Saturday was the BarCamp session at FUDCon Blacksburg. This year there were workshops scheduled at the same time as BarCamp, which was different than usual. I wasn’t at any of the workshops so I’d be interested to know from those who held them whether they felt this was useful. I do know that most of the BarCamp sessions I attended had good attendance. The sessions I attended:
Overall, this year’s BarCamp was one of the best in terms of depth of technical content. It also had an excellent spread in terms of technical complexity — meaning there was plenty for new hackers to sink their teeth into, as well as stuff that appealed to more experienced folks. We had the usual assortment of great speakers from all around the community and they all delivered impressive presentations. You should be seeing a lot of these on blogs through the Fedora Planet with downloadable content. (If you delivered a presentation, make sure you make it available widely!)
Saturday evening was the world-famous FUDPub. I was only around for a little while — since I was still trying to shake off the illness that had been dogging me since the middle of the week, I didn’t want to make things worse on my immune system by celebrating too much. Plus, it started to snow while we were enjoying the food, drink, bowling, and billiards, so I wanted to move my car back to the hotel before the roads got too dangerous. (Virginia is not known for its rapid and rational response to adverse weather conditions.) Later in the evening we gathered for poker at the “mezzanine” level of the hotel’s conference center. A few people played well into the wee hours but I headed to bed about 1:00am.
Unfortunately, the medication I took caused me to oversleep a bit, but I still managed to get over to day 3 of FUDCon by 9:00am. Once there, I got together with Peter Borsa, Pascal Calarco, and Maria ‘tatica’ Leandro to talk Insight, our Drupal installation, which the team is trying to branch out into new and useful functions. Jared Smith and Robyn Bergeron also stopped by to give some input on our calendar project. We took notes throughout the session on Gobby, and will post them on the wiki shortly along with some additional context and plans. I feel like the Insight project is starting to take on a little more life, with a designer involved and some solid ideas about functionality that will help the project.
For instance, we discussed the events calendar being able to automatically notify event owners or FAmSCo about milestones or other necessary activity, to promote better communication and awareness. A content management system makes it possible to build some fairly robust workflows around information — making the system not just another place to deposit information, but a facilitator in the process. The team has yet to figure out exactly how this should look but thankfully Maria is on the case and will help figure this out over the next few weeks. My day job is making it harder for me to lead this team, but the other members are committed to working on some exciting new features, and I’ll continue to find ways to contribute, and wherever possible remove roadblocks and continue to scale out access, privileges, and empowerment to the rest of the team.
By this time, it was close to noon. I started saying goodbyes to various people, and made sure I had picked up as many riders as I could to drop off at the airport on the way out. I ended up taking Máirín Duffy to the airport, as well as Jared’s son with me (since they live within a half hour of me). It was good to finally get home at about dinnertime. My daughter was hosting a sleepover with a friend so it was pretty boisterous at our house, but nice to see my family again.
All in all, it was a great FUDCon. I could have done without the illness the first few days, but I managed to pull through, doing a good portion of what I intended at the event. To everyone who was there, I hope you had a fantastic time and were able to really use the event as a jumpstart for collaborations of your own. Now, make sure you spread the word on what you’re doing, and carry some of that energy and ingenuity into our discussion lists and other venues! I hope everyone has or had safe travels home and we’ll see each other soon online.
There have already been plenty of posts about all the good stuff that happened at FUDCon Toronto 2009, so just repeating the same details would seem like gilding the lily. Easily over 200 attendees as of Day 1, and we had other people showing up over the weekend, and students stopping in on Day 3, asking questions and sharing stories. A great facility at Seneca, thanks to Chris Tyler and crew. Lackluster broadband at the hotel, but a great hack suite experience nonetheless. Questionable pub surroundings, very little sleep, loads of fun, and a marvelous event overall.
Day 0: Not much other than checking in with the hotel to make sure they were ready for the bus. Dinner with Greg DeKoenigsberg, Howard Johnson, David Huff, Yaakov Nemoy, and many other Fedorans at the infamous “Irish Pub.” Arrived a bit late for the actual FUDBus landing, but got to greet almost everyone arriving at the hotel. Then realized everyone was going to the pub again and cursed the fact that I hadn’t had a healthy snack to get me through for a late night dinner.
