Giving Balticon a Miss

I remember vividly when I got started in podcasting. I managed to finagle the admission cost and travel expenses out of my then employer to attend Apple’s big developer conference, WWDC, the very year they announced podcast support in iTunes. On the first day, I visited the local Apple store to pick up an audio interface for my laptop, hoping to record my very first audio at that conference. Sadly, thanks to the ignorance of an Apple “genius,” my first recording happened a week or so after I got back.

Live events have been a large part of my experience of podcasting. That has tapered off in recent years but early on I was invited to a lot of interesting conferences, conventions and events due to being a podcaster. One of the earliest was Balticon. I had befriended a few local area podcasters through a now long defunct meetup. One of them got me invited as a participant some eight or so years ago during that early, heady rush. Even as I started scaling back my speaking engagements a while back, I kept going to Balticon. It is local and so was easier on the pocketbook, not to mention including so many of my friends.

The problem is there was a valid reason I scaled back in general. Oddly, the events I got asked to were rarely tech focused. Like Balticon, many of them were science fiction conventions. I happen to like science fiction. I have fond memories of the earliest cons I attended back in college. When trying to find my voice, though, as someone talking about technology, public policy, and society, an SF/F convention is an odd place to find myself. That tension has only grown over the years.

Each of the last three or four years, around this time, I have debated with myself if it made sense to go back to Balticon. Up until this year, I ultimately decided I had the patience, energy and enthusiasm to make the best of it. This year, I don’t think I do any more. Professionally and personally, the past twelve months or so have been trying, to say the least. Many of the reasons I looked forward to Balticon on a personal level have evaporated, or even worse, become reasons not to go.

I honestly don’t know if I’ll go again in the future. It will depend on a lot of things, things I couldn’t even predict right now. If you are going and would like to get together, up to a point, I could probably manage that, since the convention is still local for me. Just message me privately.

Between Cons

Just a quick note as I take a breath between a conference and a convention.

Freedom to Connect was wonderful. I saw many of the speakers I admire, renewed acquaintances with a good number of my colleagues in the non-profit space and met many more I had not yet the opportunity to do so. The event was an interesting intersection for me of my new career and my years of volunteering. I did not attend or present but worked on the team of volunteers running A/V. It was a fun learning experience since I haven’t done as much video work with a good group of folks with a similar approach to volunteering to the one I adopt. I hope to have the chantce to be at this event, next year, in the same capacity, with the same crew.

This is a full week as I catch up with work that has racked up due to two days out of the office, on my feet. I am trying to keep up at least a minimum amount of blogging since I will undoubtedly be offline for much of the upcoming long weekend.

The convention I am anticipating is Balticon, about which I have already shared my schedule. Anxious as I am given my crazy schedule recently, I am trying to keep in mind a bit of advice that came from my Tai Chi teacher. He was speaking about the discipline and sacrifice that study demands but took a moment to urge us to recall what it is that brought us to the art in the first place. I think that is sage counsel for many other contexts, including both work and work-related events and, in this instance, my involvement in the podcasting annex of the science fiction convention circuit.

I am so very much looking forward to seeing so many of my friends, as much as I also enjoy the whirlwind that is volunteering and speaking at Balticon. If you are a reader or listener and are going to be there, come, find me and say hi.

TCLP 2012-02-12 Switching My Wife Back to Linux

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

If you are going to be in the North Eastern part of the US in March, check out North East Linux Fest and LibrePlanet. Thanks, Jonathan, for pointing these out to me.

Listener feedback this week is from Lachlan and Steve both of whom wrote in response to my feature on hackish assumptions. Lachlan also questioned why hackers should cultivate some awareness of public policy. Steve is in favor of my proposed talk for Ohio Linux Fest. I hope to have a beta of the talk at Balticon in May.

The hacker word of the week this week is footprint.

The feature this week is the story of how and why I switched my wife back to use Linux full time..

[display_podcast]

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.u

Reflections on Balticon 45

I want to share some of my thoughts about Balticon 45 while they are still fresh. I returned home a few hours ago. My bags are all unpacked. I’ve tended to a bunch of other post-convention chores including preparing the recording from my copyright panel for sharing in Wednesday’s podcast.

