Getting people together

community, freesoftware, gimp, gnome, guadec, libre graphics meeting, maemo, openwengo 3 Comments

One of the most important things you can do in a free software project, besides writing code, is to get your key contributors together as often as possible.

I’ve been fortunate to be able to organise a number of events in the past 10 years, and also to observe others and learn from them over that time. Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned over the years from that experience:

Venue

The starting point for most meetings or conferences is the venue. If you’re getting a small group (under 10 people) together, then it is usually OK just to pick a city, and ask a friend who runs a business or is a college professor to book a room for you. Or use a co-working space. Or hang out in someone’s house, and camp in the garden. Once you get bigger, you may need to go through a more formal process.

If you’re not careful, the venue will be a huge expense, and you’ll have to find that money somewhere. But if you are smart, you can manage a free venue quite easily.

Here are a few strategies you might want to try:

  • Piggy-back on another event – the Linux Foundation Collaboration Summit, OSCON, LinuxTag, GUADEC and many other conferences are happy to host workshops or meet-ups for smaller groups. The GIMP Developers Conference in 2004 was the first meet-up that I organised, and to avoid the hassle of dealing with a venue, finding a time that suited everyone, and so on, I asked the GNOME Foundation if they wouldn’t mind setting aside some space for us at GUADEC – and they said yes.Take advantage of the bigger conference’s organisation, and you get the added benefit of attending the bigger conference at the same time!
  • Ask local universities for free rooms – This won’t work once you go over a certain size, but especially for universities which have academics who are members of the local LUG, they can talk their department head into booking a lecture theatre & a few classrooms for a weekend. Many universities will ask to do a press release and get credit on the conference web-site, and this is a completely fair deal.The first Libre Graphics Meeting was hosted free in CPE Lyon, and the GNOME Boston Summit has been hosted free for a number of years in MIT.
  • If the venue can’t be free, see if you can get someone else to pay for it – Once your conference is bigger than about 200 people, most venues will require payment. Hosting a conference will cost them a lot, and it’s a big part of the business model of universities to host conferences when the students are gone. But just because the university or conference center won’t host you for free doesn’t mean that you have to be the one paying.

    Local regional governments like to be involved with big events in their region. GUADEC in Stuttgart, the Gran Canaria Desktop Summit, and this year’s Desktop Summit in Berlin have all had the cost of the venue covered by the host region. An additional benefit of partnering with the region is that they will often have links to local industry and press – resources you can use to get publicity and perhaps even sponsorship for your conference.

  • Run a bidding process – by encouraging groups wishing to host the conference to put in bids, you are also encouraging them to source a venue and talk to local partners before you decide where to go. You are also putting cities in competition with each other, and like olympic bids, cities don’t like to lose competitions they’re in!

Budget

Conferences cost money. Major costs for a small meet-up might be
covering the travel costs of attendees. For a larger conference, the
major costs will be equipment, staff and venue.

Every time I have been raising the budget for a conference, my rule of
thumb has been simple:

  1. Decide how much money you need to put on the event
  2. Fundraise until you reach that amount
  3. Stop fundraising, and move on to other things.

Raising money is a tricky thing to do. You can literally spend all of
your time doing it. At the end of the day, you have a conference to put
on, and the amount of money in the budget is not the major concern of
your attendees.

Remember, your primary goal is to get project participants together to
advance the project. So getting the word out to prospective attendees,
organising accommodation, venue, talks, food and drinks, social
activities and everything else people expect at an event is more
important than raising money.

Of course, you need money to be able to do all the rest of that stuff,
so finding sponsors, fixing sponsorship levels, and selling your
conference is a necessary evil. But once you have reached the amount of
money you need for the conference, you really do have better things to
do with your time.

There are a few potential sources of funds to put on a conference – I
recommend a mix of all of these as the best way to raise your budget.

  • Attendees – While this is a controversial topic among many communities, I think it is completely valid to ask attendees to contribute something to the costs of the conference. Attendees benefit from the facilities, the social events, and gain value from the conference.Some communities consider attendance at their annual event as a kind of reward for services rendered, or an incitement to do good work in the coming year, but I don’t think that’s a healthy way to look at it.