Day 1: Realized we just broke BarCamp — at least as a “do everything the day of” event. In the future, we’ll need to have a night event for our scheduling. The consolation prize, of course, is our “embarrassment of riches” when it comes to talks: more than we can fit in the schedule, to be sure. Thanks to Yaakov and an intrepid crew of volunteers, we also had almost every talk logged on IRC so that remote contributors could “listen in,” ask questions, and participate from afar.
In between event troubleshooting and hallway conversations, I caught part or all of:
There’s kind of a trend there, since I’m keenly interested in the experience of Fedora and how we might all bring our individual skills to making it better. I also gave my own wacky commentary on Fedora and some ideas on thinking beyond our subjectivity to broaden Fedora’s reach, widen its appeal, and attract more contributors to what I think is ultimately a more sustainable approach to working in the free software community.
On a semi-related note, there’s a saying you’ll find on my blog site. You won’t see it in RSS readers of course. It reads, “Esse quam videri,” which means “To be and not to seem to be.”* The free software distribution that we enjoy comes to us thanks to the efforts of thousands of people upstream from Fedora that write some of the code we use, and one of the things we need to do over the next year is redouble our efforts to support them. In addition, we need to recognize all the Fedora contributors who are vital parts of upstream communities, and support them as well. And in doing that, we need to be true to our FOSS philosophy and practices — walking the walk, not just talking the talk.
I drew a brief metaphor in my FUDCon closing comments on Day 1 to $FAST_FOOD.** Leaving aside all my veggiesaurus friends for the sake of argument, the success of $FAST_FOOD implies that a great number of people find $FAST_FOOD’s goods to be tasty and affordable. And the advertising and marketing of $FAST_FOOD sure tends to reinforce that — even going so far as to imply their food good is for you, and high-quality.
But unfortunately, the widepsread, negative side effects worldwide, from obesity (yes, I’m looking at you, mirror) to agricultural nightmares to economic problems, tend to say otherwise. There are better ways to produce nourishing food, and promote healthier and more sustainable lives. And in the same way, there are better ways to produce free and open source software that don’t sacrifice freedom or choices for users, and promote “healthy” upstream collaboration and cultivation.
And that’s what Fedora represents to me: being this sustainable force, not simply appearing to be so.
So, back to my FUDCon tale: Following the technical sessions in BarCamp, of course there was the world-famous FUDPub event, dominated by snicky-snacks and pool sharks. I also got to meet, live and in person, previously virtual-only friends like Adam Miller and Karlie Robinson. I also tried to troll Max Spevack, but was too earnest to carry that off properly, and failed miserably (sorry Matt, I tried). Max is a master at this so maybe I need to take some lessons! Or alternately, in the future I’ll just stick to wearing my heart on my sleeve, which apparently suits me better.
Day 2-3: We moved to a different building where the hackfests would be more effective, putting people together in small rooms or around workgroup-sized tables for better face-to-face exchanges.
To start off the day, I gave an introductory talk on PyGTK development, aimed at people who were in the position I was last year — understanding the basics of Python, and knowing how to write basic programs, but not understanding how to build a GUI around it. I explained things in rudimentary terms, such as how events work with GTK, the inheritance model for objects, and how to look up properties and functions using system resources like DevHelp when writing code. These were the things that were so difficult for me to wrap my head around as a liberal artsy non-programmer, every time I sat down and tried to bridge this gap, and I think I hit the sweet spot for a bunch of the attendees. And fortunately, there were a couple experts in the room too, who I could rely on to tell me if I was Getting It Wrong, or offer additional advice to the attendees.
A bunch of people took this information and started thinking about cool ways we could extend and, to some extent, universalize PulseCaster to meet more of our media origination needs. We did some brainstorming about use cases and also interface design to support them; that’s hard work but very worthwhile, and also incredibly important to me because I want a tool that meets the GNOME HIG and remains simple, slick, and usable by non-technical people. I’m really keen on working on this more over the next few weeks, especially during my vacation time when I can set my own agenda.
During the rest of these days I had a number of meetings with different people to understand issues, listen to ideas, give feedback where it was wanted, and facilitate everyone else’s FUDCon experience:
Day 2 ended with a nice dinner with Max, Matt Domsch, Dennis Gilmore, and some other Fedora folks at the Ice Cream Patio. Christopher Aillon and I split a nice bottle of valpolicella, although I think that I probably got the better part of a 60/40 split, and the food was very good, especially the dessert (my amaretto trufata was excellent, and if Dennis wasn’t so imposing a figure, his raspberry crepe would have been in danger too if I could have distracted him somehow!). We talked a lot about disasters for some reason, and hearing what Matt and Christopher had both experienced in the way of real estate catastrophes, I felt completely humbled about my stupid and trivial basement leaks.
