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Choose Your Own Adventure FOSS gov20 Government linux.conf.au society5 Tech

My Canadian adventure exploring FWD50

I recently went to Ottawa for the FWD50 conference run by Rebecca and Alistair Croll. It was my first time in Canada, and it combined a number of my favourite things. I was at an incredible conference with a visionary and enthusiastic crowd, made up of government (international, Federal, Provincial and Municipal), technologists, civil society, industry, academia, and the calibre of discussions and planning for greatness was inspiring.

There was a number of people I have known for years but never met in meatspace, and equally there were a lot of new faces doing amazing things. I got to spend time with the excellent people at the Treasury Board of Canadian Secretariat, including the Canadian Digital Service and the Office of the CIO, and by wonderful coincidence I got to see (briefly) the folk from the Open Government Partnership who happened to be in town. Finally I got to visit the gorgeous Canadian Parliament, see their extraordinary library, and wander past some Parliamentary activity which always helps me feel more connected to (and therefore empowered to contribute to) democracy in action.

Thank you to Alistair Croll who invited me to keynote this excellent event and who, with Rebecca Croll, managed to create a truly excellent event with a diverse range of ideas and voices exploring where we could or should go as a society in future. I hope it is a catalyst for great things to come in Canada and beyond.

For those in Canada who are interested in the work in New Zealand, I strongly encourage you to tune into the D5 event in February which will have some of our best initiatives on display, and to tune in to our new Minister for Broadband, Digital and Open Government (such an incredible combination in a single portfolio), Minister Clare Curran and you can tune in to our “Service Innovation” work at our blog or by subscribing to our mailing list. I also encourage you to read this inspiring “People’s Agenda” by a civil society organisation in NZ which codesigned a vision for the future type of society desired in New Zealand.

Highlights

  • One of the great delights of this trip was seeing a number of people in person for the first time who I know from the early “Gov 2.0” days (10 years ago!). It was particularly great to see Thom Kearney from Canada’s TBS and his team, Alex Howard (@digiphile) who is now a thought leader at the Sunlight Foundation, and Olivia Neal (@livneal) from the UK CTO office/GDS, Joe Powell from OGP, as well as a few friends from Linux and Open Source (Matt and Danielle amongst others).
  • The speech by Canadian Minister of the Treasury Board Secretariat (which is responsible for digital government) the Hon Scott Brison, was quite interesting and I had the chance to briefly chat to him and his advisor at the speakers drinks afterwards about the challenges of changing government.
  • Meeting with Canadian public servants from a variety of departments including the transport department, innovation and science, as well as the Treasury Board Secretariat and of course the newly formed Canadian Digital Service.
  • Meeting people from a range of sub-national governments including the excellent folk from Peel, Hillary Hartley from Ontario, and hearing about the quite inspiring work to transform organisational structures, digital and other services, adoption of micro service based infrastructure, the use of “labs” for experimentation.
  • It was fun meeting some CIO/CTOs from Canada, Estonia, UK and other jurisdictions, and sharing ideas about where to from here. I was particularly impressed with Alex Benay (Canadian CIO) who is doing great things, and with Siim Sikkut (Estonian CIO) who was taking the digitisation of Estonia into a new stage of being a broader enabler for Estonians and for the world. I shared with them some of my personal lessons learned around digital iteration vs transformation, including from the DTO in Australia (which has changed substantially, including a name change since I was there). Some notes of my lessons learned are at http://pipka.org/2017/04/03/iteration-or-transformation-in-government-paint-jobs-and-engines/.
  • My final highlight was how well my keynote and other talks were taken. People were really inspired to think big picture and I hope it was useful in driving some of those conversations about where we want to collectively go and how we can better collaborate across geopolitical lines.

Below are some photos from the trip, and some observations from specific events/meetings.

My FWD50 Keynote – the Tipping Point

I was invited to give a keynote at FWD50 about the tipping point we have gone through and how we, as a species, need to embrace the major paradigm shifts that have already happened, and decide what sort of future we want and work towards that. I also suggested some predictions about the future and examined the potential roles of governments (and public sectors specifically) in the 21st century. The slides are at https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1coe4Sl0vVA-gBHQsByrh2awZLa0Nsm6gYEqHn9ppezA/edit?usp=sharing and the full speech is on my personal blog at http://pipka.org/2017/11/08/fwd50-keynote-the-tipping-point.