    There are a few ways for conference attendees to fund the running of the conference:

    1. Registration fees – This is the most common way to get money from conference attendees. Most community conferences ask for a token amount of fees. I’ve seen conferences ask for an entrance fee of €20 to €50, and most people have not had a problem paying this.

      A pre-paid fee also has an additional benefit of massively reducing no-shows among locals. People place more value on attending an event that costs them €10 than one where they can get in for free, even if the content is the same.

    2. Donations – very successfully employed by FOSDEM. Attendees are offered an array of goodies, provided by sponsors (books, magazine subscriptions, t-shirts) in return for a donation. But those who want can attend for free.
    3. Selling merchandising – Perhaps your community would be happier hosting a free conference, and selling plush toys, t-shirts, hoodies, mugs and other merchandising to make some money. Beware: in my experience you can expect less from profits from merchandising sales than you would get giving a free t-shirt to each attendee with a registration fee.
  • Sponsors – Media publications will typically agree to “press sponsorship” – providing free ads for your conference in their print magazine or website. If your conference is a registered non-profit which can accept tax-deductible donations, offer press sponsors the chance to invoice you for the services and then make a separate sponsorship grant to cover the bill. The end result for you is identical, but it will allow the publication to write off the space they donate to you for tax.

    What you really want, though, are cash sponsorships. As the number of free software projects and conferences has multiplied, the competition for sponsorship dollars has really heated up in recent years. To maximise your chances of making your budget target, there are a few things you can do.

    1. Conference brochure – Think of your conference as a product you’re selling. What does it stand for, how much attention does it get, how important is it to you, to your members, to the industry and beyond? What is the value proposition for the sponsor?

      You can sell a sponsorship package on three or four different grounds: perhaps conference attendees are a high-value target audience for the sponsor, perhaps (especially for smaller conferences) the attendees aren’t what’s important, it’s the attention that the conference will get in the international press, or perhaps you are pitching to the company that the conference is improving a piece of software that they depend on.

      Depending on the positioning of the conference, you can then make a list of potential sponsors. You should have a sponsorship brochure that you can send them, which will contain a description of the conference, a sales pitch explaining why it’s interesting for the company to sponsor it, potentially press clippings or quotes from past attendees saying how great the conference is, and finally the amount of money you’re looking for.

    2. Sponsorship levels – These should be fixed based on the amount of money you want to raise. You should figure on your biggest sponsor providing somewhere between 30% and 40% of your total conference budget for a smaller conference. If you’re lucky, and your conference gets a lot of sponsors, that might be as low as 20%. Figure on a third as a ball-park figure. That means if you’ve decided that you need €60,000 then you should set your cornerstone sponsor level at €20,000, and all the other levels in consequence (say, €12,000 for the second level and €6,000 for third level).

      For smaller conferences and meet-ups, the fundraising process might be slightly more informal, but you should still think of the entire process as a sales pitch.

    3. Calendar – Most companies have either a yearly or half-yearly budget cycle. If you get your submission into the right person at the right time, then you could potentially have a much easier conversation. The best time to submit proposals for sponsorship of a conference in the Summer is around October or November of the year before, when companies are finalising their annual budget.

      If you miss this window, all is not lost, but any sponsorship you get will be coming out of discretionary budgets, which tend to get spread quite thin, and are guarded preciously by their owners. Alternatively, you might get a commitment to sponsor your July conference in May, at the end of the first half budget process – which is quite late in the day.

    4. Approaching the right people – I’m not going to teach anyone sales, but my personal secret to dealing with big organisations is to make friends with people inside the organisations, and try to get a feel for where the budget might come from for my event. Your friend will probably not be the person controlling the budget, but getting him or her on board is your opportunity to have an advocate inside the organisation, working to put your proposal in front of the eyes of the person who owns the budget.

      Big organisations can be a hard nut to crack, but free software projects often have friends in high places. If you have seen the CTO or CEO of a Fortune 500 company talk about your project in a news article, don’t hesitate to drop him a line mentioning that, and when the time comes to fund that conference, a personal note asking who the best person to talk to will work wonders. Remember, your goal is not to sell to your personal contact, it is to turn her into an advocate to your cause inside the organisation, and create the opportunity to sell the conference to the budget owner later.

