linux.conf.au 2010 – Day 2: paradoxes & open government

Firstly I should say that the Martial Arts Bof last night was awesome! We had about 8 linux.conf.au people, plus a few locals. We had many styles represented and it was a fantastic night of knowledge sharing, training and loads more. Paul Wayper came along as a Martial Arts newbie and did a good write up that was fascinating as he was observing all of us with fresh eyes. :)

Day 2 of linux.conf.au was just amazing. The day started with the brilliant Biella Coleman who gave a keynote talk about the history of IP rights, which included some really interesting reflections on hacker culture and the paradox of the “global politics of IP” vs the free software (and broader open culture/knowledge/source) movements. One insight was about TINC (There Is No Cabal), and how it is a joke in most hacker circles, she reflected that the joke is actually a constant subtle reminder to project leaders and other people in positions of responsibility to maintain openness and transparency in the governance and process of their project. Had never thought of it that way. :) She’s about to release a book called “Coding Freedom: Hacker Pleasure and the Ethics of Free and Open Source Software” which I’m looking forward to very much. The amazing thing about Biella is how she has observed and participated in hacker culture for many years, and so many of her observations are an integral and internally unnoticed part of hacker culture, but very interesting to muse upon and communicate. Thanks heaps Biella! Great work and please keep it up!

Biella’s blog is well worth checking out. I first met her in Brazil at DebConf a number of years ago, and she has done a lot of interesting research. One paper I really enjoyed explored female hackers in the early days of computing when the machines were room size. Her research showed that it was mainly women coding because “typing” was seen as women’s work, however whenever there was press or announcements made, photos would be taken of the computers without any of the women. I’ll find the link later (as I am trying to blog this tonight so I get a post in every day :) ).

Finally, Biella made a fascinating comparison between the Free Software/Open Source movement and “clear-sighted irony”, watch her talk to see more. ;)

The rest of today I spent in the Open in the Public Sector miniconf where there was an amazing lineup of speakers from NZ, Australia and the UK. We also had attendees from all over the world, who participated in the conversation! It was an incredible day and I recommend anyone interested in government, politics and/or open government to check out the presentations once the video is made available. I’ll be helping Daniel Spector (the awesome organiser) to put up all the slides in the coming day.

Below is a quick wrap up of each talk. Please note I’ve linked where possible to their Twitter accounts so you can followup with them later:

  • Keynote from Andrew Stott, Director of Digital Engagement, UK. Andrew gave, as usual a fantastic talk however due to bandwidth and me stupidly using wireless he was very difficult to understand. His slides were quite thorough and they’ll be linked through from the miniconf website in the coming day or two so check them out.
  • Keynote from Lisa Harvey, representative of Australian Govt 2.0 Taskforce. Lisa gave a great talk outlining the Australian Government 2.0 Taskforce project and outcomes. I wanted to link to some of the cool stuff she mentioned:
    • The Taskforce Final Report was made publicly available December 22nd (2009) and is a great read. When the draft was posted a few weeks before that they had Gov 2.0 giants in the UK and US commenting on it within a few hours which was cool. It’s been a huge project to undertake in the 6 months the Taskforce was running, and the whole team should be very proud of their work as well as their commitment to public engagement, and for making the process of creating this report a sterling Gov 2.0 case study in itself. :)
    • She gave a shout out to the Public Spheres that I designed and ran with Senator Kate Lundy which was cool. Lisa said the Gov 2.0 Public Sphere was a vital contribution to the Taskforce which was great!
    • Lisa gave a huge thank you and recognition to Nicholas Gruen, the chair of the Taskforce and a powerhouse for open government and Gov 2.0.
    • Mashup Australia was a major Taskforce project wherein a bunch of data was made openly available for public mashups as well as some events coordinated to create places for hacking and knowledge sharing. Check out the projects and datasets.
  • Stephen Boyd (Aus) IT Security Adviser Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage & the Arts; Why hasn’t the year of the linux desktop arrived in Canberra? Stephen’s talk was a bit controversial for a few attendees as he outlined the issues and assumptions facing government departments in Australia.
  • Laurence Millar, How can Govt procurement better support Open? Laurence gave a great talk about open data, and the assumptions underpinning government decision making. He was, as always a wonderful presenter. :)
  • Pia Waugh, ICT Policy Advisor to Senator Kate Lundy (Aus); Open Government: Getting the core policy and technical principles right! I spoke about why getting basic principles is important to avoid falling off cliffs, and how every government department/office should have a FOSS geek to help them due to the open instincts they develop from our awesome community.
  • Panel Discussion: The Politics of Open: Moderator: Nat Torkington Panel: Clare Curran- Labour MP, Pia Waugh, Andrew Holmes, Principal Clinical Advisor, Health Information, National Health Board Business Unit, Ministry of Health. The panel was interesting and dealt with some questions about how geeks can engage politically, the challenges facing departments, the blockers to adoption of open standards and much more. Clare also announced that she will be running an open consultation on the NZ Labour Open Government policy which was cool to hear.
  • Steven Schmid, A/NZ Open Source Sand Pit; Implementing an authoritative repository of public sector Open Technologies for Government agencies. Stephen gave a great talk and followup Q&A about the OTF which he has been working on for 2 1/2 years as well as the possibility of creating a global repository of government knowledge and experience with open technologies like FOSS, open standards, etc. He  talked about it being federated and in collaboration with global projects, but also part of a broader project to create real government support for  adoption of open tech which is awesome. Great work Steve! Check it out.
  • Panel Discussion: Creative Commons, Open access/ licensing, and NZGOAL. Panel Professor Anne Fitzgerald – QUT Law Faculty, Keitha Booth – Open Government Information and Data work programme at NZSSC. Anne and Keitha both gave great short talks about copyright in government, where things are at and where they are going in New Zealand and Australia.
  • Jason Ryan, Manager, Communications & Records Management, NZ State Services Commission. Jason Ryan did a fantastic job of wrapping up the miniconf, reflecting on all of the speakers, their core messages, and allocating themes to each talk. Stephen Schmid got “The Matrix” for his talk on the Open Technology Foundation, and Laurence Millar was compared to “In the Name of the Rose”. :) It was hilarious! Jason gave me the “oscar of the day” for one of my suggestions for government: “open source geeks, get one”. He reflected on how important that was and useful regardless of the topic area. Definitely check out his talk!
  • The final comment from the day, from Jason, was that government is a bit like when he first played with Slackware. There’s hundreds of dependencies all all you need is a great package manager, and then he suggested all of us (at the open gov miniconf) were like the package managers for open government. Great comparison! :)

Am now getting to bed, past midnight, but importantly before midnight Australian time so I’m counting this as being on track to blog every day at lca, which has been my challenge this year! :P

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2 Responses to linux.conf.au 2010 – Day 2: paradoxes & open government

  1. Keitha Booth says:

    my twitter acount is http://twitter.com/Keithabooth

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