"Just leave if you don't like it"

A note on the arguments following Mark Pesce’s keynote. There’s one in particular that bugs me: “just leave if you don’t like it.”

The thing is, it isn’t normal at linux.conf.au (unlike at a Bar Camp) to just exit a talk from, say, the front section in the middle of a row. Unless you are at the very edge of the room, it’s considered rude to just leave, to the point where some speakers or session chairs might actually yell at you. (I had university lecturers do that.) And I suspect LCA, for organisational reasons as well as for speaker comfort, would rather not encourage an atmosphere of people just traipsing in and out of talks through the centre of rooms. So… the environment is (somewhat) coercive: if you don’t like the talk, you have to be actively rude to the speaker and the rest of the audience in protecting yourself from the talk.

If an environment could be created where someone could leave a talk from any place in the audience with a minimum of fuss and without risk of social retribution, and if people really did do so for all kinds of reasons, and thus an exit during Pesce’s talk would not have been immediately visible to everyone as “I have a strangulation phobia, if you would like to bother me in future, please mime strangling me”[1], I’d at least take this argument seriously. But in the LCA context it currently equates to: “don’t like the talk? embarrass yourself and be rude to the speaker!”

(Note to LCA people: I have a comment policy, and if your comment annoys me I won’t publish it.)

[1] I do have a strong reaction to strangulation, although probably not technically phobic, and if anyone uses this information to harass me even as a joke[2], they will not be my friend thereafter.

[2] People who have physical triggers, like having sharp objects pointed at their eyes, or disliking their neck being touched without warning, and who admit them, do suddenly find that half their acquaintance immediately does that to find out what happens. Consider yourself warned about what will happen.

linux.conf.au 2011: dinner activities

linux.conf.au has a charity auction over dinner. There are various failure modes:

  1. it’s a year of big corporate budgets, so bidding reaches about $5000, no one else can compete, and then it stops
  2. it’s not a year of big corporate budgets, so bidding reaches about $500 from a private individual and then it stops
  3. bids aren’t high enough, so there is some pressure for someone to donate something precious. This was how Bdale Garbee ended up being shaved by Linus Torvalds at linux.conf.au 2009. This can be fun, but it also at least tweaks and sometimes outright triggers people’s fear of coercion (having a lot of drunk people screaming for your beard is definitely coercive).

There’s always been a tradition of large consortia of private individuals forming to try and solve problem #1, in recent years these have even tended to win. The trouble then is what happens to the money that was pledged by losers: at lca2011 (and I think lca2010 too, but I wasn’t there) bids aren’t revocable. The donated money stays donated, the only question is whether you get a prize associated with it.

So far so good for money. And now for entertainment, as Rusty posts. The trouble with lca2011 was that the auction consisted of people walking up to laptops and having their donation amount entered and associated with their team. Running totals were displayed on a graph, but spectacle was lacking.

The ritual humiliation of Linux celebrities does have something in it. But, no more screaming for people’s beards. I think it would be much more appropriate, and probably fun, to organise something in advance to occur at the dinner, with celebrities volunteering. The closest model would be lca2004’s dunking of Linus Torvalds (which was organised in advance, the pressure placed on Torvalds to participate I can’t speak to but he gives the appearance of generally enjoying some mild organised humiliation for the benefit of charity).

Say, as an example, that five developers compete to throw three-pointers (actually, this is probably too hard, in addition to being difficult to stage at a dinner, but never mind). Then there’s a very short pre-planned set of auctions for things like being able to take steps forward to start with, extra shots, probably culminating in the right to substitute, together with a simple “highest amount, yay!” kind of contest. At least one or two bids to allow your celebrity to increase the challenge facing an opponent. Probably five rounds of shots total with bidding in between. You could probably solve some obvious problems (like everyone backing Torvalds or betting against him or whatever) with simple transparent manipulation: Linux Australia increasing their matching donations when tables back their assigned celebrity, or something.

Finally, since this is a developer conference, there should be some kind of application allowing people to pledge using their phones from their tables.

linux.conf.au 2011: lightning talk take homes

As usual some rather important things went on in the lightning talks.

Rusty Russell got irritated at Geoff Huston’s “IPocalypse” keynote (which argued that the last minute no-options-left switch to IPv6 runs the risk of IPv6 being outcompeted by a closed solution) and he got coding. The result is a CCAN module (so, C code) to support simultaneous IPv4 and IPv6 connections, thus not penalising either. He’ll fix the dependency’s licence shortly. It might not work perfectly yet.

Donna Benjamin is trying to raise $7500 to get The National Library of Australia to digitise The Dawn, Louisa Lawson’s journal for women from the nineteenth century.