I’ve struggled with science fiction conventions in general for the last couple of years. I owe a great deal to the organizers who have invited me, offering me tons of opportunities for valuable public speaking experience. Coming largely from the technology and policy worlds I’ve always felt a bit of an outsider. The common thread of podcasting has not always helped. In some ways it has made it harder because of the assumptions my peers make about what it is that I do and how I go about it.

This year I think I finally managed to strike a comfortable balance both personally and professionally. My new job may have something to do with it. In my mind, my recent shift to working full time in public policy as a technologist is thanks in no small part to the public speaking I’ve been able to do and the almost six years I have been podcasting. I am uncertain how many of the over capacity crowd who showed up for my copyright panel knew of this latest step in my career until I mentioned it in my introduction. Make of that what you will but my own knowledge of my new situation helped when I felt almost overwhelmed at the start speaking to such a large, interested audience all by myself, unlike years past where I’ve had some great panelists to help share the load.

Just as likely contributing to the general positive experience I had is the possibility that I’ve just learned to let go of some of my expectations and second guessing. At the polar opposite from the near panic inducing crowd for the copyright panel, my FLOSS and tech geek birds-of-a-feather was really only attended by a couple of good friends. A few other friends and acquaintances spotted me in the bar and wandered over without realizing why I was there. I didn’t feel the need to push the conversation strictly to the topic, especially since the event was unofficial. I probably could have promoted it more strongly if I really wanted a larger, more focused turnout. Regardless, I simply enjoyed the time with the folks who were there, whatever it was they wanted to talk about.

The new podcast I have been doing with my good friend John Taylor Williams may also have contributed to my greater enjoyment and ease. The home brew panel I was on because of Living Proof went well with the only criticism I heard being that it really should have been two panels so that an hour each could be dedicated respectively to beginning and advanced topics. I would be up for that next year especially as I will have that many more beers under my belt. Outside of the programming, I suspect my being increasingly known as a home brewer, a beer enthusiast and a podcaster who talks about these subjects may have also made it easier for some folks to approach me. I get that the tech and policy geekery can be intimidating which I why I usually don’t bring it up unless specifically asked.

I’ve long since made my peace with the fact that conventions are simply too hectic to spend anywhere as much time with my far flung friends as I would like. All the same, I was delightfully surprised with how many friends I did see. Often that renewal of friendship or acquaintance went well beyond the simple exchange in passing that is the much more common occurrence. My volunteering load was much lighter this year, some of that by design and some by accident. I am sure that also helped me have a better social experience. I will definitely consider my experiences this year when deciding on how much I want to shoulder at Balticons future.

On the whole I have to put this Balticon well towards if not at the very top of my list of science fiction convention experiences. That positive ranking even includes the almost whole day of the convention I missed due to feeling very shabby (a likely touch of food poisoning exacerbated by a series of misfortunate decisions the evening before.) No one thing really stood out but overall I enjoyed myself immensely and feel I acquitted myself well (with the exception of the panel I missed due to being MIA) as a program participant. I have plenty new experiences (one inspiring one in particular) from this convetion that I hope will serve me well at future ones as well as at the new venues, events and engagements where I will find myself thanks to my new day job.

TCLP 2009-06-10 Balticon 43: Copyright

This is a feature cast.

In the intro a correction and a reminder about my upcoming 4th anniversary show.

There is no listener feedback this week. There is also no hacker word of the week due to the length of the feature.

The feature this week is the recording of the Copyright panel at Balticon 43. I was joined by Thomas Vincent, a former congressional staffer and known amongst podcasters for his work on the upcoming Parsec Awards for this year.

[display_podcast]

There are no detailed show notes this week.  You can also grab the flac encoded audio from the Internet Archive.

Creative Commons License

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

Balticon 43 Panel Audio

I have recordings for three more panels that aren’t as relevant to my podcast but that I promised to share. I encoded these as FLAC audio and posted them to the Internet Archive. Their media system recognizes FLAC and has already re-encoded my original uploads as both MP3 and Ogg Vorbis.

