Off to Desktop Summit!

I’m leaving this afternoon to fly overnight to Berlin for the Desktop Summit! I’m really excited to meet everybody I haven’t already met, and I’m thinking of the conference as my real orientation. So please come and say hi (and feel free to give me any advice you may have)!

As I was finishing packing and getting ready to run out the door, I noticed the recent news around Linus Torvalds’ negative discussion of GNOME 3, so I’m taking an extra few minutes to think out loud here. As I said in my OSCON keynote, our software must be easy to use by all. As I understand it, the GNOME 3 redesign was largely based on usability studies on ordinary people. Folks that are deeply entrenched in what we had before can’t be the target of something new like this, and we must take risks in order to succeed. We won’t be able to make everyone happy, but all of the reports I’ve heard from people who switched to GNOME 3 and stuck with it for a little while had pretty positive responses, given how new it is. I think it takes a while to get used to but more importantly, we have to think about the changes needed for our software to be relevant to more than just hard core hackers. What GNOME 3 is trying to accomplish is really big.

I think it’s important to remember that it’s still early days. Lots of people are using GNOME 3 and loving it, lots of people haven’t really tried it because they don’t want to switch distros, and lots of people haven’t really given it enough use to see whether they will like it once they’ve gotten over their first reactions and adjusted to the change. I myself have one computer running fedora with GNOME 3 and another running debian and GNOME 2 (which is the one I’ll travel with as it’s lighter). I look forward to trying out other distros too.

All of that said, feedback on GNOME 3 is essential, and I think it’s going to be one of the hot topics of discussion at the Summit.

This is probably all too quickly written, and I hope some GNOME developers can respond too. I look forward to talking to you in Berlin!

OSCON report, part 2!

I had two sessions at OSCON. One was an introductory legal talk that I co-presented with Aaron Williamson (that we proposed back when I was working at SFLC), and the second was on the keynote track on Friday. For the keynote, I was given a lot of leeway in choosing my topic. I won the award for my legal work, especially for the work on medical devices, so I felt that there was an expectation that I talk about that topic. But I also wanted to talk about GNOME, since that’s where I’m now focusing my attention.

After much thought and agonizing, I realized that the point of my medical devices talk — that we depend on software and will only be safe over time if it’s free and open — in fact logically leads back to the desktop. As the software that we rely on becomes more widespread and more fully integrated in our lives, as *everyone* expects to be able to use their computers smoothly, easily and for *everything*, it’s essential that we choose free and open platforms. I think it fit nicely into a 15 minute talk to just introduce the concepts. Plus, it gave me the chance to tell everybody what it was like to become a cyborg!

O’Reilly has posted the video of the talk on YouTube. If you don’t like YouTube, we included the audio from the speech in the latest episode of Free as in Freedom, an oggcast/audcast/podcast I co-host with Bradley Kuhn. We also discussed the talk and OSCON generally.

I got great feedback on the keynote session. The medical devices issue is such an emotional one, and so basic that it allows everyone to understand the importance of free and open source software. I’m happy I was able to give a talk that motivates people towards freedom and shamelessly promotes GNOME 3. I’ve already been invited to give it at other conferences that aren’t about free and open source sofware! I’m going to work on a full length presentation that doesn’t spend as much time on my own experience with medical devices but explores the various ways in which we are coming to rely on ordinary and integrated software.

The conference organizers didn’t record the session with Aaron, but we did and we will make it available on a future ‘cast episode. It’s a laid back presentation of some basic legal concepts. We had a fun discussion, and though we didn’t get as far as we would have liked to into the material, the audience was very engaged and had a lot of questions. I’m always excited to have these kinds of basic conversations in public so that more people can benefit from them.

Work kept me from getting to all of the talks that I wanted to get to, but that’s always the issue with conferences.
At any rate I’m very much looking forward to the Desktop Summit next week! I leave for Berlin the day after tomorrow…