Sat, 17 Sep 2005
I've been a member of the UKUUG for a couple of years know and I'm a great fan of their conferences. They always manage to get a good venue, a decent crowd and a lot of top notch speakers. I, on the other hand, have just about managed to get two GLLUGs up and running and almost had a coronary at each one. In an attempt to learn more about how the big boys plan and organise these kinds of events I've applied for a seat on the UKUUG council. A couple of the longer running members are stepping down this year and so there are some seats available.
I've already got someone to nominate me, which is oddly fitting as John was the first person I spoke to at my first Linux meeting, and I should know by the end of next week if I've been accepted. So what do I expect to get out of it? Primarily learning how to make technical events a success and how to create a good quality news letter every quarter. The experience of how they run an organisation of distributed people and how to go about getting sponsorship and funding will be bonuses. And what do I expect to contribute? Hunting down speakers, talking to attendees and working out what they want, recommending speakers from other events, spreading the brand, evangelizing the group and just being open to help where I can.
Traditionally there has always been two easily identifiable people in a tech start-up, the beard and the suit. I'm a beard, well a shaven one... which I guess makes me a chin... But I'm digressing. One of the great things about the 'net is that it's so easy to stroll in to someone else's world. With people like Seth Godin and Hugh Macleod posting their thoughts (and a decent RSS aggregator) I can get an insight in to the marketing world. I can even drill down in to certain markets with sites like the Lip-Sticking blog.
One of the more interesting topics to come from these blogs (and a huge number of others) this year has been the personal MBA. The basic idea is that you can get as much information from 40 (well, 42 at the moment) top of their field books as you could from an actual MBA. While a real MBA has other values, good on the CV, social networking etc. the ability to learn all the important things without leaving your job for two years and spending huge amounts of money is one I more than welcome.
For a short summary of the books have a look at the ChangeThis Personal MBA Manifesto.
Update: It's just popped in to my head that this is a good opportunity to get some free PR for a book seller. Put the whole set in to a bundle and offer a discount. I'm sure it'd generate some good buzz among people who buy a lot of business books...
When it comes to presenting information on the 'Net PDF files do little but annoy me, fortunately I'm not alone in thinking PDFs in websites suck. I understand that you might need to have a very controlled form that people can print off. Fine, but take me to a HTML page with a link explaining what the PDF is for. And don't even think about giving me important information in PDF format by default; HTML with a link to a higher quality version maybe. PDF on its own? No way!
Fortunately FireFox has two extensions that make dealing with PDF files much more pleasurable. First up is TargetAlert, an extension that provides clues as to what's at the other end of a link. If the far end of the link is anything but a webpage TargetAlert will attempt to warn you with an icon. I can't even imagine how many times it's saved me the long wait of loading a Word, Excel or PDF document by accident.
Secondly we have the PDF Download extension. This one intercepts any PDF links you click on and allows you to either download it, open it in a new (background) tab, convert it to HTML and show it in another tab or abort the load. I like this extension a lot.
I try to get to a lot of technical conferences, you meet cool people, you learn lots and (this is going to sound bad...) it gives you a chance to measure yourself against your peers who actually care about what they do. Not just the 9-5 people that don't even own a home PC. In the next couple of months there's a small torrent of events coming up and I'm going to see how many I can get to. In no real order we have:
EuroOSCON: I know I said I wasn't going to be attending. But things changed, it's the first one, I can apply for a discount (check the EuroOSCON page if you're a LUG member/Perl Monger) and I'm staying in a really bad (but very cheap :)) hotel. And Damian Conway is doing a tutorial on how to give presentations.
FUDCon (Fedora Users and Developers Conference) 2005 will be held in London at Olympia at the same time as the LinuxWorld Expo (which I normally end up manning stalls at...) and looks like it could be great. Alasdair Kergon is speaking on LVM, Mark Cox is talking about security and Daniel Veillard is covering XEN and Virtualization. And registration is free!
After EuroOSCON is the Nordic Perl Workshop. I didn't get to YAPC this year and I've never been to Sweden so this is looking damn tempting... And it's on a weekend which means I don't have to beg for more time off :)
Geeks in London on Thursday 22nd September can look forward to a busy night. Starting with the UKUUG AGM (if you're not a UKUUG member then why not?) and followed immediately after by a free entry talk on LDAP Schema Design the night begins with tech before moving to the IBM OpenPower kick off event at the London Planetarium. I should be at all three so come and say "Hi".
Last but not least we have the World Summit on Free Information Infrastructures. It's in the Limehouse Townhall (which has held many a Consume meeting), which has a great Chinese nearby, and covers, among many other topics, free wireless networking and free of copyright mapping.
There's a lot going on over the next couple of months and hopefully I'll be able to get to most (if not all) of the above and post anything cool.
I always seem to have a huge pile of books to read and an inability to actually read them in any order. This months pile includes:
I'm a big fan of the Pragmatic Programmers books and this one is no different. It covers the things that we're thankful good managers already know and gives us something to throw at^Wto the bad ones. I'm most of the way through it and it's a 7/10.
Job Went to India.
Another PragProg book, this one's interesting both because of the topic (I have my own Pragmatic Improvement plan so I'm already quite in to this) and because Chad Fowlers blog is a great read. The IT market is changing and this book seems to be one of the few out that helps you prepare for the "New World Order."
The Art of
An O'Reilly book that had me hooked on a brief flick through, it seems to cover a lot of valuable experience from the IT industry and how to avoid making a lot of the comment mistakes in projects.
This is both the odd one of the bunch and the weakest. It's a guide to using moodle but it's very focused on basic users. It walks you through using the different parts of the interface and doesn't seem to really bring you anything that the docs don't. Just with better editing. I'm half way through and I'll put a review up when I've finished but for now have a careful look before you buy.
Now the real question is how many other books will I read in between finishing these?
I like the PledgeBank site, it's a great idea and it's promoting some good causes (UK Digital Rights is one of them) but it was a pain to keep going back and reading the comments... If only we had a way of subscribing to the comments... maybe using a form of XML that has a number of specs... ;)
After sending in a single email asking for RSS feeds of the comments and waiting no more then seven of our earth days they've added them. This is how sites should work, good ideas, friendly people and a good service.
I spend a lot of time dealing with un-helpful people so it's always nice to have something like this to post. Thanks to everyone behind PledgeBank.
Back in August I added Google adwords to the IE Plugins page. If at all possible I plan to keep the site advert free but the IE Plugins, with the possible exception of my blogs atom feed, are the biggest bandwidth consumers by a fair way.
All-in-all it's been a pretty painless process that's not really netted me any cash. You're not allowed to discuss how much you've made under the terms and conditions (as I understand them) but in my case it doesn't pay for the bandwidth the plugins require; IE users don't like clicking on adverts :) On the up side my plugins have been downloaded almost 680,000 times over the last two and half years. Which means at least a handful of people have found them useful!
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