Category Archives: events

Notes from OSCON 2011

I was at the Oregon Convention Center 7 days in a row last week, which feels like it should qualify for some sort of marathon record. First to attend CLS, where I learned a lot about open source foundations and various projects’ deploy processes, then OSCON, where I learned more about foundations and deploying (oddly enough). I left with a big stack of ideas to work on for Calagator and other projects.

Christie, Sherri, and I gave a well-received talk on event planning at OSCON (“Event Planning for Geeks”). We’re still building this out, but an initial event planning handbook is live on the Stumptown Syndicate site. You can also view our slides. We realized in the course of writing the talk that we have way more material than we’re comfortable squeezing into a <1hr slot, so we'll be working on expanding this into a 2-3 hr. long workshop.

In response to several conversations we had over the week, we set up a Citizen Code of Conduct site to make it easy to share our open source citizenship-focused guidelines from Open Source Bridge. The document is CC-licensed, so you can easily re-use it for your own events and projects.

Another cool thing happened while we were busy at the conferences: “Collective Agency” announced its plans for the space formerly known as Souk. Stumptown Syndicate is happy to be one of the initial workgroup partners, and we’ll be working on how we can use this space to support the local user group community.

So—onward to August.

My Conference Schedule

It’s going to be a busy summer.

Open Source Bridge, June 21-24
The 3rd year of our conference for open source citizens. In addition to being on the planning committee (talk to me if you need a media pass or want to schedule a BoF), I’m moderating a panel on building and maintaining open source communities.

Indie Web Camp, June 25-26
Assuming I don’t fall over from exhaustion first, I’ll be at this unconference/hacking event for people working on distributed social software.

Community Leadership Summit, July 23-24
I’ve never been to CLS before, but this unconference on building tech communities has been recommended to me several times, so I signed up.

OSCON, July 25-29
Christie Koehler, Sherri Montgomery, and I will be presenting Event Planning for Geeks, a condensed guide to successful unconferences, code sprints, and beyond.

SecondConf, September 23-25
I’ll speaking at this Chicago conference for iOS and Mac developers, on some combination of mobile devices, game design, location, and not being creepy (unless, of course, that’s your goal). Creepius will probably make an appearance.

WhereCampPDX, October 7-9
Portland’s location and technology unconference is on year 4! I still love helping plan this event. We haven’t really started the planning process in earnest (first everyone has to get through OSBridge) but you can join the mailing list to find out what’s happening as soon as we know it ourselves.

Why I’m Part of Code n Splode

When Code n Splode started in 2007, it was in response to an event at OSCON and discussions that followed. Several of the people who would become involved had attended a “women in open source” BoF that left them unhappy with how issues of women’s participation in the technology industry were being discussed. (I missed the BoF but heard plenty about it afterward.) In the conversations that followed that week, we came to a kind of consensus that we wanted less talk about the problem and more direct action, and that women feeling isolated because we didn’t know many of our female colleagues (as few as those might be) was definitely not helping. So Code n Splode was born in response.

The meetings have a similar structure to most user groups: there’s a technical talk or workshop given by one of the members, and afterward the group moves on to a local pub for the “splode” part of the evening, a general discussion of whatever we want to talk about from our professional and personal lives. The guidelines for men’s participation have changed over time; the current rule is that all women are invited to attend and participate, and men are welcome as the guest of a female participant. The goal is to create a safe space for women to talk about our technical work in a friendly and open environment.

Why safe space? It’s no secret that the technology industry can be antagonistic, heavily competitive, and hostile toward outsiders who don’t immediately prove their technical competence. While not all women have experienced problems with this, many women (and men) have, and being a member of a visible gender minority often only increases that sense of otherness and hostility. Creating a group that is officially women-focused and has clear guidelines for inclusive behavior provides support in that environment. Men in the industry are part of a majority group; there are no defined “men’s user groups” or “men’s software conferences” because in many cases, that’s already what happens by default. In the open source world in particular, women make up a very small percentage of participants, and I find that having space where I feel visible and normal and not weird for being female is extremely valuable.

Besides that, having a cross-technology group where we can discuss our work with our peers is exciting. I’ve used this to present topics that don’t fit into any single-technology user group, like text game programming or privacy issues in software design, and I’ve attended other topics that don’t relate to my own work at all, but are interesting because of the enthusiasm of the women who are presenting it. It’s also a great environment for women who have never given a technical presentation before, and might not feel like they have the experience to present at a conference yet. This helps us learn the skills to move on to bigger events, meaning that over time we can encourage better representation of the women who are already present in these fields.

The best thing, the part that really demonstrates why this group is important, is seeing the effect it has on the women who participate. We’re learning to negotiate for better salaries, to find jobs we enjoy, to present our work to a larger audience, and we’re building friendships we can rely on when the problems of our industry are hitting us personally. It’s not a “fix” for the imbalances of the technology world, but a support system that helps us continue to be a part of this industry and still have fun.

