A note on the arguments following Mark Pesce’s keynote. There’s one in particular that bugs me: “just leave if you don’t like it.”
The thing is, it isn’t normal at linux.conf.au (unlike at a Bar Camp) to just exit a talk from, say, the front section in the middle of a row. Unless you are at the very edge of the room, it’s considered rude to just leave, to the point where some speakers or session chairs might actually yell at you. (I had university lecturers do that.) And I suspect LCA, for organisational reasons as well as for speaker comfort, would rather not encourage an atmosphere of people just traipsing in and out of talks through the centre of rooms. So… the environment is (somewhat) coercive: if you don’t like the talk, you have to be actively rude to the speaker and the rest of the audience in protecting yourself from the talk.
If an environment could be created where someone could leave a talk from any place in the audience with a minimum of fuss and without risk of social retribution, and if people really did do so for all kinds of reasons, and thus an exit during Pesce’s talk would not have been immediately visible to everyone as “I have a strangulation phobia, if you would like to bother me in future, please mime strangling me”, I’d at least take this argument seriously. But in the LCA context it currently equates to: “don’t like the talk? embarrass yourself and be rude to the speaker!”
(Note to LCA people: I have a comment policy, and if your comment annoys me I won’t publish it.)
 I do have a strong reaction to strangulation, although probably not technically phobic, and if anyone uses this information to harass me even as a joke, they will not be my friend thereafter.
 People who have physical triggers, like having sharp objects pointed at their eyes, or disliking their neck being touched without warning, and who admit them, do suddenly find that half their acquaintance immediately does that to find out what happens. Consider yourself warned about what will happen.01.30.11
linux.conf.au has a charity auction over dinner. There are various failure modes:
- it’s a year of big corporate budgets, so bidding reaches about $5000, no one else can compete, and then it stops
- it’s not a year of big corporate budgets, so bidding reaches about $500 from a private individual and then it stops
- bids aren’t high enough, so there is some pressure for someone to donate something precious. This was how Bdale Garbee ended up being shaved by Linus Torvalds at linux.conf.au 2009. This can be fun, but it also at least tweaks and sometimes outright triggers people’s fear of coercion (having a lot of drunk people screaming for your beard is definitely coercive).
There’s always been a tradition of large consortia of private individuals forming to try and solve problem #1, in recent years these have even tended to win. The trouble then is what happens to the money that was pledged by losers: at lca2011 (and I think lca2010 too, but I wasn’t there) bids aren’t revocable. The donated money stays donated, the only question is whether you get a prize associated with it.
So far so good for money. And now for entertainment, as Rusty posts. The trouble with lca2011 was that the auction consisted of people walking up to laptops and having their donation amount entered and associated with their team. Running totals were displayed on a graph, but spectacle was lacking.
The ritual humiliation of Linux celebrities does have something in it. But, no more screaming for people’s beards. I think it would be much more appropriate, and probably fun, to organise something in advance to occur at the dinner, with celebrities volunteering. The closest model would be lca2004′s dunking of Linus Torvalds (which was organised in advance, the pressure placed on Torvalds to participate I can’t speak to but he gives the appearance of generally enjoying some mild organised humiliation for the benefit of charity).
Say, as an example, that five developers compete to throw three-pointers (actually, this is probably too hard, in addition to being difficult to stage at a dinner, but never mind). Then there’s a very short pre-planned set of auctions for things like being able to take steps forward to start with, extra shots, probably culminating in the right to substitute, together with a simple “highest amount, yay!” kind of contest. At least one or two bids to allow your celebrity to increase the challenge facing an opponent. Probably five rounds of shots total with bidding in between. You could probably solve some obvious problems (like everyone backing Torvalds or betting against him or whatever) with simple transparent manipulation: Linux Australia increasing their matching donations when tables back their assigned celebrity, or something.
Finally, since this is a developer conference, there should be some kind of application allowing people to pledge using their phones from their tables.01.29.11
As usual some rather important things went on in the lightning talks.
Rusty Russell got irritated at Geoff Huston’s “IPocalypse” keynote (which argued that the last minute no-options-left switch to IPv6 runs the risk of IPv6 being outcompeted by a closed solution) and he got coding. The result is a CCAN module (so, C code) to support simultaneous IPv4 and IPv6 connections, thus not penalising either. He’ll fix the dependency’s licence shortly. It might not work perfectly yet.
