Archive for Project Mayhem

Antifeatures at Geekdinner Cape Town

// April 1st, 2010 // 2 Comments » // Free Software, Project Mayhem

Tuesday evening I attended Geekdinner Cape Town again, the food was good and it was a nice crowd.

Antifeatures

I did a mini-talk on Anti-features. It’s something that I’ve been aware of for a long time but never quite put a label on it. Benjamin “Mako” Hill coined the phrase anti-features and presented it at LinuxConf Australia 2010, I watched the video and thought that it would be a great topic for a Geekdinner.¬† Geekdinner talks are supposed to be only 5 minutes long, so I tried to get Mako’s ~45 minute talk down to about 6 minutes for the talk. I think it was a bit longer, I went first instead of last so I don’t think it was much of a problem. I haven’t given a talk in ages so I’m quite out of practice, but everyone who talked to me about it afterwards said that they enjoyed it and that it was interesting, so I feel good about it. It’s also one of the few Geekdinner talks that didn’t have any mention of Facebook or Twitter, so I gave myself another 50 points for that :)

You can get Mako’s slides and slide notes from his website, and also the video (which I recommend watching). You can get my slides right here. Stefano took video footage, I’ll paste a link to it once it’s processed.

TrustFabric

Joe Botha talked about TrustFabric, his joint-venture with Jonathan Endersby and I believe someone else too where they want to change the way everyone works with personal information. More information on that in these two blog posts.

How to ruin people’s lives on-line

We still needed a 3rd talk so Ben Steenhuizen threw together a talk on how bad people (which he protests heavily that he’s not) can abuse your public data and can make things very difficult for you.

Overall one of my favourite geekdinners, I’ll probably go to the Montreal Geekdinners when I get over to Canada (still waiting on Visa), but I’ll probably be back to catch one of the last Cape Town Geekdinners again towards the end of this year.

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Geekdinner Cape Town: Quarrelsome Quince

// November 27th, 2009 // No Comments » // Project Mayhem

Last night I attended the Quarrelsome Quince Geekdinner (wow it’s the end of November already!?). It was ok. The talks were good, Adrianna Pinska (aka confluence) did very well on the kareoke slideshow which was titled something like “The Winners of Safety at Work” which was a bunch of funny slides of people improvising at work mostly doing dangerous things. She did a great job since the slides were almost too easy since they were funny on their own, but she managed to be really quick on her feet and make up some really good stuff.

DSCN1633_web DSCN1634_web DSCN1638_web

The food at Cafe Max were great and Delheim sponsored the wine. Even though the food and wine was good, I go to the geekdinners more for the geek part than the dinner part. I spent some time catching up with Andy about everything from off-line Wikipedia, tuXlabs, Ubuntu-NGO, Quebec, Canada and the French. I also got some mini-photography lessons from Joe and played with his nice Canon camera (which is why I haven’t took too many shots) but I’m sure he’ll have them up soon. After the geekdinner was officially finished I sat with Jeremy, Simon, Adrianna and Michael a bit, we looked through Jeremy’s xkcd book which was quite cool, besides having all the strips from the xkcd site, it also has lots of cool little puzzles that all fit together. Not sure what happens when you solve them all, but I want one of those books too now! They also talked about some of the problems in their Pyweek game called Rinkhals and somehow listening to them talking about problems in Python is always interesting even when I don’t completely understand. I have a lot going on this weekend but I’ll try to get to the CTPUG meeting tomorrow, I’ve only been to two of the CTPUG meetings before but I’ve always wanted to get more involved.

Oops, drifting a bit off-topic there, the next Geekdinner is at the end of January and if you’re interested you can subscribe to the announce mailing list where the details will be announced. Thanks to all the people who organised it!

