Thursday, July 24, 2008

More Geek Anthro

In contrast to yesterday's breakfast, today's was quite social. I started by bragging to R0ml about my 79 year old mom, degree in history from a Jesuit academy in the Philippines, reader of Latin, who now administers web sites, a big fan of Drupal.

Then I got into deep discussions with a gentleman from Philadelphia (National Board of Medical Examiners), with Wanderer Keith Lofstrom joining us (I explained about our designer cult, Terry our fearless leader).

This morning, we're hearing from the legal community, in the person of this OIN guy, about various protection schemes that'll help defend us from patent trolls, especially in the software biz.

One may envision lots of jobs in this area, given the inventiveness of lawyers and their boilerplates (an older kind of code -- he actually uses the word "codify" a lot).

We lose lots of potentially talented geeks to that world and its often higher pay scales.

Peter H. Salus, an historian, is providing great context, focusing on the last 60 years and the evolution of "solid state". Timesharing got going in 1963. December 6th, 1969: Arpanet switched on. First Unix paper, 1973. Ten years later: GNU. 1991: Linux on FTP. Look for The Daemon, The Gnu and The Penguin next fall.

Looking ahead, the web as a platform is giving rise to a new emphasis on open data, not just open software. OpenID, Oauth, OpenSocial are among those inventions helping with B2B and B2C interoperability. The Open Web Foundation is wading in to this area, of working with open specifications and licensing issues.

Danese Cooper's
talk on "whinging" (win-jing) was interesting, although we say "whining" (wyn-ing) in Portland. Complaining isolates us and makes rain fall on us, wasting energy. She's addressing the gender disparity in geekdom, suggesting a stronger response than just complaining about it.

Ubuntu ad from Danese's slides

Confirmation bias: what you believe reinforces what comes to you. Move out of your biases, even just a little each day (morph) -- a worthy goal in many cases. Recalibration of language (invention in language) is our solution. Acknowledge others, be the world you want to live in.

Nat Torkington is recounting his adventures as a volunteer teacher of future hackers in New Zealand.

Programming is a basic skill, like pumping gas and driving a car, and you'll have a lot more fun in life if you learn some -- pure CP4E talk by the sound of it.

He started with the latest Lego Mindstorms, and discovered that "robots are dorky" -- and Logo blows. is the better way to go with these kids. Show them the ropes and let them invent. Students came up with jokes, stories, books, games using this package.

Moving to is a next logical step, doing pair programming with his son.

Lessons learned: lectures suck (two minutes max); at 8-11 girls are way smarter and more focused, boys too unrealistically ambitious; keyboards are a challenge; not much in the way of math skills at that age (in NZ anyway); robots = lame; even the teachers need teaching.

Immodest proposal: volunteer in schools; share courseware; don't expect to make a profit. Sounds familiar. He ended with success story involving a Lego robot, for balance.