I also gave a similar keynote speech at the NerHui conference in New Zealand the week after which was recorded for those who want to see or hear the content at https://2017.nethui.nz/friday-livestream

The Canadian Digital Service

Was only set up about a year ago and has a focus on building great services for users, with service design and user needs at the heart of their work. They have some excellent people with diverse skills and we spoke about what is needed to do “digital government” and what that even means, and the parallels and interdependencies between open government and digital government. They spoke about an early piece of work they did before getting set up to do a national consultation about the needs of Canadians (https://digital.canada.ca/beginning-the-conversation/) which had some interesting insights. They were very focused on open source, standards, building better ways to collaborate across government(s), and building useful things. They also spoke about their initial work around capability assessment and development across the public sector. I spoke about my experience in Australia and New Zealand, but also in working and talking to teams around the world. I gave an informal outline about the work of our Service Innovation and Service Integration team in DIA, which was helpful to get some feedback and peer review, and they were very supportive and positive. It was an excellent discussion, thank you all!

CivicTech meetup

I was invited to talk to the CivicTech group meetup in Ottawa (https://www.meetup.com/YOW_CT/events/243891738/) about the roles of government and citizens into the future. I gave a quick version of the keynote I gave at linux.conf.au 2017 (pipka.org/2017/02/18/choose-your-own-adventure-keynote/), which explores paradigm shifts and the roles of civic hackers and activists in helping forge the future whilst also considering what we should (and shouldn’t) take into the future with us. It included my amusing change.log of the history of humans and threw down the gauntlet for civic hackers to lead the way, be the light 🙂

CDS Halloween Mixer

The Canadian Digital Service does a “mixer” social event every 6 weeks, and this one landed on Halloween, which was also my first ever Halloween celebration  I had a traditional “beavertail” which was a flat cinnamon doughnut with lemon, amazing! Was fun to hang out but of course I had to retire early from jet lag.

Workshop with Alistair

The first day of FWD50 I helped Alistair Croll with a day long workshop exploring the future. We thought we’d have a small interactive group and ended up getting 300, so it was a great mind meld across different ideas, sectors, technologies, challenges and opportunities. I gave a talk on culture change in government, largely influenced by a talk a few years ago called “Collaborative innovation in the public service: Game of Thrones style” (http://pipka.org/2015/01/04/collaborative-innovation-in-the-public-service-game-of-thrones-style/). People responded well and it created a lot of discussions about the cultural challenges and barriers in government.

Thanks

Finally, just a quick shout out and thanks to Alistair for inviting me to such an amazing conference, to Rebecca for getting me organised, to Danielle and Matthew for your companionship and support, to everyone for making me feel so welcome, and to the following folk who inspired, amazed and colluded with me  In chronological order of meeting: Sean Boots, Stéphane Tourangeau, Ryan Androsoff, Mike Williamson, Lena Trudeau, Alex Benay (Canadian Gov CIO), Thom Kearney and all the TBS folk, Siim Sikkut from Estonia, James Steward from UK, and all the other folk I met at FWD50, in between feeling so extremely unwell!

Thank you Canada, I had a magnificent time and am feeling inspired!

Categories
Aus Community Linux Australia linux.conf.au Personal

I am so thankful – the gap is sorted

I will be doing a longer blog post about the incredible adventure it was to bring Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Rosemary Leith to Australia 10 days ago, but tonight I have had something just amazing happen that I wanted to briefly reflect upon.

I feel humbled, amazed and extremely extremely thankful to be part of such an incredible community in Australia and New Zealand, and a lot of people have stood up and supported me with something I felt very uncomfortable having to deal with.

Basically, a large sponsor pulled out from the TBL Down Under Tour (which I was the coordinator for, supported by the incredible and hard working Jan Bryson) just a few weeks before the start, leaving us with a substantial hole in the budget. I managed to find sponsorship to cover most of the gap, but was left $20k short (for expenses only) and just decided to figure it out myself. Friends rallied around and suggested the crowdsourcing approach which I was hesitant to do, but eventually was convinced it wouldn’t be a bad thing.

We crowdsourced less than two days ago and raised around $6k ($4,800 on GoGetFunding and $1,200 from Jeff’s earlier effort). This was incredible, especially the wonderfully supportive and positive comments that people left. Honestly, it was amazing. And then, much to my surprise and shock, Linux Australia offered to contribute the rest of the $20k. Silvia is closing the crowdsourcing site as I write this and I’m thankful to her for setting it up in the first place.

I am truly speechless. And humbled. And….

