Monday, October 1, 2012

Ohio Linux Fest 2012: Great Again This Year

My second year at Ohio Linux Fest was even better than the first.  This year I took advantage of professional training (OLF Institute) on Friday and stayed for the diversity workshop (DIOS) on Sunday.  Both were worth the time and (nominal, all things considered) additional expense.

Part of what makes Ohio Linux Fest great is reflected in the fact that the Diversity In Open Source workshop happens at all.  The team that puts on OLF is committed to inclusion, access and diversity.  The fest was an early adopter of anti-harassment and conduct policies [1][2] and the positive atmosphere at OLF shows that it isn't all talk.

It gets better.  This year OLF explicitly called for women to propose talks and three out of four keynote speakers were women.  Anyone inclined to criticize this as a violation of the meritocratic ethic of open source development should seek out recordings of the keynotes and other presentations given by woman at OLF 2012.  The quality was very, very high.  What should concern people is the fact that we may have missed some of these contributions had the OLF team not explicitly encouraged proposals from women.

Speaking of meritocracy, let me say that I think it is radically over-rated.  Like any other form of blind faith in competitive systems it falsely assumes things will always turn out the way they should and that whoever comes out on top has an unquestionable right to be there and to the coercive power they gain in the process.  When you think about our mechanisms for defining, identifying and measuring merit I think you will agree that my use of the term "blind faith" is, in fact, right on.

Let's scrap the idea of meritocracy and figure out how to build better egalitarian teams out of all comers-- everybody who has something to contribute.

If you have ever see OLF's t-shirts, web site or printed materials you know that Tux, the Linux penguin, is not the only mascot who appears. Beastie, the BSD daemon and the GNU wildebeest also show up. Even though the event is called Ohio Linux Fest they include these lesser known characters in their visual branding.    You are seeing a pattern here, right?

Does it matter?  Yes, I think it does.  Take a look at Geek Feminism's (upsetting and possibly triggering) timeline of harassment, bullying and assaults, many of them at conferences, to see what OLF (and the rest of you who care) are up against in creating a positive environment.

One of the reasons I'm thinking about this is that in her OLF keynote address Angie Byron discussed building development communities and the role that respect and inclusion plays in that process.  Similar issues were raised by her and others at the DIOS workshop on Sunday.  How the concept of leadership fits into all of this came out in conversations with Kartik Subbarao who facilitated a BOF session on leadership Friday night and spoke on Collabograte on Saturday.

The biggest thing for me, personally, this year was that I presented.  I talked about migrating from proprietary to Free Software for audio, video and music production.  The evidence that I was at least on the schedule is here.  My presentation slides are here and here.  Note that these files include redundant slides, incomplete slides and other slides that were not actually used in the presentation.

Presenting was a wonderful experience.  I was gratified by the interest in my topic, the supportive audience and their intelligent questions.  Thank you to Philip, Moose and the rest of the OLF team for giving me this opportunity to give back to the Free Software community.

I spent a great deal of time at Barley's again this year.  They have very pleasant and professional servers, great beer, excellent food and an enjoyable atmosphere.  This year I divided my pub time between Barley's and The Three Legged Mare.  I sought out the Three Legged Mare shortly after I got to town on Thursday and, honestly, didn't want to leave.  TLM hosted the wrap (and rap, as it turned out) party on Saturday night but my curiosity about a place with such a cool name didn't allow me to wait for the party.  They, too, have great food, great beer and a remarkable selection of domestic and imported whiskey.

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