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Name: Paul Fenwick
Member since: 2000-03-29 03:29:11
Last Login: 2014-01-15 02:35:17

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Homepage: http://perltraining.com.au/


Personal homepage: http://pjf.id.au/

E-mail: pjf at cpan dot org
AIM: miyuki3k
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On money, and missing the point
There are oftentimes when I talk enthusiastically about sharing my skills, techniques, and knowledge with other people. Usually this is greeted with enthusiasm in return, but sometimes I get a strange reaction... Whether it's improving one's codebase, or creating a spectacular outfit, or simply getting interesting people to meet and share their ideas, I'll occasionally have a friend ask me if I really want to be doing that, because I'm giving away my "secrets".

I appreciate that in business, a competitive advantage is a good thing. Being able to differentiate yourself from your competition is vitally important, and sharing one's secrets with those who might use them to compete with you isn't always a wise choice.

My problem with this attitude is that it assumes that money is the point of the exercise. It's easy to think this, and from a business perspective it might be true, but thinking of money as the goal kind of misses the whole point of living.

Without boring you with technical terms, the whole point of living isn't money, it's happiness. Money certainly has utility in providing hhappiness, but it's not the exclusive source. In fact we've got plenty of studies that show us that money isn't what makes us happy, it's just that being poor makes us unhappy. After a point, the utility of money drops off very sharply indeed.

The idea of me keeping trade secrets is even more amusing because my entire livelihood for the last decade has been based purely upon working in open source. Almost everything in our business that we can give away, we do all. All the tips, course notes, software, ideas, and everything else invariable gets released under an open source license. The business model isn't about keeping fragile secrets which must be guarded, the business model is about being so obviously and outstandingly awesome that people will pay for our services.

So when I talk about sharing skills, I most sincerely want people to learn from that. I want them to be able to do the things I can; in fact, I want them to do them better than me. I'm not worried about competing with other people, for the simple fact that I'm not competing. The world is a better place with more free software developers, more public speakers, more artists, more fancy costumes, more collectives of clever people, and more fun.

Knowledge transfer is one of my most treasured and beloved activities. To everyone's who's taught me to give a massage, tie a celtic knot, write a program, sew fabric, administer a system, identify cognitive defects, go diving, ride a bike, play with contact juggling, make a cocktail, play music on a leaf, use a camera, talk like a pirate, and all the other skills that slip my mind right now. Thank you. Thank you so very, very much. You are way more valuable than money.

-- Paul

Facebook privacy - Instant personalisation and connections
Facebook has been announcing a number of changes recently, many of which will impact your privacy. While you may not have seen them hit your account yet, they will almost certainly do so soon.

In the past, Facebook had a whole bunch of free-form fields for things like location and interests. You could put practically anything you wanted in these, and show them to your friends. For things like interests, there was some basic search features, but they weren't very advanced.

These free-form fields are now changing into "connections". Like existing fan pages, connections represent an actual relationship, rather than just text. Also, just like fan pages, they're public, so you can see all the people who like cooking, or mushrooms. The new connection pages include extra information including text from wikipedia, and an automatic search through both your friends and all public posts to look for content related to that subject. The same applies for your location (hometown and current), your employers, and education!

From an application developer's standpoint, this is a great change. The existing free-form fields were next to useless. From a privacy standpoint, this is an interesting change. It's great to be able to find friends who share your common interests, but because connections are public, you're not just revealing that information to your friends. You're revealing it to the whole wide world. For any user who just accepted the defaults the defaults, I now know the city where you live, who you work for, where you went to school, and what you enjoy doing, in addition to who your friends are, and what you look like.

Luckily, you don't have to convert your interests and locations to connections. However if you don't, those parts of your profile will simply cease to exist. Facebook would really like you to convert to connections, and you'll get a scary looking message about parts of your profile being removed if you don't. Of course, not all of your interests will map to new connections, and those that don't will be discarded in any case, so whatever you do you will be losing information, including potentially the dates of your employment and education. For me, that's not a big deal, but it might be for you. If you do want to continue listing your interests in a free-form and private fashion, I recommend you simply add them to your "about me/bio" section.

If you do convert your interests (and Facebook will ask you to do so sooner or later) then keep in mind that these (along with your existing fan pages) are very public. Your friends, family, employer, potential employer, applications, websites, enemies, and random people on the Internet will all be able to see them. If you don't want that, your only recourse is to remove those connections.

In theory, you can also edit your birthday, and change your age to under 18, which limits what Facebook will publicly disclose about you, although your connections are still very broadly published. Unfortunately, as I discovered the hard way, you can only transform from an adult into a minor once, so if you've edited your birthday in the past you may not be able to change it now. In fact, if you've already converted to the new connection system, then your birthday will no longer show up as something you can edit, so make sure it's set to a date you're happy with before going through the conversion.

