Older blog entries for Skud (starting at number 81)

Story time

Once upon a time there was a publishing company. Let's call this company Stones (a name I just made up). This company decided to publish a book consisting of a number of chapters, each one written by a different author, about various aspects of a technical field.

Everything was going well, until some of the authors didn't complete their chapters on time. The people at Stones got very upset, and decided to look for new authors. Unfortunately, they didn't know anyone in this technical field, and didn't have any contacts in the developer community, so they went to a website (run by a rival publishing company) and farmed it for the names and email addresses of people in that field.

And so it came to pass that a number of developers received email asking them to write a chapter for Stones' book. The chapters that were required were not the sort of chapters that the developers were interested in writing about, since they mostly focussed on integrating this technical product with other products which were unpopular in this developer community, mostly because of their poor quality and/or restrictive licensing. What was worse, Stones wanted the developers to write these chapters in only two weeks!

Now it happened that many members of this development community were in regular contact with each other, as is common practise for communities. Many of the developers tended to congregate in one particular forum, where they would discuss any topic of mutual interest. And so, very shortly, they all discovered that many of them had received the same unsolicited commercial email from Stones.

The developers were incensed. How could a publisher expect people to write high quality technical literature in such a short time frame? Did the publisher not realise that these people had (often highly paid) day jobs which required their attention? Did they not have any clue whatsoever? The developers also discovered, by talking to people who had dealt with Stones in the past, that the publishing house was not known for their high editorial standards nor for particularly generous remuneration.

One developer wrote a letter to Stones' representative, pointing out the problems caused by the email. The developer mentioned the unreasonableness of the two week deadline, the unlikelihood of obtaining quality work, the incompatibility between the developer community and the proprietary software they wanted chapters written about, and the fact that their unsolicited bulk, commercial email could be considered as "Spam" by some people, and might be in violation of the publisher's ISP's acceptable use policy.

Another developer, who had written for Stones in the past, also wrote to them, expressing similar concerns and pointing out that the entire developer community was unimpressed, and that Stones ran a very great risk of harming their reputation among a group who could be very influential in recommending or criticizing the book, not to mention the fact that this developer community contained some of the most skilled and experienced people who might have been interested in writing for Stones, if not for the publisher's incredibly hamfisted way of trying to recruit them. This developer even went as far as saying that he was unhappy to be associated with a book and a publisher that obviously had so little understanding of the community and such little interest in producing quality material.

Two days and two nights passed, and the developers hoped that perhaps Stones would take their words to heart. Perhaps at the very least they would extend their deadlines, and phrase their emails in a manner which was less offensive to the developer community.

When the sun rose on the third day, a developer read his messages and discovered a letter from Stones. He raced into the forum to tell his friends. The developers were only slightly surprised to find that this letter was exactly the same as the ones that had been sent three days previously. The people at Stones had either ignored the advice they were given, or had actively sought to lower the quality of their book by turning away all the competent people in the field.

The moral of the story? There is no moral, nor a happy ending. However, a film version from several years in the future (which happened to fall through a hole in the space-time continuum) ended like this:

  • The Stones publishing company continued to publish mediocre rush-jobs by inexperienced authors. Many of them ended up on remainder benches, and the rest were bought by the families of authors who liked seeing their relative's picture on the front cover
  • The developer community continued to show tremendous loyalty to the rival publishing houses which had been responsive to their needs and understanding of their culture
  • The first developer to complain to Stones continued for many years to bash her head against the brick walls of corporate stupidity, with sufficient small wins to avoid becoming terminally embittered
  • The second developer to complain to Stones never wrote for them again, but instead went on to write a highly successful book about the internals of the technical product in question, which was published by one of Stones' rivals.

When did I last post? Must be a couple of days. OK then...

Saturday night I went to a Discworld-themed party held by a friend of mine. I didn't dress up, claiming immunity on the basis of imminent overseas relocation (everything's in boxes or sold or just too hard).

Sunday I slept in, then people came round and took away all my bookshelves. This is going to make it hard to find books for the next few weeks. Oh well.

