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ACM Reflections | Projections Conference 2013 wrap-up

Last Thursday I flew out to Urbana-Champaign to speak at a conference put on by the ACM at the University of Illinois, Reflections | Projections.

On Thursday evening and Friday I was able to spend time catching up with my Ubuntu colleagues Nathan Handler, who was staff at the conference, and Paul Tagliamonte who was a fellow speaker. Friday evening wrapped up with a couple of talks.

Saturday was the big day of the conference for talks. The day started out by attending Paul Tagliamonte’s talk: Getting started with Debian development: The missing guide

It was a great exploration of some of the collective knowledge of folks in the Debian community that isn’t always fully communicated to newcomers, including exactly how the internals of uploading a package works with a look at different queues and paths in the system for finally delivering a newly uploaded package to a variety of different users.

Right after Paul’s talk I was up for my talk, A Career in Free and Open Source Software. I’m deeply passionate about open source and being able to do this for a living has made me quite happy, so I was excited about this talk and hope that my enthusiasm was recognized by the audience. Afterwards I had some great chats with attendees. There was also a section of my talk where I spoke about being shy and how important it was to attend and speak at conferences anyway, which I was delighted to hear really resonated with one of my fellow speakers.

Huge thanks to everyone who came out and also to those who asked questions throughout the talk, it’s always a pleasure to have such an engaging audience. Slides from my talk are available as .pdf here: ACM-Career_in_FOSS.pdf

After lunch we met up with a staff member to leave the conference area for a bit and head across town to visit Blue Waters, “the fastest supercomputer on a university campus anywhere in the world.” I love visiting datacenters, and visiting a supercomputer is extra fun. Most of the photos I ended up taking over the weekend were from our trip to this facility.

Meeting Blue Waters!

I was particularly impressed with their raised floor that gave staff a full 6 feet of room to work. It was also super cool to see that they were using Ubuntu in the control center:

I went to a couple more talks later in the afternoon before heading back to the hotel. The thing that really made my weekend was getting to hang out with Paul and Nathan, it was really great to see them both again and geek out over our current projects and work.

Nathan Handler, Elizabeth Krumbach Joseph, Paul Tagliamonte

Sunday morning started off with a speakers brunch before we headed back over to the conference to watch the results of the MechMania coding competition and then a final talk by Peter Norvig on The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Data. I didn’t know what to expect from this talk, but was delighted as he dove into how they use data at Google to solve tough problems like identifying things (cats!) and people in photos and putting together “good enough to be very useful” translations and other tools.

As things wrapped up I was fortunate enough to be able to meet up with Wendy Edwards, who I virtually met years ago via Systers and who happens to work as a research programmer at the university. It was great to finally meet her in person and chat about our work and projects over coffee before taking a quick detour to a fantastic used book store on the way to the airport.

More photos from the weekend here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/sets/72157636561910325/

Thanks again to the organizers of the conference for inviting me and putting on such a great conference.