linux.conf.au is an amazing event. I did not truly appreciate this fact until LCA2009 in Hobart. I had a brilliant time at the conference, saw some good sessions, caught up with fantastic people, and generally basked in the giddy reality of a total lack of responsibility for anything. Ghosts never mentioned the intoxicating feeling one has at the conference immediatly following the one you've organised.
Even still, I had my share of tasks...interspersed with frivolity and freedom.
2 weeks ago today, Rusty asked me to help out with the newcomers session, it's been reported it wasn't as good as the year before, so I'll take the blame for that. The 2008 Newcomers session was co-presented by Kelly Yeoh - and she and Rusty did a great job. I still reckon this is a worthwhile addition to the LCA program, and would be happy to continue to improve it! If you're wondering about LCA, and what to expect, Simon Lyall's First Timers Guide is also excellent. I've also heard comments from a couple of seasoned conference goers who were experiencing LCA for the first time say what a phenomenal event it is. So much fun, and totally unlike any conference they'd been to before. Which begs the question, what makes linux.conf.au so very special? It's hard to pinpoint any one thing.
At the linuxchix miniconf on Monday Pia Waugh, Sara Falamaki, Alice Boxhall and myself introduced ourselves, and our perspectives on evangelising IT for Girls. This was entree to a general discussion on how we can encourage more young women to consider IT and FOSS career and hobby pathways. Notes were taken, and Alice spent a little time post workshop compiling the responses. We hope this will be an ongoing effort to think about the issues, move past the bike shedding and get productive strategies, how-tos and collateral together to engage girls, parents, teachers and careers counsellors to seriously consider technology futures.
Mary's talk on contributing to Free Software was an inspiring profile of a bunch of women I've come to know and respect, and an introduction to a few I don't yet know. I'd seen Jacinta's talk 'On Speaking' before, but it is so good I was happy to see it again, and strongly reccomend this be given next year in parallel with the newcomers session for conference speakers. Possibly in conjunction with support from the papers ctte to help new speakers improve their slides and delivery. Unfortunately i missed Claudine's talk - I guess I'll have to get her to repeat it at LUV or barcamp or something ;)
Free as in Freedom
I spent most of Tuesday in Brianna's excellent Free as in Freedom mini-conf. The only criticism I have is that there was considerable overlap of material from talk to talk. Which reminds me that it could be worthwhile to have speakers talk to each other in advance of events such as this in order to compare notes on their material. Perhaps this would give them a chance to collectively build on each others work, rather than cover the same ground. But this adds further complexity to the organisers job and was a minor issue not really requiring massive re-engineering.
Convention of Aussie LUGs
We had an informal lugcomms BoF at lunchtime on Tuesday. This was an opportunity for organisers of linux user groups to meet each other face to face and discuss common issues. Should we have a get together outside of LCA? What can we do to support each other? What's the nature of LUG relationships to Linux Australia? etc etc. Are you involved in running a LUG? We have an irc channel on freenode and a mailing list. Join us on #linux-aus-lugs and http://lists.linux.org.au/listinfo/lugcomms
Sridhar posted some notes to the list
Tuesday finished up at Peppermint Bay for the Speakers Dinner. This was a glorious location reached after a bracing journey on a high speed catamaran down the derwent river. There's a less than glorious photo of me looking like Cousin It beside Linus Torvalds. So much for fan-girling. Entree included gorgeous fresh oysters, and these were fantastic - but the main course seemed a little light on, I later learned we should have had more than one box. Ah well.
The Hallway Track and tooting for Tuz
On Wednesday I managed to go to only one scheduled talk other than the keynote, but had a lot of fun in the infamous hallway track - where one hangs out with others also not attending sessions. I sat in with Jacinta Richardson who was helping Sarah Stokely polish her Crikey talk. The penguin dinner was the stand out event of the day with it's much celebrated and highly successful Charity Auction. Whilst twas wonderful that a great deal of dosh was raised for the tassiedevil, which led to subsequent mainstream media coverage in print and on tv . I'm still not a huge fan of these kinds of things. I suspect I shall just have to keep my contrary views on this to myself in future.
The trouble with tutorials and projectors
After Angela Beesleys Thursday keynote on all things wiki I headed into Walter Bender's talk on the Sugar learning platform. Impressive that he presented using the Turtle Art sugar activity. I spent the next session finalising some stuff for my tutorial - mainly trying to get my laptop to behave and get some resources online for people attending the session to download. I also made a judgement error in agreeing to talk to Andrew and Susanne from the Wellington linux.conf.au 2010 team, so was somewhat more flustered and ill prepared for The Joy of Inkscape than I would have liked to be. This meant my laptop did not want to talk to the projector when I first introduced them. Thankfully a certain Linux kernel developer stepped up from the audience and made them comply.
I've had mixed reports on the success of the tutorial, so I'll post more on that later summarising the valid and constructive points made in the blogosphere and to seek additional feedback. Tutorials at linux.conf.au are a known issue. What should we be aiming for? Should we give up on them and have more talks? Should we have more tutorials scheduled with fewer people attending each? Much room for discussion...
Free Software and Open Standards. A foundation we all share.
From my perspective the next timeslot had the most disappointing clash of the conference. Doubly so since I felt I made the wrong call. I wish I'd gone to see Andy Fitzsimon's treatise on Inkscape's live path effects, an exciting new feature in the dev builds of the app. Instead, i went to Louis Suarez-Potts talk "Where the future lies: OpenOffice.org and the ODF in the world which was radically under pitched for a linux.conf.au audience. It's safe to assume this crowd doesn't need to be convinced of the merits of Free Software or Open Standards. I wish he'd just dived deep into details of the project, community and how to contribute to this major cornerstone application suite for most computer users.
Perhaps this is more food for thought for future paper committees and the speaker liaison. How can we resource our speakers so they understand how much further they can push the boundaries at this conference?
Colour and Collaboration
The final session of the day held a shining pearl of an example of what makes LCA so magic. Jon Cruz speaking on colour management, and why it matters. Walter Bender was also in the audience and suggested we should look at Munsell Colour - and Jon has since started hacking on including a munsell colour picker in Inkscape. I had asked about the fact that colour is not Free. It is enslaved by a mob called Pantone, and software developers need to pay to include those colours in software, and as Pantone's colours are so widely used by printers and graphic designers this is a critical hole in our tool chain. Knowing about alternatives, and sharing those, is as important a crusade as that being made for Free fonts - one that Pascal Klein has joined with some gusto! Viva la libre graphics revolution. The BoF didn't eventuate to much, other than a suggestion we put together a mini-conf proposal for next year, and perhaps start working towards a Libre Graphics Meeting Down Under.
Thursday concluded with the Professional Delegates Networking Session, at another great venue - the cascade brewery. Was an enjoyable evening, but I didn't manage to give away all my business cards, despite trying to do so. Got distracted talking to people, eating and drinking. Oh my.
Ben and Leah - take a bow!
On Friday I managed to see nothing except the conference close and the lightning talks and the announcement of location for 2010. A well deserved standing ovation for the Tassie team, and especially its fearless leaders, Ben and Leah brought a tear to my eye. They did a magnificent job putting on a great conference. Without doubt, the best in the world.
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