Articles tagged: conferences

An interview with a conference organiser

1434 days ago

INTERVIEWER: Hi there, thanks for joining us.

CONFERENCE ORGANISER: No problem, thanks for having us.

INTERVIEWER: Now, you’re the lead organiser of this conference, which has been running for several years now, is that right? Can you tell us how this year’s edition is shaping up?

ORGANISER: That’s right, this is a conference which has really come from a humble grassroots beginning of barely a few dozen attendees, growing to what it is today, the premiere conference in this region for this field with several hundred attendees. It’s really a must-be-there event for people working in the field thanks to our incredible line-up of speakers. The program has just been released and we are super excited about the latest and most important developments with the best speakers.

INTERVIEWER: I noticed one of your keynotes is from the local university here, which is a bit different to the usual industry crowd I suppose.

ORGANISER: Yes, we wanted to make a real effort this year to hear voices from a wide range of fields, so we have some great speakers from academia, from government and even a CTO from a non-profit. We think they will provide a surprising and perhaps even controversial counterpoint to the accepted wisdom, and it’s so valuable for professionals in this field to have an opportunity to hear from them.

INTERVIEWER: Indeed. Has the incident that occurred at an industry conference just a couple of months ago had any influence on the organising of your event?

ORGANISER: Oh, yes, that was terrible. Thankfully that guy has been identified and won’t be causing any more problems. Just a terribly unfortunate story to hear.

INTERVIEWER: You haven’t decided to adopt an anti-harassment policy?

ORGANISER: It’s not really relevant to our event, I believe. We have a different vibe and it’s always been fine. And we don’t want to be seen as censoring our speakers.

INTERVIEWER: How much work goes into organising a conference of this size? Are the hard yards done now or are the late nights just beginning?

ORGANISER: Well many late nights of planning have passed to get us to this point, which is really laying the foundation. But at this point registrations are now open, and it’s all about dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s to bring a superb conference experience to our attendees.

INTERVIEWER: I couldn’t help noticing that none of your invited speakers are women.

ORGANISER: …Oh, is it? I hadn’t noticed.

INTERVIEWER: In fact you have a stuffed toy listed as a speaker, but no women.

ORGANISER: Well, Sparky is standing in for our secret mystery speaker. But, uh, it’s certainly not a deliberate decision to not have any women speakers. In fact we invited several, but they all refused. And, uh, there are some among our submitted talks, I believe.

INTERVIEWER: There’s one.

ORGANISER: Well, again, that’s just based on what was submitted. Our submissions are judged purely on merit. If women don’t submit anything we can’t accept any more talks from them, obviously.

INTERVIEWER: How many women did you approach to give invited talks?

ORGANISER: How many exactly?

INTERVIEWER: Yes.

ORGANISER: Uh, two.

INTERVIEWER: And they both said no?

ORGANISER: One was busy and the other one couldn’t attend because it’s in the school holidays.

INTERVIEWER: Your conference doesn’t provide childcare for attendees?

ORGANISER: What? No, it’s a conference for IT professionals, not mothers.

INTERVIEWER: Right. And so after they both declined you didn’t think to approach any other women?

ORGANISER: Well, seriously, who else would we have asked? Like, we are open to suggestions. It’s not like we are not open to suggestions.

INTERVIEWER: You don’t know any other women working in the field?

ORGANISER: Well, no, not personally. But that’s just because there aren’t many women in the field. It’s not like I’m avoiding them. At the local monthly meetup, there would be maybe one woman out of twenty, and actually maybe she stopped showing up about six months back. I can’t remember.

INTERVIEWER: Do you go to the local Girl Geek Dinners events? Or the local Women in IT Society?

ORGANISER: What? Of course not — look I don’t appreciate this suggestion that the conference is somehow anti-women. All we aim to do is invite the best technical speakers and accept the best proposals that are submitted. We are not discriminating and throwing out anything with a woman’s name on it. We simply don’t get anything to throw out. It is hardly our fault if women choose not to be part of the industry or choose not to participate in community events like ours. We are not going to have some token woman just for the sake of having a woman. That would be insulting to our other speakers and also insulting to women.

INTERVIEWER: Did you reach out to any groups attempting to target submissions from women? Did you reach out to individual women on Twitter or via email that you knew of in the industry? Did you make any effort whatsoever to encourage women to submit to the conference?

ORGANISER: No, we just sent the call for papers to the mailing list of the local meetup groups like normal.

INTERVIEWER: Like the group that had one woman six months ago?

ORGANISER: Yeah.

(beat)

INTERVIEWER: It looks like your conference has some new schwag this year. This pen-sized electronics board is going to be a popular item I suspect.