    Also, remember when you’re selling sponsorship packages that everything which costs you money could potentially be part of a sponsorship package. Some companies will offer lanyards for attendees, or offer to pay for a coffee break, or ice-cream in the afternoon, or a social event. These are potentially valuable sponsorship opportunities and you should be clear in your brochure about everything that’s happening, and spec out a provisional budget for each of these events when you’re drafting your budget.

Content

Conference content is the most important thing about a conference. Different events handle content differently – some events invite a large proportion of their speakers, while others like GUADEC and OSCON invite proposals and choose talks to fill the spots.

The strategy you choose will depend largely on the nature of the event. If it’s an event in its 10th year with an ever increasing number of attendees, then a call for papers is great. If you’re in your first year, and people really don’t know what to make of the event, then setting the tone by inviting a number of speakers will do a great job of helping people know what you’re aiming for.

For Ignite Lyon last year, I invited about 40% of the speakers for the first night (and often had to hassle them to put in a submission, and the remaining 60% came through a submission form. For the first Libre Graphics Meeting, apart from lightning talks, I think that I contacted every speaker except 2 first. Now that the event is in its 6th year, there is a call for proposals process which works quite well.

Schedule

Avoiding putting talks in parallel which will appeal to the same people is hard. Every single conference, you hear from people who wanted to attend talks which were on at the same time on similar topics.

My solution to conference scheduling is very low-tech, but works for me. Coloured post-its, with a different colour for each theme, and an empty talks grid, do the job fine. Write the talk titles one per post-it, add any constraints you have for the speaker, and then fill in the grid.

Taking scheduling off the computer and into real life makes it really easy to see when you have clashes, to swap talks as often as you like, and then to commit it to a web page when you’re happy with it.

I used this technique successfully for GUADEC 2006, and Ross Burton re-used it in 2007.

Parties

Parties are a trade-off. You want everyone to have fun, and hanging out is a huge part of attending a conference. But morning attendance suffers after a party. Pity the poor community member who has to drag himself out of bed after 3 hours sleep to go and talk to 4 people at 9am after the party.

Some conferences have too many parties. It’s great to have the opportunity to get drunk with friends every night. But it’s not great to actually get drunk with friends every night. Remember the goal of the conference: you want to encourage the advancement of your project.

I encourage one biggish party, and one other smallish party, over the course of the week. Outside of that, people will still get together, and have a good time, but it’ll be on their dime, and that will keep everyone reasonable.

With a little imagination, you can come up with events that don’t involved loud music and alcohol. Other types of social event can work just as well, and be even more fun.

At GUADEC we have had a football tournament for the last number of years. During the OpenWengo Summit in 2007, we brought people on a boat ride on the Seine and we went on a classic 19th century merry-go-round afterwards. Getting people eating together is another great way to create closer ties – I have very fond memories of group dinners at a number of conferences. At the annual KDE conference Akademy, there is typically a Big Day Out, where people get together for a picnic, some light outdoors activity, a boat ride, some sightseeing or something similar.

Extra costs

Watch out for those unforeseen costs! One conference I was involved in, where the venue was “100% sponsored” left us with a €20,000 bill for labour and equipment costs. Yes, the venue had been sponsored, but setting up tables and chairs, and equipment rental of whiteboards, overhead projectors and so on, had not. At the end of the day, I estimate that we used about 60% of the equipment we paid for.

Conference venues are hugely expensive for everything they provide. Coffee breaks can cost up to $10 per person for a coffee & a few biscuits, bottled water for speakers costs $5 per bottle, and so on.  Rental of an overhead projector and mics for one room for one day can cost €300 or more, depending on whether the venue insists that equipment be operated by their a/v guy or not.

When you’re dealing with a commercial venue, be clear up-front about what you’re paying for.

On-site details

I like conferences that take care of the little details. As a speaker, I like it when someone contacts me before the conference and says they’ll be presenting me, what would I like them to say? It’s reassuring to know that when I arrive there will be a hands-free mic and someone who can help fit it.