It is worth noting that stress and exhaustion aside, and though I put over 350 hours of my own time into this project, for me it has been completely worth it. It has brought many subjects dear to my heart into the mainstream public narrative and media including open government, open data, open source, net neutrality, data retention and indeed, the importance of geeks. I think such a step forward in public narrative will help us take a few more steps towards the the future where Geeks Rule Over Kings 😉 (my lca2013 talk)

It was also truly a pleasure to hang out with Tim and Rosemary who are extremely lovely people, clever and very interesting to chat to.

For the haters 🙂 No I am not suffering from cultural cringe. No I am not needing an external voice to validate perspectives locally. There is only one TBL and if he was Australian I’d still have done what I did 😛

More to come in the wrap up post on the weekend, but thank you again to all the individuals who contributed, and especially to Linux Australia for offering to fill the gap. There are definitely lessons learnt from this experience which I’ll outline later, but if I was an optimist before, this gives me such a sense of confidence, strength and support to continue to do my best to serve my community and the broader society as best I can.

And I promise I won’t burn out in the meantime 😉

Po is looking forward to spending more time with his human. We all made sacrifices 🙂 (old photo courtesy of Mary Gardiner)

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linux.conf.au

linux.conf.au 2010 – Day 5: more open gov & hacking for children

I was a little late getting in this morning due to a headache and feeling like I’d been hit by a truck, so unfortunately this meant I missed giving my lightning talk. For those who were interested, I’ll be blogging the content next week.

I met up with Glyn Moody, Stephen Schmid and Julian Carver for a casual chat about open government which was really interesting. We spoke about Open data, which Glyn saw as low hanging fruit. We also spoke about other types of projects happening around transparency in government and technology procurement. It’s interesting to me, because there is a lot of rhetoric around open datoa, citizen engagement and making government more transparent, but there isn’t a lot of discussion about how the current processes of technology procurement may actually inhibit open government initiatives.

Steve has been working for 2 1/2 years on developing the Open Technology Foundation strategy along with some of the other clever folk at the South Australian Office of the CIO, and they are now in the process of putting the plan into action. The Open Technology Foundation will be a great support mechanism for government in pursuing open data, standards, technology and methodologies, so check it out.

After that I continued chatting to Julian for while, particularly about policy development which was great given his experience. We discussed how policy development can mean a lot of different things, and how successful policies usually involve not only logical points but also an understanding of broader social and political context. As we were chatting he came up with an interesting idea. He said that the development of policy could be compared to code development, and perhaps we could purposefully apply the processes of code development to policy development. It’s an interesting thought that needs more consideration before further blogging 🙂

After a lovely ladies lunch at a great vegetarian place on Cuba St, I got ready for Rusty’s talk.

Rusty always gives very entertaining talks, and this was no exception. It was great not only for it’s humour factor, but because so many of our geek peers are having children (and Jeff and I look forward to having children someday) so getting Rusty’s experience in trying to introduce his young girl to programming was fantastic!

It was wonderful to see video of Rusty’s child (who is now around two years old now) using the different wrist bracelets and software Rusty developed for her. After many experiments with writing software she might like, Rusty hooked up a drum machine to an application he wrote, and it was an interesting experiment because when she hit the drums on the outside she got the best physical feedback (sound) and when she hit it in the middle she got software feedback (more eyes on the screen), which wasn’t nearly as satisfying or understandable for her. 🙂 So at this point he decided to simplify:

  • he went with the best wristband design
  • he wrote two very simple programmes that are fun to use, one to smear paint and one to bounce a ball around the screen

This has been quite successful, so nice work Rusty, particularly for being the world’s first kernel developer focused on the pre-school market. 🙂

Favourite saying of the speech about introducing children to programming -> “Brainwash early, brainwash often”.

And as for what I eluded to yesterday, I played the part of a 2 yr old child for Rusty’s talk to demonstrate his awesome user design hacking for children. It was a lot of fun! 🙂

As a side note, I really want Rusty’s shirt, it said “Video games ruined my life, good thing I have two extra lives. <3 <3”.

I had a great discussion with Nat Torkington, again about open government where we brainstormed what government does, is meant to do, and what it would look like if it was designed by geeks.

We talked about open data, and how there are many stages to achieving openness. In the first instance, it is just about getting the data publicly accessible in useful formats and with permissive licences. The second stage is automation of the data (so it is machine readable and continually updated), then interactability wherein the APIs to the data is all open so that people can create systems thatfully interact with the systems and thus the data. Finally achieving read/write public data means that government data can be updated by citizens.

We also spoke about trust, and how trust is beginning to trump statements made regardless of the logic or verifiability, because many people will believe a statement from a trusted source even if they can’t verify it. Access to data is one thing that can help with verifiability, however often data by itself is not enough and data needs to be presented in an understandable and if possible interactive way for people to get the best outcomes.

