OSCON day 1: The T-Shirt Index

I’m here at OSCON in sunny, sunny, Portland, and I was just discussing with Nat Torkington my long standing concept of the T-Shirt Index as internet economic indicator.  He pointed out that I should blog about it, so here it is.

The first year I came to OSCON – I now can’t remember if it was 2000 or 2001 – was at the end of the dot-com boom.  That year there was a huge sense of excitement around the place, lots of parties, lots of enthusiasm about Open Source.  On the exhibit hall floor, I collected a total of 14 vendor tshirts.  They were giving them away like candy on Halloween.

The next year, after the crash, I went home with one tshirt, and hence the T-Shirt Index was born.

It’s gradually been on the upswing ever since: in 2005 I went home with 12 shirts.  This year there are a huge number of people at OSCON, the enthusiasm is palpable, and I suspect the T-Shirt Index will be high.

I’ve always been interested in weird economic indicators: at least since I read Robert Heinlein’s Friday, where the protagonist correlates the length of beards, the length of skirts, and the price of gold.  This one is my contribution. 

7 thoughts on “OSCON day 1: The T-Shirt Index”

  1. Correct me if I’m wrong here, but you seem to be predicting a crash in the marketplace.

    Actually, why not? Yahoo has just revealed that they don’t make as much in advertising as everybody assumed, Google might follow, then if everyone sees that this is another hollow pyramid — well, you just might be right, eh? As I remember it was the self-dealing that did the dot-coms in, just like the current advertising rage. I mean, if YouTube is worth a billion dollars, then the dollar isn’t worth much, is it?

    Are you also predicting a one-t-shirt year next year? I could believe that just as well…

  2. I believe it was long before Heinlein’s “Friday” that someone noticed a correlation between skirt length and economic indicators. I recall first hearing about it in a college introduction to economics class in 1986.

  3. I remember the change too. This year was the highest number of T-shirts for me, and it was my ninth year at Perl Conference/OSCON. Didn’t get as many gadgets as last year though…

    I think the big change, apart from the number of T-shirts was that in 2000 there were tons of vendors present with no product, no customers but lots of money. In 2001 those companies had disappeared, replaced by old-economy companies; those with products and/or customers. I don’t think we are seeing the dot-com bubble again, untill we start seeing companies that really shouldn’t be there at all.

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