Monthly Archives: October 2017

Gym noise

I hate running on treadmills. In general, I hate running, in spite of the fact that I do so fairly frequently. Treadmills have been great for working on form, so I try to make time each week to spend running in place.

While I don’t like running, I do like catching up on talks I miss at conferences. While I am incredibly good at making time to run, I am incredibly bad at making time to watch talks. A few months ago, I realized I could use my fancy pocket computer to enable me to combine these two activities (running on treadmills and watching talks) to a completely benign, neutral 20-40 minutes of activity.

I’m going to link some talks I’ve watched recently (at the bottom), but also add a little commentary about how this has changed my presentations.

1. I explain slides more.

Video usually doesn’t carry slides well–especially when you’re running while trying to look at them. I try to say a bit more about the content on the slide itself. I use slides as cue for what I’m supposed to say, and something to provide some visual stimulation (I don’t think I’m a very visually engaging speaker) to help people focus.

Now, I usually read slides–a practice I used to think was bad. This a) helps anyone in the room who may have a vision problem and b) provides more utility to someone listening remotely.

I always read long quotes–even if I think it’s tedious or unnecessary for in-person attendance. I try to not just analyze or provide context for graphs, but also some sort of description of what is being depicted in the graph itself.

2. I make more boring slides.

At first, Asheesh Laroia and Deb Nicholson taught me to make slides with nice images on them. It’s good personality. I wanted to have a more serious angle to my talks, so I switched to a more academic style, with mostly bullet points and graphs. I’ve since eschewed bullet points and, under the advisement of Ned Batchelder, stick to a goal of one to two lines of text per slide (barring longer quotes).

3. I repeat questions.

I’m not always good about this. Questions might be understandable in the room, but not always on the recording.

4. I remind people where we are in the presentation.

I began to explicitly divide my presentations into sections, worrying less about smooth narrative transition than I used to. When listening at the gym, I can zone out and lose track of where I am. Scrolling back in a video (without pausing the run) is really hard.

5. I repeat points.

I try to tie things together more and do so with greater frequency. This is in the spirit of helping people when they zone out and can’t easily rewind.

6. I occasionally address the remote audience.

Especially with things being streamed. I don’t just address the room (but I do do that). I make it explicit that I know (or at least hope) people will be watching it later. As part of this, not only do I list my contact info at the beginning and end, but I do it verbally as well.

7. I thank people for their time.

I always try to do this anyway. I really appreciate people listening to what I have to say when they’re not at an event. It makes you feel special to see that people want to learn about what you care about even if they’re not already at the conference and looking for something to do.

Talks to run to

quick thoughts (on free software)

Here are some questions I’ve been asking myself recently about free software. I don’t check the comments (I should just turn them off) due to spam. Feel free to e-mail or hit me up on IRC, social media, etc, if you want to chat more.

I have some intuitive answers to these questions, but will refrain from listing them, as so not to affect your first thoughts.

Are we making the right policies?

One of the things we emphasize when we talk about free software is community. We emphasize the creation of policies (community guidelines, anti-harassment, etc) in order to manage this. Frequently, these policies are based around the work of organizations like Geek Feminism, the Ada Initiative, and Outreachy.

In general, I think these policies are effective. There was a drop in use of slurs/offensive language on the Linux Kernel Mailing List after the institution of a community policy. But, I wonder what they need to cover, what they should include, and what vulnerable people need from these policies.

Are conferences good?

Unsurprisingly, my instinct to this is yes. I go to them, I speak, I hang out with my friends. I organize them, I feel good watching a room full of people chatter, I hang out with my friends. People enjoy these events. Some of us attend a lot of them. We rack up airline miles, hotel points, and spend good will to find couches and guest beds in exciting locations all around the world.

Is having so many–and attending so many–a good use of our resources? Should we be focusing on other things? If so, what should we be focusing on? Conferences are expensive and not only have a lot of the same speakers, but the same topics discussed.

Where should we draw the lines between fun and work?

Free software is the majority of my life. Even when I’m not in the office, I spend most of my time “working.” I put finger quotes around that because I don’t get paid for the emotional, organizational, and intellectual labor I put into free software outside of the ~40 hour a week I give to my employer.

My employer benefits from this. Is this fair to my other coworkers? Is this setting a bad precedent, in terms of the labor expected from my employer? Is this unfair to myself?

Is it fair to use my roommates’ Amazon Prime account or have someone else order an Uber or Lyft?

I am a staunch believer that Amazon is an evil company and try to use them as infrequently as possible. This is increasingly difficult as they take on more of a market share and hide their involvement in other fields. Still, we’re watching Legion in my house.

Uber and Lyft, in addition to being problematic in other ways, are pieces of proprietary software. Is it fair to expect other people to use proprietary software to make my life easier? I’ve switched from ride apps to taking cabs (more expensive). Can I expect this from others, who might not be able to afford it?

Do we need to have women in technical roles?

Through questionable survey and statistical practices, I say with a medium level of confidence that, among a set of women and among a set of men, a higher percent of individuals from the set of women are participating in community organizational and administrative activities than within the set of men. Incidentally, individuals who identify as enby or trans (that is to say, their trans status is a significant part of their identity) participate in technical and non-technical activities equally.

Are drones still an issue even if the software is free?

Yes. But, it’s not that simple. This question is really about what still isn’t okay, even if it’s free, and why it’s not okay.

Am I more interested in advancing user freedom or my own relevance?

This is a question we should all be asking ourselves.