The panels are:

The Internet Archive pages for each has the relevant details about the panels and the license, CC BY-SA 3.0 US, for each. I will also warn you that this is the raw, unedited audio without any noise reduction. That was my motivation for posting them as FLAC audio, which is a lossless format, so if you want to edit and clean up the audio to us under the license terms, you have the highest possible quality to do so.

One other note, because they are encoded in a lossless format, the file sizes are quite large, around 400GBMB each. If you just want to listen, I’d encourage grabbing the Ogg Vorbis or MP3 versions as it will take far less time. I’d recommend you only download the FLAC if you are going to do some additional work on it.

My experiences with the Internet Archive have me considering posting FLAC versions of my own shows as a convenience for anyone who wants the raw audio for re-mixing. The uploads take quite a long time but the encoding time is pretty good and the only cost to use the Internet Archive is the time to get the files up there.

I was on one other panel, Podasting 101, which I did not record. That panel was held in the main track room, though, so odds are good it was recorded with the gear set up in that room and will be released via the Balticon Podcast.

TCLP 2009-06-03 Balticon 43: Technology, Podcasting’s Rocket Fuel

This is a feature cast.

In the intro a reminder that the 4th anniversary episode of the show is coming up, June 24th.  Please send me any recollections, thoughts, or well wishes you’d like me to share on that show.

There is no listener feedback this week.  There is also no hacker word of the week due to the length of the feature.

The feature this week is the recording of the Technology: Podcasting’s Rocket Fuel panel at Balticon 43.  I was joined by Steve Eley, Jim Van Verth and Chooch Schubert.

[display_podcast]

There are no detailed show notes this week.

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

TCLP 2009-05-27 Balticon 43: Peer Media vs. Broadcast Media

This is a feature cast.

In the intro a heart felt thank you to my good friend, Chris Miller, for his support and advice without which my recent experience at Balticon would not have been anywhere near as phenomenal.

There is no listener feedback this week.  There is also no hacker word of the week due to the length of the feature.

The feature this week is the recording of the Peer Media vs. Broadcast Media panel at Balticon 43.  I was joined by Earl Newton, Dave Slusher and Patrick McLean all of whom I owe a debt of gratitude for this great discussion.  For clarification, the book Patrick mentions is “Against Intellectual Monopoly” by Michele Boldrin and David Levine.  Patrick also sent me a link to an interview with Boldrin which led me to the web site, Against Monopoly, which furthers the discussion with contributions from several other scholars.

[display_podcast]

Grab the detailed show notes with time offsets and additional links either as PDF or OPML.

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

Balticon 43

Balticon is one of my favorite conventions, not in the least because it is as near to a hometown convention as it gets.  Despite what some of my further flung acquaintances imagine, Baltimore is not right next to DC.  To be fair to their geography sense the distance or proximity of the two cities isn’t what makes it a local con for me.  The program participants, organizers, volunteers and attendees include all of my near by friends so it feels like “our con”.  The convention is large enough though that it is so much more than that.  It is one of the largest conventions on the east coast and in addition to seeing all of my local friends there I saw many of my distant friends with a few notable and understandable exceptions.

Just over half of the panels on which I participated were on technical topics covering several aspects of podcast production.  Even after four years of hosting and producing my own podcast, I still learned a few things.  I especially respect those of my co-panelists who have only just started speaking on panels, none more so than Paulette Jaxton who, at the risk of embarrassing her immensely, I think was the unsung star of the technical panels.  Beyond her own, now sadly defunct, podcast, I learned she also has been assisting on some high profile, multiple voice talent podcasts, Murder at Avedon Hill and Metamor City.  It sounds like she is doing some serious heavy lifting to help the creators of both of those superb fiction podcasts.

I was on a couple of technical panels that were new topics for this year.  If I am going to volunteer for these panels next year, all I have to say is that I need to study up.  Chooch, of the Into the Blender and City of Heroes podcasts, had me throwing my hands up and exclaiming, “Velociraptor!”[1] more than once.  On the flip side, I now realize I have a local audio expert to pester if I need help.  Dan of Fanboyhell brought just the book I need to be reading between now and Balticon 44, “Modern Recording Techniques“.  I am glad these advanced topics went so well despite being scheduled so late in the con.

