Open Source Parenting at OSCON 2013?

5:03 pm community, freesoftware

The OSCON 2013 Call for Participation just opened and the list of tracks this year is mostly the same as last year. I am a touch disappointed, because I suggested to some of the conference chairs that a track I’d love to see, and which I think would get lots of attention, would be on how we grown-up hackers ensure that we’re growing the next generation of open source hackers. In other words, as a parent, tips on sharing our passion for technology and the open source, free software, hacker ethos with our kids.

This generally fits into the “Geek lifestyle” theme, which is the most marginal of the tracks, but I bet that if there’s a critical mass of quality proposals on the topic, that we could have a separate open source parenting track at OSCON – and it would be standing room only all week.

Some things I would love to talk about or hear people talk about:

  • Hackable living space – teaching kids they can control their environments
  • Preschool engineering – toys and games that teach your child to hack before they can walk
  • My First Electronics Kit – How my son and I learned how to make a solar powered car from scavenged parts
  • Teaching kids to hack – coding literacy in K12

And anything else which gives me ideas for projects I can do with the kids and their friends, or that I can bring to the local school.

Wouldn’t that be the coolest track *ever*? All it needs to happen is to totally blind-side the conference chairs with a dozen high quality proposals that no-one could possibly refuse! Who’s with me? Won’t somebody please think of the children?!?


5 Responses

  1. Skud Says:


    I think this is a great idea, but I think it’s important to consider who’s doing the parenting and whether *all* of their experiences will form part of this.

    In my time running the Geek Feminism blog and wiki ( I’ve heard of many situations in which women are less able to hack on open source after having kids due to unequal childcare demands, are refused entry to or told they shouldn’t attend open source events with their babies, or are treated as axiomatically unable to understand technology the minute they have children (“So simple your mother could use it”).

    If we’re going to talk about open source parenting, we should make sure that these women’s voices are heard too, and that they are able to attend the conference and be a part of this parenting track. That might mean making OSCON a child-friendly space, and/or providing childcare, which I realise is generally considered a Hard Problem in tech conference organising. However, until we deal with it, we’re going to see a very odd imbalance in the conversation about open source parenting.

    Here are a few pages about open source/geek parenting and related issues that might be of interest (sorry, I know this will wind up in a spam filter because of all the links, hopefully you can fish it out):

  2. Larry Cafiero Says:

    Glad to see this, Dave. The Southern California Linux Expo — SCALE for those of you keeping score at home — initiated a youth track called “SCALE: The Next Generation” last year. It will be an integral part of the upcoming SCALE 11X, held in February 2013 in Los Angeles. There will be a Call for Papers for kids to present coming out shortly.

  3. lamefun Says:

    It’s also that school system is against the spirit of freedom.

    1. It doesn’t allow children to control their own learning.

    2. It thaches children that they can’t be trusted, that they have to be forced into learning.

    3. It teaches children that they must be watched, that it’s good for them.

    4. It teaches children that they can only help their friends when it’s allowed to by authorities (eg. not on exams).

    5. It teaches children that the only acceptable motivation is grades/money.

    Stuff to read about that:

    Freedom to learn
    Student Liberation

  4. lamefun Says:

    I think that Free Software activists should think of cooperating anti-school activists, as education system that teaches the spirit of freedom instead of spirit of slavery is needed to secure the freedom of future generations.

  5. Jenn Greenaway Says:

    Hi Dave,
    You might be interested in an upcoming talk at SCALE 11X (February 22-24, Hilton LAX) entitled “Your Baby Can Hack: Successfully Fostering the Next Generation of Geeks” :). I’ll be speaking about how children learn and how open source software is uniquely suited to help develop the skills that will make them successful critical thinkers.