Thoughts on moving SCALE? (Shallow Thoughts)

Akkana's Musings on Open Source Computing, Science, and Nature.

Fri, 04 Mar 2011

Thoughts on moving SCALE?

I've been going to SCALE for about four years now, and this year's SCALE9x was as good as ever.

There's really only one aspect of SCALE I'm not wild about: the LAX location.

On the conference's #scale-chat IRC channel Sunday night, some folks were discussing whether it might be possible to move away from LAX. It seemed like a great idea, which I want to examine.

Apparently there's a Marriott at the Burbank airport that handles conferences very well, if being near an airport is important, Other folks have suggested Pasadena, a great conference venue if it's not so important to be right next to an airport.

In Burbank or Pasadena, there would be more space, better and cheaper parking, nice scenery, and options for lunch besides overpriced hotel restaurants and fast food. But there's another factor, too: out-of-towners would come away with a much better impression of LA.

I grew up in the Los Angeles area, and I love going back to visit. But I've lost count of the number of times I've heard "Ugh! I bet you're glad to be out of there!" I always ask how much time they've spent in LA, and where; the answer is invariably, "Not much, just a few days near LAX."

It makes me wince. The area around LAX is one of the most smog-ridden, characterless hives of asphalt in four counties. It's a long way from either culture or nature, it's hard for locals to get there on traffic-choked freeways, and it's difficult and expensive to park. It's not even easy to fly in and out of, last I tried; the smaller airports are much friendlier. But face it: a lot of people never see anything of Los Angeles besides LAX. And those folks go away thinking what a pit LA is -- even if the conference itself was great.

While I was at SCALE, my husband amused himself in Burbank. On Saturday, it snowed (!) and he drove around watching folks having snowball fights and ogling the snow piled on their cars. Sunday dawned clear and beautiful, and he went for a hike in the Verdugo hills, with spectacular views of the snowy San Gabriel mountains, and the resident raven flock practicing aerobatics like snap rolls, inverted and knife-edge flight.

Okay, so you won't see any of that while listening to talks. But in Burbank or Pasadena, you could get out during lunch, walk to a restaurant, see the mountains looming over you, make a Trader Joe's run (I heard more than one attendee asking about the nearest TJs). And parking and hotels would be much cheaper, for those who can't afford to stay at the conference venue.

A reader points out that I forgot to mention there's a Fry's Electronics just across the street from the Burbank Marriott -- geek paradise! Even more important than Trader Joe's!

I know, you're thinking people don't go to computer conferences to walk around outside, or to go to zoos or museums or whatever. But ... don't they? I've sure had fun exploring the attractions of cities like Melbourne or Brussels, hiking with friends in the Blue Mountains near Sydney, visiting Powell's books in Portland, or petting a koala in Hobart before or after Linux conferences. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Sure, they could rent a car and go driving after the conference. But if all they've seen is LAX, they probably don't even know any of that other stuff is there. LA is just endless freeways and parking lots -- everybody knows that, right?

I know there are lots of arguments for staying at LAX, and I'm sure it's a lot easier for international visitors flying in. But, SCALE organizers, you do such a fantastic job running the conference; please consider some day moving it to a venue that lives up to the rest of the conference.

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[ 19:59 Mar 04, 2011    More conferences | permalink to this entry ]