Thursday, April 30, 2009


I've created a page at for myself:

SpeakerRate profile

... and populated it with my two upcoming talks.

If you want to use SpeakerRate to give feedback to a speaker, you don't actually have to wait for them to create their own profile - you can enter it yourself.

I don't know if SpeakerRate will grow into the ultimate connecting-to-speakers webtool, but it might. I do know that they support microformats, which is a big plus in my book.

Hope to see some of you at Penguicon (this weekend) or IOUG Collaborate (next week)!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

right to complaint

(prompted by discussion of porn use at GoGaRuCo - see here, here)

Quick thought: It's not that the community needs to ensure offensive content never happens, or that the community needs to find a single standard of what is appropriate.

The key is the right to complain safely. When complaints are predictably met with accusations of "overreacting", "political correctness", and "intolerance", the resulting message is: Be like us, be silent, or leave.

If you reject the criticism, then try something like, "I think you're wrong, but I accept your right to complain." Complaint is feedback, it's a legitimate part of a community's communication.

(Let me clarify that I've had mostly really good experiences in the software communities I participate in!)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

the expanding reStructuredTextiverse

It seems I'm always coming across new uses for reStructuredText, the plaintext format that goes everywhere. (Really, more of a "set of plaintext conventions" than a format as such.) I'm beginning to imagine a talk reviewing them all for next Fall's Ohio LinuxFest, or maybe a magazine article.

The places you can go with reStructuredText - am I missing any? (I haven't checked these all for viability)Not everything has been done yet, however. Here are a couple projects yet undone - so far as I know. Comment with your own ideas... or take this as a challenge and implement something!
  • rst2word - this would really be the holy grail, for communicating to the unwashed masses. (We in the know can use rst2odt and convert within OpenOffice, but rst2word would get my boss on board.)
  • Fuse more templating engines to rst (perhaps not a good idea, violate the readability principle?)
  • ReST lexer for Scintilla - this would allow ReST support in WingIDE, too.
[EDIT: Thanks Michael Foord for info about rest2web, rst2pdf.]

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


We interrupt this blog with a special message from our sponsor.

My friend James has a new business, Two Bears Chocolates, handmaking organic chocolates. They are crazy-good... I've never been a food snob, but James's chocolates have spoiled me to the point where even "gourmet" mass-produced chocolates seem waxy and bland by comparison. They're a diet aid! I have to eat these chocolates so that I won't be tempted by lesser chocolates!

Anyway, they're expensive, but worth it, and a good gift (see: Mother's Day)... or a good way to maximize your yummy-per-calorie ratio.

He's particularly gung-ho to do custom orders. Go ahead, ask him to make a gooseberry-chocolate truffle in the shape of the state of Michigan. He'll love you for the challenge.

So, as James says, "If you love someone, send Two Bears chocolates. If not, bummer."

Monday, April 20, 2009

calm down

Yes, yes. Oracle is buying Sun, which owns MySQL and Java. No, this is not the end of MySQL. You're being silly.

Oracle is about as open-source friendly as a huge proprietary software company can be, and has been since before it was cool. Oracle adores Linux, and started pushing it vigorously since about, hm, 2002? Oracle has been Java-crazy since that time, too. Oracle's marketing strategy has long been against lock-in - it wants to plug easily into a thriving open-standards economy, not to enclose and lock a walled garden. It's also been very easygoing about licensing, eager to see casual, non-paying users gaining familiarity with its products, knowing that those are the seeds that later big-money sales will come from. It doesn't try to catch and squeeze little fish, it feeds them fish food and waits for them to grow into whales. In short, you over there, slapping MySQL on your Linux box for your brother's home business? Oracle doesn't want to shut you down. Oracle loves you, has always loved you, and wants your love and trust for when you get big.

In fact, if anything, I'm a little disappointed that Oracle's (superb) marketing power, name recognition, and corporate respect will all benefit MySQL and Java... which is all fine and good, except that I'd rather see that gust of wind behind PostgreSQL and Python. (OTN's PyCon sponsorship warmed my heart, to be sure, but I wish there was a way to make ORACLE + PYTHON stop-the-presses news all around techland.)

Monday, April 13, 2009


If you haven't heard about #amazonfail, this article will catch you up quickly.

