[Linux-aus] Young people and FOSS in Australia

Mary Gardiner mary at puzzling.org
Tue Feb 15 10:48:53 EST 2011


Forwarding this here, I sent it to Alice and John prior to the Council
election. Thought it might be useful to start a discussion at some point.

However, the kinds of things I am talking about here really probably need to
have money spent on them in order to purchase an organiser's time. I can't
imagine any of us have this level of volunteer time this year.

----- Forwarded message from Mary Gardiner <mary at puzzling.org> -----

From: Mary Gardiner <mary at puzzling.org>
Date: Fri, 7 Jan 2011 09:56:58 +1100
To: Alice Boxhall <appletea at gmail.com>, John Ferlito <johnf at inodes.org>
Subject: Young people and FOSS in Australia
Bcc: Andrew Bennetts <andrew at bemusement.org>
User-Agent: Mutt/1.5.20 (2009-06-14)

Alice was telling me this is a major concern for linux-aus in 2011, I
was thinking about it last night and thought it might be worth throwing
a few ideas at the wall.

Some of these are effort intensive (to the point where they might need
to be someone's job) and some are expensive in their own right. But
aiming high for now.

1. Focussing on getting young people to speak at LCA (or OSDC)

One possibility is a separate student track for, say, major project or
honours students who did FOSS work and released their code. Perhaps
targetting students at universities local to the conference.

Couple of things to address:
 1. lead time. An LCA talk would really need to be a planned outcome of
    the project, which means getting the supervisors on board at the
    beginning of the year.

 2. the talk itself. Honours students are accustomed to giving
    academic-lite talks, which will bore an LCA audience. It's a
    different genre of talk. Maybe have some kind of preparatory
    speaking session for them?

Ideally there would be follow-up of some kind to try and get them back
the next year as attendees. 25% off next year's ticket? Simply a nice
mail in October saying "that conference you spoke at last year? you
could totally hang out this year too."

Alternatively/as well, this could be a track for Summer of Code
projects, which are fairly nicely timed in this respect.

2. Careers outreach

What I'm picturing is more than booths or pamphlets but a careers day
offered to computing students on FOSS, getting involved, and how to make
it a career. Talks from leading hackers with different career paths,
reps of companies who hire from and contribute to FOSS, and so on.

The major thing I think lacking here is what to do with any student who
gets super-excited. Where, in Australia, do we currently point them?
"Start using Linux, and, um, when you find a bit of it you don't like,
join an IRC channel and start hassling for commit access" probably isn't
the right response here.

Also our conferences have shit timing for students. OSDC clashes with
final exams. LCA clashes with family holidays and international students
not being in AU, and to top it off most self-supporting students are
working fulltime across it. An August event would really be ideal.

3. Various issues

3.1 Scope of LA projects.

Younger people used to run linux.conf.au. But linux.conf.au used to be
less of a giant project too. Standards in project management,
networking, scheduling, coding, audiovisual, speaker communication,
interactions with sponsors are expected to be tip-top. No wonder it's 30
to 50 year olds doing it, 10 years industry experience is basically
required to even begin to do it at current expectations. (20 year olds
*can* do that, but it's almost impossible to ask them once these are
expectations, rather than nice surprises.)

There need to be smaller conferences and community projects, and they
need to be *kept* small in expectation and demands, or you get this
effect. Alternatively, or as well, LCA teams need to have small,
discrete tasks that newcomers to the community can cut their teeth on.

3.2 LUGs

OK, I'm biased. Not a fan. But LUGs seem to me to be lumbering dinosaurs
now, still making Micro$oft jokes and backslapping over who contributed
to the kernel before 1.0. Someone who is 20 this year was born in 1990.
Purely in Linux terms, the 2.4 series started when they were 11. GNOME 2
came out when they were 12. Ubuntu first released when they were 14.  If
LUGs continue to be a good ol' boys/gals club, they won't compete and
they won't care.

Should LA be trying to build bridges with the Ignite/Geek Girl
Dinner/Web 2.0 communities instead/as well? What would those bridges
look like, given that they typically don't care as much about the
FOSS/proprietary divide?


<radix> glyph: well, this is hearsay from a guy whose middle name is
<radix> (tjs)
<glyph> I take it the j is silent

----- End forwarded message -----

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