I also suggested a couple of new panel topics that made it onto the schedule this year.  They sounded so good when I wrote them up ahead of time but I had a moment of near panic with each when I introduced the topic to the audience and saw a room of blank stares.  Thankfully, my co-panelists swooped in to save the day, offering up some great thoughts and driving what turned out despite awkward starts to be fun and fascinating conversations.  First I have to thank Patrick McLean, Dave Slusher and Earl Newton for their participation in the Peer Media vs. Broadcast Media panel.  I am especially in awe of Patrick who I knew to be a fine story teller with a gifted voice but whose parents were also scholars, economists, whose influence can clearly be heard if you can get him to talk about market economics.  All the better if you are lucky enough to hear him do so while sharing a drink and strumming a guitar.  His thoughts on the power of sharing content freely are clearly deeply considered.  They were punctuated brilliantly when at one point during the discussion he dashed out of the panel room to grab up the wonderfully packaged sampler CDs he made to promote The Seanachai, explained to the audience how he had these made at his own expense, and then urged them to take them, take them all.

The other panel where I was just as grateful for my co-panelists was Technology: Podcasting’s Rocket Fuel.  Steve Eley was on that panel and was able to offer up examples both from his own popular and well made podcasts and from his work in the field of technology.  Ask him about the podcasting platform on which he has already started work.  Really do since the more interest he has the quicker it will no doubt get to a point where he can start beta testing.  Chooch and Jim Van Verth completed the panel adding their own very much welcome insights.  I am still waiting for Chooch to attempt the experiment we conceived during the panel, to submit one of his episodes to Google Voice to see if it can discriminate two different voices and to compare how well it manages against some of the attempted by not very successful audio transcription services we discussed.

My copyright panel was a bit more lightly attended than last year but it also was back to earlier in the morning on Monday.  Despite the smaller audience, Thomas Vincent and I shepherded another excellent discussion.  The fifty minutes flew by and before I knew it I was apologizing for running out of time.  Given the audience interest and response we could have easily kept talking for another half an hour to an hour.  I think I handed out more cards and buttons at that panel than any of the others I was on so would not be surprised to continue some of the conversations through correspondence or at future conventions.

Speaking of cards and buttons, I have finally exhausted the first box of Moo cards I ordered for the podcast and depleted a bag on 1.25″ buttons I thought would last me through Balticon and Dragon*Con both.  If you want to do me a solid, click on that donate button over there and help me order more for Dragon*Con at the end of the Summer.  Just a few people pitching in a few dollars each really helps.


I am also pleased to report the progress we’ve made with the volunteer efforts to record the author readings at Balticon.  This is the third year I’ve helped Martha Holloway get recordings for the Balticon Podcast to help with the ongoing efforts to promote the convention.  Last year, Bruce Lerner stepped up to help us out halfway through the con.  He thankfully returned, with an upgraded recorder, this year at the very start.  Paulette Jaxton further cemented her awesominity by volunteering to help with the recordings as well.  (She also baby sat several times during the convention, I am beginning to suspect she may be a super powered being from beyond the stars.)

I was happy to renew my acquaintance with authors I have met in the past, like Tom Doyle, as well as to meet new ones, like David J. Williams.  Tom gave his usual powerful reading, appropriate as his is retiring the piece he read, “Crossing Borders”, since he has expanded it into a novel for which he is now seeking a publisher.  David floored me by giving me a copy of his newly released book, “Burning Skies” and totally unsolicited signed it to boot.  I had a moment of panic when later that day I misplaced the book, feeling miserable for half an hour at how such an generous act had wound up.  Thankfully I recovered the book, tweeting my exploits as I lost and found it.  David surprised me again with a short email this morning commiserating with my near loss of the book and making sure I had retrieved it successfully after all.

The accessibility and generosity of the authors who do readings at Balticon has proven more than ample reward for volunteering my time to record them and help promote their works through the Balticon Podcast.  So much so that after three years, I consider it an integral part of my experience at the convention and would dearly miss it if I didn’t have the opportunity to help out in this way again.


