Linuxworld Age Policy

Posted 28 Aug 2001 at 21:17 UTC by zachlipton Share This

I just arrived home from Linuxworld after finding out that I was not welcome there. Their policy, clearly made without rational thought, restricts all people under the age of 16 years old. I am 13 years old, and am writing this article to ask _why_ this policy is in place. If any expo staff wish to contact me, please do so at as soon as possible.

This linuxworld policy is counter-productive to the nature of linux. I am 13 years old and deeply involved with opensource. If I can have cvs commit access to bugzilla, the same bug tracking system used by gnome, openoffice, abisource, etc, then why can't I come to the expo? To be fair to linuxworld, I will present their reasons for why I was not allowed in (as told by expo staff), my responses to these points are in brackets:

1. Insurance regulations [This is just ridiculous, I have been to macworld for many years since I was 8 years old and never once had a problem getting in. Their policy is that you must be 12 or older OR with an adult. Clearly this is a fair policy. I can understand why they don't want 8-year-olds running around the expo by themselves, but I am 13 _and_ I was with an adult. As far as I can tell, I do not look like someone who is coming to set fire to moscone or anything of the sort. I was there simply to see the expo and to talk with people I know from and Netscape.] 2. Demographics, that the exhibitors wanted to reach people who will buy their stuff. [If that's the case, why did I come with plenty of money in my wallet and prepared to buy t-shirts, software, distros and whatever else comes my way that I am interested in? Clearly, I am someone who the exhibitors would KILL to have looking at their stuff]

Clearly, they have reasons, but there is no excuse. If I can be involved in opensource and treated as an equal by my peers there, then why can't I come to linuxworld? I hate this phrase, but I will use it for the lack of a better way of putting this (note that the lady at linuxworld used this same phrase): you are the next generation, you probably know more about computers than many of the people there. If this is the case, why not allow me in? I'm not a 6- year-old coming with his father who is a linux nut where I could care less!

I am not going to call for a boycott of linuxworld, that would be impossible and would hurt the companies that rely on linuxworld to get the word out. The last thing I want to do here is hurt linux. What I would like people to do is to take 3 minutes of their busy lives and send one email to linuxworld. I am not trying to flood them with emails so that they won't be able to respond to questions, but simply show that people DO care and that they DON'T find it acceptable.

Their email address is Please use "LinuxWorld's age discrimination policy" as your subject line so that they can easily count the number of emails they are getting on the subject. If you would rather call, their website lists a general contact phone number as 800.657.1474. Your letter can be brief and short, it's the message that counts.

Thank you for listening.

Been There, Seen That, posted 28 Aug 2001 at 22:51 UTC by julian » (Master)

They tried to pull this on my brother (who just turned 14 yesterday) at the expo earlier this year, when he came with my father and I. Of course, he had already been on the expo floor multiple times, it was just one guard who realized he looked a bit young. So we snuck him by different guards... then the other guards were notified and they kicked him out again.

It's pretty stupid to do this. My brother just wanted to have a look, he's starting to get interested in Linux. He was there with my father (who is his legal guardian) and me (an open source developer), both whom would like him to be exposed to Linux more, and yet we were told "he's too young" - "why is there such an age limit?" - "because the age limit is 16." - "why?" - "that's that way it is" - I guess at least they gave you reasons. :)

Hopefully some of that was understandable. I'm kinda tired. ;)

yea, posted 28 Aug 2001 at 22:55 UTC by zachlipton » (Master)

I was told the same "that's the way it is" until I asked on of those "Ask-Me" people who took me to some supervisor person who gave me those reasons. At least they could have the people who sell the passes know why they are telling people no!

orson scott card's "ender's game", posted 29 Aug 2001 at 00:34 UTC by lkcl » (Master)

if i was on a gate at a show, and some kid started talking in a way that made me feel intellectually inferior, i'd start having doubts about this "policy".

the internet transcends boundaries in a way that the physical world does not.

hopefully, at some point, email and internet communication will get to the real-time point where people like you, zach, could have written this article whilst sitting *outside* linuxworld...