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The importance of saying “Hi”

// September 30th, 2009 // 21 Comments » // Free Software, Project Mayhem, Rants

Story time! (Warning: Ramblings and emo ahead)

The only white guy in the room

About two years ago, I thought that it would be a good idea to join the classes at the gym for group sessions rather than just doing all the solo stuff. I checked the available classes, and one class promised to be an extremely fun freestyling dance class (or something like that) with lots of cool music. In my head, that got translated to people doing breakdancing, there being like, a little moshpit somewhere, lots of hot sweaty girls jumping around and into everyone else… well, more like what you’d imagine in a club than at a gym :)

The next day I showed up for the class and just as it started I noticed that I was the only guy there. Besides that, the music was *very* female targeted. I think that’s the most Westlife, Boyzone, *NSYNC, etc (at least it was before Jonas Brothers were around) I ever had to hear in such a short amount of time. Also, there was nothing freestyle about it! It’s like they all knew very specific and elaborate dances and I couldn’t keep up at all and it was mostly embarrassing. Some might find it ammusing, but the most intimidated I’ve ever been was in a room full of women younger than me in (mostly) pink dancing clothes.

Quite often, I’ve been in situations where I’m at a meeting or gathering where I’m the only white person there. This might be when I visit a library in Khayelitsha to help them with their computers, or previously when I did some government work. I’ve never actually had a negative experience in cases like these, but sometimes you become a bit paranoid (and I’m not a paranoid person to begin with). Sometimes I’ve had thoughts like “I hope that comment wasn’t directed at me” and you tend to fine-comb everything that is being said.

When you’re the only one, or in a very small minority that is obviously different from everyone else there, you naturally become a little bit more sensitive. I guess it’s just human nature.

E-Mail

In the late 90’s and early 2000’s, e-mail was a great way of communicating and staying in touch. I also found mailing lists quite handy and learned that because people can’s see and hear you directly, that it often happens that people read it incorrectly, and what might seem like an innocent message may be interpreted as hostile to others. I learned to keep my messages as short as possible and keep the tone as neutral as possible, especially on mailing lists and messages that are sent out to many different people. This didn’t work so well at work though. I’ve had collueges complain before that my e-mails are too formal, and that it makes them feel uncomfortable. It was even mentioned in a performance appraisal on year! I learned that some people, it seems especially extroverts (in the Myers-Briggs kind of way) are much likely to respond faster if you through in a joke or perhaps even mention something non-work related. My style of e-mail drastically changed depending on who I sent it too, and people were generally more happy with me. I drew the line when our marketing person told me that it’s become company policy to send out all e-mails in the font “Arial”. I told him that he’d have my resignation before I ever send out an e-mail in Arial which resulted in a bit of an arguement. He didn’t take it too well. While I didn’t succeed in changing the company policy (I had too many other things on my plate at the time to worry about that) regarding the Arial e-mails, we ended up at least getting permission for our team to send out our e-mails in plain-text.

For some people, receiving an e-mail with formal style and wording is perceived as a kind of passive-aggressiveness. For some people, sending out what is really just a text message in HTML (and especially with a font like Arial) is perceived as clean and proffessional, where anyone with some technical skills will dismiss it as being wasteful and stupid.

Saying Hi

I’ve often heard people (and more women than men) complain that their boss isn’t polite enough. It’s usually something like “When I used to work at Company A, our boss would always come into the office and greet everyone and once a month he’d get everyone together in the office and we’d eat some cake and he’d provide us with some motivation”. In one office space I worked in, our manager was specifically very quiet. It was sometimes so quiet in the office that it made lots of people (including myself) very uncomfortable. Most of the time it didn’t bother me so much, but in that extreme case I could understand what the other people were on about, who were more vocal about the problem. He later had some bad performance reviews from people complaining about his leadership style and he left. He actually did a really good job, his biggest failure was really not saying “Hi!” and “How are you doing?” often enough.

When you’re in a leader position, or a high profile person, people look up to you and they want guidance and reassurance. It’s why we have phenomenons like Bradgelina (the combined name for Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) who some people obsess about. When you’re such a person, the slightest negative or positive thing you say can have a *huge* impact on all of those who follow you. I don’t think these people should censor themselves, but they should actively keep in mind that their word hold lots of weight, and that they should use them responsibly.

