Talk Proposals

At POSSCON there were a lot of talks, most of which did little to interest me. I don't think this was the fault of the conference: I'm a weirdo. I tend to be developer-grade geeky, but am still not a developer and I wasn't otherwise representative of the general audience. By the end, I was starting to think that the thing most people talk about at conferences isn't very cutting edge. I don't think it's just POSSCON (surely not!) but I've not been to enough conferences to be able to speak definitively. In any case, I'd like to propose in open forum (i.e. this wiki,) a number of conference presentations that I'd like to see or would be willing to present.

If you're interested in any of these presentation, or want to help/inspire me to work up notes, please create or add to the wiki pages linked to below.

Emacs Productivity and Production, Org-Mode and Beyond

Emacs, with its extensive feature list, endless customizations, and arcane approach to user interface, is often the butt of many jokes. While some of this is certainly valid, there are many incredibly innovative and intensely useful pieces of software written for Emacs. This talk would center on the org-mode package, but would branch out to talk workflows and automation in Emacs and using Emacs to help people make awesome work.

The Year of The Linux Desktop: Amazing Window Manager Paradigms

I'm always distraught by the way that discussion of "The Linux Desktop" revolves around convincing people that the major desktop environments (KDE/GNOME) either: are feature comparable to the Windows/OS X desktop or are able to "out-Windows" and "out-OS X" each other/Windows/OS X. Both of these propositions seem somewhat tenuous and unlikely to be convincing in the long run, and do little to inspire enthusiasm for the platform. This is sad because there is a lot of very interesting activity in the Linux desktop space. This talk would present and explore a couple of projects in the tiling window manger space and explain why this kind of software is what should drive adoption of the Linux desktop.

Cloud Independence, Infrastructure, and Administration

The "cloud computing" paradigm and the shift to thinking about technology resources as service based raises some interesting questions about software/computing freedom and the shape of data ownership in the contemporary moment. This talk would address these questions, provide an overview of how to "go it alone," and how to be responsible for managing and administering for your own personal "cloud infrastructure."

The Inevitability of Open Source

I recently attended POSSCON as part of my day-job. I don't usually blog directly about this kind of stuff ("You like to keep your church and state separate," a fellow attendee said, which fits.) But, I had a number of awesome conversations with the speakers, attendees and sponsors, that may spawn a series of brief posts here. POSSCON is a regional open source convention that drew developers, leaders of informational technology departments, and IT consultants of various types.

I had a number of conversations that revolved around the adoption of open source in opposition to proprietary systems. People asked questions like "what do we have to do to get more people to use open source software?" and many people apologized for doing work with proprietary software for mostly economic reasons (e.g. "I have a .NET development job," or "people need windows administration and I can't turn away work.")

This led me to have one of three reactions:

1. Working with any specific (proprietary) technology, particularly because you have to make ends meet should never require excusing. There are cases where "working with proprietary technology," may more like "building a business model on proprietary technology," and that sort of thing needs to be watched out for, but I don't think it's morally ambiguous to make a living.

2. I'm not sure that the success of technology, particularly open source, is determined solely on the basis of adoption rates. Successful technology is technology that efficiently allows people/cyborgs to do work, not overwhelmingly ubiquitous technology.

3. In many many contexts, open source technology has triumphed over proprietary alternatives: Linux-based systems are the dominant UNIX-like operating system. OpenSSH is the dominant SSH implementation (and remote terminal protocol/implementation). Darwin/FreeBSD is incredibly successful (as Mac OS X.) Other domains where open source packages have very high (dominating) adoption rates: OpenSSL, gcc, perl/python/php/ruby (web development), Apache/Lighttpd/nginx (web servers) etc.

While I think the end-user desktop isn't unimportant, I think there may be merit in playing to the strengths of open source (servers, infrastructure, developers.) Additionally, it seems more productive to have the discussion about "how do we advance open source," couched in terms of a battle for technological dominance in which open source has already won.

And Free Software/Open Source has won. While there remain sectors and domains where non-free software remains prevalent and business models that don't value user's freedom, I think that most people who know anything about technology will say that all paths forward lead toward a greater level of software freedom.

Maybe this is a symptom of the situation in which I work and maybe I'm being too optimistic, but I don't think so. Thoughts?