Taking care of all of these details needs a gaggle of volunteers, and it needs someone organising them beforehand and during the event. Spend a lot of time talking to the local staff, especially the audio/visual engineers.

In one conference, the a/v guy would switch manually to a screen-saver at the end of a presentation. We had a comical situation during a lightning talk session where after the first speaker, I switched presentations, and while the next presentation showed up on my laptop, we still had the screensaver on the big screen. No-one had talked to the A/V engineer to explain to him the format of the presentation!

So we ended up with 4 Linux engineers looking at the laptop, checking connections and running various Xrandr incantations, trying to get the overhead projector working again! We eventually changed laptops, and the a/v engineer realised what the session was, and all went well after that – most of the people involved ended up blaming my laptop.

Have fun!

Running a conference, or even a smaller meet-up, is time consuming, and consists of a lot of detail work, much of which will never be noticed by attendees. I haven’t even dealt with things like banners and posters, graphic design, dealing with the press, or any of the other joys that come from organising a conference.

The end result is massively rewarding, though. A study I did last year of the GNOME project showed that there is a massive project-wide boost in productivity just after our annual conference, and many of our community members cite the conference as the high point of their year.

Drawing up a roadmap

community, freesoftware, General, gimp, gnome, maemo, openwengo, work 6 Comments

One of the most important documents a project can have is some kind of elaboration of what the maintainers want to see happen in the future. This is the concrete expression of the project vision – it allows people to adhere to the vision, and gives them the opportunity to contribute to its realisation. This is the document I’ll be calling a roadmap.

Sometimes the word “roadmap” is used to talk about other things, like branching strategies and release schedules. To me, a release schedule and a roadmap are related, but different documents. Releasing is about ensuring users get to use what you make. The roadmap is your guiding light, the beacon at the end of the road that lets you know what you’re making, and why.

Too many projects fall into the trap of having occasional roadmap planning processes, and then posting a mighty document which stays, unchanged, until the next time the planning process gets done. Roadmaps like these end up being historical documents – a shining example of how aspirations get lost along the way of product development.

Other projects are under-ambitious. Either there is no roadmap at all, in which case the business as usual of making software takes over – developers are interrupt-driven, fixing bugs, taking care of user requests, and never taking a step back to look at the bigger picture. Or your roadmap is something you use to track tasks which are already underway, a list of the features which developers are working on right now. It’s like walking in a forest at night with a head-light – you are always looking at your feet avoiding tree-roots, yet you have no idea where you’re going.

When we drew up the roadmap for the GIMP for versions 2.0 and 2.2 in 2003, we committed some of these mistakes. By observing some projects like Inkscape (which has a history of excellent roadmapping) and learning from our mistakes, I came up with a different method which we applied to the WengoPhone from OpenWengo in 2006, and which served us well (until the project became QuteCom, at least). Here are some of the techniques I learned, which I hope will be useful to others.

Time or features?

One question with roadmaps is whether hitting a date for release should be included as an objective. Even though I’ve said that release plans and roadmaps are different documents, I think it is important to set realistic target dates on way-points. Having a calendar in front of you allows you to keep people focussed on the path, and avoid falling into the trap of implementing one small feature that isn’t part of your release criteria. Pure time-based releases, with no features associated, don’t quite work either. The end result is often quite tepid, a product of the release process rather than any design by a core team.

I like Joel’s scheduling technique: “If you have a bunch of wood blocks, and you can’t fit them into a box, you have two choices: get a bigger box, or remove some blocks.” That is, you can mix a time-based and feature-based schedule. You plan features, giving each one a priority. You start at the top and work your way down the list. At the feature freeze date, you run a project review. If a feature is finished, or will be finished (at a sufficient quality level) in time for release, it’s in. If it won’t realistically be finished in time for the release date, it’s bumped. That way, you stick to your schedule (mostly), and there is a motivation to start working on the biggest wood blocks (the most important features) first.

