This year at Linux.Conf.Au there was a student party sponsored by Google. The party was held in a bar and lots of free drinks were provided. This was fine for the university students, but for school kids it was obviously lacking.
Some people point out that it’s “quite legal” to run a party that excludes children, the point however is whether it’s desirable to exclude them. Also the concept of a state where laws dictate all aspects of your life to a degree such that obeying the law is the only possibility is fortunately restricted to science fiction.
Another common fallacy is when people point out that we should be grateful for Google’s sponsorship. As far as I am aware Google doesn’t insist on any particular conditions for sponsoring a party. If the conference organisers were to request a party at a more child-friendly venue (for example a restaurant – which if licensed could serve alcohol to adults who desire it) then I doubt that Google would refuse. Being grateful for Google’s sponsorship is entirely unrelated to the issue of whether their sponsorship money was spent in the best possible manner.
My interest in this topic started at LCA 2007 when I heard complaints from young delegates who were excluded from the Google party. This year the Google party (a different event from the “Google student party”) allowed everyone to attend and issued coloured wrist-bands to indicate whether the person had shown suitable ID to be served alcohol. The Google party was inviting for all and I believe that it was a significant improvement over last year (more attention was paid to serving food than alcohol). I have suggested that at future events some tables be reserved for people who aren’t drinking. As a general rule people enjoy being around people who have consumed a similar type and quantity of mind-altering substances (something I learned from my friends in Amsterdam).
There is of course demand for serious drinking, and it seems impossible to satisfy people who want to do serious drinking at the same party as people who won’t or can’t drink at all.
If there is not going to be an official party that is suitable for U18s then I’ll arrange it and pay for it myself. The consensus of opinion seems to be that less than six U18s are not worth catering for (one of the common objections to my suggestions is that there may be only four or five U18s). I can pay for a party for that many people which (in terms of food and non-alcoholic drinks) compares well with whatever Google might offer for the drinkers.
The rough idea is that U18s will have free food and non-alcoholic drinks. The venue will be some suitable restaurant (is there a Pizza hut or similar near the next LCA?). The party will be open to parents and delegates who are >18 and don’t plan to drink (but I’m sorry I can’t afford to shout you). Opportunities to learn about cool Linux stuff will abound (I expect that a number of knowledgable Linux people who can teach some interesting things will be interested in attending).
If I’m paying then children who aren’t delegates will also be welcome to attend, but their parents would have to pay for their food/drink. But this is merely a matter of budget, if it was to be an official event or there were other sponsors then this might not be the case.
What I would like right now is expressions of interest from young people who plan to attend the conference and from parents (who plan to attend the conference or whose children will attend). If it looks like there will be a suitably large number of people interested in this then the conference organisers may decide to make it an official event.
Also comments from adults who would prefer an alcohol free event (whether it be due to medical reasons, religion, or choice) would be of interest. It’s all about the number of people who will attend.