Does this sound like something you want to participate in too? We meet every 4th Tuesday of the month, and you can find details on the group’s website or Calagator.

Notes From WhereCamp 2011

Land's End

I’ve been in San Francisco (and nearby) for most of the last week, primarily to attend this year’s WhereCamp, which was held at Stanford. I had a ton of great conversations about data, privacy, transit systems, community organizing, and how Portland is or isn’t like other places.

I also led a session on geo-games (games with a locative element, digital or otherwise) and design strategies, mechanics, and reward systems. We started off with a list of these items that I had gathered from earlier reading, and added more items and other details on the whiteboard through our discussion. Amber Case made a spreadsheet from the whiteboard notes: https://spreadsheets.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?hl=en&hl=en&key=0Asy5qINtkUStdEZPeE5mODVIa1hCV2tlOUFPZ3JxTkE&output=html

We couldn’t talk about games without playing a few, of course. Amber and Aaron ran a couple of demos of MapAttack, which is built on their GeoLoqi platform, and lets two teams compete for points by capturing dots while running around outside. At another session I was introduced to Dokobots, an iPhone game involving lost robots who crashlanded on Earth and have to be found and re-activated and sent off to explore things.

WhereCampPDX will be returning again this year as well. We’re tentatively scheduled for October 7-8-9 and ought to have more details on the site soon.

Upcoming Presentation: Interactive Fiction

Tomorrow night I’m giving a talk at Code n Splode about interactive fiction. I’m planning to do an intro about how the history of these games has had some interesting outcomes from the technical side (including encouraging open culture/open source practices), do a coding demo with Inform 7, and have some group game play time (9:05, Aisle, and maybe the intro of Lost Pig). It should be a lot of fun, and I’m excited about being able to share what I’ve learned so far.

Note: Code ‘n’ Splode is a women-focused technology user group. If you need more details about the group and our guidelines for participation, see here.

Portland as Digital Timber Town

I hosted a session at WhereCampPDX this weekend on Portland, technology, and economic development.

I started things off by suggesting a theory: that Portland’s history as a timber town has influenced our approach to economic development, in ways that are no longer useful as we switch from a physical commodity-driven economy to a digital one. I also talked a little about the tendency for investment and customers to be outside of Portland, causing money to flow into and out of the economy, but not move around inside Portland’s tech economy (we do spend our money on other kinds of local goods and services).

Participants helped build a list of things we know about working in timber vs. working in tech, then we talked through what the effects of these things are, and what we might do about it. Here’s what we came up with:

Timber (atoms)
* semi-limited renewable resource
* fungible/tradeable commodity
* global market – externally facing
* hard to obsolete
* no 2.0? (low innovation rate)
* high startup cost/time (have to grow the trees)
* usually organized labor
* doesn’t travel (you can’t take your trees elsewhere)

Tech (bits)
* infinite
* maybe a commodity
* maybe specialized
* global market
* can be an internally or externally facing market
* rapidly changing
* low startup cost
* not much labor organization
* travels well

Side effects (what happens in the local economy as a result?)
* Regional cash flow problems
* Can we grow?
* Needs replanting
* Needs the right culture
* Tech moves internally (inside the local community)
* Cash doesn’t
* We build relationships around the tech-sharing
* But not around the cash transactions
* Business and tech people don’t speak the same language
* Risk aversion: tech is easy to share, cash is hard
* Differences in barriers to entry (are these being addressed?)

Lessons/goals (what do we want to do about this?)
* need structures for investing $$$ in community tech
* business mentoring (another camp?)
* companies should invest in the community’s tech skills
* keep projects open
* share knowledge locally
* more exposure to local products and marketplace
* local hiring marketplace
* expose businesses to local tech assets
* more directories
* programmer fund: let’s pool money to invest
* fund projects based on community value
* bring management from companies into the practitioner community (take your boss to the user group meeting)

Creepius Went to OPB

Last week OPB hosted PublicMediaCamp, an evening unconference about news, public media, journalism, and anything else we wanted to discuss. Creepius tagged along and checked out the pledge drive set.

Creepius at OPB

Creepius at OPB

I would not recommend giving Creepius your personal information. Even if he says he’s not going to share it with anyone. He lies.

While he was running around, getting into who knows what sort of mischief, I led a session on Portland, technology, and reporting. Christie and Melissa took notes here. I’ve been thinking about how we can improve the depth of reporting on the local tech scene, so it was fun to brainstorm further with the other participants.

Many attendees expressed an interest in attending a follow-up event, but in the meantime there’s a mailing list to keep the discussion going.

Thoughts on SXSWi 2010

Hallway crowds

I’m bad at remembering to write post-event reports. I get home, the exhaustion sets in, there’s work to catch up on, and by the time I get around to it all the interesting things have slipped my mind. So this time I’m forcing myself to get it done, tired or not.