Donna Benjamin is trying to raise $7500 to get The National Library of Australia to digitise The Dawn, Louisa Lawson’s journal for women from the nineteenth century.
In intellectual property news (specifically, anti-stronger IP news) Kim Weatherall wants us to worry about the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which Australia will likely ratify, the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement, which it would be really great to oppose, the impending result of the Federal Court appeal in the iiNet case, which iiNet may lose, and even if they don’t there will probably be legislative “three strikes” discussion about copyright violation.01.25.11
Slow first day for me. I had a stressful Sunday getting a toddler to the airport on my own and Andrew has just flown in from the US.
We weren’t very impressed with our hotel, iStay River City. For starters, it has extremely limited keys. Many, but not all, rooms have two keys, which would be hard enough with four adults per room, but one of the keys for our room is missing, which means one key (and suggests that somewhere out there a former guest still has a working key to our room). The hotel reception wasn’t even sympathetic. People steal our keys all the time! What else are we to do?!
There’s no way to leave a key with reception and get yourself back into the room unless you have a second key to the room. There are buzzers for the rooms, but the reception smilingly conceded that it does only get guests into the lobby. You have to go down the lift yourself to get them up to the room. (Interestingly, this has meant with a lot of confusion from other LCA attendees. “How hard is it to make a new keycard?” Bad assumption. They are using keys, as in, those chunks of metal with notches in them.)
There’s also several things broken in our apartment: a couple of lights, the phone, the bathroom fan.
Anyway, after a restless night, LCA! I mostly spent time at the Haecksen miniconf, although partly working on my laptop in an introversion bubble. I wasn’t really ready, after the travel and the settling in, to sit down and listen to talks well. Some talks I did catch in whole or in part:
- Pia Waugh Applying martial arts to the workplace: your guide to kicking arse
- Brianna Laugher An Approach to Automatic Text Generation
- Andrew Gerrand Practical Go Programming
- Noirin Shirley Open Source: Saving the World
- Donna Benjamin We are here. We have always been here
- Valerie Aurora and Donna Benjamin Training Allies (workshop)
I didn’t really fully follow any of them, except for Training Allies, which is of professional interest to me now. (More on that later, I guess.)01.24.11
In lieu of an official Planet site for LCA2011, I’ve set up an unofficial one. http://lcaplanet.puzzling.org/
Q. I want to be on it!
If you would like to add your own blog to the site, please see http://conf.linux.org.au/wiki/Planet for info and contact me in comments if it doesn’t work out.
Q. What happens when there is an official planet?
I’ll add 301 redirects as appropriate as soon as an official planet is announced.
Q. Wait, can this BE the official planet?
LCA organisers, I’m happy to be the official Planet if it makes things easier for you. Get in touch with me.01.17.11
One week to go and the conference is definitely going ahead.
Here’s my early plans for spending my time at LCA. I should note that my husband and our one year old son will be in Brisbane, and for various reasons I won’t be doing a lot of socialising at night. Anyone for lunch?
I’ll mostly be at the Haecksen miniconf, but also potentially interested in:
- various talks in the “Freedom in the cloud” miniconf
- An Approach to Automatic Text Generation, Brianna Laugher
- Practical Go Programming, Andrew Gerrand
(PS, Brianna, how many talks is it physically possible for you to give on a single day?)
I will not be at the Girl Geek Dinner, sadly, but this is only one night after Andrew will have flown in from Dallas and so I’d like to see my family early in the week.
At present I think this will mostly be hallway track.
- 10:30 (maybe): Freeing the Cloud, one service at a time, Francois Marier
- 11:30: Making file systems scale: A case study using ext4, Theodore Ts’o
- 13:30: BLOODY HELL. One of Making laptops work with Linux, Matthew Garrett; HTML5 web applications with node.js, Jeff Waugh; or Pixels From A Distance by Adam Jackson.
- 15:45 (maybe): The latest and coolest with HTML5 video, Silvia Pfeiffer
I will also attend the Linux Australia AGM, since I am standing for election (and I think results are available by then, it seems that voting closes at 26/01/2011 00:00, which is maybe an unfortunate choice of time, since many people will read “votes close 26/01/2011″ as giving them that day to vote too).
