I can understand the desire to have a united global community. Interaction at the international level is one of the greatest things about open source software for me.
Having said that, the concept of local events held in the local language is as old as open source itself. I have seen events held in Japan in Japanese for projects as large and diverse as HTML5, Firefox and Google’s various projects. These sorts of events are important because not everyone can speak English with the level of confidence necessary to participant actively in the global community. Local events allow those who can to provide information of new projects and trends, and knowledge of using or contributing to a project, to those who can’t get this information directly in English.
The concept of local/local-language events is not new to ROS, either. Although ROSCon JP is the first to be officially licensed by the OSRF, there have been numerous events in the past. The biggest example I can think of is the ROS summer camp that has been held annually in China for several years now. They get several hundred participants and I don’t think they are doing it in English. In Japan, we have had informal Japanese-language events for several years now.
The reason we are working with the OSRF for ROSCon JP is to create a central event for the local community in the same way that the international ROSCon has become a central event for the global ROS community. It allows us to make the scale much bigger than an informal event can be. Being officially licensed by the OSRF helps us to attract sponsors, which in turn lets us do things that cost money but are important, like provide exhibition space, bring in valuable overseas speakers (with translators), get a high-quality logo by the same artist as the main ROSCon logo, provide food, record the talks and archive them online, etc. All these contribute to making the event memorable, which in turn makes it valuable as a means to motivate the local community to participate in a project that does not have that much information available in Japanese, as well as motivate the community to grow itself organically. As with ROSCon, ROSCon JP is a by-the-community-for-the-community event.
Having the OSRF on board has meant that we are getting valuable organising support from the organisers of ROSCon, we get a set of rules and guidelines to guide us in planning an event that meets their standards (these have been much more useful than you might think), we get to use the ROSCon trademark, and additional things like use of the OSRF video archive site for the talk recordings (so we don’t have to do that ourselves).
I don’t want to speak for the OSRF, but my understanding is that for them having a local event that is licensed means they can control how the ROS and ROSCon branding is used, ensuring that the event meets their standards. We are effectively their test case for them to figure out how to do this, and if we can make our event a success then I think you will see more OSRF-backed local events in non-English speaking countries in the future.
I too want to ensure that ROS remains strong on international cooperation. I see this sort of local-language event as an important part of that, providing a local feeder to the wider community in order to attract people to it who ordinarily would not have a way to begin participating.