Summer of Code preview

I wrote an LWN article called “Google’s Summer of Code: Past and Future.” In it, you’ll learn:

  • Why your project should apply to the program
  • How big the program is likely to be this year
  • A major change for the 2009 session, and
  • A pointer to a valuable resource for mentors.

LWN is my favorite source for the best Linux and open-source news. They write original articles and also spend a lot of time searching all over the Internet for all the latest news so that all I have to do is read it. The reader community is fantastic, too. Subscribe to LWN today!

Q&A interviews suck

I hate reading Q&A interviews. They’re a huge waste of time, and they say to me that the journalist quit halfway through his job. I’m not disparaging the Q&A format as a whole, which can work great outside of interviews, but I despite seeing it in them.

Here’s why. When a journalist writes a story, the process goes something like this. First you think of an idea. Then you think about who to talk with about that idea. Next, you make a list of questions to ask them. Then the interview: you ask the questions and write down the answers. This is where the Q&A format gives up. After the interview, you do the most important part of your job—you synthesize the information, making connections between all your interviewees, other sources, and prior knowledge. Then you put time into writing a clear and concise story that doesn’t include anything beyond what’s needed.

As the reader, I expect you, the journalist, to invest your time wisely so I don’t waste mine drawing all the conclusions you should’ve drawn for me. I expect you to cut the material that’s unrelated to the story you’re telling. Don’t stop at the Q&A; write the story.

OSCON talk proposals

The deadline for proposing ideas for OSCON talks was Monday at 11:59 p.m. Naturally I clicked Submit for the final time not long before then, at 11:56 p.m. Note I said “final time,” implying more than one—I decided to go all-out and submit three ideas, in hopes that at least one will slip through. For the curious, they are

  • Design and publish beautifully and professionally: How to create a professional-looking document, using Scribus and Inkscape. Many people who read this probably don’t realize I spent four years working as a page designer and copy editor at newspapers. I continue that interest today as editor of a newsletter about open-source activity for the Open Source Educational Laboratory at Oregon State.
  • Community dynamics in a large open-source project: Problems, solutions and conundrums in Gentoo. The funniest (and saddest) part is when the same things begin to repeat themselves, and nobody else remembers last time it happened.
  • Open-source software in the biosciences: Where we are and what we learned on the voyage: The cruel joke of scientists as programmers. As a grad student in biochemistry at OSU, I’ve had to deal with more ugly software than many of you can imagine. But at least more of it is open source now, right?

Anyone else submit proposals? I’d be interested to hear what they’re about.