Instant Personalisation
Facebook is rolling out changes to allow websites to automatically access your "publicly available information", which includes name, profile picture, gender, friends, and "connections".

What's that, I hear you ask? Are these the same connections that I just added to my profile during the conversion process? They sure are! I bet you just love the idea that when you visit a website, they not only automatically know your name, your location, and your friends, but also a detailed list of your interests, activities, education, and employer!

Luckily, you can turn instant personalisation off. There's a new ticky box on the applications and websites privacy page. For some users, this is on by default, and for others it's off, and I'm not yet sure how that's determined. If it's not ticked now, and you later go through the connections conversion process, then I recommend you go back to double check it's still unchcked.

Having ensured that instant personalisation is disabled, I bet you're feeling pretty safe. However there's a great little clause if you read the fine print: To prevent your friends from sharing any of your information with an instant personalization partner, block the application...

That's right, your friends can share your information. This actually isn't anything new; applications your friends have installed can also view your information, but you probably don't want them sharing your info with the instant personalisation sites either.

So, in addition to unticking a box, you probably want to visit the applications listed in the FAQ entry and block them, too.

While you're at it, I recommend you look at your list of authorised applications as well, and remove any ones that you no longer need. It's very easy to authorise an app these days (in fact, commenting or liking this blog post will do so!), so you might be surprised to see what's there.

Finally, if you want to protect against accidental leakage of your profile information, consider logging out of Facebook before browsing other websites. Sure, this may be a pain in the arse, but Facebook can't share your information if you're not logged in. Conference Talk at OS Bridge
I'll be talking more about Facebook privacy, along with some practical demonstration of tools, at the Open Source Bridge conference from the 1st-4th June 2010.

Ada Lovelace Day (Part 2)
Today is Ada Lovelace continuation day; a day for continuing blog posts reflecting on the awesome contributions of women to science and technology. Here is my continuation from my previous post of my personal heroines.

Selena Deckelmann (@selenamarie)
Wow. Selena. Where do I start? Selena does everything. She runs the Open Source Bridge conference, the Portland Postgres User Group (PDXPUG) with @gorthx, the Code'n'Splode tech group, and gives talks at Ignite Portland and numerous conferences worldwide. She has an amazing garden, keeps chickens about as well as I do, and boundless energy.

And I mean boundless energy. Selena seems to be awake before dawn, will party into the night, and seems to always have half a dozen projects on the go at once. Selena coming off a trans-pacific flight is only slightly less bouncy than normal. As if that wasn't enough, she's also an amazing host, and was kind enough to let Jacinta and myself crash at her place last year when we were visiting Portland.

Selena is also an amazing public speaker, a great storyteller, knows more about databases than anyone else I know, and went to Nigeria to help combat election fraud. She is well-versed in awesome.

Selena is responsible for convincing me that I really need a pull-up bar at home.

Karen Pauley (@keiosu)
I first met Karen at a Sydney Perl Mongers meeting a few years back. Karen is the Steering Committee Chair of the Perl Foundation, and is quite frankly one of the most friendliest and interesting people I've ever met.

Karen is responsible for making sure things get done, and a lot of her work is behind the scenes. In fact, I think it would be correct to say that Karen is awesome at meta-work; she has the rather unenviable task of encouraging technically minded people to do productive things. Her talk at the Open Source Developers Conference on managing volunteers was brilliant.

I'm personally indebted to Karen for listening to all my crazy ideas, sending me the most amazing Christmas Cards from Japan, providing fashion advice, making me laugh (a lot!), being an awesome person to hang out with at conferences, and for standing in the hot Australian sun with a digital SLR. If you've seen photos of me draped over a nice looking sports car, then that's probably Karen's work. ;)

I aspire to become anywhere near as good a conversationalist as Karen.

Mary Jane "MJ" Kelly (@mjmojo)
I met Mary Jane completely by chance at OSCON last year. At the time, I thought that she was pretty darn awesome. What I didn't realise is that she's much more awesome than I first thought.

Mary Jane is full of ideas. Cool ideas. Ideas which involve industrial cutting lasers, 3D printers, quilts, robots, fractals, untraditional business cards, topography, steampunk, using tattoos for social hacking, and adventures!

Better still, MJ doesn't just have great ideas, she implements them too! I'm hugely looking forward to seeing her talk at this year's OSCON, which is all about hacker spaces and building awesome things.

Mary Jane is actively involved in computer security, particularly in the field of anti-fraud technologies in on-line gaming. MJ founded the Girls In Tech Seattle chapter, and organised the 2007 Northwest Security Symposium.

MJ has a wicked sense of humour that never fails to make me smile, shares my love of costumes and cool events, and is solely responsible for my knowledge of waffle-makers.