Mark and the girls

I read on Matt Zimmerman’s blog entry “Explaining to the Girls”. It’s about a comment Mark Shuttleworth gave at LinuxCon I got the video from a comment and his exact words were¬† “If we can really approach it from the perspective of saying how do we make this just awesome for users, then we’ll, uh, we’ll have have less trouble explaining to girls what we actually do”. If I personally heard it like that for the first time, I would certainly interpret it as a very sexist remark. Someone mentioned that he actually meant it as “the girlfriend” or “significant other”. After listening to it again today, I can see how he probably just meant that.

Mark reminds me of that manager I had that didn’t say hi to the other employees. It’s not that he’s a bad person, but I guess it’s kind of hard to dedicate some brain CPU cycles to consider others when you have billions of dollars in the bank to worry about, when you get to travel by personal plane, when you get to take on huge projects such as Ubuntu, etc. When you get to that stage I think you just live on an entirely different level than most other people. What might be a big deal for most becomes trivial and unimportant, the set of problems you have to deal with changes and are on a totally different scale.

I think what he said was quite insensitive, regardless of his intentions. I can imagine a young woman who might have given up a more comfortable career to risk working exclusively on free software, doing the effort to come to LinuxCon just to hear that girls are slow to understand stuff. If Mark just said “We’ll have less trouble explaining what we do to our significant others”, it would already have been a major improvement and he’d also be able to get his message accross better. In my opinion it will probably do Ubuntu some good if he at leasts makes some kind of public statement about this.

From my perspective, it comes back to saying hi, or perhaps more specifically, acknowledging people. Once you’ve done that it’s already easier to keep them in mind and not saying things that are mean and insensitive.

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FSF Launches Windows7sins tomorrow

// August 25th, 2009 // 20 Comments » // Free Software, Project Mayhem

Tomorrow the Free Software Foundation plans to launch the windows7sins campaign, similiar to the BadVista campaign that ran for Windows Vista. From the info-fsf list:

This Wednesday, August 26 at 11am, the Free Software Foundation will be
launching its Windows7sins.org public awareness campaign, drawing
attention to the threats posed by the adoption of Microsoft's
proprietary operating system. We have a launch event here in Boston on
the Boston Commons from noon until 3pm, and we need everyone in the area
to come along and help out and join in the ceremony as we conduct a
ceremonial trashing of proprietary software.

**We'll be launching our Windows 7 campaign with pomp and fanfare, with
a giant 12 foot trashcan being filled with boxes of proprietary software.**

The event promises to be lots of fun, and with thousands of people
passing through the Boston Commons every day we hope you will help us
connect with the public by handing out information and explaining the
benefits of free software. There will be camera crews and photographers
capturing the event and we will be getting these images up online as
soon as possible on the day.

Let us know you're coming and bring along your friends and work
colleagues - mail campaigns@fsf.org if you have time to help us set up,
or just turn up at the Boston Commons near the entrance to the Public
Gardens from noon.

If you're not in the Boston area, there will be plenty for you to do to
help us launch the campaign and get the message out. Stay tuned for
upcoming instructions...

Personally I don’t believe much in these campaigns. In my opinion the Free Software Foundation could use their resources much better spreading awareness on Free Software rather than focussing on a proprietary product. I like campaigns like Defective by Design much more, which encourages users to think about things like DRM before purchasing a device and content. A campaign for just saying “boo-hoo, there’s a proprietary product and it’s bad” just seems a bit petty. I think it would be better to focus on less campaigns with higher priority and do them decently, rather than having too many campaigns that don’t do much.

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Women are not crazy

// July 20th, 2009 // 15 Comments » // Free Software, Project Mayhem

… or at least, not any more crazy than any other gender.

Emacs Virgins

I’ve been trying to avoid getting involved in these discussions, but the RMS Female Emacs Virgin “joke” has brought some issues to my attention that I haven’t realised are quite as big as they are. There’s a number of people who actually believe that women are stupid and annoying and that they should stay out of the way in the free software world, and that’s quite disturbing. You would think that people who care about free software are mature to the level where they won’t discrimitate against someone based on gender, race or sexuality.

