After lunch, I dipped in and out of Danny O’Brien’s talk. I enjoyed Danny’s columns in Linux User & Developer, but they seem to have stopped now. Danny talked about quite a few things, including his work with the EFF, standing up for people or projects prosecuted under technology laws. Unfortunately, both he and Bill Thompson were called in to the Mass Debate after half an hour of their alloted one hour slot. I should have seen this coming as both were ideal candidates for the Mass Debate and in the last episode of LUG Radio before the event the guys gave the impression that they didn’t know who was going to be taking part in the Mass Debate. So, note for next year: Don’t schedule interesting contributors from high-profile organisations at the same time as a debate they would be perfect to be involved in.
I took the chance to have a wander round the exhibition area and check out some of the stands. In some ways it was the usual suspects, although MythTVtalk.com, the FSFE and Novell were new to LRL. The bits of Des Burley’s talk that I heard made me reflect on the wide range of talks that this year’s event included. Whilst it’s great hearing about specific software projects and seeing demonstrations of cool new stuff, the issues around FLOSS are so wide ranging and it was great to see that reflected in the talk schedule; the OpenStreetMap, OpenDocument Fellowship, Des Burley, Belial, Danny O’Brien, MySociety and Pledgebank touched on social and political issues. These were by far and away the most thought provoking talks, and often caused the most heated debate both during the talk and in the bar afterwards. It’s really important not to view FLOSS as being created inside a perfect vacuum, where other, non-software related issues don’t intrude. They do and people in the FLOSS community need to be aware of them.
I made sure I sat through all of Edward Hervey’s talk on Pitivi, as it’s a project I’ve tried many times to use without success. It’s in Dapper universe now but that version is quite out-of-date as the software is under active development. The talk was a good chance to see the new features in the software but also demonstrated that there is a long way to go. (I was able to grab Edward in the hotel lobby the following morning to ask him some of my more specific questions.) Ian, who I’ve met on several occasions, mostly though Schoolforge-UK, talked about OpenDocument, why it’s important to governments, businesses and people. Daniel Carrera, who I’ve spoken to online a few times, also demonstrated an OpenDocument viewer. I was already aware of the project but didn’t really understand why it could be so important until the talk. When Daniel started drawing comparisons with Acrobat Reader and explained that the viewer would be cross-platform I finally got it. If people already have OpenOffice.org installed then it’s not a big deal to use it for viewing ODF documents. But if not, then a small, light viewer application (that is a significantly smaller download that Acrobat Reader) is really crucial to aiding adoption of ODF.
Bruno “kNo” Bord’s lightning talk, “This Talk May Contain Swearing,” was easily the busiest lightning talk of the day. It was standing room only, and all four of the large gents made sure they were in attendance. Bruno had listened to 16 episodes of series 3 of LUG Radio and generated data on who swore in what way throught those episodes. Delivered dead-pan, Bruno explained his method and results as if he were presenting a minor paper on ear surgery at a medical conference. Having explained his method, he then talked through various trends in the episodes: average swear rate per minute, who swore most, which swear-words were used most, which episodes contained least swearing. The latter statistic lead to the definition of the “RTHE” or Reverend Ted Haegar Effect. The talk was superbly well received. I’m not sure what the sober souls who had gone to the Grid Computing talk next door thought of the raucous laughter coming from the adjacent room.