UKNOF: Openness and sponsorship

As some readers will know, I’m involved in running UKNOF – a series of regular meetings and a mailing list aimed at the UK Network Operations community. The next meeting is being held in London on 18th April, and we’re hoping it’s going to be one of the best attended UKNOF meetings we’ve had in a while.

The last few meetings in London have been so popular that we’ve outstripped the size of the venue that hosted the meeting, so this time we’ve gone for somewhere bigger still, which should allow us to go up to about 150-200 people. This is really important, as UKNOF is grounded in an ethos of openness, so having to turn people away really goes against the grain for us.

But accommodating every increasing numbers presents a challenge, because, best of all, there’s no charge to attend a UKNOF meeting. It’s paid for through the generosity of sponsors, and supported by individual volunteers from the community who put the meeting together.

For the upcoming UKNOF 25 meeting in April, we’ve already got a generous Platinum event sponsor in the shape of Ericsson, but so we’re able to maintain this momentum in the future, we’re working on building a supporting sponsor community.

There aren’t many conferences in our community which are run this way (free to attend) and open to all interested parties. They tend to be aimed at more specific communities (such as members of a particular IXP) or are invite only (such as the Network Field Day series). UKNOF is differentiated by it’s openness and transparent management.

The sponsorship of an open meeting such as UKNOF benefits the Network Ops industry in the UK by lowering the bar to attend, which has the effect that we get a broad audience from the community.

So, if a sponsor is ever thinking about helping UKNOF, think about how it fits in with your Corporate Social Responsibility goals.

We get people at UKNOF that simply wouldn’t have the budget (or get managerial permission) to attend the typical industry conference, which would have a registration fee in the hundreds of pounds, may need expensive overnight stays in flashy hotels, you get the gist. If a company is going to spend that sort of money on sending someone to an event, they are going to send their top bods, and not necessarily the guy at the coal face.

Yet the target of UKNOF isn’t just the experienced engineer who already knows it, it’s those who haven’t been around as long, those who are in a position to learn from those who’ve been around the block a couple of times – UKNOF’s main raison d’etre is often said to be “distribution of clue” – knowledge sharing and information exchange.

So we’re really glad that we don’t just get the “usual suspects” from the global Internet meeting circuit at UKNOF, but a real cross-section of the UK Net Ops community – we can use UKNOF to bring the best of the content (and well known speakers) from the global circuit to a UK audience that can’t get to the bigger meetings, and cover topics which are closer to home and of specific interest to the local community.