All Things Open 2018

Last week I attended the All Things Open conference in Raleigh. This is a conference dedicated to Open Source Software, which is very different from the usual vendor led conferences I attend. It was also unusual to commute to a conference in the morning and then back home at night. Usually conference season means at least one or two visits to Vegas. It was great to skip that this time around!

I mainly went to attend a few session and pick up some skills I could leverage myself. I wasn’t really going to market anything for Nutanix. Here are a few memorable things I took away from the show.

Overall Impression

This was different from a vendor led conference because there was no main stage presentation where a single vendor pitched their view or vision. Instead a lot of different voices were heard on a number of different loosely related subjects. At first my impression was that this led to a little bit of incoherence, but upon reflection I took a little something away from each of the presentations. They all fit in the general theme of the open source community – which is broad ranging itself.

Some of the sessions I wanted to go to were just too packed to even get in the room, so you won’t get any notes on SE Linux or “How to write good docs” (since the presenter was from Google).

I did manage to attend some great sessions on content marketing, personal brand building, and writing

Session: Building Your Personal Brand

Dorothea, the presenter for the brand building session, was herself a lesson on branding. She immediately opened with a comment about the price and ostentatiousness of her “Lady Gaga” shoes.

Your brand is the perception of you that others hold, that lives outside you. Your reputation is what follows you from birth and even beyond death.

She continued with a fun example of Martha Stewart’s brand journey (starting at age 15) that I found really helpful because it tied concepts into real world examples. My key takeaway from this session was LESS on branding and more on how incorporating a good story and example can make a presentation memorable.

I still don’t know what my brand is after this, so you tell me. What is the impression that I’m leaving with you, that persists separate from myself? IT Superhero? Something else?

Session: Marketing Your Open Source Project

I’m not marketing any open source products, but I’m certainly in the marketing organization. I found this session pretty helpful and also example packed.

The thing I can’t forget is this quote:
“Everything that touches the customer is marketing.”

Yes, that sounds right. Sometimes I hear the phrase “We’re ALL in sales.” Yes, I think that’s true. We’re also ALL in marketing. There is no way around it – your interactions with customers, your product, these all leave an impression about your product with the customer whether you are conscious of it or not.

Logos came up in this and many other sessions. If you have a logo your community can rally around that logo. People will want your stickers even if they don’t know what the product is. I don’t know how to take this into the corporate world, where every single product within a company is clamoring to be a uniquely identified component.

Another thing that I really need to start working on:
“If you need to answer something more than three times, it should be in a document.”
I spend a lot of my time just responding to informational queries directly. This is a good point that maybe could be an end of week ritual. What questions have I answered this week. Go back and copy the answer from slack and email and put it into a doc. Repeat and build.

I also want to read a book as a result of this talk:
Kathy Sierra: Making Users Awesome
and a blog
Creating Passionate Users

Keynote: 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Python

This was a fun main stage keynote in the morning about the sort of projects Python is used for. I found it upbeat and chocked full of great project examples. That’s the theme of the show so far. Examples are king!

I took a note to investigate HomeAssistant, an open source home automation tool that’s core focus is on giving you control and privacy while also providing home automation. I don’t know how this fits into my home automation journey, but now I have an item to research.

Keynote: Money As An Open Protocol

My vote for “Most Impassioned Presentation” goes to Andreas Antonopoulos for “Money As An Open Protocol“. He delivered what seemed like a 20 minute slide-less monologue that had the audience putting down their cell phones and paying attention. That’s a skill to admire.

Here’s my ham fisted summary.
Digital Currencies and the block chain are a way of implementing rules that allow us to establish and scale trust beyond the Dunbar number. When you move to a distributed system of money you remove root control of money. Who has root? Finding out who controls the system of money and what rules the system operates on are imperative for the operation of a society. Today the system and rules are behind a gatekeeper. Today the subject of money is taboo. Today, when people learn how fractional reserve and other parts of the system function, they say “That must be a scam.”

Reform in society should start with taking back control of the mechanism for expressing value, money. You don’t have to trust everyone in the system, but you have to trust (and know) the rules that the other players operate by.

Here’s a fun analogy I pulled straight from my notes during the talk: Remember when the Internet ran on top of voice phone lines. The crappiest copper pair you could string together. Now all voice runs on top of the Internet as just a tiny fraction of traffic. Imagine the same thing for banking and BitCoin. Eventually all of commercial banking could run on top of a distributed ledger such as the BitCoin block chain as just a fraction if the chain’s functionality.

How to Write Your First Book or Just a Blog Post

Azat Mardan presented this session with advice on how to start writing. It’s why you’re reading this post in the first place! I’ve been stagnant in my writing and his tips were incredibly valuable. The key thought is to just start writing down your ideas. Start writing down your outline. Start iterating on the outline. The biggest problem he sees people falling into is getting stuck on tools and process, or not being able to break things up into small pieces.

Technology should be no barrier to writing. We’re all carrying notebooks, laptops, iPhones with us everywhere. We can start writing ANYWHERE for any amount of time. I woke up in a moment of sleeplessness a few nights ago and managed to come up with 15 blog ideas in just a few minutes before falling back to sleep. These all exist in my iPhone now!

