My talk at OSDC: the Planet Feed Reader

I gave a thirty minute presentation at the Open Source Developers’ Conference yesterday about the Planet software and the associated communities and conventions, focusing more on the latter since one of my reviewers suggested that the social aspects are more interesting than the code. My slides [PDF format, 2.1MB] are now available for the amusement of the wider public.

Much of the discussion of history was a recap of my Planet Free Software essay and the discussion of Planet conventions was a loose recap of accumulated wisdom, including:

  1. using bloggers’ real names, or at least the ones which they attach to email (usually real names) in addition to common IRC/IM handles is useful for putting faces to blog entries to contributions;
  2. once the convention of using real faces and real names is established, people get upset when the conventions are broken (quoth Luis Villa: I’m not sure who/what this ubuntu-demon is, but ‘random animated head without a name meandering about doing a lot of engineering work to fix a problem that should not exist’ was not what I was looking for when I was looking for information on planet ubuntu); and
  3. life blogging is of interest to an extent, many developers would actually like to feel that they’re friends with each other, but the John Fleck case on Planet GNOME shows that there are limits.

Much of the rest was due to Luis Villa’s essay on blogging in the corporate open source context, but as I wasn’t allowed to set assigned reading to the audience I was able to pad out by half an hour by including that content.

Mostly it was a fun experiment in doing slides in a format other than six bullet points per slide, six slides per section, six sections per talk format; incorporating badly rescaled images in various places; and using Beamer so I was surprised to end up hosting a Planet BoF (Birds of a Feather) session, discussing it from the point of view of someone running a Planet (the editor). Some of the topics that came up were:

  • trying to start communities via Planet sites, rather than enhancing them, by, say, starting a environmental politics Planet;
  • the possibility of introducing some of the newer blog ideas to the Free Software world (like carnivals);
  • allowing a community to edit a Planet, and editorial policies in general;
  • potential problems with aggregating libellous or illegal content (another reason some editors apparently insist on real names);
  • alternative aggregators;
  • banning RSS in favour of Atom;
  • whether it is possible or wise to filter people’s feeds without their consent;
  • moving to the Venus branch of Planet; and
  • making Venus trunk.

I may propose a blogging BoF at and, if I do so, I’ll even plan some discussion points, which will make it less random.