Archive for January, 2009

Bye Bye Conroy – Three predictions for 2009

Last night on Byte Into IT‘s first radio show for 2009, we made predictions for the year ahead in tech. The podcast will be online soon, but I thought I’d share mine here. Let’s count them down…

3. This is the year that Microsoft’s browser domination will finally end. Internet Explorer’s market share will drop to 65%, having its lead eroded by two open source browsers  – Firefox (which will stay about steady at 20%) and Google’s Chrome (launched late last year) which will claw 15% of the market away from IE by the end of 2009.
(This prediction inspired by a conversation with Rusty Russell last week at LCA.)

2. The awesome philanthropic venture, One Laptop Per Child, will become hardware independent in 2009, meaning that it won’t be sidetracked by arguments or politics about hardware (or software, for that matter) and won’t be limited by the number of its own XO laptops it can produce. So the folk who create and support Sugar – software designed to be a tool for kids to learn, even if they’ve never used a computer before – will be able to get on with taking this awesome learning tool to kids who need it, everywhere in the world.

1. The Australian Minister for IT, Senator Stephen Conroy will resign in 2009. He’ll resign to take up a posting as the ambassador to China, where he’ll be a special attache to the Ministry for Internet Censorship. He’ll be replaced in his IT portfolio by Deputy PM Julia Gillard, whose first announcement as IT Minister will be that the Rudd government is going to make good on its promise to fund laptops for *all* Australian secondary school kids – and will be extending the program to include primary school kids too. The government will also announce it is working with OLPC to ensure that kids in remote and poor areas of Australia won’t be left behind. 

2009. The year we conquered the digital divide. 

We can hope. 🙂

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Linux.conf.au 2009 roundup

Linux.conf.au is done and dusted for another year, and its been revealed that we’ll be heading to gorgeous NZ in 2010 – yay! I didn’t have even a spare second to blog from the conference (running a miniconf and giving two papers will kind of do that to you!) but I did write a couple of news stories for ZDNet.

  • LCA ’09: Wikipedia’s new mobile platform – a writeup of Angela Beesley’s keynote. The news hook was the new mobile platform, but I was much more interested in the fact that WikiMedia has set a goal to remove tech roadblocks and get more editors involved in Wikipedia this year, but they hadn’t identified the need to get rid of some of the social barriers which might put people off.After her keynote, Angela told me she’d raise that as a suggestion – I hope she does. Wikipedia is such an incredible resource, it would be a shame if things like the ‘deletion wars’ and other actions by a minority of the community continue to dissuade people from participating. 
  • Sysadmins after the cloud – my writeup of Tom Limoncelli’s keynote. As I noted on Twitter, he used his employer (Google) as an example of taking an abundance approach to tech support via it’s famous Tech Stop, but unfortunately they recently laid off a bunch of contractors, including making cuts to Tech Stop headcount. So tech support’s not as abundant at Google as it used to be. (Tom responded here, but unfortunately we didn’t get to discuss it further than clarifying that it was contractors rather than inhouse Tech Stoppers who’d been laid off).

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Upcoming class for student editors at NEWS09

There’s a student media conference coming up here in Melbourne and I’m happy to announce that I’ll be teaching a class in web publishing as part of it.

NEWS09 is a conference for student editors being held over the weekend of 6 and 7 January 2009. This cool sounding event is run by Express Media.

There’s not a lot of info online yet about NEWS09 but I suspect the website will be expanded soon as they’re just finalising the running sheet for the day.

My session is about online publishing, and will cover the basics of getting online, from registering a domain name, to creating an effective web publication, and how to promote and network successsfully. All in an hour, so it’s going to be a whirlwind tour. 🙂

I’m really looking forward to meeting some student editors from this century. 🙂 When I was at uni, the student media types were Dave Penberthy, Annabel Crabb and Sam Maiden. See, lots of student editor types go on to be Real Journalists. 😉

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Australia denies visas over concerns about open source? WTF? UPDATED

I’ve just been alerted via a Linux.conf.au mailing list to a ridiculous situation  – apparently the Australian government has overzealously been patrolling its borders against the scourge of… open source technology.

According to Finnish MySQL developer Kaj Arnö, this policy will prevent several MySQL people from attending LCA this year:

“Several Sun Microsystems Inc employees, especially related to the Database Group, have been denied short stay business visas to Australia, over the last few months, as they have been seen to be competing with local Australian businesses unfairly.

I regret to share that this will adversely affect MySQL presence at linux.conf.au in Hobart, Tasmania 19-24.1.2009.”

You can read the full post here – and note that he says he’s observed or experienced open source people having trouble getting Schengen (European Union) and US visas in the past as well.

How crazy. On so many levels. One -this sounds remarkably like the government discriminating against people due to their choice of technology. Do they really have big business in their ear that much? And it ignores the fact that open source technology and business generates an estimated $500 million for Australian businesses each year – you could argue this policy is restraint of trade, rather than protective of it. And it’s just offensive that our government is actively preventing people from gathering together for the purpose of freely sharing information.

I’m not sure what we can do to help fix this – LCA starts in 6 days.

Update: 9.48am, 14 January 2009

Kaj Arnö has updated his original blog post to admit that the link between the visa being denied and open source was conjecture on his part:

“The rejection letter merely says “SHORT TERM BUSINESS ETA APPLICATION WAS NOT APPROVED NO AUTHORITY TO TRAVEL TO AUSTRALIA HELD BY PASSENGER”. However, the person who now got rejected has been frequently in Australia and, to the best of my knowledge, lacks any record which would imply a visa rejection (such as, but not limited to, unpaid traffic fines).”

Read his updated post and the long discussion in comments for further info. Thanks Jacinta for alerting me to the update.