Some say that Richard Stallman’s joke was innocent and that it wasn’t meant as being discriminating. In my opinion, even if that’s the case, it was wrong to do so. It’s a known fact that there’s a very low ratio between female and male contributors to free software, and doing something that could alienate even a small percentage of female contributors is a big deal. Those who feel that it’s innocent, how would you feel if he specifically said “male emacs virgins”? I think I’ll keep my distance from him anyway.

The Blog From Hell

What brings me to this post is AJ Venter’s Blog From Hell. AJ himself isn’t that important, and I usually manage to ignore him quite efficiently, but when he spews out things like his last entry titled “Women are crazy” I find it highly annoying. He sells himself as being a big proponent and contributor of free software.

Making yourself a representative of a community comes with a great amount of responsibility, when you say something in any context, people will link that to the communities and organisations that you represent, even if you don’t see it that way. When you spew out things like this, it affects something much bigger than yourself. I also ask that you stop aggregating your posts to CLUG Park and other aggregators until you grow up. Saying “ew, girls!” is supposed to get old when you turn 7 already. Women aren’t there just to bring sexual pleasure for men and they’re not all stupid, crazy or useless. Why can’t you at least try to be a grown up? If anything, just for your own sake.

Update: If you can’t access the original post, it’s because AJ has deleted the blog entry. The post is still available as a Facebook note if you would like to read it there.

continuing to be
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Landslide

// November 5th, 2008 // 5 Comments » // Free Software, Politics, Project Mayhem

Or alternatively titled, “Yes you did”. Thank you America, this was a great speech to wake up to. I hope that it’s just the start of many great things to come.

PS: On CNN they just interviewed a political analyst (didn’t catch his name but I’ll try to get the video), who talked about the Cathedral and Bazaar, and he talked about the Open Source movement and compared Obama to it!

UPDATE: Thanks to Meneer R who provided the link to the YouTube video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q-4afdMalVA

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Political Tendencies

// September 28th, 2008 // 12 Comments » // Free Software, Jonathan, Politics, Project Mayhem

The Stereotype

Recently, Jordan Mantha blogged about being excited about Palin joining McCain‘s campaign. Some of the comments were quite harsh, some even suggesting that it’s wrong to support the Republicans, being a free software developer and affiated with the Ubuntu project. I will admit that I was quite surprised to see his support for the McCain myself- from the vast majority of posts I’ve seen on Planet Ubuntu, Planet Debian and Planet Gnome so far, most free software supporters seem to support Obama and the Democratic party. Being a supporter of free software (or Ubuntu) shouldn’t imply what kind of political tendencies you have. Statistics might show that most free software supporters might choose something, that doesn’t mean that everyone has to.

The Political Compass

In CLUG, many of the people in our IRC channel participated in the Political Compass test. It asks you a series of questions and then gives you co-ordinates on where you stand politically. Michael Gorven put together a Python script that takes the results from Spinach (our channel bot) and plots it on a graph using Gnuplot:

In the graph above, it’s clear that everyone in our LUG that participated landed in the Libertarian quadrants, and not a single person in the Authoritarian quadrants. Most people are in the Left-wing Libertarian quadrant, with quite a few in the Right-wing Libertarian quadrant. In this case, the graph supports the stereotype that free software supporters may be more inclined to be left-wing libertarians. There are other things that this graph doesn’t bring into account though. Everyone in our IRC channel are also South Africans. Could that perhaps have an effect on our choices and tendencies? We also discuss *everything* on our IRC channel, and we mostly read each other’s blogs. Could it also be that we shape each other’s political views, if only we sway it by the tiniest bit on a continuous basis?

I think it’s natural of humans to make assumptions about other people and the world around them. I think it’s wrong of people to take offence when these assumptions and generalisations do not fit into their little view of the world. While we’re not all unique little snowflakes, we are all different, and tolerance and acceptance goes a long, long way.

See also:

Other Cluggers who have blogged on the political compass:

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