ATO2014: Unmanagement and Unleadership

Luis Ibanez talked to us next about unleadership and unmanagement at All Things Open tonight.

We tend to celebrate leadership in sports, politics, in social movements. We make it sound like leaders are what are needed to succeed. That war stories don’t tell is the story of everyone else who made the success possible. When you emphasize leadership you miss what really went in to the success.

When you elevate the leader in a group of people you diminish everyone else. This makes the followers a little bit “mushy” and slow and dependent. The worst part of leadership is that it leaves the community members off the hook. This makes the community vulnerable (especially to zombies, aliens and the city bus).

Instead we want to educate and cultivate the community.

ATO2014: Social media for slackers

Rikki Endsley

Rikki EndsleyRikki Endsley overheard this at a conference: “I don’t believe in social media” but she’s here to tell us that it’s real! Social media is a great way to direct people to where you want them – even your IRC channel. You want to share relevant interesting, accurate information with people – keep on message even with your retweets.

Make sure you avoid PR talk, write like you would talk to someone next to you.

Part of being on social media is begin “social”. You need to retweet, reply and reshare. Participate and grow your reach – ask your network to share particularly important content.

Remember to consider your schedule. If you’re going to an event in a different time zone schedule your tweets for that time zone. Don’t share in your local timezone if the event is 5 hours ahead of you – you’re missing those people.

Measure your success. You can do this with many tools that are out there.

Finally you want to promote all of your accounts.

ATO2014: Easing into open source

Scott Nesbitt was up next with his talk titled: Easing into open source.

There are lots of people out there who are interested and eager to try open source, but don’t make that leap right away. Scott shared with us his tips as a technology coach of how to ease people in to open source. A lot of us learned by getting thrown in to the deep end and we did learn a lot – but for most people that doesn’t work. This leads to a lot of fussy, angry people and they decide that open source is not for them.

So, the first thing you can do is curb your urge to get up on your soapbox – it rarely works. Most people don’t really care about the 4 freedoms or the ethical reasons to use open source in the beginning. Instead go for the heart of it. Show them what they’re interested in – they’re interested in what open source can do for them. How can they do their work with it?

“I’m afraid of open source, I can’t program” – tell people that this isn’t true (I like to use Firefox as an example here). “But it’s not … ” – the answer is ‘So What?!’ the software we’re showing you is just as efficient as the proprietary options. Instead of going feature by feature, teach them how to do a specific task.

And finally remind them that free software does have a price – the price is in the form of time – time it takes to learn the software. It’s time – but it’s time very well spent.

Take baby steps. Show them how to crop an image in Gimp – but don’t show them all the features all at once. Once they have the basics they’re going to want to learn more advanced topics – or maybe they won’t – but they’ll be happy that they’re no longer paint licensing fees for their software.

ATO2014: Building a premier storytelling platform on open source

Up first at the All Things Open Lightning Talks was Jen Wike from Red Hat. started in 2010 as a platform to share stories about open source software. Jen denied for us the open source way (which is the twitter handle for the site) :

  • Openness
  • Transparency
  • Collaboration
  • Meritocracy
  • Rapid prototyping

One example of this is an inspiring story from that talked about the E-Nable group which creates 3D printable hands

At we ask why we tell these stories? It’s a great to way to share stories of people’s experiences of using open source as a better way to live and work. As a storyteller for open source we strive to educate people outside (as well as inside) of the open source community. We have pages like What is Open Source and What is Open Stack. We also have series for beginners and/or women in open source. has a moderator program where moderators write articles, give feedback, curate content and bring in more authors. This is essential for keeping new content rolling in on the site.

OSCON Keynote: Distilling Distinction


Next Keynote this morning was Distilling Distinction with Robert “r0ml” Lefkowitz.

Aristotle believed that the most effective way to appeal to authority is rhetoric … but that doesn’t work so have to manufacture distinction – how do you get people to believe that you know what you’re talking about? The next thing you can do is “do” stuff … people see that you have done stuff that proves that you know what you’re talking about. For example you can go in to an interview and say I am smart and I learn stuff … or you can point people to your GitHub account and show them the code you’ve already written.

One way to prove distinction is to become a member of a professional organization and get recognized by them … but the people around us here at the conference who we know deserve recognition haven’t been recognized by these organizations so how do we become distinguished? Well if you don’t join you can’t win/be recognized. More of us in open source need to join professional organizations like ACM or IEEE and get both ourselves and our open source recognized.

OSCON Keynote: Turing’s Curse


First Keynote on the final day of OSCON was Turing’s Curse given by John Graham-Cumming (CloudFlare).

John pointed us to The Mother of All Demos he wanted to talk about the history of computers – because the new stuff isn’t really that new. Cloud computing for example there was a book about this in 1966 (I missed the title). Wifi … also not so new, it was actually used in 1971. Solid state drives … invented in 1976 (only 4MB … but still…).

