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Upcoming OSIA talk: Open Sourcing PR

I’ll be talking about “Open Sourcing PR” at OSIA this month. The meeting starts at 7pm, on April 16 here in Melbourne town. Details of the meeting are here and the blurb for the talk can be found under the cut.

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Linux Australia acknowledges some quiet achievers – the Community Recognition Awards

I guess it’s fitting that quiet achievers be quietly rewarded, but I suspect Linux Australia’s Community Recognition Awards flew completely under the radar at LCA. The awards went to:

  • Janet Hawtin: For designing the Linux Australia and Open Source Industry Australia logos and commitment to community development.
  • Alison Russell: For acting as speaker liaison for the conference over many years & compiling the LCA-HowTo for future bid teams.
  • Hugh Blemings: For helping build and maintain the Linux Australia and IBM relationship in support of over the past 10 years.

Congratulations, winners. 🙂 In case you’re wondering, these awards were given out in lieu of the Rusty Wrench awards this year. Really good to see that LA stepped up and acknowleged the very vital role that behind the scenes volunteers play.

Comments off 2009 roundup 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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Australia denies visas over concerns about open source? WTF? UPDATED

I’ve just been alerted via a 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 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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Check out the cool talks coming up at the "Free as in Freedom" miniconf

If you’re attending 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, 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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Interview with Jeff Waugh tonight on RRR

I’ll be interviewing Jeff Waugh tonight on RRR‘s technology show, Byte into IT. Jeff will be giving us an update on the local work being done with the One Laptop per Child laptop, the XO. OLPC volunteers are hard at work in the south pacific region and right here in Australia.

If you’re in Melbourne, you can tune in from 7pm til 8pm on 102.7FM. Or you can stream the show from the RRR website. The show will also be available as a podcast at a later date (but I’m not sure how much later). 🙂

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GetUp's SMH article subtracts the transparency from eDemocracy

I was pretty disappointed to read this article in the SMH yesterday on the birth of eDemocracy in Australia. Written by someone from GetUp, it failed to mention, while spruiking GetUp’s forthcoming website, Project Democracy, which will actually run on’s software and use data.

Here’s the article I wrote for Crikey today about the incident:

GetUp’s SMH article subtracts the transparency from eDemocracy

Credit where credit is due is a basic etiquette and underpins both the ethos and licensing of Open Source software. I hope GetUp has learned their lesson.

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Open Season – an MIS feature on open source in Australia

MIS magazine (Australia) has just published a feature I wrote for them on the uptake of open source software in Australia. A lot of the feature was based on research & interviews I undertook at earlier this year.

Open Season

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Interview with Leo Babauta of Zen Habits on open source as a model for online publishing

One of the fascinating things about open source, to me, is the way that its ideas about freedom of information have inspired everything from software licensing to music mashups. The possibilities, but also the problems, of applying notions of open source licensing to other areas such as publishing were brought home to me on the day that the Zen Habits blog announced it was going open source.

On 7 January 2008, visitors to Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits blog were greeted with a simple message: Open Source Blogging: Feel free to steal my content.  It was a cool moment – a high profile blogger taking the chance that by taking a potential hit in Google rankings/ad revenue, the free & open distribution of his work would actually benefit him more. As he said when he announced the move:  “I think, in most cases, the protectionism that is touted by “anti-piracy” campaigns and lawsuits and lobbying actually hurts the artist. Limiting distribution to protect profits isn’t a good thing.”

(This was before high profile musicians like Trent Reznor turned the major label music distribution model on its head by releasing free music on the internet and still selling out of the “special editions” of the same music packaged for fans and sold at premium price. Another example of copyright being dismantled for the benefit of the content creator.)

I was intrigued to find out why Leo had decided to embrace the open source distribution model for his online publishing, and curious why he’d elected to relinquish copyright altogether rather than opting to use the Creative Commons model (I’d note that my blog, is published under Creative Commons). So I interviewed him to find out more.

I’d also note that at the time of this interview, Leo predicted that if he landed a book deal with a traditional publisher, he expected his book would have to be published under copyright in accordance with the traditional publishing model – and he has in fact since landed a publishing deal. Congrats Leo. 🙂

On with the interview!

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For women thinking of attending or presenting at 2009

[crossposted to Linux Chix, Linux Australia,  LCA  and GGD lists, apologies if you see this a few times.]

How would you like a mentor to help you improve your proposal for a talk at

If you’re a female geek (professional or student) and thinking of submitting a tech talk to LCA, then I’d like to tell you that a couple of experienced speakers have volunteered to make some time to read draft proposals & give feedback to women who are interested in presenting at LCA. The idea is to encourage women (especially ones who haven’t applied or presented before) and hopefully increase their chances of getting selected. (I’m not part of the LCA 2009 organising committee, this is not an “official” thing just something I’m organising with the help of a couple of volunteers.)

I’m trying to get this message out to lists frequented by technical women & students, please forward to any mailing lists or friends/colleagues who you’d like to see presenting at in January. 🙂

The timetable I’d like to work to is:

1) You contact me asap ( to let me know you’re interested in having someone vet your talk. I will provide you with contact details of your “mentor” and you will forward your draft proposal to them by this Friday, 25 July (yes, this Friday!)
2) Your mentor will get a week to look at your proposal, and will be asked to send you some feedback by August 1. (so you’ll then have a week to do any further tweaking before submitting your proposal).
4) Call for papers ends on 8 August, hopefully many excellent proposals will be submitted including a record number by women. 🙂

Please note: There are a lot of things you can do yourself to improve your proposal before it even goes to your mentor. Please check out the following.

Information on LCA for people wanting to give a paper: » Continue reading “For women thinking of attending or presenting at 2009”

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