Honourable mentions
There are a lot more women in technology who have been hugely influential in my life, either by changing the way that I think, or from teaching me amazing new things. In particular, I'd love to give a special mention to Leslie Hawthorn, Sulamita Garcia, Emma Jane Hogbin, Allison Randal, Audrey Tang, Jenine Abarbanel, Akkana Peck, Brianna Laugher, Brenda Wallace, Mary Gardiner, Donna Benjamin, Raena Jackson-Armitage, Pia Waugh, Sarah Stokely, Ricky Buchanan, Lindsey Kuper, and Liz Henry.

I don't have an Ada Lovelace Day list on twitter, but I do have my techwomen list, which includes all of the above and more.

Ada Lovelace Day (Part 1)
Today is Ada Lovelace day; a day for reflection on the awesome contributions of women to science and technology. Today, I would like to pay tribute to some of my personal heroines, and as you'll see, there's quite a few of them. I've tried to list them in roughly chronological order.

Dr Katherine Phelps
In my early teens I had a Commodore 64 with a 1200/75 baud modem, which I used to access local bulletin board systems (BBSes). This was the start of what I would discover was a lifelong joy of communicating with people from behind the safety of a monitor, or in the case of the C64, a television.

Katherine, and her husband Andrew, ran one such local BBS called the Rainbow Connection, and I met them both at a BBS meet-up. Katherine seems to have a knack for encouraging younger people to excel, and taught me the basics of HTML, and even had me editing web-pages for Glass Wings and other websites. In fact, it's due to Katherine that I got my first exposure to the Internet and Internet programming.

Today, Katherine is still prominent in the fields of storytelling, interactive fiction, game-writing, and comedy. Katherine is almost wholly responsible for me getting into Japanese Animation, by showing me an nth generation, unsubtitled, videotape of My Neighbour Totoro, with herself and Andrew providing a very amusing translation as we watched. ;)

Kirrily 'Skud' Robert (@Skud)
I met Skud though Katherine, also while I was still at high school. At the time I was living with my parents as a quiet, introverted geek. All of my friends, and most of the technical people I knew, were also quiet and introverted types.

Skud pretty much shattered all the stereotypes I had for what it was to be technical. She was outgoing, opinionated, pushed boundries, made things happen, was extremely good with people, had unconventional social views, and was way cooler than me. She still is.

Skud has had a massive influence on my life. She started her own business (Netizen) and wrote a set of course manuals on Perl. Some years later, that same writing would form the basis of Perl Training Australia's own course manuals. Skud has been highly influential in the Geek Feminism movement (which has both a blog and wiki), and gave a critical keynote entitled standing out in the crowd at OSCON 2009.

Often I feel that whenever I discover a new experience, it's actually something Skud has been doing for at least a decade. I still fondly remember Skud giving me advice on etiquette at a rather incredible FOSS party a few years back. In fact, etiquette is another thing Skud is rather good at. ;)

Skud continues to be one of my most favourite people in the world, and I was delighted to have the chance to visit her in San Francisco last year after OSCON. My personal motto, never refuse an adventure, was directly lifted from one of Skud's new year's resolutions.

Jacinta Richardson (@jarichaust)
Once I got to university, I started an anime club. One year, working behind the desk, and with my hair in pigtails and balloons, a girl approached and asked about the club. At the end of the conversation she said "I might come back later", which when advertising an anime club usually translates to: "I think you're a complete freak, and I hope to never see you again in my life."

To cut a long story short, she came back, and she was studying Software Engineering. ;)

Jacinta was a receipient of a 2008 White Camel Award for outstanding contributions to the Perl community. Along with running Perl Training Australia, she's also one of the original organisers of the Open Source Developers' Conference, has helped with countless Perl Mongers meetings, and is largely responsible for our Perl Tips newsletter.

Jacinta also does a lot of behind the scenes work which is not easily seen. She has contacts in practically every user group in Australia, so Jacinta is often involved when organisation of Australian-wide events are needed. At conferences she's often giving up her own time to coach nervous speakers (including me!). In fact, Jacinta even had a hand in one of my most favourite talks of all time, @webchick's Women in FLOSS.

Emily Taylor (@Domino_EQ2)
I met Emily shortly after a phone-call from Jacinta saying that I was going to have a late addition to my Perl class. Emily arrived at lunchtime, and started as a bright, attentive student; she quickly caught up with the rest of the class, showed genuine talent, and was working on advanced exercises in no time.

However what got me really excited was why Emily was learning Perl. By afternoon of the first day, I was calling back to the office to say that our new student was awesome, and she was going to apply for the position of head tradeskill developer for Everquest II (EQ2). However I think it two at least two weeks until I discovered she was in my guild!

Now, Emily is indeed the grand tradeskill developer for EQ2. She has an awesome blog on MMO tradeskilling and MMOs in general. More importantly for Ada Lovelace day, she's also an active contributor to the Gamers In Real Life (GIRL) blog.

