Recent changes

I’ve had three pretty significant changes in my life recently. All are worth a little explanation.

Debian

I’ve resigned from my role as a Debian Developer. In truth I hadn’t been active for years, and stepping down just makes clear to everyone what the current status is. I may go back at some point, but I think there are fundamental changes needed to Debian – and most “distros” in fact – for it to really excel in our modern open source¬†milieu. More on that another time, but the relevance here is that if I was to go back, it would be because the consensus around the mission has changed (or because I’ve decided the best thing I can do is try to shift that consensus).

LCA Papers

During the most recent Linux.conf.au we had a meeting amongst the physically present papers committee members. I’d expected that meeting to be able what things we could do to prepare for the next LCA papers process – things like adding blinding to the review system, or introducing paper assignments to facilitate a significantly larger papers committee. However, it turned out there was a bigger topic to discuss – diversity within the papers committee. The general mood in that room was that we had been failing to really shift the diversity dial amongst the papers committee and that new ways to shift it needed to be trialled. One thing in particular that was suggested was replacing the leadership (the theory being that leaders more deeply connected to non-cis-hetero-white-male people would find it easier to recruit those folk into the papers committee). I think many good points were raised, and that if we’d started (say) 6 years ago we could have tried hybrid approaches (e.g. delegating recruitment entirely to someone with such connectivity, or a hard quota).

I don’t think the room actually had consensus on how much diversity is needed… should the committee represent the current demographics of LCA attendees? Or of the open source community? Or of humans? Or should it exceed the diversity in order to counter-balance the current skewed demographics and help lead from in front? I’m not sure what my position is at this point – but I am sure the folk in the room would all have given somewhat different answers, but equally that all felt more was needed.

In the morning following that I resigned – My reasons were very simple: my contribution to the papers committee, while (IMO) significant, are replaceable. There are other people with awareness of interesting projects in web/infra/cloud/programming/build/vcs technology spaces. People who are not cis-hetero-white-male; by leaving I provide an opportunity for the LCA papers committee to increase its diversity much faster than if I stayed.

I deeply loved being on the papers committee, I took great pride in looking for the unknown presenters who could add surprising and fascinating things to LCA. I hope that the committee take this priceless opportunity that we’ve given them to radically shift the amount of diversity in the team. And if it should pass that whatever target is reached, and they were to offer membership to me again in future, well then I’d be delighted to participate in future.

VMware

I joined VMware 2 and a half years ago to work on a suite of new SaaS products being built there. During that time I grew as an engineer, as you always hope to do; finishing up there as SRE architect (for one business unit). I have some thoughts I intend to pull together about what worked well, what didn’t, what things I’d try next time and so on, but those are not yet ready for publication. As of last week I’m no longer at VMware – I’m taking a small break for a bit; I plan to catch up on home and family things – we’ve had a couple of super hard years with e.g. Lynne’s health. I’m also going to do some of the more far-out ‘what if’ things that I haven’t had time to attempt while working. I may even get around to mass review and merging of various testing-cabal patches that I see backing up!

 

Is a code of silence evil?

Looking at using google apps for my home email, as I want to be able to have my home machines totally turned off from time to time.

Found this interesting gem in the sign up agreement (which I have not yet agreed to :P):

11. PR. Customer agrees not to issue any public announcement regarding the existence or content of this Agreement without Google’s prior written approval. Google may (i) include Customer’s Brand Features in presentations, marketing materials, and customer lists (which includes, without limitation, customer lists posted on Google’s web sites and screen shots of Customer’s implementation of the Service) and (ii) issue a public announcement regarding the existence or content of this Agreement. Upon Customer’s request, Google will furnish Customer with a sample of such usage or announcement.

This is rather asymmetrical: If I agree to the sign up page, I cannot say ‘I am using google apps’, but google can say ‘Robert is using google apps’. While I can appreciate not wanting to be dissed on if something goes wrong, this is very much not open! A couple of implications: Everyone seeking support for google apps in the apps forums is probably in violation of the sign up agreement; we can assume that anyone having a terrible experience has been squelched under this agreement.

Le sigh.