ORGANISER: Oh yeah, people are going to love it. That took literally months of wrangling by our organising team, trying to get stuff organised with the Chinese factory. We’re really proud it’s finally made it into the schwag bag. I think it’s really that attention to detail that we bring that makes this conference so special, you know?

INTERVIEWER: Thanks for your time.

——

Any resemblance to reality is coincidental. Imagine this being read by Clarke & Dawe for a superior experience.

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My talk at PyCon AU 2012 - "Funcargs and other fun with pytest"

1859 days ago

(What’s six months between friends…)

This last weekend I went down to Hobart for the third Australian PyCon conference. The first two were in Sydney, and the next one will also be in Hobart. I had a ball! I will hopefully revive this blog a bit more to write about other aspects of the conference but first up: the talk I gave, which was about the testing library pytest.

Pytest is a mature and comprehensive testing suite for Python projects, but it can be a little intimidating for newcomers. Where do these mysterious funcargs come from, how do parametrised tests work, and where are my xUnit-style setUp and tearDown methods?

Pytest lives by “convention over configuration” – which is great once you know what the conventions are. This talk will look at real examples of pytest in use, emphasising the features that differentiate it from nose.

Video:

I had fun picking out the comics – they are from comically vintage.

Slides, code.

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Trampoline Day, a mental circus

2553 days ago

The grid is taking shape at #trampoline 4. Heaters are cranking, coffee is en route. See you soon!

On Sunday I had the pleasure of attending my first Trampoline Day, an unconference with a very broad scope and the remit “share what you find amazing”. It was held in Circus Oz in Port Melbourne. (Unfortunately no acrobatics sessions allowed.) This was actually the fourth or so time it’s been held; all the previous times, it sold out seemingly instantly and I only ever heard about it after the event. So I was lucky this time to know someone else attending who could vouch for me before I even knew I needed to attend. :)

The morning’s grid:

Owly Images

I hosted a discussion in the morning about decentralised/distributed wikis. It was well attended and there was some intense concentration but in hindsight my discussion was pitched overly technical, and it would have been better focused as a discussion about the culture and use of wikis more generally. Live and learn. :)

The topics covered were indeed very broad, from the expected technical topics, to psychology and mental health, meditation, running and foot anatomy, and a sangria making class. Sangrias were pitched against a demonstration of a iPhone-controlled AR.Drone Parrot quadrotor:

SO COOL. I am generally pretty immune to “shiny new tech toy lust” but this thing is SO. COOL! The look of it is great. It chews up batteries like nobody’s business and is pretty noisy, but for ~US$300 with easily replacable parts, it’s hard not to squee over.

About to set the afternoon grid after lunch (this thumbnail misses a man on a ladder :)):

#trampoline day 4 is back from lunch with a great set of talks  on Twitpic

One of the sessions I missed was “How to 2-step to punk music”, which looks like my loss:

I did see sessions on the Girl Effect, human powered vehicles racing and plans to start an incubator for women start-up types. Incidentally this last session was co-run by Kate Kendall, who I didn’t know about until Trampoline, and although I went to her session I didn’t get a chance to say hi, but because she seems like such a make-things-happen person I feel pretty certain I will see her another time. Maybe another Trampoline.

The lightning talks at the end of the day were a great finish, too – I heard about Oscar’s Law, a campaign to abolish puppy farming in Victoria, “City Camp”, a planned Gov 2.0 unconference to be held in Melbourne in November, and “Mental Health 2.0”, an unconference that will be held on 25 February 2011 by Lantern. Lantern is a “community based not-for-profit organisation providing services to those affected by mental illness” and they were one of the sponsors of Trampoline, which is pretty cool. They deserve props for thinking about how to use “web stuff” to assist those affected by mental health issues (not just those directly, but also carers, friends and family) – like so many issues only canvassed by the under-resourced NFP sector, there must be a lot of potential.

It is interesting that two days later, I could only find one picture from the event on Flickr – the first one. I had to troll through Twitter to find the other images. Virtually no one was there with a netbook or laptop – without a doubt the most popular device was a smartphone, trailed (by a long way) by iPads. It’s hard for me to imagine a purely technical event not being dominated by netbooks, but maybe that’s the way we’re heading.

So thanks for a great event, Trampoline organisers. Anyone interested in finding out about upcoming events (they are held every six months or so) should join the mailing list.

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Notes on 'Unlocking IP'

3080 days ago

Last week I went to the 2009 Unlocking IP conference. I’ve written up my notes and there’s also a video of the presentation I gave with Liam Wyatt for Wikimedia Australia.

There were few tech-oriented talks this year, compared to 2006 and 2004 — but perhaps that is a good sign, that the foundation for open source licensing is now considered quite stable and sound.

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