I've been pondering for a bit about my SCA persona. For the last 4 years I've been playing a 16th century mariner, who just happens to be male. I chose to have a male persona because I was very interested in maritime history and knew that it would be historically unlikely for a woman to be a seafarer. However, I have found I tend to do maritime history things when I'm out of persona, so there's less clash than I had originally expected. Also, a bunch of other things *do* cause clashes, ranging from the simple fact that I am biologically female under the costume, to my interests in traditionally feminine pursuits such as needlework. It certainly looks odd to be sitting around at a tourney doing blackwork embroidery when one is meant to be playing a male role. Finally, costuming is quite inconvenient. It's hard to adapt patterns intended for male body shapes to suit female body shapes... and *don't* get me started on the difficulties of pointing the doublet to the hose if you can't urinate standing up.

So I've decided that, on the whole, it would be more sensible to take up a female persona. My move to Ottawa gives me a good opportunity to do this cleanly, and (conveniently!) saves me from having to explain the whole male persona thing to every single SCA person I meet there. I'm not sure I have the energy for that... 4 years ago, when I was 21 and perkier, it was much easier.

So, in light of this, I started on a new needlework project last night... a blackwork coif embroidered with lilies and little spiky things, as found in a book of blackwork that I've got. It'll give me something to do between now and when I get settled in Ottawa.

Speaking of which... looks like my relocation date may be set back by a few weeks, which means after Christmas. Some of the Australians who'd previously gone to work for e-smith had spent their first few weeks as contractors until their visas came through, then popped back here briefly in order to immigrate properly. Seems that while this has worked so far, it can cause the immigration department to be a bit of a PITA and ask difficult questions, and they'd rather avoid it. So I'm probably going to wait until the actual visa comes through.

Today I have a heap of errands to run and stuff to do... have to pay the rent, get a haircut, contact my old university for an academic transcript, contact my dad for copies of my school reports and my birth certificate and stuff, and clean the kitchen before a friend comes round for dinner.

7am. Cold. Fuzzy socks are in the laundry. Ugh.

Spent a big chunk of the night converting e-smith's manual to Docbook. Sent a rather vitriolic email to a publishing house who spammed me (and a bunch of other Perl peopl) trying to get people to write chapters (about proprietary software, worse yet) for their upcoming book. They want drafts within 2 weeks. Yuh. Right. Quality with a capital F.

Slowly heading towards packing things into boxes. I keep nearly mistyping boxes as boxen.

pcburns: sourceforge doesn't email you when it's set a project up, it just happens. *shrug*

dhd: does that mean there *are* ethiopian restaurants in Ottawa? Where? And can you (or anyone) recommend a restaurant guide for Ottawa and/or the region in general? Here in Melbourne we have the excellent "Good Food Guide" and "Cheap Eats Guide" both compiled and published annually by one of our better newspapers.

Big sourceforge day:

  • Gluttony 0.0.1 (actually it probably deserves a higher version number, but I haven't propagated the name change through yet, so I figured I'd keep the version low until I had it sorted out)
  • Insect 0.1 (seeking developers!)
  • Spork 0.9 (basically the Netizen version of the Perl training notes, needs a lot of work)
  • FormMagick 0.0.0 (bits and pieces that are not yet anything like real software)

If you're interested in any of these projects, please stroke my ego by joining the sourceforge groups and/or mailing lists for them.

Meanwhile, the getting-rid-of-everything-I-own process is moving along at a reasonable rate. Most of my furniture and other large items has been claimed already.

It's just after 4am, and I think I should go to bed now.

Spent a huge chunk of tonight messing around on sourceforge setting up several projects: Eureka and FormMagick are now set up to my satisfaction, and I've registered several new projects:

  • Gluttony -- a recipe database currently in late alpha
  • Insect -- a genealogy tool which converts GEDCOM files to template-driven websites (very alpha)
  • Spork -- Skud's Perl Training Notes Fork (a copy of the Netizen training materials which I will (try to) continue to maintain)

Overall, it was a good project naming night.

Gotta get everything off the ex-Netizen server... dunno how long it'll remain in action.

I also spent a wodge of time playing with e-smith under VMWare, but I can't figure out the networking stuff. I will deal with it in the morning. Or the afternoon. Whatever.

Thorfy's meant to be coming round tomorrow to sort out who owns what stuff. I have a steady stream of visitors over the next week or two coming to take away most of my furniture and household goods. Yay.

Spent the weekend at an SCA camping event, sneezing. Bloody hayfever.

