2008 day 3 (Wednesday)

Wednesday began with the conference organisers assuming all 600 attendees would be at the keynote. It was very efficiently organised on this principle: get into the theatre, go down to the front most row with available seats, move all the way along to the side rather than sitting in the aisle and claiming most of that row for yourself. I was really impressed: it’s a common failing of meeting organisers of all types to counter people’s (or at least Australian’s) natural tendency to sit near the aisles and doors and try to leave as much space between themselves and other people as possible. When people arrive late, hilarity eventually ensues.

In the event, it turns out that about 500 of 600 people will show up for a keynote. Today (Thursday) it looks like about 400, at least by the start time.

The keynote was Reconceptualizing Security (video already available). Like most keynote-style speakers, Bruce Schneier doesn’t bring new insights and new work to every single talk. He overviewed the economic tradeoffs for and against security in general, and then the disparity between the way our amagdyla evaluates risk and the way risk works in modern technology and society in general. Bruce’s solution is that security providers need to provide the feeling of security to go with the reality, or otherwise consumers will behave as they always do in a lemons market: they’ll buy cheap, bad things over expensive, working things because price (and feeling) are the only market signals they get.

The questions afterwards all seemed reasonable, there wasn’t too much of we, the hyperintelligent trans-humans who have rid ourselves of our baser instincts, must, unfortunately, dig those poor unfortunates out of their hole vibe that can sometimes emerge from discussions of informing the market about unsexy but necessary features.

I went to the Writing really rad GTK and GNOME applications … in C, Python, or Java! tutorial in the first session. This was at exactly the right level for me: I know Python and C (and Java more or less, but I haven’t used it since 1.4) but nothing about GTK. lca tutorials are hard: very few people do any preparatory work and there will always be a substantial amount of the audience who wants the tutorial to start by helping them install the development tools. (There goes a two hour tutorial.)

I also enjoyed Tux’s Angels: Incident Response Unravelled, except that it was kind of unfortunate that the chair dwelt on the young, conventionally attractive women! but! awesome! hahaha take that world! aspect. I don’t know how the Angels themselves feel about this (possibly differently, given that they refer to their team as Tux’s Angels), but, as a woman who doesn’t actually get a lot of wow, woman… kick-butt woman! fanboys (this has never happened to me, in fact), I compare this to comments about my height. (Uh, aside for people who’ve never met me: I am 193cm, more or less 6′ 4″, tall.) Sympathy jokes (haha I bet people ask you about basketball all the time) are better than straight jokes about it, but it’s better just to leave it alone entirely, unless you’re asking me to find you someone in a crowd. Likewise, comments about being a woman in tech: unless we were specifically talking about it, better to leave it alone and just let people in tech do their thing.

Anyway, the Angels walked us through an incident response mockup using Free Software tools. It was a very well-prepared talk, with videos of all the demos, and rehearsed handovers between speakers, something I rarely see at these conferences and something worth cultivating.

There was also a weird announcement from the chair about not distributing our own media of the talk. I really wish I knew what that was about: it was unclear whether they meant our own videos or also any photos. If they mean photos, that’s a pretty major departure for lca. (In Australia, the subjects of photography do not have a right to privacy, they only have the right to control the use of their image when promoting a product. However, the owners or hirers of the venue — ie the conference organisers — have the right to demand photography ends, if they like. See NSW Photographer’s Rights for a long discussion.) However it was just one, confusing, announcement during a single talk: I honestly have no idea what it was really about.

I also saw AbiCollab – Rich Text Collaborative Editting — I wish it had had more demos — and I wanted to see Peace, Love and Rockets but there was a fire alarm and the start of the talks was delayed and I decided, given my energy levels of the previous night, to just chill.

The conference dinner was in a sheltered area of the Melbourne night markets: very different from the formal dinners of other conferences. I think the major disadvantage of this was for people who don’t know anyone at the conference: with everyone able to eat from the stalls really quickly and move around a lot, people who didn’t know anyone weren’t able to chat to people through the mere force of having to sit through three courses with them. Andrew said he saw a few people sitting entirely alone. I probably would have enjoyed a (short) speech or welcome too. For my purposes, of course, it was excellent to have control over when I ate; that is, as soon as I turned up, and when I left (not that early, in the end, but not controlled by when dessert finished either).