[Edu-sig] Drafting a keynote

kirby urner kirby.urner at gmail.com
Sun Jan 14 00:17:37 CET 2007

Although I haven't been invited to keynote in Dallas --
although I did volunteer (given my considerable
experience) -- I thought a next best thing would be to
lead by example, and encourage other subscribers
to draft little keynotey things that would give us a
sense of the vision and/or mission and/or state
of our snake in our schools, so to speak.

I would cite my gigs with Saturday Academy of
Silicon Forest, both with the police (George Heuston
of HPD), and through Portland State, both outreaches
to youth somewhat at risk of corruption and/or losing
their way amidst a bewildering wilderness of mirrors.

At the police station (West Precinct) we harped
on the downside of the Internet, a haven for perps,
pervs and predators, especially adult, plus a
constant source of temptations, e.g. of pirated
goods, which might only serve to get you in trouble
with the authorities.

But George was uncomfortable with this sustained
negative note, all downsides and terrors, when boyz
and girlz just wanna have fun with all the new toyz,
so if there is *any* safe way to enjoy this bonanza,
maybe the police could role model it?

They brought in some hired guns:  me, of 4D Solutions,
and Jerritt Collord, then of linuxfund.org, and long time
veteran of North Portland's open source scene (I'm more
the old hippie, mostly cut my teeth on closed source
offerings in Southeast, am now just getting my second
wind, thanks in part to Free Geek and Ron Braithwaite).

Jerritt's take was decidely different from the more
negatory stuff.  He really knew his engineering, and if
packets weren't encrypted, and hogged the shared
public air, well then he, as a member of said public,
wasn't being all that sneaky or outside of his rights
if he just opened a few.

Sysadmins do the same, and know if wired or wireless
dorms use more Bittorrent than Jabber, and which
servers enjoy the most traffic.  The packets themselves
tend to tell you that, by design, as a part of the monitoring
infrastructure, which is needed to pinpoint bottlenecks,
as well as to cut down on hogging, abuse, taking unfair
advantage of resources we share.

So there we were, the first day of class, immediately
into sniffing packets, thinking about packets, where
they come from, where they go, what they do.  Enter
'Warriors of the Net', a great cartoon intro, and which
I highly recommend to school teachers in Texas, if at
all interested in what we in Oregon are into.

[pause to show excerpt, with big speaker surround
sound, however they do it in Texas].

Anyway, the kids found this refreshing:  real hackers
hacking, not just lecturing on criminal pathologies.  George
sat in on a few classes and I think he could see where we
weren't just training up a new generation of law breakers.
We were showing off hacker culture as a highly ethical,
and interested in sharing a growing stockpile of wealth
that we ourselves create.

We're not thieves.  We *own* our code *and* choose to
share it with peers.  That's the message to youngsters
in any case.  We want 'em to grow up proud of their

You can grow up to become a freedom loving hacker
*and* be tough on crime, if that's what you'd like.  Be
like George for example, a computer forensics expert in
charge of many a crime scene investigation, lots of FBI
background. There's no contradiction here.

Jerritt and I forked off in different directions after that
class.  He had a girlfriend in Montana, no obvious ties
to Portland.  Last we met, he was thinking about Japan.

As a Portland native, I stuck with Saturday Academy
and plodded on in a more academic vein, working
in purer and purer forms of Python, with ever more
math in the mix, sometimes to the exclusion of all
else.  Group theory, number theory, synergetics...
burning the midnight oil.

I was losing my Jerrittish side, given he wasn't around
to reinforce it so directly.  I missed the power of our
HPD course, even though my more purist stuff got
me gigs at Europython in Gothenburg, at the London
Knowledge Lab, and as our BDFL's sidekick and
Minister of Education at that Shuttleworth summit
last April (I'm giving a talk on that meeting, check
your program).

[ pause to show excerpt of London Knowledge Lab
talk -- on second thought, I don't think it's high
rez enough.  For printed copy, see these relevant links:

Slowly, I've been building up that other side of my
body, to where I can talk about Internet protocols, the
stack, the heap, with some confidance and gusto.

Dr. Sonnenfeld of New Mexico Tech was inspiring, reminding
me of the relevance of the homespun, the down and dirty
(he studies lightning), the importance of coming down
from those mountain peaks on occasion.

Dr. Bob Fuller, veteran of the Calculus Reform movement
(largely successful) was likewise an inspiration, reminding
me not to get lost in the clouds, over lattes in Oregon.

This restored sense of balance gives my students more
insights into the likes of Twisted, into the nuts and bolts
of the Internet itself.  Plone... Zope.  I'm not being too
prejudicial in my teaching them Python, not even in
terms of their becoming computer scientists.  That's for
them to decide.  I'm just here to show 'em some ropes,
open some doors.

wxPython, ODBC to MySQL, IronPython, Mailman...
these all could be a "next step" for you, or maybe you're
ready to teach them?  We encourage peers teaching
peers in our models, already the most tried and trusted
vector for spreading a global geek culture.

My "next step" has been in direction of VPython and
its promise of easy OpenGL.  Like Arthur on Edu-Sig,
I see that Ruby is strong in this area, and Ruby toons
(animated cartoons by or about Ruby) may well eclipse
our snake's chances for more public exposure, if we don't
act in concert.  I'm thinking of rebranding my own
Hypertoons [tm] to 'Anime on Rails' and invading the
Japanese market, a pre-emptive strike.

[pause for audience laughter ]

Happily though, I think peaceful co-existence with
RubyToons is the most likely outcome, just like we
in Python Nation already enjoy good relations with
our closest long time neighbor, the Republic of Perl.

Now, I know you're all wondering about YouTube and
Google, and how this all fits with Intel's Viiv.  I'd say,
on behalf of the Portland Knowledge Lab, that yes,
the goal is open source, lots and lots of it, so you can
download and splice stuff together with wild abandon,
not feeling encumbered by the prospect of lawsuits
left and right, because of the blanketly permissive
copyrights and licenses we'll be providing as shielding.

In this way, our ability to cut and paste video, as easily
as we cut and paste source code, will grow by leaps
and bounds, to the great advantage of a knowledge
based economy such as our own, wherein screencasting,
including mathcasting, is an essential ingredient in
building up the alphanumeracy skills of our future

However, YouTube and Google Video aren't currently
high rez enough to make looking at source code anything
but painful.  So the challenge is to develop a multi-tiered
system of video distribution, and yes, the higher the
bandwidth the more likely it'll end up costing you
something, if not in terms of actual dollars, then in
terms of disk space or rebranding rights.  Great works
of art (like Valve's Half Life, like Cyan's Uru) still don't
come cheaply, and we're happy to pay for it, by and
large, including sometimes through Foundation support
of the artists.

How will Python fit in to our open source video economy?
At least one thing is clear:  it'll be a lot easier to teach
effectively, as will be the other languages.

The rest is up to the developers and/or curriculum writers
(not always different people).

If you like our snake, and want to build in some bindings to
your product, open source or prioprietary, we hope you'll
seriously consider doing so and follow through.  Python, like
any language, benefits from brand loyalty.  Guido has never
insulted our intelligence with a second rate offering.  Or
goal should be to continue his most excellent track record.

Thank you and good afternoon.


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