Linuxworld Age Policy
Posted 28 Aug 2001 at 21:17 UTC by zachlipton
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
firstname.lastname@example.org 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 mozilla.org and
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
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
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 LinuxWorldexpo@idg.com. 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.
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 »
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!
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
the internet transcends boundaries in a way that the physical world does
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 »
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 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
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 »
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
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
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
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 »
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 »
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 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
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
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 <email@example.com>
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
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!)
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.
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 »
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
For the record, I'm well past having this problem myself. ;-)
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. :-)
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!
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.
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
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 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
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,
P.S. I write schoolyard
subversion, a series of articles on these topics.
because school makes kids dumb
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.
I appreciate your sending me the note. When we get back to the office
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
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!
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.
Top ten reasons for age discrimination at Computer Trade Exhibition:
- Youngsters run around being a nuisance, outsmarting sales people.
- Youngsters are better than adults on stealing freebees.
- Youngsters are clever enough through massive MTV training to filter
the entire Exhibition in ten minutes and find the interesting parts.
- Youngsters are better looking and more sexually advanced than most
older people, which is bad for the elderly gentlemen trying to score with
- The sales people like to drink a lot during the exhibitions and you
can not do that with the youngsters (see also #4).
- The speakers don't want to have intelligent and hard questions to
answer after the speeches.
- 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).
- Youngsters might be sober enough during the exhibition to actually
tell someone what happened during the fair (see also #4).
- 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.
- 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)?
To : LinuxWorldexpo@idg.com
Cc : firstname.lastname@example.org
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
Chuck Mead <email@example.com>
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
(http://www.oeone.com) 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 »
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?