Day 3 ended quite differently, with dozens of Fedorans crammed into our hospitality/hack suite at the hotel for hors d’oeuvres and fun conversation. For the most part, people set their laptops aside and wound down from an action-packed weekend. My manager, Tim Burke, VP of Linux Development at Red Hat, was there too. I do have to say that it is incredibly empowering and supportive for one’s manager to show up at the most important regional event as a participant — and at the risk of sounding like a suck-up I think that’s one of the things I really like about working with Tim. Maybe I’d better say something negative to balance it out — we wish he’d brought beer!
In general, this FUDCon was one of the most exciting events I think we’ve ever had. It was certainly one of the, and maybe the single, largest ever. I’m really grateful to all our contributors who made it such a success, bringing their talent, their knowledge, their passion, and their willingness to help others contribute to free software through Fedora.
Coming up to this event, I’d been struggling a bit with some mental and spiritual exhaustion. This event helped me get Fedora back into perspective and reminded me what a beautiful thing it is to be surrounded by wonderful, smart people — and how much we can accomplish when we bring our ideas together and compare them constructively to find the best way forward. Thank you to every single one of you who participated either on-site or remotely, for the gift of renewal.
See you at the next FUDCon!
* The original Cicero quote is also worth knowing: “Few are those who wish to be endowed with virtue rather than to seem to be so.”
** I’m not naming one here to avoid the obvious legal entanglements.
UPDATE: Apologies to Colin for absent-mindedly fubar-ing his last name.
OK, this post obviously didn’t make it out of Australia before I did. It was a pretty grueling travel day, with a 13-hour flight from BNE to LAX, followed by Customs (a thankfully brief wait) and then a four-hour layover followed by another five-hour flight back to IAD, then home. It’s been a weekend partly spent in jet lag recovery, and partly in catching up to a few writing jobs I had left over from my week Down Under.
One of the things I wanted to mention was our FUDCon status. Here are the high points, bulletized for easy reading:
We continue to have weekly meetings for FUDCon at IRC Freenode, #fudcon-planning, and also use the mailing list for planning discussions. All are welcome!
No, this blog isn’t about my new gym routine, although I have lost a few pounds already (not that you can tell). Nope, it’s about making way in our budget for FUDCon Toronto 2009 so that we can subsidize additional travel for community members.
Originally we planned to get some sort of lunch brought in on Saturday (the technical session day), Sunday, and Monday (the hackfest days). However, provisions aren’t that useful at a community conference unless you have people to share them with. So our plan is to eliminate lunch on Sunday and Monday, and use the money we’ll save to pay for some additional travel subsidies for volunteers. We’ll make this call on Monday, by which time we also hope to have some other loops closed relating to budget.
Things are really shaping up for a marvelous event in Toronto. We’re still two months away from the event and we have almost 70 people pre-registered to attend already! If you plan to attend, please visit the pre-registration area on the FUDCon Toronto 2009 wiki page and add your name.
And again, if you’re in the Boston or Westford, Massachusetts areas (or can get to either one, because you live there or it’s cheaper), you’re invited to ride the bus. There’s a separate sign up for the bus, so you’ll need to both pre-register and put your name on the bus riders list.
We also have a growing number of conference sessions and hackfests at FUDCon. Remember, the list you see on the wiki doesn’t represent everything that will happen there. Part of our conference sessions on Saturday will be BarCamp or “unconference” style, meaning much of that day’s schedule will be plumped up in the morning with proposals made the morning of the event! There will be plenty of sessions and opportunities to learn and work on fun and meaningful challenges, regardless of your interests or skill level.
Everyone is welcome at FUDCon, and remember that by pre-registering, you can secure a space at FUDPub and score some other cool free stuff.
Pre-registration is already open on the wiki, where you can find loads of other information and maps as well. (We’ve already got 20 people signed up and it’s only been open a few hours!) Pre-registering gets you a couple extras, like lunch each day, a bit of schwag, and a pass to FUDPub.
