Montreal Summit report

The Montreal Summit turned out to be a very fun and productive gathering last weekend. With the 3.2 release behind us, much of the discussions were at a pretty high level, and there was a lot of discussion about the state of GNOME and its path going forward. This was reflected in both the technical and non-technical sessions that were held.

The team present went through all of the features for GNOME 3.3/3.4 and discussed kicking off the 3.3 cycle generally. The discussion dovetailed nicely with the discussions currently underway on the mailing lists. There were presentations on Baserock by Lars Wirzenius, jhbuild by Colin Walters, as well as a number of sessions that facilitated discussion on matters related to GNOME strategy, one on the application menu, with canonical contributing a good chunk of code toward an improved application menu, and one led by Marina Zhurakhinskaya on Google’s Summer of Code program and how to improve and maximize GNOME’s participation in it. There was a lot of great brainstorming and coming to agreement on all sorts of issues. There was so much going on that even though the event wasn’t huge there were some people there that I never even got the chance to talk to and I’m sure there was a lot accomplished that I didn’t even know about (for example, Olivier Crête tells me that he made a fix to again allow the use of the free Theora codec for VoIP calls in Empathy). Other blogs by GNOME hackers give more detailed views on their participation at the Summit:

  • Matthias Clasen blogged about his work during and after the Summit to modernize the deprecation system in GLib and GTK+ by using annotations.
  • Frederic Peters wrote an overview.
  • Jean-François Fortin Tam wrote about his experience at the Summit, including talking to Olivier Crète, Guillaume Desmottes, Robert Ancell and others including me!
  • Tiffany Antopolski recapped the GNOME strategy session.
  • Behdad Esfahbod pointed out that there were quite a few new participants that got their start with the GNOME Women’s Outreach Program.

Many thanks to the sponsors who made this event possible:

Some of the things I’ve worked on recently

Here’s a quick list of some of the things that come to mind that I’ve worked on in the last two weeks:

  • GNOME 3.2 release press
  • helped with organization of the Montreal Summit. I also have been trying to book my travel to go but it’s been extremely difficult – I can get a flight late enough to Burlington, VT (only 2 hours away!) that will allow me to accommodate yom kippur but it turns out that the rental car companies all close right when I’d land, and there are no hotels or b&bs available that are accessible by cab. If I fly Sunday morning directly to Montreal or to Burlington, I’ll get in so late it probably doesn’t make sense to go. Any ideas I’m missing? now made possible, thanks to a suggestion by Marina!
  • talked to a few reporters about medical devices and also GNOME.
  • talked to our bank about fraudulent checks that have been sent out, appearing like they are from GNOME. Rosanna took good steps already to ensure that the checks can’t be cashed, but I talked to the bank about whether they can investigate the matter. They’re completely not set up to do run an investigation like that, which is fascinating. I think it reflects the fact that there is so much fraud that they can only cooperate with the authorities when they are investigating, not take any independent initiatives. Fraud of this kind is just so common.
  • worked on scheduling a meeting time for the marketing team – if you’d like to help out with marketing, join the list!
  • followed up on outstanding invoices to GNOME
  • helped with the Q2 report

And it’s not something I worked on, but last week was rosh hashanah – happy new year everyone! I hope this year is a good one for GNOME.

Some of the things I’ve worked on recently

It’s been a fun past two weeks, other than being sick (which was a good time to think about copyright assignment – that’s what people do when they’re sick, right?) Anyway, some of the things I’ve worked on:

  • got started on the press release for GNOME 3.2 – it’s very exciting, I can’t wait for the release next week!
  • called and emailed a couple of advisory board members, which resulted in some great brainstorming about GNOME
  • emailed new GNOME Foundation members to congratulate and welcome them. To be a Foundation member requires prior contribution to GNOME, so almost everyone I emailed has been actively engaged in the GNOME community well before I became Executive Director. Still, participation in the nonprofit as an actual member is a special thing. Since the members elect the board of directors, it’s the members that truly set the direction of the Foundation.
  • helped answer questions about the proper use of GNOME’s logo under our trademark guidelines for third parties. There’s more work to be done here, as good questions were raised about GNOME’s trademarks in response to a proposal I made on foundation-list to improve the guidelines.
  • helped with some of the logistics regarding the Montreal Summit (and made a few last efforts at organizing it in Boston). I also helped with the logistics of a couple of not-organized-yet events
  • helped SFLC work on a couple of issues that may affect all free software nonprofits, including GNOME. SFLC also helped GNOME with issues it had outstanding this week (it’s great when free software nonprofits work together!)
  • worked on a few press opportunities – more coming on those soon!

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…

Some things I’ve done so far

So we’re just over 3 weeks into my full time stint at GNOME. I feel a little bad about the fact that it’s taken me so long to get a blog going, but it took some time to settle on a name and make a hackergotchi that looked at least ok! (I won’t list these as accomplishments…)

I think for the next couple of weeks I may just post a few things now and again as I remember them so you can get an idea of what I’m working on as I get oriented. I’m still very new, and even though I’ve been involved with GNOME as a lawyer for a couple of years, I’m really still learning about the Foundation, the community and the software (though I should note that I have been a user and fan for over five years).

So, in no particular order, a few of the things I’ve done:

* I set up quite a lot of calls with people in the GNOME community – some contributors and some advisory board member representatives. There will be many more of these to come I think. (I hope! So far it’s very helpful to hear from people what they’re thinking about GNOME)

* I contacted someone using the GNOME name in a domain name and reminded them of our trademark guidelines. After some initial fuss, they agreed to transfer the domain name. I’ve got a few more of these to do. They take some research to be confident that you’ve got your facts right before writing. And hopefully these people will channel those efforts to contributing to GNOME.

* I got the foundation unsuspended in the state of California (this is where being a lawyer helps!) Due to I think a very old situation of missed filings, this needed to be corrected. Thanks to James Vasile and Marc Miller at SFLC and Rosanna Yuen at GNOME

* I read up on git. Yes, I’ve been an svn user primarily in the past, so it was time. That and I need to update GNOME’s website.

* I did some prep work for the panel I’m moderating at the Desktop Summit on Copyright Assignment, a very hot topic these days.

* I talked to Marina about the great work she and Stormy and a lot of others have done with the GNOME Women’s Outreach Program. I was totally inspired by the program and its success so far. We talked about what we can do at the Desktop Summit, and we contacted Claudia, Lydia and Celeste at KDE, about setting up a joint Women’s Networking BoF. I’m really looking forward to it.

* Attended my first board meeting and my first advisory board meeting (the advisory board meeting was on my first day). I also got to my new role just in time to welcome the new board to *their* new positions. The old board deserves a lot of thanks for their hard work, and I hope to learn from both the outgoing and incoming board members.

* I set up some interviews and other speaking engagements. I’ll post about those here as they happen! for now you can read the interview I did with Joe ‘Zonker’ Brockmeier.

I’ve of course been up to more than that in these three and a half weeks — these are just a few of the things that come to mind. Now that I’ve got a space to talk about them, I’ll try to write about things more as they happen.