In terms of interacting with government directly, using open API’s would lower the cost of business transactions and ultimately service delivery for government as well as potentially making goverment better at partnering with others. This would be particularly useful in emergencies as a great example.

We also had a bit of a thought experiment about how would we build a government department from scratch. More on that idea in a later blog post I think. 🙂

The conference closing was great. Lots of love and thanks all round. They announced the competition outcomes, and the QR code commpetition was nicely explained by Glynn. 🙂

Gopal (T3rminat0r) was the runner up for the photography competition with this, which is an amazing shot, and Andy Fitzsimon said we should all set it as our backgrounds for “at least two months” 🙂

WGTN!

Mike Beattie took the great winning photo:

Mike Beattie's winning photo, a lucky shot he says :)

linux.conf.au 2011 was announced to be in Brisbane! Hooray!

I didn’t get to the Penguin Dinner, which was a real shame but I wasn’t feeling well and had to stay home and sleep a bit more.

Other cool stuff I saw today:

Some linux.conf.au media coverage I’ve enjoyed from this week so far:

Angus Kidman

Computer World — Stephen Bell

CIO — Rodney Gedda

Linuxworld — Trevor Clarke

Tech Eye — Nick Farrell

Computerworld — Georgina Swan

Computerworld — Kathryn Edwards

There’s a bunch more, I’ll try to do update the media list tomorrow, right now I need to go sleep some more.

Categories
linux.conf.au

linux.conf.au 2010 – Day 4: elephants & emergencies

Early this morning I went to Yoga which was great! It was my first time, and a really wonderful class. The class was pretty full and the exercises were really interesting. Thanks very much Francois for organising it and to the lovely teacher for the illuminating class.

Afterwards I was feeling a little shaky and so I watched the keynote stream from another room. I enjoyed Glyn Moody’s talk immensly and really want to try to catch up with during the few remaining days at lca.

I had one interesting discussion today with Mako where we discussed the impacts of risk management and liability policies on innovation. It’s an interesting area and I’d love people’s comments or any examples they can think of. 🙂

Jeremy Allison gave a talk called “The Elephant in the Room” which discussed Microsoft and it’s relationship to the Free Software community. He spoke about several strategies Microsoft have attempted over the years:

  1. De-commoditisation — their move to de-commodotise their software through proprietary standards, media formats, closed integration of their products and other behaviours that locked out other software. In the long run they were made to open up a lot of their standards (through the SAMBA team’s great work).
  2. The OOXML fiasco — which ended up with the ISO standards process being quite dramatically corrupted. One blogger commented that it was effectively one company against everyone, and they won, which is a bit worrying. Industry, governments, community and many others around the world rallied strongly against OOXML. This ended up being a loss of Microsoft because although the standard was passed, there was a lot of frustration and global awareness of the issues resulting, and now Microsoft have adopted ODF support anyway.
  3. Corruption of the Open Internet — through rather particular implementation of standards as an example. Jeremy said that Firefox has been a great boon for openness. This is an ongoing battle, however Jeremy felt they would ultimately have a loss in this strategy too.

Jeremy see patents as the biggest current issue. He posed the Tom Tom lawsuit as “the first openly aggressive use of Microsoft’s patent portfolio against Free Software”.

His core messages came down to what we can do about the elephant in the room, and it came down to:

  • Ignore it — continuing creating awesome software and demonstrating the value of openness. He saw this as the most effective long term strategy.
  • Coral it — keep up pressure on governments and organisations to adopt open, uncorrupted standards and investigate monopolies. I think there will always be a small minority of our community committed to doing this, but I think we can all within our own lives drive education in our peers, workplaces, families and other networks around the importance of openness and software freedom.

I have always been quite firmly in the camp of not attacking individual companies. I do believe people and organisations should be held to account for disruptive and destructive actions, and unfortunately for them, Microsoft often come up due to many of their behaviours. But it is a mistake for people in our community to assume companies are “evil” or “good”. They’re just companies and we need to encourage open and collaborative behaviours whilst keeping our eyes open to bad behaviour, so to speak. 🙂

I then had a great lunch, catching up with some friends we haven’t seen for ages. We had a great discussion about gender, sexuality & culture. We were comparing social norms, good/bad behaviour, and how to actually drive social progress without excluding or blaming any person or group. It was a really fascinating conversation, and I personally believe that treating issues of negative bias or bad behaviour as a community problem, rather than a problem just of the target group is the way to draw everyone in to creating the best community we can.

