The Codebreakers

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I got around to watching this programme by the BBC (made for BBC World, and it shows) on free software recently, and it’s pretty interesting – it’s an overview from 20,000 feet of the world of free software and the breakthroughs we’ve made with the public sector in developing countries and established IT giants.

I found it through the Weekly Squeak, which also links to an article called “Breaking Barriers” (PDF, 1MB) which talks about a lot of what we know already – how and why free software is helping bridge the digital divide.

Jono the madman

General 4 Comments

On the day of my birthday (by complete coincidence, I assure you), Jono Bacon will complete yet another mad and brilliant scheme – he’s recording an entire album with 7 tracks in 24 hours on his own for charity (and releasing it under CC BY-NS-SA).

I’ve been talking about easy ways to do outreach recently – and this ain’t easy. But I definitely feel he’s underestimating his potential – he’s set his goal at £1000 when I am sure that he will get at least 5 times that (so prove me right!) – he’s already over £250 a couple of hours after announcing the insane trip.

I hope he gets some attention for this on the day, and gets to talk a bit about Creative Commons and why it’s good for everyone that we be allowed to build on our shared history and culture. Who knows – maybe he’ll get invited to play a track live on the night?

Update: The next morning, Jono’s up to £516 (the not-round-figure is due to Travis Reitter, who donated £51 just to get to the top of the list – quick, someone donate £52!)

Update 2: I’m not going to do this every day, but Jono’s now up to £821 after 3 days. Keep the support coming!

FOSDEM over. Home again.

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Home again. Tired. Got in around midnight last night, and after giving the boys hugs (without waking them up) and unpacking, I got to bed around 1.

I think the “Why do we do it” talk was well received again – but I guess I will need some of the people who were there to comment on that. There’s a lot on how you actually get involved – I compare getting involved in a free software project to walking into a party and getting to know everyone.

If you expect people’s first contribution to be on the mailing list, that is roughly the equivalent of having people you don’t know sing kareoke as soon as they arrive at your party. So remember that the people on the other side of the ether are human beings, that we’re shy, can get our feelings hurt, and assume that the person you’re talking to doesn’t know our culture.

Since I’ve been travelling more, the thing more than anything else that I have noticed is the assumptions people make – the things which are self-evident in one culture, and which are completely strange in another. “Well, of course I don’t have to pay when I go to the doctor” would say a Frenchman. “It’s natural that you pay to get healthcare, and pay more to get better healthcare,” an American might say.

Our community has its culture and its assumptions too – sometimes just the fact of identifying them is enough to make people realise they’re not necessarily true.

And yes, I still think we’re working on free software because we are changing the world.

FOSDEM

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It’s Sunday afternoon in FOSDEM, and I’m just adding one or two slides to compliment the presentation I’m giving this afternoon – which gives me a minute to sit down and think on everything that’s happened since we got here.

I travelled to FOSDEM with Mathieu Stute of OpenWengo on the surprisingly fast Thalys, which gave me a chance to write my presentation on “Developing GNOME through marketing and outreach” (shortened to “Marketing GNOME” on the title slide).

Thanks to Bader for proving one of my early points after the talk – he said “you know you didn’t talk about marketing, you talked about promotion”. We spend too much time talking about metaphysical questions like “what is GNOME” and “what is marketing”, and not enough time actually making the easy wins in outreach. The main point I wanted to get through with this presentation are that there are lots of ways that grass-roots movements can do outreach, but that we have now got most of the useful infrastructure in place to allow the project as a whole to benefit from that outreach, and create the feedback loop which will improve GNOME over time.

Some simple things that you can do as an individual:

  • Talk to your local council and get in contact with their CTO to see if there are plans to use free software
  • Talk to the college professor you know asking if he’d like to have students do a free-software related project next year
  • Offer to do a talk to the local LUG/college computer club on free software and GNOME
  • Write articles for the local paper/magazines
  • Ask local magazine editors if they’d like to include a GNOME LiveCD or OpenCD on their cover

All of these things come from the same principle – people aren’t aware that there are free software community members everywhere – a local counsil would like to use some stuff, but they don’t know about the local LUG, and no-one’s thought to go and talk to them. Magazine editors are looking for content, but don’t know who to ask. Trade stands are being organised, and people ask the GNOME Foundation if we can run a stand, the answer is almost always “I don’t know”.

I also gave a lightning talk on OpenWengo which was well received, I think – and I’ve had lots of chats at various stages with Yannick from Nokia and Simon and Daff from Collabora about Telepathy and its relationship to OpenWengo.

Yesterday evening, had a good dinner (expensive, and not very copious, but nice) with a bunch of people from the FLOSSFoundations group – I don’t remember all the names, but Gerv from MoFo, Allison Randall from TPF, Cornelius and Sebastien from KDE eV, Greg Stein, Sander Striker, colmmacc and others from the Apache Foundation, and Leslie from the Google Summer of Code were there – we had a good & varied chat which went from energy through to hacking, accountants, trademarks (as usual) and governance. Oh – and Belgian beer.

Today is chill-out day in FOSDEM – everyone’s a little dehydrated, a little hung over and a little tired – which makes for a nice chilled atmosphere. I am still getting over people walking around at 10 in the morning with a bottle of Orval in their hand…

For those wondering, I didn’t manage to get up and get running at 7am on Saturday. I finally got on the road about 7.45 – and planned on running a little over an hour just to tread water for the week. In the end, I got lost in the outskirts of Brussels (running South on the East side of the park, rather than North on the West side), and ended up running about 11 miles, which is close enough to keep me on schedule for the marathon.