But FUDCon is absolutely free to attend, whether you pre-register or not, and FUDCon is open to everyone, since time immemorial. (Or at least since we started having them years ago.)
We will have some special “getting-started” user sessions on Saturday, December 5, as well as our always-popular developer tracks and hackfests throughout the length fo the conference. We’re also planning some sort of refereed or pre-sorted content, in addition to BarCamp format talks, so everyone will be able to find Do you have an idea for a session or a hackfest you’d like to run? Then write your idea on the wiki.
There’s never been a better time to come to a FUDCon than the upcoming FUDCon Toronto 2009. It was my first FUDCon back during the release of Fedora Core 5 that really cemented my relationship to the community. I loved meeting all the various people involved everywhere in the Fedora Project, hearing about cool technical advances, sharing anecdotes and experiences, and simply having fun. Every FUDCon has had the same effect, not just for me but for plenty of other attendees.
I’ll never forget the fellow who came up to me at the last North American FUDCon, in Boston last January, to tell me about how he came up from Florida to attend. He wasn’t sure what to expect but loved every minute. The more he talked about it, the more enthusiastic he got, and the more he smiled — and so did I! The enthusiasm was infectious, the best kind of viral communication.
FUDCon is so great for giving people that juice, the positive reinforcement we all need to remind us what a great thing Fedora is, and why we all gather to create and spread free software. And it will come right after the release of Fedora 12, so we’ll have a lot to celebrate at the same time. I’m really looking forward to this next iteration and the renewed challenge of the next release of Fedora, even as we gear up for the Fedora 12 Beta coming later this month.
We’ll have more information coming shortly about some pre-sorted tracks, and other juicy news. Stay tuned to the fedora-announce-list for all the latest updates.
Sorry this comes late. I took a couple of days off after the Goodwill Tour o’ Doom to unwind with family and my blogging suffered as a result. FUDCon Day 2 was our BarCamp, which we organized the evening of Day 1. Day 3 was a continuation of some hackfests from Day 1, along with a couple additional sessions.
I flew home Monday (with another slightly-too-long layover in the hell of Heathrow) exhausted but very, very happy with the state of the European community and the excellent work being done by so many Fedorans there. Many thanks to Gerold Kassube, Joerg Simon, Fabian Affolter, Jens Kuehnel, Jeroen van Meeuwen, Christoph Wickert, Thomas Woerner, and so many others for making this a fantastic event. Also special thanks to the Red Hat security team, including Mark Cox, Josh Bressers, Murray McAllister, and many more, for making a roosting place at FUDCon, and also for making themselves available for our community to ask questions and discuss issues.
There was a lot of talk about where to hold the next FUDCon EMEA — I think most people agree that we should do somewhere other than Berlin, to spread the FUDCon joy around the continent, just as we are going to try to do with the North American FUDCon later this year by having it somewhere other than Boston. Wherever we hold it, I am certain we’ll be graced with some of the brightest, most energetic, and friendliest FOSS lovers from around the globe. Thanks to all of you, for making our community such an amazing place to work and play every day.
If you did a BarCamp presentation at the FUDCon Berlin 2009, I’d really love it if you’d do the following:
Note that the CC BY-SA license means that your material can be used and remixed by others, just like Fedora itself. I used it for my keynote slides, as I do for all my Fedora slide decks. Share the love (and the data)!
A little late with the blogging, but dinner went overtime.
BarCamp starts at 9:00am on Saturday, as listed on the wiki. We’ll have breakfast arriving sometime between 8:00 and 8:30. Breakfast consists of coffee, tea, juice, bagels, and pastry. We’ll start pitches at 9:00am, so please be on time.
Judging by previous BarCamps, we should have the schedule sorted by about 10:15, so talks will probably start at 10:30. After two hours of talks, lunch will be available. There are going to be bags available in an assortment of meats for carnivores, and some lovely vegetarian and vegan sandwich bags as well, with plenty for everyone who pre-registered, and a drink assortment. (Pre-registration has its privileges, it’s true… those who didn’t can check back by the table at about 1:00pm, when there may be some extras left.)
After another set of talks, 1:30pm-4:30pm, and a short break, we’ll gather in the main hall, E51-345, at 5:00pm. There will be BRIEF comments and thank you’s for some very special contributors, after which we’ll head to Flat Top Johnny’s for FUDPub (6:00-10:00pm).
See you in the morning!