those diverse elements and essentially makes them choose between being involved in the diversity day or being involved with the rest of the community, which I think is the opposite of what we want, we rather would see those elements integrated into the rest of the communities activities. I think SELF is somewhat unique in that we already have a good percentage of women, for instance attending. Mackenzie Morgan came up to me last year and asked how we attracted so many women to the conference and noted that other conferences were typically had 1% or far less women attendees. I don’t know that we had a strategy planned to do so, but we are very happy that it’s the case. We have targeted a number of female speakers, and hope to have another large female presence there this year.

AG: Is there anything about SELF that I haven’t asked that you would like to tell me about?

DN: It’s June 12-13th in Spartanburg, SC. There are tons of activities surrounding SELF, such as: BSD certification, DrupalCamp, Ubucon, Fedora Activity Day, etc. You should follow @selinuxfest on either twitter or

David, thank you so much for taking time to talk to me and encourage Ubuntu Users as well as anyone who is interested in Open Source to attend, volunteer, and participate in Southeast Linux Fest regardless of distribution and skill level.

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