I couldn’t keep up with John’s entire history lesson! I was never very good at dates and history :) But I’m sure the slides or a video will all of the dates will be online.

The moral of the story – a lot of what we have today was actually already done way before we thought so. So what’s the implication of that? While it sounds depressing that everything you’re doing has been done before, but it’s not really depressing because it shows that there is a great value in a computer science education. We’re in a great age of productivity! We should be thankful that there are all these great ideas that we can build on and make more efficient/faster and link together!

OSCONOne thing we haven’t done is conquer unreliability – software is still unreliable.

“There is no program that given a description of an arbitrary computer program can decide whether the program finishes running or continues to run forever” – 1936 – Turing’s curse.

Basically there are certain things that machines will never be able to do for us. If everything has been done before then what should we do? What we do is come up with better debuggers – work on reliability. We have to help programmers make fewer mistakes and find the mistakes they do make. John would like us to invent this before Episode 7 of Star Wars comes out!

Home Automation with Arduino/RaspberryPi


Up last today was Rupa Dachere (CodeChix) talking about Home Automation with Arduino/RaspberryPi. The session ran over and started late so I only get to share a bit of info with you – you can probably find slides online somewhere.

Rupa decided to start this project so that she could find out who was at her front door, when they got there (time/day) and wanted to be notified that they have arrived in a timely fashion (seconds). For example Contractors had promised to be there at a time and she didn’t think they had arrived – she wanted proof that they never came by.

Phase one of this project was having a snapshot of the visitor and having it sent via text to the phone, then a video sent to the phone was phase 2, followed by a video live stream and audio notification in phase 3. Today we will hopefully get a demo of phase 2.

This solution was picked because it’s reasonably inexpensive (around $100). There are no commercial products that did what she wanted and if they got close they were too expensive.

The hardware needed:

  • Webcam
  • Adruino (Uno R3)
  • Rasberry Pi
  • Proximity sensor (HC-SR04)
  • independent power for the pi and arduino

The software was written using Python (on GitHub).

OSCON: Everything Counts


Next up was Everything Counts with Mari Huertas (Obama for America).

To help all of your work count Mari breaks things down in to three things:


If you lead with design and shape your project. Mari shared the following quote: “Good design used to make you stand out on the web. Now it’s the price of entry” – Ev Williams. You want to prototype, prototype, prototype!! Along those lines Mari shared a quote from Mike Sellers

An idea is not a design
A design is not a prototype
A prototype is not a program
A program is not a product
A product is not a business
A business is not profits
Profits are not an exit
And an exit is not happiness.

Learn who’s voices really matter and listen. This doesn’t mean you blow off people, it means you just want to stay on task.

Remember your objective. Tech is cool, but you don’t want to use it just for the sake of using it – you want it to help with your objective.

Next, define your deployable – you don’t want to save this until the last stage.

Make your staffing plan clear and post it publicly – try RACI Charts for this. Also make sure that you organize your staff so that people who have issues with each other aren’t on the same teams.

Most importantly (in my opinion) build your QA plan while you shape your product! Usually people wait until the end for this and it causes you to miss things and waste time at the end on finding issues.


This is not only done by the project manager! Make sure that your processes are as simple as possible. Get out the way of the work so people can do the work. You also want to recognize and respect preferred channels for communication. Each group might have a different preference. Some people like GitHub, others like BaseCamp, let them use what they want as long as it’s working. If it’s not working then you want to jump in and find a new tool.

You need to communicate issues with people. Don’t just keep people in the dark if something isn’t working. Just tell people that it’s broken and you’re working on it – people appreciate this (that’s how we handle support at work). There is no room for pride or fear here – don’t keep it to yourself because you can’t admit that you made a mistake or that something is not the way it should be. And if you’re the manager of the project make sure that your team knows that this is okay – put it out there and tell the team that you’d rather know that there’s a problem when it happens.

Make sure when you’re communicating that you speak plainly, openly, frequently and briefly. Put your documentation somewhere public.


Build fast, but build smart. Do code reviews and talk about why you’re building the way you are. Also document document document!! And document along the way instead of after. If you wait until the end then you have to remember why you made the decision you did.

Final Thoughts

“Default to calm.” When you’re working with a team it’s on you to bring your best self to the table. It sets the tone for the entire project. No one wants to work with people who are freaking out. Make sure you have fun – Mari was in a high stress situation but they still made time for fun. Remember you’re all people trying to do great things and do your best work.

Keep in mind that there are different techniques for working with groups that are all in the same place or distributed (virtual). At ByWater we use IRC all day, but that might not work for you so you have to organize your time/day according to the people you work with. Make sure that you learn (just like in person) the ways people like to be contacted/dealt with.

Remember that Everything Counts! Mari can be reached @marihuertas.

Bookmarks for July 25, 2013

Today I found the following resources and bookmarked them on Delicious.

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