Someone reached out to me today and asks me to walk him through registering for LISA. I did walk them through the process (via IM). I hadn't realized how complicated it is to the first time attendee!
I walked him through the process like this...
Step 1. Get a piece of paper (yes, paper) and make headings across the top for Sunday through Saturday. Under each heading leave room for "morning", "afternoon" and "night". We won't be filling in the "night" row, but I thought I'd mention that there is a LOT of stuff happening at night. When I went to my first Usenix conference I spent the night visiting local friends and had no idea what I was missing.
Step 2. Start at the Training tab. Read though the list of tutorials and circle the ones you want to attend. You can take any number of tutorials. They cost $350 each, with discounts for registering by October 18th or taking more than one. Write the ones you want to take on your sheet of paper. You can't be in two places at once, so eliminate the dups.
Step 3. There are "technical sessions" on Wed, Thu and Friday. These are the paper presentations, invited talks, guru (Q&A) sessions and so on. Ah, now you see the problem: The tutorials are every day but the "tech sessions" are just Wed, Thu, Fri. If you are considering any tutorials on Wed, Thu or Fri, take a look what technical sessions you would miss and decide what is more important to you.
Speaking of which... Wednesday morning is the keynote. I think this session is very important. It isn't just the keynote, it is the awards for best paper, the community awards, and so on. Now I'm friends with many of the people teaching tutorials on Wednesday morning so Marc, Strata and Theo, please forgive me but... my recommendation is to go for the keynote unless the tutorial is really really important.
Step 4. Now look at the "Workshops" section. Workshops are sort of like 1-day mini-conferences. So, if you are a person that teaches system administration and want to spend a day with others in that field, sign up for that one (it conflicts with my tutorial, but my feelings won't be hurt).
Step 5. Ok, now your grid should be fairly full. Any gaps on Wed, Thu, Fri should be filled with the Tech Sessions. Any gaps on Sunday through Tuesday means either you have free time or an opportunity to fly to the conference a day or two late.
A long time ago I was registering for LISA and I told my boss, "To be economical, I'm only signing up for 2 tutorials". He had the opposite philosophy: since he was paying all this $$ for airfare, the best way to be economical was to take as many tutorials as possible. Check with your manager about budget and whether or not he subscribes to this philosophy.
Step 6. Why did I have you leave space on your grid for "night"? Because there are some great things happening at night.
Thursday night is always the reception. This is basically a party put on by Usenix for the attendees. It is a great way to meet people. Monday through Thursday nights there are "Birds of a Feather" sessions (BoFs), which are community meetings of various types. All of this is free for attendees, and you don't have to decide which you are going to now, but I thought I'd mention it all.
Wednesday and Thursday early evening are the poster sessions. This is where "not ready for prime time" research is presented. It is a great way to see what's coming in the near future.
Saturday evening there is a session for first-timers and people new to the area called Welcome Get-Together and Conference Orientation. It is a great way to get orientated to the conference, learn where the good restaurants are, and so on. I try to attend every year.
Ok, enough of that. Let's move on.
Step 7. Now it is time to register. The number of tutorials you are taking will determine which registration package you should start with. Or, go "custom" and make your own package. Either way, the system calculates the maximum discount it can.
My intention was to help make the registration process easier but a 7-step process is hardly simple. I guess this is an indication of how much interesting stuff is going on at LISA. It might sound intimidating for first-timers, but really I'm just being extra detailed because I want you to know about all the parts of the conference so you don't miss anything. LISA is a very friendly and inviting conference. Everyone there is approachable. Unlike some conferences where the speakers hang out in "the green room" and are protected from talking to anyone, LISA is the kind of conference where the speakers mingle with everyone and want to be approached.
Full information about the conference is here: http://www.usenix.org/events/lisa10
Register soon! There are plenty of discounts available, the easiest one to qualify for is to register by October 18!
See you there!