... and that's not far off [just too expensive, at the moment]

linux world expo, posted 29 Aug 2001 at 04:03 UTC by sergent » (Journeyer)

It's just a trade show. If they don't want to let you in, it's their own business. They're pretty sure you aren't going to buy anything big if you're that age.

They make their money from their exhibitors, not from you the attendee, at the "exhibition" part of these events, so as long as their exhibitors don't mind, they don't lose anything by keeping you out. The exhibitors are probably happy as is because they are there to sell, and your average 13 year old is definitely not there to buy racks full of servers or anything like that.

You aren't missing much. (Okay, maybe you miss the junk mail--electronic and postal--you get when they sell your address after you register.)

Trade shows have seemed much different to since I have had to work the booth at several of them, once for a whole week. I try to stay away when possible. My experience is that they tend to be clue-free, uncomfortable, and expensive.

If it was a technical conference instead of a trade show, I would think differently...

I do see your point, but..., posted 29 Aug 2001 at 04:41 UTC by zachlipton » (Master)

I see your point, but I think that it is important to allow people to come to these events. I have been going to macworld for many years and have learned a lot and had a chance to try out (and buy) many new products. True, I am not going to buy a rack full of servers. However, I am now less likely to buy a rack full of Linux servers in the future if I find myself facing that descision later, than if I had been let in. (This is not to say that I would buy a rack full of, ugh, win2k boxen.)

If you let people in, they will care about Linux for the future. I have also worked at a booth at macworld (a similar show) and know what that is like. Part of the reason that I was coming to LinuxWorld was to assist at the Mozilla booth (part of the oeone booth). Also, I was planning on meeting two people in person who I had only talked to online over irc before. One of them lives far away and I may not be able to see him for a long time because of this.

Coming to the show is more than watching 500 demos of rack- mounted servers, it's about being with opensource people (who tend to be highly interesting) and making connections.

A sad policy, posted 29 Aug 2001 at 05:26 UTC by wrowe » (Master)

I must have been about 12 when I hit my first Chicago Consumer Electronics Show (a good 20+ years ago.) I don't remember what the policies might have been, I doubt it occured to them. Between the CES, hamfests, UIC lectures on Physics and a succession of Commodore PETs, Apples, C64s, bare motherboards and Z100's, I was pretty lucky. Unfortunately, the phone bills (tariffed per minute, at 300 baud) to the BBS's ran rather high. Somehow, I survived that ordeal to have a fairly broad perspective.

Without these opportunities, I don't really know what I would have ended up with. Certainly not this hobby/avocation/career/life purpose. Sure, my family (my daughter just turned 12), community life and church matter more to me, but this is my fun, and I happen to be paid to do it.

I don't know which of the prospects was more frightening to the organizers, the fact that a small handful of younger folks might put off the Suits, or the fact that most of them would be brighter than the staff those managers had hired to maintain the Windows network. This show is about the gospel and making converts. Perhaps a 13 year old who rebuilds their own kernel is just too frightening to contemplate.

But be glad it's a trade show. I would be disgusted if you showed up a LUG meeting to be turned away (I joined GRALUG at 18 and never met another VAX/VMS hacker younger than 35.) I would be outraged if you weren't admitted to ApacheCon. And most code hacking events should welcome you. (A letter of recommendation from your math or science teacher never hurts, if they have problems with the idea at first.)

This policy is ironic. My daughter wants to pick up a Palm, and I said yes if she'd hack in the graphic calculator we need to buy pretty soon. You are the generation that spends the money you want (that your parents have) on technology. I'm certain 30-50% of home PC purchases are moderately to strongly influenced by the kids in the house. Apple 'got it'. Visor 'gets it'. HP tries to pretend it doesn't get it (acting very serious about it's server product line), yet it's treading on thin water of trying to appeal to the whole family with its imaging products and web appliances.