The past breakout success of Twitter and other services at SXSW means that there’s often an anticipation that each year we’ll discover the next big new thing. I saw a bunch of commentary leading up the event trying to guess what that would be. But honestly? I think the current wave of social/mobile technology is in a middle stage of development now, where most of the groundbreaking has happened, the services are scaling out, and the surrounding environment hasn’t changed enough to cause substantially new things to emerge.

Twitter is still the clear winner for keeping in touch with people at this sort of event. I saw DMs used as a proxy for SMS, several friends CCing people to keep them in the loop, and frequent hashtagging for context (most entertaining hashtag activity: coming up with alternate, shorter hashtags for panels because the official ones were long and unwieldy).

Having to check into both Foursquare and Gowalla to find out where my friends are is not particularly efficient, but I’m not sure I want that kind of efficiency in a non-SXSW context.

I still like the gameplay in Foursquare best, of the location-tracking apps I’ve used in the last year. (But Gowalla won the party competition, with Diplo performing.)

There were a few new event-sharing sorts of things getting attention this year. I didn’t end up using Plancast at all in Austin, but I’d like to see how it could be used with Calagator for Portland events. Sitby.us had (by far) the best mobile schedule-browsing interface of the options I tried, but checking into a session room never led to a friend coming to find me and grab a seat in the same row. Again, I’m not sure there’s much new happening with these services, just different implementations trying out combinations of features, smoothing out the interface, finding out which parts are sticky enough to keep people coming back.

All this isn’t to say I didn’t see anything fun or interesting. The panel I was most looking forward to, on post-digital design, did not disappoint. I liked the session on recommendation engines (featuring wacky correlations from Hunch), and seeing crazy hackerspace projects, and Clay Shirky prodding people to think about why we share content, and what that means for those who create it.

I also had some fun music experiences, talked to people I haven’t seen in a while, met new people, and worked on ideas for a couple of new projects (keywords: party bus and “the fine line between creepy and fun”).

Oh yeah, and I took a few pictures. I’ll probably have more to say about that too.

Recruiting Open Source Citizens for 2010

Open Source Bridge 2010 Town Hall

Last Wednesday I attended the Open Source Bridge 2010 Town Hall meeting. This year’s conference will be happening June 1-4, at a Portland location that should be announced shortly. You can see a full recap on the OSBridge Blog. Ed Borasky also recorded a video of the main presentation.

Speaking of, here’s Ed doing his best Nixon V-for-victory impression.

Open Source Bridge 2010 Town Hall

More highlights:

Open Source Bridge 2010 Town Hall

Open Source Bridge 2010 Town Hall

Open Source Bridge 2010 Town Hall

The call for proposals will be open shortly (“early February”), so stay tuned for the announcement by following @osbridge on Twitter and joining the mailing list.

Post-Vacation Chaos and Fun

Re-entry from vacation is always a little tricky. There’s work to return to, at the same time you’re trying to sort out all of the photos and memories and ideas from the trip. After last week’s trip, I came back to a client project launch, Calagator’s birthday, rapid-fire CrisisCampPDX planning, new photo equipment to play with—just to start.

Calagator Birthday Party

We had about fifteen people come out for Calagator‘s 2nd birthday party at Bailey’s on Friday night. Low-key, casual meetup, with brownies from Joe Cohen, lemon bars I made with the roadtrip lemons, plenty of beer, and food from the taqueria across the street. I’m sad that Igal, who has been instrumental in keeping Calagator going, was sick and couldn’t be there with us.

CrisisCampPDX

On Saturday, about 60 people met up at NedSpace for the first-ever CrisisCampPDX, a quickly-organized branch of a project that’s been bringing people together around the world to provide support for relief efforts in Haiti. This wasn’t just the regular Portland tech scene at work—we had a wide range of participants, from developers, to GIS specialists, to French and Creole speakers, to people who helped with data entry and sorting. I was really impressed with the energy and focus everyone brought to this work day. I helped with a hospital data project using Sahana, a disaster-management system. We hit a few bumps as people tried to get up to speed on different projects, but on the whole I was really impressed with how much we were able to do, for such a distributed set of projects.

Sharkle

And now for something completely different.

I have a small but growing collection of cameras, which has now expanded to include some Polaroid equipment. The middle of winter in the Pacific Northwest is not the best time to be running around shooting ISO 100 film, but I did manage to get a few shots off last week with my new SX-70 Sonar camera. (This is not the only new camera from the last couple of weeks, but you’ll have to wait to hear about the rest.)

You may be wondering, “didn’t Polaroid stop making instant film a while back? Why would you pick that up now?”. There’s a group known as The Impossible Project which has spent the last year and change developing new instant film for Polaroid camera formats, and they’re expected to release the results of that work next month. So I just have to pace myself with my existing film supply for a few weeks.

Last but not least, I updated the blog’s header with a new photo, from the road trip. Click through and have a look if you’re using an RSS reader to view this. I have a habit of leaving the header picture the same for long periods of time, but once in a while the blog design changes, and there’s often new links in the sidebar to check out, so it’s worth taking a peek.