SELF 2011, day 2.

Saturday I had a fantastic time at SELF. For the first time in a very long time, I was neither an organizer or a table worker at the community conference I was attending. Since my speaking session was finished the day before, I seized the opportunity to go to all the talks that I thought would be interesting:

  • Thomas Cameron speaking on “SELinux for Mere Mortals.” I actually have a pretty good understanding of SELinux but what I really wanted from this presentation was to pick up some pointers from Thomas’ speaking performance. And of course he totally delivered; I can see why Thomas is consistently one of the top rated speakers at the Red Hat Summit. He even coped with some weird slide deck inconsistency admirably, an got an enormous and protracted round of applause.
  • I went to the two-part education talks by Greg DeKoenigsberg and Max Spevack. I got to hear a little more about what Greg is doing nowadays in his job at the Institute for the Study of Knowledge Management in Education (ISKME). Any talk that starts with Nyan Cat is worth staying for, in this writer’s humble opinion. Among other things, Greg talked about the modes of engagement that work (or don’t work) for students, and how some of the good examples might be leveraged for delivering instructional material that can be shared among educators.
  • Max took over the next hour, talking about the educational projects in which his Community Architecture team at Red Hat is involved. Attendees got an introduction to The Open Source Way and Professors in Open Source Software Education, and the difficulties and rewards of trying to scale these efforts outward. Interestingly, toward the end of the talk it seemed like there was somewhat of a more strident tone by both educators in attendance who were frustrated with the many levels of students they have to teach at once (including those who are not adequately prepared for post-high school education), and students who are frustrated with the quality of the exercises they have to complete as coursework — most of which code is simply thrown away because it has no practical value beyond the lesson. But it was really helpful, I think, for all these points of view to be exposed and have the opportunity to dialogue as part of Max’s session, and typically cool for him to help turn a lecture into a conversation.
  • At most the conferences I go to I’m lucky to see “Klaatu,” who some readers might recall used to do a Fedora related podcast, and who also works with Hacker Public Radio. Klaatu did a fantastic presentation on the new 0.8 release of Kdenlive, which seems to have matured greatly since I last looked at it. Unfortunately, Kdenlive still relies on encumbered components (though I believe all of them are free software) such as mlt and ffmpeg, but it does indeed look like it’s becoming a usable solution for multimedia editing on Linux.
  • I went to Dan Good‘s excellent talk on advanced use of regular expressions, in which I learned some really keen new tricks that, while maybe not impressing the ladies at parties, could come in seriously handy around the office. Dan claimed that all his skill is in programming rather than speaking, but I thought he did a very good job.
  • Finally, Spot did his closing keynote on “How you FAIL,” which is based on his hilarious and infamous blog post about how open source software projects often Do It Wrong when they’re trying to attract contributors. If you work on a project, you really need to go read that blog post now.

After the keynote, Robyn, Max, Greg, Jef and I headed to the Lime Leaf, an excellent Thai place a few blocks up the street from the conference. We wanted to grab David Nalley and his wife, but couldn’t get a hold of them — but when we arrived at the place, we discovered they must have had the same idea since they were there with some friends already! David’s phone had given out on him. I had a fantastic pad see-ew and a dirty martini that would have been perfect, had it included adult sized olives. Afterward, we headed back for the party and Robyn, without breaking a sweat, proceeded to take all my money in poker, a game in which I can now safely say I have very little skill or future.

I’m posting this from the Spevan, which is traveling up I-85 on the way back to Raleigh. Hopefully I should land at home just after dinner time.