In intellectual property news (specifically, anti-stronger IP news) Kim Weatherall wants us to worry about the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, which Australia will likely ratify, the Trans-Pacific Trade Agreement, which it would be really great to oppose, the impending result of the Federal Court appeal in the iiNet case, which iiNet may lose, and even if they don’t there will probably be legislative “three strikes” discussion about copyright violation.

linux.conf.au 2011: Day 1

Slow first day for me. I had a stressful Sunday getting a toddler to the airport on my own and Andrew has just flown in from the US.

We weren’t very impressed with our hotel, iStay River City. For starters, it has extremely limited keys. Many, but not all, rooms have two keys, which would be hard enough with four adults per room, but one of the keys for our room is missing, which means one key (and suggests that somewhere out there a former guest still has a working key to our room). The hotel reception wasn’t even sympathetic. People steal our keys all the time! What else are we to do?!

There’s no way to leave a key with reception and get yourself back into the room unless you have a second key to the room. There are buzzers for the rooms, but the reception smilingly conceded that it does only get guests into the lobby. You have to go down the lift yourself to get them up to the room. (Interestingly, this has meant with a lot of confusion from other LCA attendees. “How hard is it to make a new keycard?” Bad assumption. They are using keys, as in, those chunks of metal with notches in them.)

There’s also several things broken in our apartment: a couple of lights, the phone, the bathroom fan.

Anyway, after a restless night, LCA! I mostly spent time at the Haecksen miniconf, although partly working on my laptop in an introversion bubble. I wasn’t really ready, after the travel and the settling in, to sit down and listen to talks well. Some talks I did catch in whole or in part:

  • Pia Waugh Applying martial arts to the workplace: your guide to kicking arse
  • Brianna Laugher An Approach to Automatic Text Generation
  • Andrew Gerrand Practical Go Programming
  • Noirin Shirley Open Source: Saving the World
  • Donna Benjamin We are here. We have always been here
  • Valerie Aurora and Donna Benjamin Training Allies (workshop)

I didn’t really fully follow any of them, except for Training Allies, which is of professional interest to me now. (More on that later, I guess.)

LCA2011: unofficial planet

In lieu of an official Planet site for LCA2011, I’ve set up an unofficial one. http://lcaplanet.puzzling.org/

Q. I want to be on it!

If you would like to add your own blog to the site, please see http://conf.linux.org.au/wiki/Planet for info and contact me in comments if it doesn’t work out.

Q. What happens when there is an official planet?

I’ll add 301 redirects as appropriate as soon as an official planet is announced.

Q. Wait, can this BE the official planet?

LCA organisers, I’m happy to be the official Planet if it makes things easier for you. Get in touch with me.

LCA2011: preliminary picks

One week to go and the conference is definitely going ahead.

Here’s my early plans for spending my time at LCA. I should note that my husband and our one year old son will be in Brisbane, and for various reasons I won’t be doing a lot of socialising at night. Anyone for lunch?


I’ll mostly be at the Haecksen miniconf, but also potentially interested in:

(PS, Brianna, how many talks is it physically possible for you to give on a single day?)

I will not be at the Girl Geek Dinner, sadly, but this is only one night after Andrew will have flown in from Dallas and so I’d like to see my family early in the week.


At present I think this will mostly be hallway track.


I will also attend the Linux Australia AGM, since I am standing for election (and I think results are available by then, it seems that voting closes at 26/01/2011 00:00, which is maybe an unfortunate choice of time, since many people will read “votes close 26/01/2011” as giving them that day to vote too).

I won’t be at the Professional Delegates Networking Session, since I am registered as a Hobbyist. I might be at the informal UnProfessional Delegates Session if there is one, and if my husband and son can come.


I will be at the Penguin dinner.


We fly home lunchtime Saturday, so won’t be around for Open Day.

linux.conf.au 2011 call for papers

We’re seeking a wide range of papers across the whole spectrum, encompassing programming and software to desktop and userland, education, community and law…

Some typical topics (but not limited to these) include:

  • Aspects of kernel development, including recent data structures and algorithm developments
  • Database and File system developments
  • Desktop topics, covering aspects of the user experience
  • Networking topics, from device drivers to servers
  • Novice user’s introduction to exploring FOSS
  • Professional development, including Software Engineering & System Administration techniques
  • Scalability, both embedded and enterprise
  • Development topics, including concurrency and toolchain advancements
  • Open Source Software usage, including business, education & research
  • Graphics & sound advancements, from low level drivers to end-user applications
  • Open Source culture, including open content creation

More information is here, and submissions close August 7.

Unlike for the previous three conferences (Melbourne 08, Hobart 09, Wellington 10), I’m not heavily involved in selections: I will be reviewing abstracts but not (co-)chairing the process. I probably won’t even be at the infamous day-long meeting to finalise selections, a long awaited visit from Andrew’s sister will clash.

I’m hoping to attend the conference — it’s fairly safe to say by now that unlike this year, it will not clash with giving birth — but I’m not sure yet. It probably will clash with producing a PhD thesis, and ACL (computational linguistics’ main conference) usually has a deadline that nicely clashes with LCA too.