I don’t have any immediate plans to start writing a book – but I’d like to be a little more active in the nerd blog here with some “How To” blog posts. I’d also like to start writing about my adventures with the wife, and sharing recipes that we love. It’s all a little bit of writing that exists for no other reason than to explore what makes me happy.

Doing it for myself was like the key to unlocking the project. It’s a thing I want to do, and if I break it into small enough pieces for short enough time periods it should be manageable.

Wish me luck!

Funding Creative Ventures (Sword & Laser)

I’m torn on how we do funding these days for all the media I love to consume. I read a lot of science fiction and fantasy. The Sword & Laser show and podcast has been a true life saver. They’re always curating a list of awesome books. If you follow me on GoodReads you’ll see that I pretty much just pick anything they’ve mentioned and start reading that. They’ve never steered me wrong. The interviews with authors I’m interested in are also GREAT.

I think it’s worth some amount of money to be a part of this curation service. Whenever I want to read a book all the work of picking out a good one is already done for me. Just go to the S&L site and I have pretty good odds of finding a winner. How much is that worth? We’ll get to that.

NPR asks for donations infrequently and sticks non invasive ads into This American Life and Serial. Free for me and not that annoying. Google via YouTube funded a whole host of great content creation channels. Free for me, but those non skip-able YouTube ads are getting on my nerves. Penny Arcade and other sites have turned to KickStarter. I’ve donated to a few of these and even received some cool products.

Artist Perspective

I’m an artist making something and I’d like to eat and pay my rent. I’d also like as many people as possible to see what I make. Let’s give it away for free on the Internet and just figure some shit out later. If I don’t make some money I’m going to have to get a real job 🙁 Let’s ask people to just pay what they like.

Consumer Perspective

Cable is expensive as hell! I’d like to listen and watch all this great free stuff online. Oh, I can also pay a la carte for just the things I really enjoy? So cool!

The Hitch(es)

If an artist is giving stuff away for free are you really incentivized to send them money out of the kindness of your heart? Sometimes I certainly am, but I think that’s the exception and not the rule.

I fear that one day I’ll wake up and realize I’m spending more money (or as much) on my a la carte services than I was on a bundled service. Maybe I won’t even realize it because it’s death by a thousand cuts. A little money here and there until I can’t pay my mortgage.

Even worse, what if there is some great content being created but not enough people decide to pitch in and fund it. That’s a real bummer there because the artist might not have funding to keep creating. My podcast or RSS feed could go dead. Definitely worse than missing a mortgage payment!

What Is This Post About Anyway?

I’m going to fund Sword & Laser on Patreon. I love the content and I’m willing to pay a small amount for it. Each time they make an episode they’re going to get $1 from me (up to a monthly max that I didn’t bother setting). This seems like a fair trade. I might bump the amount up at some point. Right now they make about 1 show a week. That’s a grand total of $4 a month, I can swing it. They’ve directed me to so many good books and filled up my commute time with author interviews and sci-fi discussions. I’d like them to keep doing it.

If you follow my GoodReads or like sci-fi I think you should donate too. If they stop making the show I’ll be really sad! They’ve pitched a lot of different ways to raise money over the years and I hope this one sticks.

So far I think Patreon seems like the best option for me and the content creator, but I’m not too optimistic about everyone being so generous.

CYB3RCRIM3 Reading

Call me crazy, but I really love reading legal analysis at CYB3RCRIM3. I discovered the site via an OPML file passed to me by a friend in the security industry. Thanks Devon!

I can see how the walls of text might not be appealing, but the material is great. Legal writing is just so different; almost formulaic and with zero emotion. If you can get over the hump of reading court case opinions I think the subject matter is important to everyone. True human computer interaction… Here is where your technology comes into play to exonerate or incriminate you. In this particular instance we’ll say it’s where the rubber meets the road. (Sorry)

SDM_download_via_DLC

Here’s a great example using a car data recorder where the defendant is appealing on a technicality that I won’t pretend I’m fully behind. I LOVE reading between the lines though:

This driver was a huge dick and went out of their way to brake check someone. The data recorder in the car backs this up. This data is being used against the driver for a conviction (along with other testimony) and there is no way to contest these basic facts.

Are you aware that your car is spying on you? That your brake and throttle application along with your speed will be analyzed in full detail if you’re ever in an incident that goes to court? They don’t advertise that on the TV commercials for new cars. Do you know which car manufacturers record what data and for how long? Do you know how reliable that recorder is? Can it be hacked? Can I make it say I was going 1 mph with the gas and brake fully applied at all times (even when stopped)?

I’m not saying cars shouldn’t do this tracking after a crash. I’m also not saying the driver shouldn’t have been convicted. It seems like the justice system worked like it should have. I just like to know ahead of time how it is I’m being tracked and monitored. Personally, I think I’d opt out of this recording technology if it was possible to do so.

Thanks CYB3RCRIM3 for calling out the interesting cases!

I thought I was done writing – but just look at the next post involving a gang member and the forfeit of passwords. As a condition of probation this guy had to surrender all passwords to all social media sites. I didn’t know it was even possible for the state to make that demand. Now I know! How would you feel about that if it happened to you?