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In the more than 30 years that I have been involved with the tech industry I have seen a lot of strange things but none stranger than the events of today at the Linux Conference Australia. iTWire senior Linux writer Sam Varghese has been ejected from the conference. Why? Well, you may ask and then wonder what the Linux community in Australia has come to.

According to Linux.conf.au media and diversity officer, Lana Brindley, Mr Varghese was asked to leave the conference because he had breached the conference code of conduct.

What heinous offence did Mr Varghese commit to elicit an indignant phone call from Ms Brindley to iTWire CEO Andrew Matler at 11pm on Monday night at the conclusion of the Australia Day long weekend?

What illicit acts was Varghese responsible for which resulted in a subsequent phone call and three-way conversation between Ms Brindley, Mr Matler and I, the next morning, followed by the formal ejection of Mr Varghese from the conference?

Well as near as I can figure, Sam just wasn’t friendly enough to the organisers and their minions. And Sam, not being popular among certain sectors of the Linux community for many of his articles, was in their sights from the moment he arrived anyway.

Of course, that’s not the story being told by Ms Brindley and Linux.conf.au organisers.

According to Ms Brindley, the reason for Sam’s ejection from the conference held at the ANU campus was his “aggressive behaviour”.

When asked to elaborate, Ms Brindley said that on arrival Sam, when he discovered that his room was on the second floor of a building without lifts, he immediately demanded that he be given a different room on the ground floor.

According to Ms Brindley, this was an unreasonable request because different classes of delegates were assigned to rooms on different floors.

Ms Brindley was not to know of course that Sam, having suffered a severe broken ankle about four years ago that kept him disabled and off his feet for the best part of a year, is not easily able to negotiate stairs – especially lugging suitcases and equipment.

Upon arriving in his newly assigned room, Sam discovered that his welcome pack was not the one provided for journalists. So Sam went searching around the conference to exchange his pack for the correct one. As is the case when looking for the correct person to convince that he had the wrong pack, this took some time and asking around to accomplish.

According to Ms Brindley, when Sam finally did exchange his pack his manner was aggressive and he didn’t even smile and say thank you.

Ms Brindley also felt that Sam made further unreasonable demands for his eating arrangements, over and above what he was entitled to.

“Delegates such as Sam are entitled to breakfast only, but he demanded other meals,” said Ms Brindley.

Well, according to Sam, the only other meal that Sam asked and offered to pay for was the evening meal at the John XXIII College on campus where he was housed. “I had a friendly chat with the cook and he told me it was fine and that I could pay for the meal the next day,” he said.

Finally, Ms Brindley told us that Sam was so aggressive that staff felt physically threatened and that his hosts at the John XXIII College were frightened to let him stay in their complex.

When asked if Sam had actually threatened anyone, including staff, with physical violence, Ms Brindley replied: “That’s not what I said. You’re twisting my words.”

Here, I must interject, having known Sam personally for many years. He is a genteel middle-aged family man, with growing children who wouldn’t physically threaten a fly, unless it landed on his food perhaps.

Now let’s get to the nub of the matter and the real reason that Sam was ejected.

In our phone conversation, Ms Brindley actually admitted to Andrew Matler and I, that she had been told to watch out for Sam Varghese even before he arrived. Why?

“He was already identified as someone to watch because of his prior history,” Ms Brindley told us.

“And what prior history was that,” I asked.

“He has a history of writing attack pieces against members of the Open Source community, including Open Source luminaries,” Ms Brindley said.

However, when asked what that had to do with Sam being asked to leave the conference, Ms Brindley said: “Oh nothing, he was asked to leave because of his behaviour.”

Yeah right.

I can remember about six years ago when I put Sam forward as the iTWire delegate to the LCA, the organiser who has a longstanding dislike of Sam – and is on the committee of this conference, told me that they would accept me as a delegate but not Sam.

I protested that Sam had infinitely more knowledge of the Linux and Open Source market than I, the organiser actually said: “We would much rather have someone who knows little but will write positive stories.”

In other words, these Linux and Open Source buffoons don’t want hard hitting tell it as it is journalism; they want Mary Poppins puff pieces that make them look good.

Well, Sam Varghese doesn’t write puff pieces. He’s a real journalist.

For the record, during his one and a bit days at this conference here are the stories that Sam wrote:

http://www.itwire.com/opinion-and-analysis/open-sauce/58458-a-wait-and-see-approach-that-worked

http://www.itwire.com/opinion-and-analysis/open-sauce/58457-focus-on-technical-talks-a-good-thing-lca-founder

http://www.itwire.com/opinion-and-analysis/open-sauce/58456-debian-gurus-plea-for-sane-computing-future

According to Sam, he had a few more stories he was getting set to publish before he was unceremoniously asked to leave. Those stories will not be published unless Sam wants them to be.

In his many years of attending the Linux Conference Australia events, Sam Varghese has been by far the most prolific and knowledgeable writer at the event. His treatment by the conference organisers this year has been shameful and we will not waste any more time and space on it.

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Stan Beer

 

Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.

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