FLOSS and Tech Geek BoF III at Balticon 45 – Updated

(Updated to correct the obviously wrong date.)

For the past two years at Balticon, the annual convention run by the Baltimore Science Fiction Society, I’ve organized an unofficial and largely ad hoc gathering of FLOSS and general technology enthusiasts. (Here’s my announcement from last year.) Turnout has been small but dedicated and I enjoy doing it as a bit of a warm up before getting into the con proper.

I will be convening the birds of a feather again this year, in the same place around the same time. Instead of two hours, I’ve decided to simply offset it by half an hour from the official schedule and hang around for an hour. Why offset it? For the same reason I scheduled it for 2 hours in years past, so folks can join even if they have other commitments. If enough people show and want to keep the discussion going, there is no reason we cannot continue the conversation.

What: Birds of a feather, a term from technology conferences that simply refers to an off schedule or unofficial gathering driven by mutual interest rather than a specific topic or event

Where: The Paddock Bar (You cannot miss the hotel bar, even if you’ve never been to the Hunt Valley Marriott, it is straight through the lobby. Also it is a public space so if you are in the area but not attending the con you can still join us.)

Who: The bald hacker (me) with the Tux table sign and small, bean bag penguin

When: Friday, May 27th from 9:30PM to 10:30PM (longer if there is interest)

Why: Because there is a not surprisingly high proportion of FLOSS and tech geeks amongst the usual con going crowd

Hope to see you there!

3D/DC, Public Knowledge Brings 3D Printing to the Capital

Continuing the excellent, forward looking work begun in their white paper on potential intellectual monopoly issues around the emerging technology of 3D printing, Public Knowledge is organizing an event to bring together techies and policy folks on March 28th at an as yet to be determined venue near the hill.

On April 28th at 3D/DC, the 3D printing community will descend on Washington, DC to show policymakers what they are up to. Panels will introduce the 3D printing community to the DC policy community, and explore some of the policy issues that this disruptive technology will implicate. During a demonstration phase, you will be able to see this technology in action first hand, and speak one-on-one with people and companies on the cutting edge.

I will be there, for the new day job no less. The event is free and open to the public but does require an RSVP.

3D/DC: 3D Printing Comes to the Nation’s Capitol, Public Knowledge

TCLP 2011-03-16 IASL Talk at MITH

This is a feature cast, an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

Listener feedback was from Craig who wrote asking for more info on TIA and Jort with a great suggestion on using game style mechanics and feedback to motivate exercise. Jort’s anecdote reminds me of the work of Jane McGonigal who has a new book out.

The hacker word of the week this week is flag day.

The feature this week is a talk I gave at MITH about the International Amateur Scanning League. I used one of Dan Bull’s videos, the one about WikiLeaks, in my presentation as well as sharing clips from the FedFlix collection that IASL helped digitize. The clips were The Real Person, a smoke jumper training video, the Longines Chronoscope episode featuring Eugene Black of the World Bank, and The Big Picture installment covering the Army talent show.


View the detailed show notes online. You can grab the flac encoded audio from the Internet Archive.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

I’m Giving a Talk at MITH Next Week

MITH is the Maryland Institue for Technology and Humanities at the University of Maryland. They run a speaker series, Digital Dialogues, that has included some incredible presentations, not the least of which in my mind was Jason Scott on his documentary “Get Lamp” last year.

A friend of mine, Justin (@justgrimes), at UMD had been working with MITH to try to get Carl Malamud to give a talk about the International Amateur Scanning League, the public digitization volunteer effort to which Justin and I have been contributing time since last Summer. I was cc’ed as a possible alternate should Carl be unavailable.

For those that follow Carl on Twitter (@carlmalamud) you know that while he is in the DC area on a pretty regular basis, he’s almost always completely committed time-wise to meeting Congressional and White House staff for his day job, Law.gov, the effort to free the text of our body of laws for access online. I am happy to step up in his stead to speak about IASL, the volunteer based, public-private partnership that Carl started.

The folks at MITH have just posted the details of my presentation, which will be in the McKeldin Library on Tuesday the 15th from 12:30PM to 1:45PM.

“The International Amateur Scanning League, Unlocking the Federal Archives One Work at a Time” by THOMAS GIDEON

The federal government has produced and continues to produce a staggering amount of material, most of which is released directly into the public domain. The policies and processes for providing broad access in the age of the internet are still catching up both to that volume and new technologies. Experiments in public-private partnerships have been tried with varying degrees of success. Even the most successful are burdened with odd limitations and restrictions. A small group of volunteers working directly with the National Archives are trying to change that.

The talk is free and open to the public if you are in the area and can make it out. Otherwise, MITH will be recording it to release on their podcast later as will I. In fact, if I can get it edited up that Tuesday night, I should be able to release it as the feature in next Wednesday’s podcast.

There are more details, including links to directions, at the MITH event page.

TCLP 2011-02-02 Wiki X DC

This is a feature cast, an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

In the intro, I talk about SCALE 9x for which I have two free passes for the first two people to send me an email asking after them. I also play the official promo for the expo.