A recent article on lessons learned over years of Bugzilla development by Max Kanat-Alexander made an interesting suggestion which makes a lot of sense to me – at the point you decide to feature freeze and bump features, it may be better to create a release branch for stabilisation work, and allow the trunk to continue in active development. The potential cost of this is a duplication of work merging unfinished features and bug fixes into both branches, the advantage is it allows someone to continue working on a bumped feature while the team as a whole works towards the stable release.

Near term, mid term, long term

The Inkscape roadmap from 2005 is a thing of beauty. The roadmap mixes beautifully long-term goals with short-term planning. Each release has a by-line, a set of one or two things which are the main focus of the release. Some releases are purely focussed on quality. Others include important features. The whole thing feels planned. There is a vision.

But as you come closer and closer to the current work, the plans get broken down, itemised further. The BHAGs of a release in 2 years gets turned into a list of sub-features when it’s one year away, and each of those features gets broken down further as a developer starts planning and working on it.

The fractal geometer in me identifies this as a scaling phenomenon – coding software is like zooming in to a coastline and measuring its length. The value you get when measuring with a 1km long ruler is not the same as with a 1m ruler. And as you get closer and closer to writing code, you also need to break down bigger tasks into smaller tasks, and smaller tasks into object design, then coding the actual objects and methods. Giving your roadmap this sense of scope allows you to look up and see in the distance every now and again.

Keep it accurate

A roadmap is a living document. The best reason to go into no detail at all for  future releases beyond specifying a theme is that you have no idea yet how long things will take to do when you get there. If you load up the next version with features, you’re probably aiming for a long death-march in the project team.

The inaccurate roadmap is an object of ridicule, and a motivation killer. If it becomes clear that you’re not going to make a date, change the date (and all the other dates in consequence). That might also be a sign that the team has over-committed for the release, and an opportunity to bump some features.

Leave some empty seats

In community projects, new contributors often arrive who would like to work on features, but they don’t know where to start. There is an in-place core team who are claiming features for the next release left & right, and the new guy doesn’t know what to do. “Fix some bugs” or “do some documentation” are common answers for many projects including GNOME (with the gnome-love keyword in Bugzilla) and LibreOffice (with the easy hacks list). Indeed, these do allow you to get to know the project.

But, as has often been said, developers like to develop features, and sometimes it can be really hard what features are important to the core team. This is especially true with commercial software developers. The roadmap can help.

In any given release, you can include some high priority features – stuff that you would love to see happen – and explicitly marked as “Not taken by the core team”. It should be clear that patches of a sufficiently high standard implementing the feature would be gratefully accepted. This won’t automatically change a new developer into a coding ninja, nor will it prevent an ambitious hacker from biting off more than he can chew, but it will give experienced developers an easy way to prove themselves and earn their place in the core team, and it will also provide some great opportunities for mentoring programs like the Google Summer of Code.

The Subversion roadmap, recently updated by the core team, is another example of best practice in this area. In addition to a mixed features & time based release cycle, they maintain a roadmap which has key goals for a release, but also includes a separate list of high priority features.

The end result: Visibility

The end result of a good roadmap process is that your users know where they stand, more or less, at any given time. Your developers know where you want to take the project, and can see opportunities to contribute. Your core team knows what the release criteria for the next release are, and you have agreed together mid-term and long-term goals for the project that express your common vision. As maintainer, you have a powerful tool to explain your decisions and align your community around your ideas. A good roadmap is the fertile soil on which your developer community will grow.

Why I disagree with RMS concerning Mono

freesoftware, gimp, gnome, maemo, openwengo 43 Comments

The GNOME press contact alias got a mail last weekend from Sam Varghese asking about the possibility of new Mono applications being added to GNOME 3.0, and I answered it. I didn’t think much about it at the time, but I see now that the reason Sam was asking was because of Richard Stallman’s recent warnings about Mono – Sam’s article has since appeared with the ominous looking title “GNOME 3.0 may have more Mono apps“. And indeed it may. It may also have more alien technology, we’re not sure yet. We’re still working on an agreement with the DoD to get access to the alien craft in Fort Knox.

