lca2008 — keysigning and monday closing thoughts

LCA is about letting nerds be nerds, and what’s more nerdy than a GPG keysigning party? (If there exists such a beast, I sure don’t know about it.)

The original plan was to use the Sassaman projected method, but the projector wasn’t so great (projected the everything mirrored, which made it rather hard to read the text on the IDs), so after a little bit of confusion, the decision was made to do it the old fashioned way: by standing in a circular queue, checking the IDs of the person in front of you, and rotating. To be honest, I kinda liked that method a bit better because it was much more personal than the Sassaman method.

madduck pulled his “Transnational Republic” trick again, and I guess I fell for it. I asked for his ID, he showed it to me and said, “this is from the Transnational Republic” and I said, “ok, looks good to me”. Hey, I’m just a dumb ‘merkin, I figured it was some crazy Eastern European Slavic country I’d never heard of. Not my fault, says I.

A short break to recuperate, and then I tagged along on a small, ad hoc dinner that ended up as a mix of HP (bobg, tpot, tbm, achiang) and Debian developers (DDs: pasc, madduck, and tbm (tbm wears two hats)). Didn’t talk about anything groundbreaking; mostly revolved around the possibilities and challenges of debian in the corporate world, and things HP might be able to do to help improve on that front (we could start by providing non-broken m11y .debs!).

It was interesting for me to see the discussion evolve into something resembling corporate Linux guys vs keepers-of-the-flame, with bobg and YT taking the lead for $MEGACORP and madduck on point for the hippies. What made it interesting was the challenge in explaining that even though we’re corporate droids, we still believe in the Right Thing ™ and actually try to effect change to the extent that we can, but that there are many internal corporate challenges when someone as large as HP are signing your paystubs. I remember being on the other side of that fence while in University and wondering why the corporations just didn’t get it.

This is not to say madduck is naive; I don’t believe that to be the case at all (although I do find him to be a somewhat representative example of the true believer mentality, aka, smart, rational, and holding the unfortunate assumption that the world is populated with other rational agents who can be reasoned with, (which in my opinion, is sadly and shamefully is not the case)). Until one works for a large $MEGACORP, one doesn’t truly appreciate the complete dichotomy between developers, whose goal in life is to enable others, and lawyers/managers, whose goal in life is to avoid risk. If you think about it, those goals are almost perfectly at cross-purposes, and more often than not, those with the money (aka, lawyers/managers) win the battle.

But that’s mostly self-evident anyhow and not saying anything interesting. What might be interesting for those on the other side of the fence is the realization that the lawyers and management at $MEGACORP a) are humans too b) can actually be quite clueful when it comes to open source and c) want to effect change for the greater good as much as anyone. But change doesn’t come quick in gigantic companies, and it may be a useful analogy to remind ourselves that the patient, steady dripping of water can eventually create the Grand Canyon.

Well, enough of the sycophantry for now. Time for bed and day 2 of LCA2008.