1. It's a good reminder that giving market dominance to one company in a crucial role in steering our culture is probably unwise. Let's not have a market where a single company can relegate books to obscurity, intentionally or not. Patronize a variety of booksellers.

2. A proper apology would look something like, "Mr. Doofus Middle Manager didn't think through what he was doing, and company management failed to supervise it properly. We feel humiliated and commit to new efforts to keep book culture diverse and uncensored." Amazon's lame, mealy-mouthed "glitch" non-apology suggests that it has fallen prey to Big Corporatosis. Unless, of course, Amazon really has discovered a homophobic computer glitch, in which case this is huge news for artificial intelligence researchers.

3. This is not the only case where the label "adult content" has had a strangling effect. Actions taken under the justification of "adult content" should never be blandly accepted, but should be carefully examined for accuracy, necessity, and bias.

[ EDIT: A final complaint: Labelling a bad policy, sloppily implemented and poorly supervised, as a "glitch", is blaming the company's technologists for a mistake of its management. It says that Amazon's management does not trust, understand, or respect its technologists. In a technology company, this is a strong signal of decline.)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Penguicon 7.0

If you're anywhere near Michigan, you need to consider Penguicon. It's an open-source software conference! It's a science-fiction con! It's two great tastes that really do taste great together. There's always a great deal of excellent technical content, and the SF people lend a really healthy sense of relaxation and creativity to the whole thing. Where else can you learn CSS and belly dancing in one weekend?

I'm giving a talk at Penguicon this year: "sqlpython: SQL is fun again". It's sort of a preview of my upcoming SQL*Plus Alternatives talk at IOUG Collaborate... but without the stuff about Oracle-only tools, and with more focus on sqlpython's rapidly developing cross-RDBMS powers, and a healthy plug to pull more people into the project.

In fact, I'm leaving directly from Penguicon to Collaborate. Yikes! It'll be a fun week.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

PyOhio: Call for Proposals

The PyOhio Call for Proposals has been issued!

PyOhio 2009 takes place July 25-26, 2009 at the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. Much like a mini-PyCon, it includes scheduled talks, tutorials, Lightning Talks, Open Spaces, and room for your own unique ideas. If you can make it to Ohio this summer, please consider participating.

PyOhio 2009, the second annual Python programming mini-conference for Ohio and surrounding areas, will take place Saturday-Sunday, July 25-26, 2009 at the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. A variety of activities are planned, including tutorials, scheduled talks, Lightning Talks, and Open Spaces.

PyOhio invites all interested people to submit proposals for scheduled talks and tutorials. PyOhio will accept abstracts on any topics of interest to Python programmers.

Standard presentations are expected to last 40 minutes with a 10 minute question-and-answer period. Other talk formats will also be considered, however; please indicate your preferred format in your proposal. Hands-on tutorial sessions are also welcomed. Tutorial instructors should indicate the expected length

PyOhio is especially interested in hosting a Beginners' Track for those new to Python or new to programming in general. If your proposal would be suitable for inclusion in the Beginners' Track, please indicate so. Organizers will work with speakers and instructors in the Beginners' Track to help them coordinate their talks/tutorials into a smooth, coherent learning curve for new Python users.

All proposals should include abstracts no longer than 500 words in length. Abstracts must include the title, summary of the presentation, the expertise level targeted, and a brief description of the area of Python programming it relates to.

All proposals should be emailed to for review. Please submit proposals by May 15, 2009. Accepted speakers will be notified by June 1.

You can read more about the conference at

If you have questions about proposals, please email You can also contact the PyOhio organizers at

Monday, April 06, 2009 connecting tech women speakers with event organizers
Many organisers of technical conferences, meetups, and dinners want to have more gender-balance in their lineups, but they don't know where to find technical women speakers.

Enter, a simple directory and connections system to help technical women speakers and event organisers to find each other.
I'm really glad to see this. I'm even more glad to see, browsing through speakers, that they really are technical women. I've... um, there's no good way to say this... seen other "tech women" groups that quickly became dominated by women networking for their multilevel marketing careers. It's pretty understandable, since they have a much more obvious need to network than us geeks - but, you know, it's really not the purpose.

Anyway. geekspeakr's are the real deal. w00t! Need more Python and Oracle speakers there, though.

Note to self: just as soon as the PyOhio CFP is out (very soon), do not neglect to spam Pythonistas on geekspeakr! At least, the ones vaguely near Ohio.