So speak with your pocketbook. First, ask the Moscone center what their age policy is. Then ignore the conference, simply don't buy from those LinuxWorld vendors who support this policy. Want to find out who? Ask the vendors to address this policy with the organizers. Ask them (politely) if they would make an official statement condeming this ageism. Some will see the absurdity of trying to extend Linux to the home PC, while excluding family members, and they will speak up. And those who scoff at your inquiry, well those are the businesses to busy being serious to notice when your generation's software and businesses overtake their own.

Back to CES, businesses were far more grounded 20 years ago. A handful of kids on the exhibit floor was no consequence. I believe it was probably an 'open door' day, where the general public was welcome. Now that's a message that LinuxWorld should take to heart, because Linux is because of the public, not Corporate Buyers.

Not that this helps, but.., posted 29 Aug 2001 at 08:20 UTC by Telsa » (Master)

As people have mentioned already, Linuxworld is a trade show. It's where people and companies try to persuade each other that they should spend money. It's not the only show that has this "no under-16s" policy. I think the ITevents expo in London has one, come to think of it. For that one, the application form is all "how much purchasing power do you have in your organisation?" and so on. It's not how many tshirts you're going to buy. It's how many machines or licences or contracts your organisation is going to buy. COMDEX has a similar approach, although it will make exceptions if this Wired story is any guide.

That's the trade show end. The other end is a very different kettle of fish. The clearest example I saw was LinuxTag in 2000. (Missed it this year. Boo hiss.) There were entire families wandering around that. There were toddlers. There were kids in pushchairs. There was eating on the floor. There was drinking on the floor. In the evening, there was dancing on the floor, too :)

And no computers were harmed, and no small children stuck their fingers into the power sockets.

Young developers, posted 29 Aug 2001 at 09:08 UTC by schoen » (Master)

I got into the Linux world (not LinuxWorld) myself at around age 14 or 15, and that was also about the time I attended my first trade show (non-IDG). For some reason, some vendors were disrespectful of us because of our age; I couldn't understand why they'd want to alienate their future customers. All of us who went to that show in high school do work in IT today!

I'm disappointed that LWCE is turning away young programmers, and I've just written to Kathy Moran, the manager of the conference, to express my concern.

I do think young people have something to contribute to conferences and trade shows, even if they aren't all exhibitors' ideal demographic. We'd certainly be glad to meet them at the EFF booth; when I was exhibiting for Linuxcare, once upon a time, I would have thought of them as potential future co-workers.

agreement and irony, posted 29 Aug 2001 at 11:57 UTC by pate » (Apprentice)

I too am saddened at the age limit. Though I long ago passed this barrier, I took my 11 year old daughter (pre-registered) with me to the Linux World in NYC this spring, where she was turned away. She is a regular user of linux, and handles computers better than many adults I know. She is also home-schooled and was coming along as part of an assignment on occupational studies. I'm sure she would have comported herself quite well, and probably would have bought some trinkets along the way.

The most ironic thing is that somehow whe ended up with a subscription to DDJ out of the deal.

schoen, thanks for stepping up to express your displeasure to the organizers. The only way this policy will be overturned is if the exhibitors and sponsors of the show put pressure on idg.

My observations (and my email to IDG), posted 29 Aug 2001 at 13:21 UTC by Denny » (Journeyer)

I regularly speak to people much younger than me (and I'm only 27) on IRC who are a lot brighter than me (and I have a first class honours degree in Computing) and who contribute a lot more than me to the open source / free software community (and I run a LUG and work with Linux every day). I think this policy is stupid...

Sure, it was a trade show, but investing in goodwill for the future is a recognised business policy in any other industry - I don't understand why these people should be going out of their way to push away their future customers.

Anyway, here's the email I just sent to the address you suggested:

Date: Wed, 29 Aug 2001 14:14:42 +0100 (BST)
From: Denny <>
Subject: LinuxWorld's age discrimination policy

I just read an article written by a disappointed young man who was turned away from your event due to being 13 years old.