Listener feedback is from John, Charles and Mike in response to my rant on the pseudocommons.  John framed his question on his blog.  Charles and Mike contributed their thoughts in the comment thread for the episode. Charles also commented on my interview with Gabriella Coleman, to which she replied with some excellent sources for further reading. Charles has started his own new blog to further explore some of the ideas that informed his comments on the pseudocommons rant.

The hacker word of the week this week is fix.

The feature this week is some event recording I captured at Wiki X DC, the local tenth anniversary celebration for Wikipedia. These are just two talks out of an entire day’s worth given by Archives staffers and Wikipedians. I was there on behalf of Fedflix to talk about that project.

The first talk I have was given by Jill Reilly James. She works with online public access at the Archives where she is a staffer (though her talk isn’t an official statement by the Archives just her own views). She talks through using the existing and new search interfaces. Jill also blogs at Narations, the official Archives blog about online public access.

The second talk I have was given by Sarah Stierch who is working on the Wikiproject for Public Art. She mentions the SIRIS database, a site discussing the “morally correct” statuary at Union Station, and Tony Smith.


View the detailed show notes online. You can grab the flac encoded audio from the Internet Archive.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

EFF Pioneer Awards Announced

EFF just announced the winners of their annual Pioneer Awards.

Awarded every year since 1992, EFF’s Pioneer Awards recognize leaders who are extending freedom and innovation on the electronic frontier. Past honorees include World Wide Web inventor Tim Berners-Lee, security expert Bruce Schneier, and the Mozilla Foundation and its chairman Mitchell Baker, among many others.

This years recipients are transparency activist Stephen Aftergood, public domain scholar James Boyle, legal blogger Pamela Jones and the website Groklaw, and e-voting researcher Hari Krishna Prasad Vemuru. Vemuru is the security researcher jailed, now out on bail, for his investigation into e-voting systems in India.

Candidates are nominated by the public and selected by a panel of judges. The full list of judges is in the announcement but among them are Cory Doctorow, a good friend and role model of mine, and Barbara Simons, with whom I am acquainted through her current work with the ACM.

The award ceremony will be held on November 8th, at 7:30PM, at the 111 Minna Gallery in San Francisco. Cory Doctorow will be the host and also attending, along with the recipients and several other notable folks, a VIP event beforehand.

If anyone reading this will be at the award ceremony and interested in covering the event for my podcast, let me know.

Transparency Activist, Public Domain Scholar, Legal Blogger, and Imprisoned E-Voting Researcher Win Pioneer Awards, EFF

Small Press Expo

As long time readers may know, I have been a big fan of Ed Piskor since I became aware of his graphic novel in progress, WIZZYWIG. When he wrote about his decision to re-work the three volumes so far and release the completed story as one volume, I determined to contact him for an interview. We corresponded over the Summer and settled on the Small Press Expo as a convenient venue. As much as I would have loved to go to HOPE to interview him there, Dragon*Con pretty much soaked my remaining travel budget for the year. As it happens, the Small Press Expo is literally ten minutes from my house.

After some confusion at the registration line yesterday, I made my way into the ridiculously crowded show floor to find Ed. The exhibit tables were packed into a medium sized ball room but easily could have more comfortably fit into a space twice as large. I made my way through the entire set of tables until I found Ed at pretty much the last table I checked.

We had a fantastic discussion, a solid hour of audio, which I look forward very much to sharing in a couple of weeks. We also got a pretty good stream of folks coming and going from the expo to watch as we chatted. There is a break in the audio that I may leave intact where both of our trains of thought are derailed by a larger group. I have to thank Ed for being so generous with his time especially as he was working at the expo, selling copies of his books.

After I walked back to Ed’s table, I did one more circuit around the show floor looking for artists I know. A couple of the web comics I read had mentioned in the week prior they would be at the show. The only one I found was David Malki of Wondermark. He is an incredibly nice guy and was very indulgent as I gushed about his work. I was instantly taken with the set of books produced by Dark Horse collecting his work. They are absolutely gorgeous and overflowing with extra content and gags in the same vein as the comic itself. I picked up the first hard cover volume, which David signed, along with a few new stickers to adorn my laptop. I will definitely be picking up the other hard cover volumes from his site and look forward to his new book, “Machine of Death“.

The most surprising thing about the book is how much my wife enjoyed it. Malki’s humor can easily be described as surreal though at times that would be an understatement. I thought it might be too much for her sense of humor but seeing the tears streaming down her face from laughter just a few pages in, I knew I had misjudged her appreciation of the absurd. Or underestimated Malki’s ability to appeal more broadly. My desire to acquire his other books is now at least as strongly driven by Andrea’s desire to catch up with the web comic as my own desire to enjoy the extra flourishes he installs in the print version.

I could have spent more time on the show floor or even checked out more of the programming at the Expo but was still feeling burned out from Dragon*Con. If Ed returns to the Expo next year, which seems likely, I may plan a longer day trip to not only catch up with him again but to absorb more of what the world of web comics has to offer.