I won’t be at the Professional Delegates Networking Session, since I am registered as a Hobbyist. I might be at the informal UnProfessional Delegates Session if there is one, and if my husband and son can come.
- 10:30: (probably) Advanced C Coding For Fun!, Rusty Russell; or (less likely) Kernel development: how it goes wrong and why you should be a part of it anyway, Jonathan Corbet
- 11:30 (maybe): Dropping ACID: eating data in a Web 2.0 Cloud world, Stewart Smith
- 13:30: Notmuch: What email should be, Carl Worth or Baby Steps into Open Source – Incubation and Mentoring at Apache, Noirin Shirley. My suspicion is that I’ll go to Worth’s talk and catch Shirley on the hallway track.
I will be at the Penguin dinner.
- 10:30: Machine Learning Inside, Christfried Webers.
- 13:30: Beyond Alt Text: Accessibility for the 21st Century, Denise Paolucci
- 15:45: Building a Linux powered coffee roaster, Andrew Tridgell
We fly home lunchtime Saturday, so won’t be around for Open Day.12.20.10
Background: the Haecksen miniconf is a one day event at Australia’s linux.conf.au Linux conference in January highlighting women and women in Open Source tech and community. It’s been running since 2007: I was the one who founded it (under the name “LinuxChix miniconf”, it was changed by Joh Clarke for the January 2010 event).
The current logo of the miniconf is of a unicorn driving a robotic Tux penguin (the latter being the logo of Linux), you can see it at the Haecksen miniconf site. This year’s organiser Lana Brindley planned to sell t-shirts for the event, which had the text:
1. A fabled creature, represented as a horse with a single spiralled horn.
2. metaphor A person who is believed to be non-existent, and worthy of note if spotted in the wild, such as a woman working with technology.
There was a small Twitter storm in which the shirt was judged sexist, here’s a short sample:
- vavroom: Glad I’m not going to #lca2011. Can’t support an event that thinks sexist humour is appropriate. See their t-shirt http://bit.ly/dTwFYq
- elpie: I’m sure the #lca2011 haeksen t-shirt is supposed to be funny but I don’t find it so. http://bit.ly/dTwFYq Perpetuating stereotypes much.
- Glebe2037: @stokely well it could be taken two ways … one a statement about women in IT & one a little more sexist-ly
- Glebe2037 @stokely the unicorn/women metaphor …
For some reference on the in-jokes the unicorn reference is to the Unicorn Law:
If you are a woman in Open Source, you will eventually give a talk about being a woman in Open Source.
The organisers of the Haecksen miniconf are always to date affiliated with LinuxChix and are women in tech and friends of women in tech. I guess the problem, certainly unanticipated by me without hindsight, is that there’s very little precedent for Open Source conferences to have such a woman-friendly sub-community that they’re going to be adopting the language of unicorn-ness for the purposes of mocking the straightforward sentiment and adopting it in a kind of reclamation.
What was meant: A whole conference of us! Are you going to treat us like unicorns now huh? We have horns you know…
I’m sorry that Lana faced a tweetstorm over it, it’s much too harsh for the lesson. The miniconf has been selling insider t-shirts since 2007 (the 2007 shirt was “At this year’s linux.conf.au, stand out from the crowd”, with an image of a women-figure of the toilet door type standing in a line-up with man-figure shapes, which wouldn’t necessarily be read as friendly either). This year the attention to sexism at conferences has risen enough that it came to the attention of not-insiders who nevertheless care about women-in-tech and are watching out for sexism.
I suppose this suggests for future events (women-in-tech ones generally, not Haecksen miniconfs in particular) that designs and publicity should be run by some outsiders for a “will this sound like a serious endorsement of sexist sentiments?” check. Not only because of the impression left on folks on Twitter, but the potential impact on attendees too. If this was my first linux.conf.au ever… I don’t know how I’d read that shirt.
Lana: sorry about what happened, it’s never nice to be in the eye of a Twitter storm, especially when your intent was to do good and you had consulted plenty already. If the spotlight had come on us in 2007 I bet I would have had the same problem.
On a related note, I grow increasingly tired of the 140 character limit on tweets, I think it contributes badly to situations like this. It’s hard enough for apologies/explanation to catch up with something that bugged people without having to eke them out 140 characters at a time with five replies coming in in between each tweet. But then, as everyone who has ever had anything to do with my writing will attest, 140 characters is not my genre.