I went along to the Sahana talk, but couldn’t stay long as I was helping Rusty prepare for his talk tomorrow. I’m a big fan of Sahana, it is disaster management (in the Tsunami sense) software, so if you are interested in FOSS for saving lives, you should check it out and get involved.

My role in Rusty’s talk is top secret, so you’ll have to come along to see. 🙂

I caught the Q&A from Jon Oxer’s talk — “Tux on the Moon: FOSS hardware and software in space” — which I’m going to make sure I watch once the recordings are put up as it sounded very interesting.

After that I thought I’d take advantage before it rained again to go out kayaking for an hour. Kate Olliver had said she was keen to go so off we went. I was feeling dizzy as we walked over but ignored the sensation and went kayaking. The kayaking was a lot of work but a lot of fun, and we saw amongst many other cool things a baby starfish which made me wish I’d risked bringing a camera. It was very cute.

Now the story gets a little more exciting. On the way back from kayaking I felt much more dizzy and had to sit down rather suddenly about half way back. We got back and I accepted I was actually a bit sick, so I wanted to figure out whether I had the same bug Andrew and Susanne (the core organisers) had suffered. I went into the NOC to ask and their symptoms didn’t match. I felt quite dizzy and sat down, then lay down, then had some muscle and body spasms which were quite unpleasant and at times painful. Got taken to the hospital where anti-inflamatories, a drip and bed rest calmed down the symptoms, and now I’m home feeling like I’ve been hit by a truck. Turns out muscle spasms are a pretty good form of exercise.

Anyway, thank you very much to the lca2010 team, especially Steve Walsh, Susanne Ruthven and Jayne Foster for putting up with and helping me out, and I’m sorry to everyone for causing a fuss.

Other cool stuff I came across today include:

UPDATE: Friday morning I felt a lot better. Massive headache, stiff neck. sore muscles, but still fine to attend lca. Hooray for panadol and anti-inflammatories. 🙂

Categories
linux.conf.au

linux.conf.au 2010 – Day 3: freedom, games & Bruce Campbell

Day 3 of lca2010 and I had 3.5 hours sleep last night but got up early anyway and did some stick and pole weapons training with Ian Beardslee which was great fun.

Ian Beardslee demonstrating pole

This morning Benjamin Mako Hill gave the keynote. I met Mako years ago and he has always been a massive inspiration. He’s spoken, written and hacked on software freedom for many years, a freedom fighter from way back. 🙂

In his keynote he talked about empowerment and autonomy rather than licences. “Who controls the technology, controls how I get to use it. So the question of who controls software is a profound and political question.” He spoke about “antifeatures“, features that users hate and would even pay money to have removed. Mako holds that these antifeatures are very common and everyone deals with them. He gave four key categories of antifeatures:

  • Protection money – pay us so you are kept safe. For instance Gator, which was spyware installed on 35 million Windows computers that replaced banner ads with other ads. It shipped with other software so many users didn’t even know they had it. DivX for instance had a free download that had Gator, or you could get the “premium” version for $19.95 which was exactly the same software but without the Gator spyware. Wow.
  • Market segmentation (price discrimination) – for example Windows NT Workstation 4.0 vs the Server product. The workstation was basically artificially limited (although the actual code was identical) by a single registry key that identified whether the machine was a server or workstation. The differences were very limiting, for instance the workstation version could only have 10 TCP connections. Another example of market segmentation in this way is different versions of Windows even today will allow different limits of RAM, which again is a completely artificial limitation aimed at “segmenting the market” to charge different amounts. Vista Starter for instance apparently limits you to 3 graphical applications running simultaneously.
  • Securing monopolies – Panasonic released a firmware update for their cameras, which would identify whether the camera was third party and prevent the camera from turning on unless it was a genuine battery. Other camera companies have written similar firmware updates to make third party batteries not use power saving and so appear to be worse quality than a brand name battery.
  • “Protecting” copyrights (“from whom?”) – an example is that unskippable track at the beginning of DVDs.

He talked about how network services are creating new and interesting roadblocks to personal empowerment and autonomy and a bunch more. It was a highly informative and entertaining talk, so watch it! Also check out his Unhappy Birthday website.

Mako's talk at lca2010

Then I went to Richard Jones’ Games programming Tutorial, which I was really excited to see as I’ve always wanted to develop games, but had only got as far as some Battle for Wesnoth campaign development, which is more like marked up creative writing 🙂 (but loads of fun).