He appears to be intelligent and articulate judging by the short piece he has written about this, so I imagine his own email(s) to you already make all the points I could make concerning the reasons your policy is short-sighted and senseless...

In summary though, the teenagers of today, especially in the Open Source community, are quite likely to be good customers in 5 to 10 years time... they are already a significant percentage of the Open Source development community, and the odds are good that they will end up working in the IS sector and gaining positions of significant technical influence over purchasing decisions.

Your policy, presumably endorsed by your exhibitors, is turning away people who will be customers in less than ten years time - and that's either very short-term business planning, or just plain foolish.


accompanied by an adult, posted 29 Aug 2001 at 13:37 UTC by jschauma » (Observer)

Something nobody here has responded yet to is the fact that zachlipton says (s)he was accompanied by an adult! It doesn't really matter if LinuxWorld is an expo and or if they expect any customer to buy racks of servers or whatnot. While it's debatable wether or not the show should allow minors to the show, in my mind there is no question that any adult should be allowed to bring his/her child (or young friends or mentee) to the show.

Zach, what did the adult accompanying you say about all this? If I imagine me wanting to take my brother to such a show and they wouldn't let him in, I'd make quite a fuzz about this!

I mean, parents can bring their children to strip-bars if they desire so... (alright!)

Next year, submit a paper, posted 29 Aug 2001 at 13:49 UTC by Pseudonym » (Journeyer)

You really should consider submitting a paper next year. If you've looked through the conference programme, you'll see some which are complete BS. I'm sure you, possibly in conjunction with some other mozillans, could easily write something of suitable interest.

Let's see them try to throw you out then.

LinuxWorld Age Policy, posted 29 Aug 2001 at 14:15 UTC by sad » (Journeyer)

Well, I don't know about the States, but here in Canada, if a parent or guardian accompanies the child, the parent or guardian would be liable for anything the kid does. So, the "insurance regulations" excuse they gave seems a little far-fetched, with regard to accidents. (Like putting their fingers in wall socket, or knocking over a server, etc.)

However remember that usually trade shows throw parties where alcohol is usually served. I think that makes all the difference. In Canada, there are stiff penalties for serving minors alcohol. So that may be a factor. But I don't see why, if that's a concern, to just not let them attend the parties. We had to deal with all of this for OLS. To be quite honest, it's a little disconcerting to have someone rattle off all the terrible things that could go wrong with your show. :)

Lobbying the exhibitors isn't going to get you anywhere, I wouldn't think, unless you could generate some bad press.

But yeah, I also think their age policy is a bad one. I think if they're old enough to get some thing out of it, and if their parents will agree to watch them, they should be able to attend.

Under 16, posted 29 Aug 2001 at 15:47 UTC by logic » (Journeyer)

The registration page for LinuxWorld limits the age to 16, so it's not a problem with the consumption of alcohol on premesis; the legal drinking age in most US states is 21. Unfortunately, no rationale is given, and I view "insurance regulations" as a suspect answer.

I've written them from the perspective of one who has both attended in the past, and recommended companies establish a presence there; it's disturbing that as an exhibitor, I'm restricted from reaching the complete market I'm targetting (Linux users, open source/free software developers, and people in a position to make technology recommendations). If this were a non-technology event, I would understand the age restriction, but the age of those involved in software development (and thus, those who are, or will be shortly, involved in purchasing or technology adoption decisions) is dropping rapidly. Teenagers are building professional websites and developing key pieces of up-and-coming Internet infrastructure today while attending high school.

For the record, I'm well past having this problem myself. ;-)

The Torvalds children evidently have an exception, posted 29 Aug 2001 at 16:38 UTC by jbuck » (Master)

Linus is very much a family man; when he travels to an event, his whole family comes. His baby daughters where the only kids on the LinuxWorld trade show floor in San Jose last year, despite the "no children under 16" sign. The guards were evidently told to leave them alone.