Last but not least, the social scene was definitely the best yet for me this year.  On a whim, I decided to organize a gathering of FLOSS and tech geeks Friday night after my one panel and opening ceremonies, in case anyone had planned to go to that.  We had a good turn out and would have had more if we didn’t have to move from our advertised location to deeper in the bar.  Catherine Asaro has a lovely singing voice but trying to talk shop doesn’t work very well when competing with a live stage act.  I was able to renew my acquaintance with several folks I’ve met at conventions over the years.  I knew they were techies but we’d never had the opportunity to discuss that topic specifically.  It was nice to indulge in tech geekery without feeling like we were crowding out other topics.

We even managed to rope Nathan Lowell into our discussion who is I think more of a techie than he gives himself credit.  As it turns out, he is involved in some very fascinating technical work in addition to doing all of his writing in OpenOffice on Linux.  If Nathan used Bill Gates’ own computer to write his stories, I’d likely forgive him given the quality of the work and the depth of my enjoyment.  I was thrilled though that he does indeed use FLOSS, it adds a little bit more awesome to an already impressive body of work.

Chooch and his lovely wife, and co-host, Viv outdid themselves with Saturday night’s New Media party.  The theme of the party was to come dressed as your favorite new media creator or character.  When I saw the hosts themselves in perfectly conceived and executed XKCD costumes (please tell me someone got pictures?!?), I realized how badly I had dropped the ball by taking the lazy option in coming as myself.  How hard would it have been to find a red cape, borrow some goggles, and craft a small gondola for a helium balloon?  The party itself was packed, the density of folks for the given room size and the resulting sweltering conditions being the sole complaint.  Even the overflow portion of the party out in the hallway was great.

I didn’t make it all the way through the book launch Sunday night but the part I did catch was great.  Christiana Ellis and J.C. Hutchins put together a great event.  I am not just saying that because I won a copy of J.C.’s new book, “Personal Effects: Dark Art“.  The activities were creative and fun, I just wish I hadn’t hit the wall and could have stuck around longer.

Speaking of amazing events, Earl Newton‘s Singularity was just as well staged this year as, if not even better than, last year’s.  Even though Dave Kanter is abroad for his studies, he sent in a great video message and Matt F’n Wallace is a more than acceptable substitute.  You could almost describe The Singularity as overwhelming: a short film by Jack Daniels Stanley, an interview with J.C. Hutchins, Brand Gamlbin and Rich Sigfrit having way too much fun with Earl’s Parsec, and the latest Stranger Things.  The best news is you didn’t have to be there, Earl has already tweeted that he is going to try to have all the video for the event, including the new episode, up this week.


On a personal level, there was nowhere near enough time to spend with all my friends.  The time I did get to share with them was welcome and re-energizing.  The con felt less frenetic to me this year, despite being just as tightly packed with panels, events, parties and volunteering as the last two years.  I feel more comfortable in this world of fast evolving creators and thinkers.  It certainly seems like many others are really hitting their stride, giving off their own vibe of reassurance and anti-hecticness.  I am completely wiped out at the moment, I even took a sick day from work.  But the exhaustion feels good, I feel like I will have that much more energy and creativity once I recover from having immersed myself in all Balticon has to offer.  I know I don’t have to say it but it bears expressing all the same–I cannot wait for next year.


[1] Viv, Chooch’s wife and co-host, claims to completely lack technical savviness[2].  When trying to talk about the accelerometer in many smart phones, she couldn’t recall the device’s name.  All she could come up with was, “Velociraptor”.  When she related this to me, I pointed out that this coinage was part of a long and respected tradition in our group debatably starting with Jason Adams‘, “I drive a van”.

[2] I don’t believe it, not for a second.  Just listen to the live Into the Blender they recorded at Balticon.  It is clearly a ploy to get Chooch and the rest of us techies in the group to do her bidding.

Schedule for Balticon 43

Here is my detailed schedule for Balticon 43 coming up this Memorial Day weekend from May 22nd to the 25th.