Emily presently lives in San Diego, where she distracts me yearly with photographs from Comic-con, and disagrees with me about what breakfast spreads are appropriate on toast.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's continuation of this post.

Kuala Lumpur, Day 0
After seventeen hours of travel, I've finally checked into my hotel in Kuala Lumpur. I'm here with Jacinta, and we're teaching Perl to a client next week, but we've arrived early to do some sight-seeing... and because we're insane.

Actually, it only feels like we're insane, because we've only just got back from LCA2010. In reality, going to KL so quickly means that we actually have something one of us might care to label as "a holiday". There's no chance of tacking a holiday on the end: we need to get home in order to clear the mail, launder clothes, and squish an entire month's worth of social engagements into three days before KiwiFoo, and then me spending two weeks in Sydney.

That's right. Four weeks of travel, with only three days at home. Maybe I am insane after all.

Kuala Lumpur is just like I remember it. Hot, humid, friendly people, and cheap, delicious food. Almost everything can be ordered with peanuts, and fried anchovies.

Today I feel like telling stories, so I'm going to recount the happenings of my day. Now would be a good time to get a mug of hot chocolate, or maybe skip to someone else's blog entry. I don't mind.

The trip was not a difficult one, but not an uneventful one either. It started with being picked up by the least competent taxi driver in Melbourne. Or more correctly, not being picked up. The taxi was clearly visible in the street, about a block or two away, and spent most of its time doing U-turns and driving back-and-forth outside a small group of houses. I suspect they were using a GPS navigation system, and it didn't know our street numbers. Trying to flag the taxi down with a high-powered diving torch, the sort which is capable of stunning small fish from a mile away, didn't seem to help either.

The torch did attract the attention of a completely different taxi, who, sensing that we were now quite late for our flight check-in, decided to take the most leisurely approach to driving that I've ever seen. From our conversation, I discovered the driver never gets speeding tickets, but was once fined four times in one day because his car had insufficient velocity. Since our car speed to be travelling down the highway with all the speed of warm molasses, I could understand why.

The flight to KL was lovely. Through good planning, a lot of luck, and er, an aggressively unscheduled seat change, both Jacinta and myself were able to secure three seats each to ourselves. As someone who is used to sleeping on airplanes, this is the height of luxury. During the eight hour flight, I slept for seven, and without the need for sleeping tablets. I awoke feeling relaxed and refreshed.

Getting to the hotel wasn't hard, but inefficient. The plan was to catch a bus to KL Sentral, a train to Putrajaya, and then use the hotel's complimentary shuttle from there. It now appears that we could have caught a train directly from the airport to Putrajaya, saving considerable time and some money. Still, the trip to Sentral resulted in some spiffy weekly tickets which looked like they'd be useful in travel.

Calling the hotel from the train, I asked if we could get a pick-up from Putrajaya. They seemed uncertain, and after some to-and-fro, they admitted that the shuttle doesn't go to Putrajaya station, despite it being the nearest major public transport centre. They do however go to Kuala Lumpur proper (where we were just coming from), and a shopping centre or two.

As it happens, I now discover the hotel's bus seems to be the transportation equivalent of "scattered showers": not in your area, and not when you care. So rather than using the hotel bus, we were introduced to the public bus network.

Putrajaya's public bus network doesn't work the same way as other bus networks do. There's a big bus station, with lots and lots of bays and busses, but the goal of the drivers is to collect as few passengers as possible. This is primarily done by locking the bus, sneaking out, having a smoke for half an hour, and then dashing back into the bus and driving off as quickly as possible before anyone spots you. Other tricks include waving passengers away when they try to enter, or telling passengers you don't leave until much later, and then driving off as soon as they turn their backs. In fact, should a bus foolishly leave its doors open for more than a few moments, it is almost invariably becomes jam-packed with passengers. All the busses seem to go to the same places anyway, just in a different order, and catching any bus is better than being outside in the heat.

The hotel itself is super-fancy. The room comes with bath-robes, slippers, a fruit-bowl, a fancy room configuration and furniture. Heck, even the bath-tub has its own phone, just in case you decide you need another bottle of champagne. The hotel seems to be filled with government officials and businessmen; not surprising, given the location in the heart of KL's government and technology district. I've never really liked fancy hotels; when travelling I prefer a more organic experience, but I think I've finally become to understand them. The people who frequent these hotels, almost by necessity, need to have so much money that the prices actually seem reasonable. For example, I'm eating a meal right now that costs the equivalent of dinner for six people on the streets of KL. That's an expensive meal, but it's still on the cheap side compared to what I'd be paying for the same meal in Australia.

The only thing which doesn't change is my surprise over the minibar. You want how much for a can of cola?

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