The fact that their mom, who was pushing the stroller, is a six-time karate champion might also have had something to do with it. :-)

Thank you everyone, posted 29 Aug 2001 at 17:06 UTC by zachlipton » (Master)

I just wanted to thank everyone here for your nice notes and the emails that I have been cc'd on or bbc'd on to linuxworld.

I'll pass on this quote from Doron (who also works on Mozilla): "I had a dream, a dream where anyone could visit Linux expos"

Anyway, thank you all for your nice letters, hopefully some wheels are turning inside ide. And if anyone sees Linus, please pass on that comment about his kids ;-)

Also, I fogot to put this exchange in the article:

When I was talking to someone at LinuxWorld (staff) about why I was not allowed in, her responce began: "That's how Linux set it up." Funny, I know that Linux is a very advanced operating system, but I doubt that it sets age restrictions! Clearly this lady doesn't know her NT from her SAMBA!

the way to change a trade show, posted 29 Aug 2001 at 20:38 UTC by jmelesky » (Apprentice)

You suggested emailing LinuxWorld to ask them to change their policy, but, as others have mentioned, it is a trade show, so policy is supposed to reflect the desires of the exhibitors.

So, i don't think you should email the organizers at all.

Email the exhibitors. Tell them who you are, what the problem is, and that you're willing to spend money. :)

They will, in turn, put pressure on the organizers to change the policy, and that pressure is likely to be paid more attention than email from random show attendees.

I think that's the most effective way to change this if you want to.

education and the future, posted 29 Aug 2001 at 20:38 UTC by jfleck » (Master)

By coincidence, I just spent much of the last two days at an aerospace industry "educational summit". Industry leaders were bemoaning the disconnect between their workforce needs over the next decade and the available supply of technically sophisticated young people to fill the jobs. It is a problem that afflicts every technology-based industry today.

One answer to the problem, which came up over and over again, is to search out ways to engage the passions of young people, to capture and nurture their interest in science and technology.

Any representative of any tech industry who would knowingly turn away a young person who wanted to attend its trade show is idiotic.

Escape from childhood, posted 29 Aug 2001 at 22:57 UTC by aaronsw » (Master)

Sadly, this is just another result of society's prejudice against children. Children have so few freedoms in most of the world that discrimination like this is fairly commonplace.

Thankfully, in the hacker community, things are much different. It's wonderful to know that online (in many communities, at least) folks can ignore so many of those things which stop us in the physical world. And this kindness carries over into the real-world as well.

As a fourteen-year-old Linux user, programmer, and Semantic Web hacker, I've had first-hand experience in the openness and acceptance of the computer world, in comparison to other portions of society.

However, the worst tyrrany of all against most children is school. Having to spend most of your young life locked up in a boring, painful and harmful place prevents a large number of smart, capable, young children from contributing to our world. Worst of all, most children never realize that they're being held prisoner. I know I didn't until just last year.

A great book that makes the case of why children should be allowed these freedoms is Escape from Childhood by John Holt.

So thanks to all of you for helping us escape from childhood,

Aaron Swartz

P.S. I write schoolyard subversion, a series of articles on these topics. because school makes kids dumb

LinuxWorld's Reply, posted 30 Aug 2001 at 15:45 UTC by zachlipton » (Master)

I just got permission to post a reply from the show manager of LinuxWorld from IDG. Note that this was sent to an exhibitor at LinuxWorld who had emailed her about the policy.

Hi Seth,

I appreciate your sending me the note. When we get back to the office next week this is something I will bring up. I agree that there is a concern for both parties involved, but I would like to assure you that our goal is not to exclude people from the event. As we prepare for the next event, and events moving forward, we will take another look at this policy.

Thank you again. Glad your session went well!


Age is irrelevant, posted 1 Sep 2001 at 22:26 UTC by robster » (Journeyer)

This is where real life unfortunately collides horribly with the FS/OS (i'm just guenna have to be PC) hacking world. For us age is irrelevant, i have been contributing to the community for many years and plan to do so for the forseeable future. Behind the scenes many young people influence the world of FS/OS but real world hates the idea of capable influential young people. As a 16 year old, who has been contributing towards the community actively for the last three years i feel such discrimination is wrong, however dont give up. Your contribution to the comunity is greatly appreciated by all.

