Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Faculty Lounge

OS Bridge is chugging along great. I caught the end of the fonts talk (typography), again continuing an ISEPP conversation. Amber is here, Gabrielle was here earlier (I told her I'd written up her talk), plus I was pleased to follow up with Sara Ford before she took off. Maybe Redmond keeps her on a short leash? I might -- running CodePlex takes a lotta web wrangling I'd think, gotta stay agile.

I should mention to Steve that Oregon Convention Center does a good job of making a small conference feel cozy. I'd been hyping the Marriott after Pycon, for the upcoming Django conference in the fall, mainly based on fond memories of early OSCONs in that venue, close to RiverPlace. Anyway, I'm not on the arrangements committee -- hard to go wrong in Portland if working with pros, lots of ways to play your cards.

There's this geek, Dave Rauchwerk, telling hilarious stories, about making a fool of himself in all these cool ways. He knows a lot of lore, and lore is important. Richard Feynman is a hero, not just Richard Stallman or that Oracle guy. Other speakers brought in boxes full of stuffed dragons, a lava lamp, other swag. I obviously missed a good talk. I also missed Assholes are Killing Your Project (so true, why that backspace button is so important (alluding to Amber's keynote)).

Now I'm in Open Source: the Dark Side, about our tribes, cults, dictatorships, fiefdoms, other anthropology. Jennifer Redmond is taking on the word "objectify", in particular with regard to women ("or even men as well", she adds). "Has anyone here read The Second Sex?" she wants to know. Not seeing a lot of hands.

CouchDB: Perform like a pr0n star
(Golden Gate Ruby Conference)

There's this R-rated mentality etc., which feels like a loss of professionalism to our speaker. She took off for Africa (e.g. Madagascar) after the dot com bust, returning during the web framework bonanza (PHP, Python...) run by these "rock star" script kiddies who were/are actually somewhat immature, more amateurs really, doing a lot of non-scalable stuff, somewhat selfishly self-enamored. They've not been mentored in pro shops, come straight from hacking on some Linux box in the basement. How to address this?

Her answer is, appropriately, anthropological: we need more taboos. "Smack talk" on mailing lists turns people off, mostly guys being rude and crude in tiresome ways. Lots of corporate cultures just aren't that fun, kinda screwy, lotsa jerks. Language communities might get this way too, what to do?

Professionalism: dealing with people in a way that's not personal in a lot of ways, thinking more in a macro way, realizing you don't know everything, learning the basics, understanding your silo isn't the only one, has a half life. Respecting elders might be a part of it, understanding that experience counts for something.

If you ask a silly question, and get a nasty answer, that might scar you for life. This seems a lot like the same dark side we get in the closed source world -- not surprising I suppose.

Let's agree that FOSS has definitely lowered barriers to entry, so you'll get this "bratfinks with power tools" syndrome (could be in suits). True, we may have disproportionately fewer professionals as a result, but that's a welcome cost of democratization, plus cultures have their ways of adapting (this conference is a sign of that).

I think the personal tutoring model is maybe making a comeback, and this might help raise standards and/or keep standards high. Different subcultures will handle the challenges differently, so mono-culture and/or "one size fits all" isn't the answer either. The FOSS covens will have their own ways of mentoring new practitioners.

I was glad to meetup with Audrey's mom between talks, turns out we were coworkers for the ESD (Portland Public), working with TAG kids at that place on Marine Drive. Some of those grade school students are now the adults at this conference, so we should feel some sense of pride in passing the torch, was her thinking.

Open Source is old enough to be experiencing generational transitions, is part of what's going on. Geeks are learning, fairly self-consciously, what that means (means I'm an "ancestor" already, with lots of gray to prove it).