I took a bunch of notes about games development, but it would be most useful to actually watch the tutorial and check out of Richard’s slides and material. It’s a great tutorial for all ages 🙂

My notes on collision detecting were:

Most common way of collision detection is the use of axis-aligned bounding boxes (squares). For example, one around the character, and then one around the ground and then when the boxes overlap they are colliding. Much faster than pixel-perfect collision detection. We used circle-circle collision detection, however there are also hash maps for more complications collision detection such as used in “bullet hell” games. This defines a grid on the screen and detects where in the grid each items are to determine what is overlapping.

By the end of the session (which just flew past) I had a basic but working Asteroids game! Now I just need to learn more Python and I intend on taking up the recommendations and get into more study. Thanks Richard!! He recommended the “Invent with Python” online book to check out, even though it was written for 12 yr olds 🙂 Also check out PyCon Au.

I then spoke to Pamela Fox about applying Wave to a Public Sphere government consultation. I’m not sure how yet, but I have the feeling there could be some very clever way too do this. I need to think about it more.

I attended Matthew Garrett’s talk on “Social success in (and for) the Linux community”. I always enjoy Matthew’s talks, just the right mix of dry humour and cutting cynicism — very British. 😉

First he spoke about who the Linux community is:

  • Developers – people who make it
  • Users – people who use it
  • Anyone who cares enough to participate and count themselves in the community

Matthew observed “As a community we are very hostile”. He talked a bit about how obvious people are about minorities in the community, and gave a great example of women. He said that pointing out to people that they are in fact quite obviously different is not endearing. He posed the question “what is acceptable?”:

“The idea that we should be nice to each other does not mean that we can’t have fun.” Completely agree. I get so sick of inappropriate humour that marginalises people in the community. Great point! It’s much better to create a community where everyone feels comfortable and enthused to contribute and make the project rock! Matthew pointed out that as a community we often value code above all else, but this isn’t necessarily a good thing, and we should be thinking about what we want our community to be and then make a choice.

Matthew said in Q&A that he used to be very abusive and got a lot of attention for that, however he’s realised over time that he can earn respect through his contributions to the community and doesn’t need the other sort of attention. This was a very useful and personal insight to this kind of behaviour in projects.

Matthew Garrett asks what's acceptable

I watched Andrew Tridgell and Bob Edwards give a great talk about “Teaching FOSS at universities”. Basically they ran a course last year as a bit of an experiment to see whether it was feasible to teach people the technical and community methods of FOSS in the context of a university. Tridge says it was a resounding success and encourages us to suggest this kind of course to other universities. They are repeating the course in April 2010 and it looks very interesting. It would be great to get this kind of courseware into schools as it would help all students understand how to engage online, how to contribute to an online project and how to apply FOSS principles to other areas.

The final talk I attended today was Paul Fenwick’s “Worst inventions”. He compared leeches in glass bottles from one 18th Century invention with social networking, because the inventor said *glass* bottles were used so the “little comrades… were not in social isolation”.

He described some rather terrible inventions over the years, a few are below:

  • Cabbage Patch Snacktime – Eats Human Flesh
  • Bindeez which as it turns out got children high as the water activated soluble when made wet would create GHB, otherwise known as Ecstasy.
  • The “Atomic Energy Lab” for the budding nuclear physicist which had actual uranium, and a comic book called “Learn how Dagwood splits the atom”. Hilarious!

Paul Fenwick - the crazy scientist

The night finished with a Girl Geek Dinner with about 30 attendees. We had an amazing dinner at the Little India restaurant and Amber the dinner organiser also managed to coordinate heaps of prizes which was fantastic, thanks Amber! I managed to score an awesome KiwiCon tshirt from Joh which has Bruce Campbell on the back, and being a big Army of Darkness fan, I’ve been quoting Ash all night. 🙂 It’s always great to catch up with a bunch of other technical women to just chill and not be the odd one out for a little while.

Other cool things I came across today include:

Below are a couple of photos I’ve taken this last week to keep it interesting 🙂

Spirit tree at Lake Taupo

A parade of paper penguins [flickr album=72157623081673921 num=30 size=Thumbnail]

Categories
linux.conf.au

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! 😛

Categories
linux.conf.au

linux.conf.au 2010 – Day 1

Day one of linux.conf.au 2010 started with a fantastic video introducing Wellington in a very tongue in cheek fashion:

It turns out that Andrew and Susanne Ruthven, the core organisers of the conference are actually quite sick today, which must be heartbreaking for them given how much they have put into the conference. On the flip side, the rest of the team are doing really well, with Glynn Foster doing all the welcome and introductions this morning. So don’t worry Susanne and Andrew, it’s all going well! We miss you and hope you get better soon! 🙂

Glynn asked the audience members to stand up for previous lca’s they’ve been too which was interesting. There were only about 6 of us who stood us for the very first lca (CALU) in 1999 (although I didn’t actually get to 2001 and 2002 :/) . The numbers gradually grew, but it turns out about half the audience are attending lca for the first time, which is awesome!