Reasons for age discrimination, posted 3 Sep 2001 at 17:03 UTC by mpawlo » (Master)

Top ten reasons for age discrimination at Computer Trade Exhibition:

  1. Youngsters run around being a nuisance, outsmarting sales people.
  2. Youngsters are better than adults on stealing freebees.
  3. Youngsters are clever enough through massive MTV training to filter the entire Exhibition in ten minutes and find the interesting parts.
  4. Youngsters are better looking and more sexually advanced than most older people, which is bad for the elderly gentlemen trying to score with exhibition chicks.
  5. The sales people like to drink a lot during the exhibitions and you can not do that with the youngsters (see also #4).
  6. The speakers don't want to have intelligent and hard questions to answer after the speeches.
  7. Youngsters often dresses to good and rarely wear screaming USD 1.50 ties with multiple cocktail drinks printed on them, this might embarras the adult people (see also #4).
  8. Youngsters might be sober enough during the exhibition to actually tell someone what happened during the fair (see also #4).
  9. Youngsters never make stupid IT purchase decisions based upon a few cocktails and a daring smile from a conference chick (see also #4), therefore they are bad for profits.
  10. And the top reason: what if a child--like in the old H.C. Andersen- tale--notices that the emperor isn't wearing any clothes (see also #4)?

Mikael Pawlo

Age Limits for admission to LWE, posted 3 Sep 2001 at 17:22 UTC by csm » (Journeyer)

To :
Cc :
Subject : Age Limits for admission to LWE
----- Message Text -----
As President and cofounder of the Linux Professional Institute (a regular LWE exhibitor) I would like to take a moment to express my dissapointment at hearing that someone was barred from admission to LWE because of their age. Please see this link as a reference:

As I am sure you are aware, LPI is an inclusive, community based organization and it distresses me that this action was taken and that there is an age limit in place at all. In my opinion, well behaved children, and young adults should be welcome and it is a simple matter to ask those who misbehave to leave. I sincerely hope that your organization will reconsider this policy before your next show.

Note that I have cc'd the Executive Director of Linux International on this note because I know that this is a matter of great concern to him as well.

Chuck Mead <>
President, LPI

Finally got in!!!, posted 3 Sep 2001 at 23:18 UTC by zachlipton » (Master)

Sorry for not posting this earlier, but I had been so busy with my Bar Mitzvah that I didn't have time. (Just so I don't get 500 emails, it wen't great, thank you very much for asking.) Thanks to oeone ( who was exhibiting at LWE, I was finally allowed into linuxworld. Hopefully, all your emails will have sent a message to the linuxworld show management and idg.

Thank you very much,


Age Policy, posted 11 Sep 2001 at 12:27 UTC by Gregory » (Apprentice)

Age Policy

This policy may be in place for business/legal or security reasons. IT is not as helpful as some sectors when it comes to supporting young people. I'm very glad to see you're involved with Open Source. When I was young and starting out in computing I to found it hard, so take heart. The computing show I used to go to here in the UK. When I was young used to have one day when those under 16 where allowed in. We used to get in on the business days as well though free by picking up passes that people had thrown away.

Expo's are little more than sales conventions it's a case of we will pretend to listen to your sales pitch and pick up a free lunch and maybe a few tee shirts. It's also a bit of a seen been seen ego thing. They don't want any pesky kids running round that might ask them questions and show them up, whist they are busy flogging their gear. Any way you quite possible already know more about the thinking behind Linux and OSS development than they do :)

Helping develop OSS will also teach you valuable live skills namely that you need to work with other people in order to accomplish a goal greater than that which you could accomplish by your self. Propriety forms of software development differ markedly from this are very competitive and some ways counter productive.

What do you think needs to be done in order to help people your age develop the computing skills they need for there future?


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