  • Podcasting 101 (50 minutes) – Fri 7pm – Chesapeake
    “What’s it all about, where do I listen? What is this Podcasting thing anyway? If you’ve ever wondered about podcasts, come and get all your questions answered.”
    I am happy to share the benefit of almost four years behind the mic and the mixer to participate in this perennial favorite panel at any convention hosting social media programming.
  • Podcast Hosting – Sat noon – Derby
    “One major requirement for having a podcast is hosting the files somewhere on the Internet. Panelists discuss the different technical and financial merits of hosting solutions from free solutions like Archive.Org, to podcast specific solutions like Liberated Syndication, to do it yourself solutions from generic web hosting providers like I’m Hosted, Blue Host, and Dream Host.”
    I am already working on my notes for this one and have some good detail on alternatives to the commercial services mentioned in the blurb.
  • Peer Media v. Broadcast Media – Sat 4pm – Derby
    “New media, social media, digital media–find out how the model of network based peer production has brought a revolution to all forms of media. Learn how content itself and the acts of creation and sharing are changing in a world with low cost to entry, no central gatekeepers and conversation instead of channel. Blogging and podcasting are the tip of the iceberg, peer media is only limited by the reach of the internet and the imagination of individual creators.”
    I wrote the blurb for this one.  My inspiration here is the peer production model first espoused by Eben Moglen and popularized by Yochai Benkler in his seminal paper, Coase’s Penguin, and expanded up in his follow up book, The Wealth of Networks.  I should have time to finish reading the white paper before this panel and already have many notes to dig into on production and distribution, the more common aspects discussed with a peer model but hopefully we can also get into what I think is a bit under developed for newer peer media, like podcasts, that of filtering for relevence and credibility.
  • Technology: Podcasting’s Rocket Fuel – Sun 3pm – Derby
    “Podcasting and related media are enabled by technology. You don’t need mad hacker skills to use them but to push the envelope of what they can do, it sure helps. Come discuss how podcasting is making technology accessible hence enabling a virtuous circle for creators willing to do a little hacking.”
    If you can’t guess I wrote this panel up, too, well, then you probably aren’t a listener yet.  Can you say, “Hack Your Podcast?”  So much more can be done in terms of content creation, distribution and filtering thanks to technology.  This should be fun to dig into.
  • Copyright and Social Media(50 minutes) – Mon 11am – Salon C
    “Social media hinges on easy sharing of content. It very quickly gets snarled in the laws governing copyright. Come and join in a discussion of what you need to know as a creator or consumer of social media. We’ll dispel common copyright myths, discuss some of the recent developments of particular relevance, and discuss tools, such as the Creative Commons, that help navigate the complexities of copyright laws. If you have specific questions, bring them and our panelists will do their best to answer them or share resources that will help you find the answers.”
    This is the panel I have moderated more than any other at every con within which I have been a participant.  This time out, we’ll have a new round of panelists whose views I am eager to discuss and add to the conversation.
  • After the Recording is Done(50 minutes) – Mon 2pm – Derby
    “What to do after the recording.”
    I am so happy we are including advanced topics like this one this year.  I do a lot, a lot, of production work for the show beyond just recording.  I finally get a chance to part the curtain as well as compare notes with my fellow panelists.  Should be an excellent resource for any podcasters who have made it past their freshman episodes and looking for helping improving their show further.
  • Advanced Digital Recording – Mon 3pm – Derby
    “There are a lot of tutorials, presentations, and classes on how to record a podcast but when it gets to posting and sharing your cast, things seem to get glossed over. There are many components working in concert to make a podcast feed. This session aims to explain what each of those components are and how they function together. Further, we hope to show you how you can save money by picking and choosing what services provide each piece.

    “This session will cover: choosing a hosting provider, choosing blog/podcast software; tagging mp3s; writing show notes; uploading files to a host; posting an episode; feed creation; and finally statistics/tracking.”
    Another advanced discussion which I welcome.  Credit to Chooch of the City of Heroes podcast and Into the Blender for suggesting this one on the schedule and Paul Fischer, our fearless track director for approving and populating it.

I will also no doubt be filling in the gaps volunteering or attending panels on which my friends will be appearing.  I won’t know anything outside my official schedule pretty much until I get there.

If any listeners are going to be there and want to schedule a gathering, let me know.  Meanwhile, back to the grind stone as I have six more panels for which I need to prepare notes.