Anyway – that aside, Richard’s position is that it’s dangerous to include Mono to the point where removing it is difficult, should that become necessary to legally distribute your software. On the surface, I agree. But he goes a little further, saying that since it is dangerous to depend on Mono, we should actively discourage its use. And on this point, we disagree.

I’m not arguing that we should encourage its use either, but I fundamentally disagree with discouraging someone from pursuing a technology choice because of the threat of patents. In this particular case, the law is an ass. The patent system in the United States is out of control and dysfunctional, and it is bringing the rest of the world down with it. The time has come to take a stand and say “We don’t care about patents. We’re just not going to think about them. Sue us if you want.”

The healthy thing to do now would be to provoke a test case of the US patent system. Take advantage of one of the many cease & desist letters that get sent out for vacuous patented technology to make a case against the US PTO’s policy pertaining to software and business process patents. Run an “implement your favourite stupid patent as free software” competition.

In all of the projects that I have been involved in over the years, patent fears have had a negative affect on developer productivity and morale. In the GIMP, we struggled with patent issues related to compression algorithms for GIF and TIFF, colour management, and for some plug-ins. In GNOME, it’s been Mono mostly, but also MP3, and related (and unrelated) issues have handicapped basic functionality like playing DVDs for years. In Openwengo, the area of audio and video codecs is mined with patent restrictions, including the popular codecs G729 and H264 among others.

What could we have achieved if standards bodies had a patent pledge as part of their standardisation process, and released reference implementations under an artistic licence? How much further along would we be if cryptography, filesystems, codecs and data compression weren’t so heavily handicapped by patents? Or if we’d just ignored the patents and created clean-room implementations of these patented technologies?

That’s what I believe we need to do. Ignore the patent system completely. I believe strongly in respecting licencing requirements related to third party products and developer packs. I think it’s reasonable to respect people’s trademarks and trade secrets. But having respect for patents, and the patent system, is ridiculous. Let a thousand flowers bloom, and let the chips fall where they may.

So if you want to write a killer app in Mono, then don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you build it, they will come.

OpenWengo not in limbo

General, openwengo, wengo, work 2 Comments

I have seen a meme spread over the past few days which I’d like to correct, and hopefully nip in the bud.

The OpenWengo project did not die with the withdrawl of Wengo. Nor is it in limbo.

The torch has been passed. (PDF) Finally, in late January, the news was announced. The project has a new maintainer, Vadim Lebedev of MBDSys. Vadim has been involved in the project from the beginning – he was hired by Wengo to write the back-end code for the first prototype. His company has experience providing customisation services on top of the software. He’s absolutely the best person for the job.

I have known this for several weeks, but was asked not to announce it until an agreement had been reached between Wengo and MBDSys. I alluded to this, as Marco indicated in his blog entry, in my previous entries on the subject, as well as in email to the mailing list.

To repeat myself: this is the great thing about free software – the project can outlive the founder. Spencer Kimball and Peter Mathis lost interest in the GIMP – it took 6 months to get over that speedbump, but the project outlived them. If Alfresco goes out of business, there are enough individuals and companies invested in the project that it will live on.

Wengo has withdrawn from the OpenWengo project, and yet development continues, people are still investing in it, volunteers are still working on it. Life goes on.

Welcome to the new way of doing things.

Breaking my silence

freesoftware, openwengo, wengo, work 10 Comments

For the past few weeks (actually, the past couple of months) I’ve been holding my tongue waiting for things to clear up a bit in relation to work. I now have a pretty good idea of where I’m at, and so the time has come to break silence and reveal all.

Along with a number of my ex-colleagues, I was laid off by Wengo last November. Recently, that was noticed by a journalist who follows the OpenWengo project and got announced on the community mailing list.

At the time of the lay-off, a number of us had planned to take over maintainership of the project, move the hosting somewhere else, redo a web-site, and create a company around the project (with the business model of providing customisation services and support). Unfortunately, for a number of reasons I won’t go into, after 5 weeks of work on the new company, that fell through. And so, at the beginning of last month, I started looking around for an alternative solution that I could announce to the OpenWengo community, and to companies building offerings on top of the software.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing explicit I can say yet – the people concerned are still in discussions – but it’s looking like the OpenWengo project will not remain without a maintainer for long. As well as a lot of interest from a number of different companies, there are a number of people in the community who have proposed to pull in the slack, if needs be. That is the great thing about free software – AbiWord didn’t die with Abisource, Mozilla didn’t die with AOL’s withdrawl, and OpenWengo will survive without Wengo.