Free software whoring

gnome, openwengo 4 Comments

Bryce Harrington has written a very thought-provoking blog on running free software communities. An extract:

The way to maximize the value gained by a FLOSS project is to grease up the skids and make it extremely easy for new users to begin contributing. Sure, 90% can’t, 9% won’t, 0.9% will but not very much, but that last 0.1% can well be worth it. […] Don’t think of the free desktop simply as an alternative to proprietary desktops. Instead think of it as a platform for large scale open collaboration. […] Take the rules, tools, architectures, and lessons we’ve gained in software collaboration and recast them for “data development”, and I think the free desktop’s success will be impossible to stop.

Worth a read, especially as a binome to Ben Collins-Sussman and Brian Fitzpatrick’s “Poisonous People” talk.

Marathon training

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For the past while, I have been running quite a bit, in training for a marathon. I have no idea why – I was never a fan of jogging – but the idea of running a marathon started teasing me last Summer, and I finally decided I was going to do one. At the point where I went searching for candidates, and chose the lucky winner, the Annecy Marathon on the 29th of April, the die were cast and there’s no turning back.

To get into the habit of running, I trained for and ran the Marseille-Cassis on Hallowe’en weekend – I got through the 21 kms in 2 hours and 1 minute (I beat the 2 hour pace-maker by a couple of minutes, she had faded in the heat at the end). The unusual think about the Marseille-Cassis is that you start at an elevation of 0, between kilometers 6 and 10 you climb from 100m to 320m elevation, and then from kilometers 16 to 20, you go back down to 0 again. It’s very tough on the knees and hips, but great fun.

Next weekend, in Brussels, I will be asking myself whether this is worth it – will the madness ever end. I have a 21km run to do according to the Hal Higdon training schedule I’m doing my best not to ignore, and I’m planning on doing it in Brussels early Saturday morning (with thanks to Martin Sevior for the link to the very useful gmaps-pedometer site).

How early? I figure if I want to be at the conference for 10am, I will have to be running by 7. So getting up at 6.30 ought to do the trick.

Which brings me to ask myself: is it marathon or masothon?

Get a First Life and the SecondLife trademarks

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I am not a Second Life resident, and so far I have not had the inclination to become one. But this message from Linden Labs in response to the very funny parody site Get a First Life brought a big broad smile to my face – and gives me ideas about the ways in which the GNOME Foundation should be handling trademark issues. Talk about turning an opportunity for bad press into good press.

(via Jim Fruchterman of Benetech, one of my heros)

FOSTEL 2007 in Paris

openwengo 2 Comments

I’ve been quietly pulling the threads together in the organisation of Yet Another Summit over the past few weeks – FOSTEL 2007 will be held in Paris, France on the 4th and 5th of April.

FOSTEL 2007

The summit will follow a similar format to the one which worked so well during the Libre Graphics Meeting last year – a small number of quality presentations on the major themes of the conference, with lots of time & space to meet people, have BOFs, hackfests, interoperability sessions and other fun stuff.

The guiding light for the summit is communication with free software. The main themes for the summit are telephony, VoIP and messaging.

A good number of interesting participants and projects are already committed to attending, with more and more confirming each day.

If you’d like to come, sign up to the wiki and the fostel-list@fostel.org mailing list, where all the fun announcements are going to go.

If you want more information, or would like to help out with the organisation (I need all the help I can get!), or need financial help getting to the conference, mail me at any of the addresses that Google turns up. If the spammers can find me, then so can you ;-)

Mad Props Eitan and Brad

gnome, maemo, marketing 1 Comment

During SCALE, Eitan Isaacson and Brad Taylor were demo animals on the GNOME stand (photo shamelessly linked from Scott Ruecker’s LXer article series) – I failed miserably to make good on my promise to spend at least a half-day on the stand – in the end, I was there for about an hour showing off the N800’s Jingle video call capability with Eitan, and demoing Dasher’s text input reasonably successfully.

At the end of Sunday, I was caught up jabbering away to people, and didn’t even get a chance to clean up the stand & say goodbye.

So – thanks Eitan and Brad, and goodbye :) See you both next year?

Update: I found a nicer picture (with me in it) from Celeste Paul of KDE-usability – we had a nice chat and messed about with the Nokia N800s we had quite a bit. Yes, I know I need a haircut, no need to remind me.

SCALE – what a weekend!

gnome, openwengo 2 Comments

I’m just on my way home from LA where I gave a presentation on OpenWengo during SCALE. It was standing-room only, and a bunch of people were sitting down at the back – and aside from the fact that I hit a PortAudio bug which stopped me from actually demoing a phone-call, it went pretty well.

It was good to meet Ted “Bible thumper” Haegar and Erin Quill from Novell (the company everyone loves to hate these days) who gave a very stimulating presentation on Xen.

I know they didn’t notice that I had dozed off (jet-lagged to hell) during their presentation because no-one threw any books at me – unlike the previous evening, when Mr. Jono Bacon demonstrated his over-arm throwing skills to wake me from my gentle slumber. The most amusing things about the incident were the way I didn’t spill my beer (while asleep, or when hit by the book), the bemused and confused look on my face straight afterwards (I honestly had no idea what had happened), and the enthusiastic defense of my cause by the man behind me who wanted to have Jono ejected from the hall (“That was totally uncalled for, man”).

Aside from that, I had a really good chat about community development, Ubuntu, OpenWengo and GNOME with Jono, and I also met up with Jay from MySQL, who does pretty much the same thing there. I also met up with Zonker, who tried to interview me (and discovered my talent for tangents). A great weekend was had, and I hope I will get back next year.

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