LUG Radio Live 2006 – Part Eight

Lunchtime on Sunday was the GPG keysigning in BOF 3. It was reasonably well attended, with not too many people to make the informal style a pain. It was also nice to be plunged into an almost entirely different group of people for a while; a great chance to meet yet another bunch of community members. The keysigning, with different people presenting different IDs from around the world, has lead me to put together my own GPG keysigning policy, which I will put on my wiki when I’m entirely happy with it. Browsing round the exhibition after the official signing session, I exchanged keys with Mark Shuttleworth. Paul Sladen (who remembered me from his visits to HantsLUG) also took my key to sign. Neither of them have signed my key yet, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time. 🙂

I was keen to see Michael Dominik’s talk on DIVA as I’d seen the rather cool videos on the project website and heard the interview on a LUG Radio episode. The talk didn’t really demonstrate anything that new over what was in the online videos but it was good to see it in action, processing some MPEG and OGG files. It looks featureful enough to be useful for our LUG talk videos and again, I was able to ask Michael some specific questions after the talk. That’s one of the cool things about LRL, being able to just chat to the developers of the projects you’re looking at. I’d like to track both DIVA and Pitivi as they both look promising. I’ve got a feeling that DIVA isn’t going to be easy to get up and running, though it has the edge over Pitivi in terms of features at the moment.

The penultimate talk I attended was the “Women in Open Source” talk, given by Kat, Jen and Phated. This talk was easily the most packed lightning talk on the Sunday, with all four large gents and most of the crew in attendance too. I don’t think think this was just because they had pulled Ade up to the front of the room as an example of male chauvinism. It was very noticable how many more women were at LRL 2006 than the previous year’s event, but they were still a minority. Although the talk was not entirely negative, it looked at how women can be treated online, how they can be treated in LUGs and how they can be subjected to uncouth behaviour. Although they made quite sure that the talk was well-controlled, there was sufficient interest in the topic that an impromptu BOF took place in the corridor outside the talk room which saw a crowd of people taking the discussion even further.

Seb Payne was the last lightning talk of the day, a brief but very well presented tour of iFolder, something that I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to get working for several months now. Seb was a confident and amusing speaker and handled even the more tricky questions well. He convinced me to try and compile iFolder from SVN on my Ubuntu Dapper systems. I have promised that once he produces some documentation, I will. 🙂 I missed most of the goodbye from the gents on the main stage as I was shutting things down in the lightning talks room. I caught the end of it though, and there was a real feeling that the weekend had been a success, that it had strenghtened the community, fostered debate, shown what’s new and given some projects a firmer sense of direction. The gents, and all those who helped them organise the event, should be applauded for this. Afterwards, Adam Sweet told me that Matt wanted to see me. So I toddled off to find him. He thanked me (on behalf of the team) for my help over the weekend and gave me some Linux games from the people as a thank you. It was really sweet and I was quite touched.

The journey home was even more interesting that the journey up. After a detour or two to avoid the traffic jam on the motorway and to wave at Alan’s brother’s house, discussion soon turned to our thoughts of the weekend. Everyone had enjoyed the weekend a lot, everyone having their own highlights. This in turn lead to a discussion of the “Women in Open Source” talk and the issues it raised with the laddish culture in some parts of the community. The exchange centered around whether this culture puts people off joining firstly the LUG Radio community and secondly the UK LUG community. The former is certainly true but is perhaps less important; There are other podcasts people can listen to if they don’t like LUG Radio’s style. The latter is more contentious and something I’d not given much thought to before.

LUG Radio has always had an attitude of “this is us, take us or leave us,” which personally I feel they can do because they aren’t representing anyone other than themselves. They aren’t bound by a company to present a perfect public presence and they make no pretence at being a professional outfit. However, it was suggested by that LUG Radio might, through it’s name, be perceived by some as representing LUGs or LUG culture, regardless of whether this is the intention of the show itself. I’d not really thought about this before. If that is the case, the point went, do the presenters have a moral responsibility to reflect this in their deportment on air? The argument was that by calling the show LUG Radio it does at least align itself with LUG culture and acknowledge they are at least a part of that culture.

We all agreed that LUGs should be as inclusive as possible and that this should be reflected in the places they meet, the activities they run and the way meetings are conducted. Running a LUG in the same way that LUG Radio runs would certainly put some people off getting involved in their LUG. However, it can’t be denied that some people prefer this sort of LUG meeting, but they are probably already committed to the FLOSS movement, already part of the community. Conversely, it isn’t good advocacy to put new recruits off attending meetings in the first place or scare them off if they do attend through swearing and laddish behaviour.

But does LUG Radio represent LUG culture in the UK? The atmosphere of the show is certainly very different from our HantsLUG meetings, so I would have to say “no”. There was a lot more LUG-related content in the early shows, with phone calls in from LUGs around the country, but this hasn’t happened in the last two series. There’s nothing in the show’s content that allies it with LUGs, other than some discussions being prompted by events in the presenters’ local LUG. But this is perhaps something that regular listeners pick up on, rather than those who are new to the show or to LUGs.

The articles written by the presenters and published on their blogs, in magzines etc. are well-written and intelligent, but this does contrast with the atmosphere on the show. It was pointed out that bad language or crude jokes wouldn’t be acceptable in such articles, but they are deemed to be OK on the radio show, despite the fact they may exclude some (potential) members of the community. Space for freedom of expression is important though, and I can totally sympathise with the presenters wanting to have a outlet for their frustrations. I don’t think I would want to see the show self-censored any more than it is. Personally, I think there is room for talk about advocacy and still enjoy kicking back in a podcast, but conversely I wouldn’t want the show to be perceived to be representing UK LUGs in general. Perhaps a “clean” podcast will prove more popular than LUG Radio at some point in the future which can be better said to represent UK LUG culture, but LUG Radio is clearly doing something right as its download figures and active community demonstrate. Regardless of the lack of conclusion to the debate, it was rewarding talking to people who have clearly thought a lot about the issues.

So, I suppose through these posts, I’ve been trying to say that LRL 2006 was a blast, really good fun, but also much more thought-provoking than I had expected. The efforts of the organisers were noticed and appreciated. They should be proud of their acheivement and the community that has grown around their show. It’s great that people care so much about FLOSS that communities like this form around it, and it’s fantastic that there is room for diversity of opinion and discussion. I enjoyed meeting lots of people I primarily only speak to online: Jono, Matt, Aq, Adam “drinky” Sweet, sward, mrben, neuro, sebpayne, Xalior, ChairmanMeow, Cillian, bilboed, TMM, Phated, pickle, resiak (and anyone else I’ve left off). (Ade too, but I never speak to him online. 🙂 ) I enjoyed LRL 2006 immensely, as much for the community around it as the talks themselves, and I’m looking forward to being involved next year.

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