And so what about me? Well, I still plan to be involved in OpenWengo, in some way. I’m waiting, in some sense, for the battle lines to be redrawn and for procedural questions to be worked out, but I am still interested in working with companies who want OpenWengo customisations, and I plan on helping the project towards its next stable release (2.2) and beyond, on helping the community overcome the tricky step of whether or not to move to the new data model and engine CoIP Manager.

Aside from that, I now have to make a living somehow. And I’ll tell you more about that in a little while.

links for 2007-07-17

freesoftware, General, openwengo 7 Comments

Not going to LRL

openwengo 3 Comments

In spite of my best intentions, I won’t be going to Lug Radio Live this year to represent OpenWengo.

The official reason is that it’s only 2 weeks before the birth of our third child, and I can’t justify going away for a day & a half during a weekend that close to the “quick, call a taxi” date.

However the real reason is because I was afraid of all the abuse I would get from the LugRadio crowd – a taster of which I got from Stuart “Aq” Langridge upon hearing that I was cancelling:

Well then you are a useless Irish bastard and we are never going to speak to you again, you pig-holding arse.

Yes, that’s right, I am an arse that can hold a pig.

Thanks to Stuart for putting into my mind the image of two beautiful plump rosy bum-cheeks grabbing a poor defenseless squealing piglet. It’s enough to give you nightmares.

links for 2007-06-18

openwengo, wengo Comments Off

JLM 2007

marketing, openwengo 3 Comments

I got back to Lyon on Saturday evening after 3 days in Martigues (sun, sea, sand) and a quick trip to the “Journées du Libre à Montpellier” 2007 – a local conference organised by the ALL (Association des Logiciels Libres).

It was a very nice conference – apart from the small detail that they forgot me. Well, all’s well that ends well.

I had a nice meal & conversation on Friday evening with some members of the association (lightning struck twice – I was forgotten again) and other invited guests (who weren’t forgotten).

I was especially impressed by the president of the association, who is a fan of martial arts – he is a 1st dan black belt in Aikido and Kendo (which is his favourite) as well as having skillz in jujitsu and judo.

So I forgave him for forgetting me.

I learned the difference between a “jitsu” (dangerous) and a “do” (less dangerous).

For example, “Kenjitsu” was the art of sabre fighting, “Kendo” is the art of fighting with bamboo sticks. “Jujitsu” is a vicious fighting style with kicks, punches, chokes & holds, and “judo” just keeps the holds.

On Saturday, I caught up with Frédéric Couchet and Pascal Chevreul, from APRIL and Mozilla respectively, and saw Richard Stallman give a presentation on free software in French.

I was also very pleased to meet Thierry Stoer from formats-ouverts.org for the first time, after several email conversations.

My presentation of the WengoPhone in the demo space attracted a nice crowd and went pretty well – VoIP is a big topic at the moment and lots of people wanted to know how to hook their home Asterisk up to the Wengo service, or how to make video calls. A nice feature people seemed interested in was the file transfer (which is funny, since it’s not one of those features I use a lot, or consider important) and having a real phone number for people to call you on your VoIP phone.

The presentation afterwards got a lot more attention that me – someone showed off all of the free software games that are available these days, from Neverball and X-Moto through FPS games and flight sims, and brought people up from the crowd to show off. Good fun.

After my presentation I gave a short interview with FreeNews and Divergence FM, media partners for the event. I’ll post links when they have it online.

Journées du Libre à Montpellier

francais, marketing, openwengo, work 1 Comment

I was going to blog about my demo/presentation of OpenWengo at the Journées du Libre à Montpellier, but it seems like I’m not on the agenda, in spite of having had a session accepted.

I don’t know whether I’ll still go or not – but I’m a bit annoyed about being forgotten.

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