People have laid claim to my bed, my bookshelves, and various smaller household items. I still have a heap of stuff I need to get rid of, though. Argh. If you're in Melbourne (Australia), I invite you to come round to my house and go through my stuff and grab anything you want. I'm trying to get money for the "large" items, but the small stuff may as well go to people I know, otherwise I'll just get the Salvation Army to pick it all up.

Really ought to do some Real Work, I guess. Gotta play with e-smith under VMWare and figure it out.

I'm looking for somewhere to put infotrope.net which isn't an ex-Netizen machine. Preferably it will be in North America somewhere (USA/Canada), decent bandwidth, reasonable cost, and let me mess around with Apache, MySQL, Perl, etc. I'm not sure whether I'll look for a permanent home for infotrope or whether I'll just park it somewhere for a few months until I'm settled in Canada, then hang it off the end of a DSL line or something. I've had a couple of offers from friends, but I'm open to further advice. Any suggestions/offers are welcome :)


I already know how to skate, at least enough to not end up with a cold, sore bum. They have an ice rink or two here in Melbourne, and I also used to rollerskate as a child and do a bit of inline skating when I was at University.

As for the brain drain... I didn't realise Canada had one? Australia certainly has one... though admittedly it looks like e-smith are causing half of it... I think they've hired more than half a dozen Australians now, for a company of only twenty-something :-) A guy in a shop in Ottawa said "Oh, you're from Australia. Are you in the tech industry?" Seems there are lots of us moving over there. Lots and lots of my friends have headed over to the Netherlands to work, too.

Also: I'm not a goth, I'm just goth compatible. I think it was mstevens who had a theory on that. But I probably will be checking out the local SCA groups when I get there.


That javascript page is EVIL.

I seem to be on Canadian time already. This is a bit of a problem. Or then again, maybe not. I mean, who cares what time I sleep or work?

New on infotrope.net:

I've been home for almost 3 days now, and I don't seem to be able to get back into the habit of actually cooking food. Going down the street and paying someone to cook for me is just so much easier.

Not much coding or other open source work going on at the moment... I'm still unpacking and vaguely organising my life. Really ought to get stuck into a bunch of things, though, including catching up on all the Perl 6 stuff I missed while I was away. I'm meant to be starting on work for e-smith but I've figured that most of it can wait until I actually get a copy of their distro on CD, as downloading it would take forever and I don't have a burner anyway.

14 Oct 2000 (updated 14 Oct 2000 at 22:47 UTC) »

Back in Melbourne, after some stupid length of time in transit. The person who invented in-transit-by-the-hour hotels and airport massage kiosks deserves a sainthood. As does the Australian bureaucrat who decided to let us bring 2.25L of liquor into the country duty-free; I have Bombay Sapphire and Cointreau.

It's about 9am here and I have no idea what I'm going to do with my day. It feels sort of vaguely morningish, but I'm not sure what mornings are *meant* to feel like as I usually sleep through them. I guess I feel kind of like what I usually feel like around 1pm. Soon I will start being hungry. I guess I should get dressed, find some food, and get some photos processed. Unpacking and laundry are probably on the list, too.

Career (and relocation) choices:

Over the past couple of days I've been thinking pretty hard about what path to take wrt work. I've had a few offers here and there, some more serious than others, and have of course travelled to Ottawa and to Sweden to check out two of the more serious contenders.

Although Sweden's a nice place, I don't think it's somewhere I could live comfortably. There are a few things which would be considerable barriers to me: the latitude, the language, the food, and the completely alien law-abiding-niceness of the people. Also, the job I was interviewing for looks like a really good job and very interesting, but it's not a dream job. So, although I have yet to receive a formal offer from them, I know I won't be accepting it.

e-smith, on the other hand, have offered me my dream job: "General Specialist" for a company with a strong Open Source ethic and compatible culture, in a city that feels like home. I have accepted their offer by email and will be doing paperwork next week. I'm hoping to actually relocate at the very end of November.

For the record: e-smith produce a Linux distribution which is an easy-to-install, droolproof-to-configure Internet server and gateway. You basically throw the CD in, answer some questions, then let your non-technical types go pointy-clicky with a web browser. It's written in Perl (in a good way :)) and based on Red Hat, so you can add new modules to it as RPMs or whatever. They make their money by selling support for e-smith installations, either directly or through parterships with system integrators. They have about 20 people in Ottawa and Boston, including a surprising number of Australians. Expect to hear lots more about them in the future.

Anyway. I should go and see about food. And start thinking about packing my life up in boxes.

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