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Upcoming event: Panel on Geek Parenting at LCA

Attention, free and open source software lovers – Linux.conf.au is just a week away! I’m co-convening the LinuxChix miniconf which is happening next Monday – check out the full lineup of talks. We even have a talk on Senator Stephen Conroy’s infamous Great Firewall of Australia: The Swiss Cheese Project.

I’m also keen to spread the word about the panel I’ll be moderating, on Geek Parenting:

Join our panellists Bdale Garbee, Silvia Pfeiffer, Andrew McMillan and Casey Schaufler as we tangle with some of the issues facing the geek parent – or the parent of a potential geek. How do you deal with having a gifted child who is having trouble socialising at school? How do you make sure that your child doesn’t ‘switch off’ from learning during those terrible teen years? Are there any ways to get your kids to think science and tech are cool rather than the daggy stuff mum or dad does at the computer all day? After the panel, join LinuxChix for a family BBQ sponsored by Google – all are welcome!

I hope to see you at LCA. 🙂

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More social networking cuts – this time LiveJournal cuts half its US workforce

Sup, the Russian owners of blogging/social networking site LiveJournal, has slashed just under half of LiveJournal’s US workforce – getting rid of its products managers and engineers, and leaving just operations and finance people. Sounds rather like they don’t intend to do much in the way of maintenance or development now, doesn’t it? Valleywag has the story and describes LJ as being “left on life support”

Note that LJ users – which includes paid customers of the site – didn’t hear this news from LJ, but from the media. Pretty poor, especially for any paid customers of the site who just coughed up $US175 for lifetime, permament accounts as per the company’s offer in December.

The Valleywag story links to the blog of one affected LJ staffer – who is involved with a new open source social networking site called Dreamwidth – which is still in development. Assuming the folk involved in developing Dreamwidth can still put time into it (if they’re now out of work, looking for jobs or starting new jobs they may not be able to) – this could be a good time for them to launch. Especially since other blogging or social networking sites which seem large, active and (at least relatively) ‘safe’ from the current economic climate (such as WordPress or Facebook) just aren’t replacements for LJ.

Most people who haven’t used it extensively don’t “get” LiveJournal, and it kind of stands apart from the way both blogs and social networking sites have developed over the past few years. If you want to know more about the evolution of LiveJournal and just how groundbreaking it was in terms of ahead-of-the-curve features, this is a great read (also good for anyone working on a blogging or social networking site, really): Lessons from the failure of Livejournal: when NOT to listen to your users.

Blogs have changed a lot since LJ’s inception. While they started out as private “journalling” sites often only visited by a few friends of the blogger, generally speaking blogging has now become very much about broadcasting – being public. LJ allows you to broadcast publicly or maintain a private/friends only blog if you prefer – and you can control this on a post by post or whole-of-blog security settings. Also, LJ supports a number of active social communities (yes, including the Harry Potter slashfic community which sadly seems to be all most people know of LiveJournal).

Because LJ has evolved a fairly unique user base, it could be a really good time for Dreamwidth to launch, because I certainly don’t know what I’d suggest to my LJ friends and communities as an alternative to LiveJournal.

It’s going to be an interesting few months ahead. This is not the first time LJ users have faced uncertaintly – as over the course of its life it has gone from being a community site founded by (now-Googler) Brad Fitzpatrick, to a commercial entity owned by Six Apart and now Sup. Many LJers are exploring backup and export options right now – no-one wants to lose years of blog entries, not to mention the contact details of their online friends.

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Check out the cool talks coming up at the "Free as in Freedom" miniconf

If you’re attending Linux.conf.au in Hobart later this month, I strongly recommend you look at the lineup of talks which Brianna Laugher has organised for the Free as in Freedom miniconf on Tuesday, 20 January.

I’ll be speaking on journalism in the age of citizen journalism at 1.45pm (“It’s all fun and games until someone wants to sue you”). I’m also really looking forward to the other talks, especially Matthew Landauer from OpenAustralia.org, who was recently voted best speaker at the Open Source Developers Conference in Sydney. Matthew won’t be speaking at the main LCA conference – so this will be your only chance to see him speak  – so make sure you come along to Free as in Freedom. 🙂

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I'm teaching digital media at the University of Melbourne

I’m happy to let you know that I’m going to be teaching at the University of Melbourne this year in the School of Culture and Communications. In Semester 1 I’ll be teaching Advanced Editing for Digital Media, which is basically the web publishing component of the Uni’s postgraduate publishing degree.

This is exciting for me because I’ve been wanting to teach for a while, and it means I get to try to help solve a problem which I became acutely aware of when we interviewing journalism graduates for an online role at Crikey, which was that unis seem to be producing graduates who treat the net like just another publishing platform instead of getting involved with building and interacting with online content and communities. And of course, uni courses tend to lag far a year or two behind what’s actually happening out there in the world – I’ll be trying to overcome this the best I can.

I’ve never taught a formally structured course before – and I’ll be looking around for ideas and inspiration for how to not suck as a teacher. I’ll be drawing lots of inspiriation from Dr Michael Wesch’s Digital Ethnography videos and blog – but any tips, links or suggested reading would be gratefully received. 🙂

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Free in Melbourne

I’m going to be keeping an eye out for free and cheap cool things to do in Melbourne – whether it’s arts events, classes, or concerts. I’ll tag these posts ‘free in Melbourne’

So far I’ve learned that Port Phillip council offers a range of free classes (including cheese making!), the awesome City Library in Flinders Lane has a series of free gigs coming up and the Melbourne Library Service offers a book club at a few of their libraries where you borrow the books from the library rather than buying them – clever!

I was vaguely disappointed by the Melbourne City Council’s “That’s Melbourne” website. So where do you find out what cool free and cheap things are on in Melbourne?

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