40% of this years attendees are from Wellington, 40% are from Australia and 20% are from the rest of the world. Another interesting statistic is that 15% of attendees are women. I’m not sure, but I think it’s the highest percentage yet which is great! 🙂

Everyday there are podcasts happening from linux.conf.au so I’ll try to make sure I link to them all.

Radio NZ podcast on the linux.conf.au opening

The wireless here has generally been good, although I’ve had to reconnect a few times, so thanks very much to the networking team for keeping the juice flowing 🙂

Today we even had a few hours of sunshine, which was the first I’d seen in Wellington (I’ve been here since Wednesday). Yay!

Below are some thoughts about the talks I attended:

  • Haecksen & Linuxchix miniconf:
    • Sara Falamaki — “Happy Hackers == Happy Code”. Sara gave a great talk about some best practises, cool tools and other things that make hackers happy.
    • Elizabeth Garbee (ebeth) — “Through the Looking Glass – Free Software through the eyes of a teenager”. Elizabeth shares her experiences with FOSS, particularly as a teenager in the US public school system. “It turns out that any Unix-based machine brought into the school meant immediate expulsion, so we had to get that rule fixed!”. She also discussed how she is breaking the stereotype misconceptions held by her peers and teachers. Go Ebeth! Also, a funny quote from Bdale, “a GLUI is a GUI I’m stuck using”.
    • Joh Clarke — “Hackers, Crackers and Things That Go Bump in the Night”. Joh gave a great talk about security, things you can do to minimise your risk, and a bunch more. I’m going to go back and check out the slides later 🙂 When asked what her favourite security tools were, she said there isn’t one, but experience is important. She also gave out a great poster with the title “Hackers don’t give a shit:” and then listing all the things hackers don’t apparently care about, like “About your Return on Investment” and such. It’s from KiwiCon 3 🙂
  • I had a lovely lunch talking about open government, and the challenges facing government, politicians, and the public sector.
  • Business of Open Source miniconf:
    • Nic Steenhout — “Accessibility and FOSS”. Nic discussed the challenges around accessibility for people with a disability, as well as for people involved in FOSS who want their projects to be successful. In terms of reaching the major markets (government, education and medium/large business), accessibility support is mandatory, so if you want your project to be successful you must consider accessibility in your planning and development. He talked about what makes software accessible with examples like keyboard only options, alternate text, no dependence on a particular sense (eg – sound, colour, images).
  • Lightening talks:
    • Pamela Fox – Practical uses for Wave. Pamela gave a good talk about ways you can use Wave. Main points were event planning, learning new (programming) languages and collaborative documentation. Personally I can see that Wave gadgets could (and probably already do for many) make it something quite unique and useful, however I’m still struggling with it. I’ll continue experimenting and see where it goes 🙂 At this point I kind of prefer IRC for chat, Twitter for microblogging, WordPress for publishing and sharing and wiki’s for documentation collaboration. The collaborative doc devel in Wave is certainly much nicer than a wiki, but it also requires a Google account which simply isn’t open enough (nor publicly transparent enough) for most of my uses.

And now I’m off to the lca Tweetup, and then the Martial Arts BoF, both of which I’ll report on tomorrow. 🙂

UPDATE: There was a great writeup of the Haecksen & Linuxchix miniconf by Helen Varley Jamieson, make sure you click through to part 2 and 3.

Categories
linux.conf.au

linux.conf.au 2010 – registration day

Since starting my new job last April, I haven’t been blogging much because I’ve been so busy! I decided to take this week to make up for my slackness by trying to blog about each day of linux.conf.au, which is why I’m in Wellington, New Zealand all this week.

linux.conf.au, for those who don’t know it, is the yearly Australia/New Zealand Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) community conference. A bit of a mouthful, but basically it is one of the best technical and geeky conferences you’ll ever go to, seriously 🙂 I’m probably biased due to being involved in that community for so long. However, when you look at how competitive the paper selection process is (this year there were 69 papers accepted out of 255 submissions), the quality of conference extras (like the Partners Programme, the Open Day and that it’s in a different city every year) and the fact that many of the world’s smartest geeks attend year after year from all around the world, you have a compelling case for awesomeness!

