Poor and Popular

by Shawn Powers

 This week I'm in Bellaire, MI at the Michigan Association for Educational Data Systems conference.  It may sound boring, but it's actually quite a great conference geared specifically toward sysadmins for school districts.  I've been coming to this annual conference for about 8 years, but this year instead of staying in the conference center, I'm commuting from home.  Unfortunately, school districts in Michigan are still financially struggling, and we can no longer afford frivolous things like "a place to sleep."  :)

I don't really mind, I think it's always great to come to regional conferences like this and present the advantages of Open Source for education.  There are a couple other FOSS advocates here at the MAEDS conference, and usually we manage to get 3 or 4 sessions that are moderately attended.

Until this year.

This year, free is all the rage.  Whether it's due to lack of cash, or some sort of mass enlightenment (I suspect the former), it seems that almost every time slot has an option for free and/or open alternatives.  In fact, I'm only doing 2 small sessions!  While it may not be the ideal circumstances in which to garner support for Open Source solutions, it seems that we often grow the most when we're suffering.  (I prove that every day on my treadmill...)

So while I may not be staying in a comfortable suite this year, I do think the topics themselves are particularly sweet.  I just need to work hard not to say, "I told you so."  :o)

How about you?  Have you noticed an increase in FOSS acceptance due to economic woes?  Is your sphere of influence looking to your Open Source wisdom to trim budgets and save jobs?  I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the sessions here at MAEDS, certainly this isn't a fluke.