TCLP 2010-09-08 Creative Commons, Legal Issue Panel from Dragon*Con 2010

This is a feature cast, an episode of The Command Line Podcast.

In the intro, a quick end of month update on the podcast’s finances and you can find all my posts from Dragon*Con past and present using the dragoncon tag.

There is no new hacker word of the week this week.

The feature this week is the panel audio from the Creative Commons and legal issues panel I moderated at Dragon*Con 2010. I was joined once again by Randy Chertkow of Beatnik Turtle and Courtney Perry, lawyer and now law professor. The new panelist this year was Brian Ibbott of Coverville who was very generous in sharing his experiences as an early and still active music podcaster. In the discussion we mention both “Free Culture“, by Lawrence Lessig, and “The Public Domain“, by James Boyle.


View the detailed show notes online. You can grab the flac encoded audio from the Internet Archive.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 United States License.

Dragon*Con 2010 Wrap Up

I missed my daily post for yesterday but did get my weekly links out. I guess that still counts as a daily post. Sunday was the last full day of the con and pretty quiet so I’ll wrap any thoughts on it into my overall thoughts on the convention. For today, we made good time once we got under way. We had a leisurely start, slipping in some last minute shopping for family, friends and ourselves in and amongst our farewells. Neither Andrea or I are big shoppers but we like to bring gifts back for the kids and my mom who takes care of them while we are away.

This year’s Dragon*Con was a productive convention for me. I have two features worth of audio to edit and master for releasing in the coming weeks. I also participated in recordings for Technorama and View from the Quad. I’ll post links when those episodes are released. I had many long and interesting discussions off the mic. I hope to be able to follow up on some of those threads throughout the coming year. Despite the paucity of hands on and how-to programming this year, I was approached several times while volunteering and happy to share my technical experience with some up and coming podcasters.

I think my wife said it best, over lunch this afternoon before we got under way. This year was the quietest, calmest Dragon*Con of all the ones I’ve attended. In some ways, that was a good thing. I didn’t feel over stressed at any point and got plenty of rest. The crowding was a bit tough in spots, so the calm also acted as a good psychic buffer. In other ways, it was a bad thing. The socialization seemed far more sporadic, I think because we were missing the social glue provided by my dear friends Chooch and Viv who couldn’t make it this year. I did get to see all of my friends and acquaintances who I knew to be there but the partying and carousing of last year never quite cohered in the same way.

While the podcast track had a few standing room only panels, something just felt missing there too. Maybe it was the second year of being in the shadow cast by the growing and deservedly awesome skeptic track. I have some seeds of ideas, mostly notions for growing my own involvement in the podcasting track beyond those aspects on which I have focused to date. Logistics, staffing and gear are well in hand, the problems of the past long solved. It should have occurred to me last year to start expanding my attention to other areas where I can now help.

I had been on the fence in the months leading up to Dragon*Con, mostly because of the cost but also because of absent friends. I can say I have no regrets sticking with my plan to attend, far from it. As with each year past, the con has presented me with a new face and associated new experiences. I do feel that I am increasingly better able to keep my expectations at bay, contemplating the con as it unfolds including the lessons it provides. In that regard, the con was once again a rewarding and enjoyable personal growth opportunity. I am strongly leaning towards coming back for a sixth year to explore further facets of this immense and complex con experience.

Dragon*Con 2010, Day 2

The feeling of compressed time persisted into the second day of the convention. The way my commitments were stacked throughout the day, it made more sense than yesterday. I did manage to get into the dealer room and see a little bit before I had to move on. I also got away from the con hotels for a nice, lengthy dinner with friends.

Immediately after my volunteer shift this morning, I moderated the Creative Commons and legal issues panel. I was extremely happy to be joined once again by Randy Chertkow of Beatnik Turtle and Courtney Perry. We were joined by Brian Ibbott of Coverville who was more than glad to share his experiences working with collection societies to legally use the cover songs he shares in his show. Once again I was surprised, and delighted, that the conversation with the audience ran right up to the time limit and clearly could have gone on unabated for another half an hour. I want to thank my panelists once again and everyone who came out to learn more about the topic.

The big event for today was the Parsec Awards. I have to give massive credit to the steering committee and the MCs, George Hrab and Christiana Ellis. The show was tightly run, a joy to attend. The category for which I was a finalist was won by Skeptoid which is hosted and produced by Brian Dunning. The category was packed with awesome shows amongst whom I was honored and delighted to be counted–Skepticality, the 365 Days of Astronomy, and the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe as well as Skeptoid.

I did not make it out to the TWiT/Sword and Laser meetup as planned and I apologize to anyone who was there and looking for me. That is often the way cons go in my experience. Even with a simple plan, things change, conversations run long. You often choose to capitalize on time with people you only get to see infrequently.

On the other side of following serendipity, I had not expected to catch George Hrab’s live show. After a full day of volunteering before heading to the Parsecs and dinner, I didn’t think I’d have the energy to make it. I’m glad I did. George is a consummate pro and his show was both rocking and hilarious.