Every year it is run by a different group of volunteers who bring their own ideas and surprises to the mix. It is a great formula for continually keeping the conference fresh and interesting — although it does mean each team usually gets pretty burnt out. :/

Having been on the organising team for lca2007, I can completely understand the pressure and commitment of the current team. Given we arrived in Wellington a few days early I decided to volunteer to help over the last few days, so I’ve been running around playing gopher 🙂 This year’s team have done a great job already, and are super-organised, so I think this week is going to be amazing!

Today the conference registration opened so people could get in early, get their passes and schwag (thanks Grant!), and catch up with other conference goers. It was great to catch up with a bunch of people, who I usually see either online or at lca 🙂 The shirts are pretty cool (and apparently the printing actually breathes properly), and the name badges are fantastic as they’ve printed a tiny book inside so you have maps, schedules and other useful information at your fingertips. They’ve also included most other material on a USB key so no unnecessary printing, nice! They’ve also included a nice hat, to keep the rain and wind off I guess 😉

This is the first linux.conf.au not run in a University, so it’ll be interesting to see how it feels in a conference centre. I’ve checked out the building and although you’d expect a conference centre to feel a bit sterile, it is an interesting and warm building and I found it a great venue for lca. Today at registration it felt pretty chilled out and normal for an lca rego day 🙂

There are great coffee places close by, along with great shopping (clothes, games and gadgets). The conference is pretty much in the centre of town, there is plenty of sightseeing only a short walk away (if you haven’t been there yet, go to Te Papa. If you don’t have time for anything else, go to Te Papa). Check out the conference pages on Wellington for more.

Most looking forward to

I’m pretty excited about this year’s lca. Some of the things I’m most looking forward to are:

  • All the keynotes look great, in particular Mako and Nat.
  • There is a miniconf about openness in the public sector, where Andrew Stott (Director of Digital Engagement, UK), Laurence Millar (previous CIO of NZ Government) and many other interesting speakers will be presenting. I’ll also be giving a talk on the principles and practise of open government based on my experiences to date in Australia 🙂
  • The Haecksen and Linuxchix miniconf looks cool. Sara Falamaki’s talk is fantastic (I’ve seen a version of it before), and I’m also looking forward to Elizabeth Garbee’s talk and Joh Clarke’s one on security.
  • Open Day looks awesome this year, great job Jayne!
  • On Monday night is a Martial Arts BoF I’m really excited about! Always fun to share knowledge, particularly when there are weapons involved!
  • I’m sure I’ll find more things to look forward to as I finish reading through the schedule tonight 🙂

Finally, for those of you not attending linux.conf.au, you can follow it online with the live streaming, which will be linked every day from the schedule. Please note the links will be available during lca only (Monday to Saturday including the Linux Australia SGM).

Update: after some prompting, I should also add I alwayss love the Ghosts dinner where we catch up with other previous organisers of lca to share war stories 🙂

Categories
FOSS linux.conf.au

Some pre-linux.conf.au 2010 sightseeing

At the beginning of this week Jeff and I travelled around the North Island of New Zealand with John and Silvia for a bit of sightseeing in the lead up to linux.conf.au 2010 as we drove down from Auckland to Wellington.

It was a lovely few days seeing the Rotorua mud baths and Mitai Maori culture, the amazing Art Deco towns of Napier and Hastings, and Te Mata Peak, where John surprised Silvia by proposing on the highest peak. It was a lovely moment, and one that I luckily (and accidentally) caught on camera 🙂 Some photos are below. I’ll upload all the Art Deco town photos later (when I have decent bandwidth tomorrow).

We got into Wellington Tuesday night as Silvia and John were organising and going to the Foundations of Open Media Software (FOMS) conference from Wed – Fri, so I’ve been helping the lca2010 team out with their final preparations. It has been great to be in the action again, even just as a helper (I was on the organising team for lca2007) and I think this lca is going to be great!

The other great thing about an lca in Wellington is the opportunity to catch up with some friends in New Zealand, and also to do some Martial Arts training with friends and mentors. We are having a Martial Arts BoF on Monday night for anyone interested 🙂 I’ll be taking a pole and some chain fire-twirlers to play with.

[flickr album=72157623081673921 num=20 size=Thumbnail]

Categories
linux.conf.au OLPC OLPC Friends

OLPC BOF – community meetup, discussion and paths for the region

On Friday afternoon is an OLPC BOF at linux.conf.au in Hobart, Tasmania. It’s an open public discussion, and will involve folks from Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific, as well as from OLPC and Sugar Labs. The idea behind the meetup is to explore strategies for community development and paths forward for OLPC and Sugar in the region, so come along! Add your name to the BOF wiki and we’ll see you there!