The business traveler’s secret to traveling with a baby

I am so getting one of these. Before you laugh, imagine me carrying a bookbag, suitcase, carseat and baby. Or how about the time that I put all the suitcases on a cart and let the 8 year old to push the stroller. As I pushed the cart out of the elevator, the strap broke, all the suitcases fell off and the 8 year old jumped out to help me … leaving the baby in the stroller in the elevator.

Yep, I’m getting one of these.

Email etiquette guides for online tourists

Email etiquette is like any other kind of etiquette – it depends on what culture you are visiting. Just like table manners vary from country to country, email etiquette varies from community to community.

For example, when I joined OpenLogic, I went home the first day and watched my inbox. I actually got quite worried that something was wrong with the email server – I wasn’t getting any email! After 200-300/day at HP, getting no email for an entire evening was a huge shock. It took me a while before I quit checking my inbox so frequently and figured out how I was supposed to be getting work done.

Likewise, mailing lists can be a huge shock to non-mailing list users. Jean Anderson gave a talk at the Women in Open Source Conference last year and she spent a good part of her talk explaining how mailing lists work. As she spoke, I realized how foreign and scary they must seem to people used to traditional email:

  • Hundreds if not thousands of people are going to read your email – your stupid question email!
  • Your email will live forever. In public.
  • You’re going to get 10s if not 100s of emails a day!
  • And if you don’t cc the whole list, you’ll be rude and things won’t work effectively. (I actually had to be reminded to cc the list last month. I had gotten used to immediately taking the issue offline!)

So I think email etiquette depends on what community you are part of. Instead of a single etiquette guide (Chris Brogan’s post is what prompted this post), we should have community email etiquette guides. I know I’ve been readjusting my behavior as I adjust to the GNOME community.

(For the record, I’m a huge email and mailing list fan. I think there are phone people, email people, txt people … I’m an email person.)

Book Review: Little Brother

I was going to write that Little Brother was a great science fiction story … and then I started wondering whether it was really science fiction or not. It takes place a year or two in the future but I think all of the technology in it is possible today.

Little Brother reads like a science fiction story – Cory Doctorow’s got a bit of Robert Heinlein’s style – his characters even talk in the same way. I enjoyed the book – staying up past my normal bedtime to finish it.

I would have preferred a slightly more subtle style of explanation. The main character spends most of the book explaining everything from cryptography to churros to us. I think the story would have been more compelling if the character had just expected us to know what cryptography was and given us more subtle clues. That said, I understand that Cory is trying to educate readers and I appreciate that.

The book was possibly cooler because I’ve met Cory and I know all the technology in the book is possible.

(And for those that wonder, I ran across the Little Brother in some blog or another, checked it out on Amazon, and added it to my Paperbackswap wishlist at some point in the past. It arrived last week and as a hardback fiction book, it got add to my books to read "when I don’t have travel planned but I’m really busy pile." It will soon be shipped off to one of the 62 people waiting for it on Paperbackswap.)

3 ways Amazon makes it really easy for me to give them money …

Amazon has perfected one part of the sales cycle: they have made it very easy for me to give them money. Anyone selling anything should think about their models.

First, they had Amazon Prime shipping. I pay $79/year. (I think it was more like $69/year when I signed up.) In exchange, when I order a book from Amazon, I don’t pay shipping and they deliver it in two days. (And often by the next morning.) So if I want a book, I just go online, find it, hit "Buy now" and it shows up tomorrow morning. It’s easier than getting in my car and driving 10 miles to the bookstore. (And cheaper now that gas is so expensive. Cheaper once I’ve already spent that $79/year that is.) So I give my money to Amazon instead of the local (chain) bookstore, because it’s easier. I also buy more books because it’s easy. (And before you tell me to use the library … most of the time my local library doesn’t have the books I want to read and when they do, there’s always a waitlist for them. That said, I love libraries. I still go hang out in them.)

Then they introduced Subscribe & Save. I never even think about diapers now. When we need them, they show up on the door step. Not only do I not pay shipping but I get a 15% discount. So I give my money to Amazon instead of to the local grocery store because it’s easier.

Then came the Kindle. Now I don’t even have to wait for the next morning. I just hit a button and I can read the first chapter and if I like it, I hit another button and they charge my credit card and I get the book. So once again, I give Amazon my money because it’s easier than waiting for my turn on Paperbackswap or going to the local bookstore.

And they’ve encouraged me to tell all of you about it, because if you click through and buy any of these (very addictive) products, they’ll give me a payback. You have been warned!

(And if they listened to me, I have ideas for how they could make it even easier for me to give them money. For starters, their wishlist functionality is so bad, I use several other tools to manage my wishlists. Also, my Kindle needs to be open source so that I can get all the features I want. But even without all those they are doing a pretty good job of making it really easy for me to give them my money.)

Afraid you’ll get sued for using open source software? Think again.

I gave a talk at LinuxWorld called "Avoiding Open Source Lawsuits: Five Steps to Effective Open Source Governance in the Enterprise." I suppose it wasn’t the wisest title since my point was to dispell FUD (fear, uncertainty and doubt) not create FUD. (I borrowed the title (and a few slides) from an OpenLogic webinar, although my talk was substantially different.)

The point of my talk was that although I think there’s very little chance you’ll get sued for using open source software, if you (or your manager) are worried about it, there’s a few things you can do to dispell those fears. (My goal is to convince more people to use open source software by dispelling myths and giving people tools to convince the opposition.) By having clear policies and processes for dealing with open source software, a company can ensure that not only will they not be doing anything they could be sued for, but if they are sued (or just approached by someone like the SFLC), they can show them that they were doing their best to comply with open source licenses. If you show you are doing the right thing, open source developers and those that represent them are more likely to help you straighten things out than they are to sue you. Open source software developers in general want their software to be used!

So what should you do?

  1. Find out what open source software you are using. For this I recommend OSSDiscovery. (And once you’re done, go ahead and submit it to the Open Source Census to help spread the word about how much open source software is being used.) But whether you use the tools are not, you should keep track of what you are using.
  2. Establish a clear open source policy. This should include not only guidelines for how your company should use open source software but also training so that developers can evaluate licenses and know when to get help. (For help with this see
  3. Set up a review board. There are always exceptions, new licenses, different ways of using open source software and your employees should have access to experts to help them make an educated decision as a company.
  4. Make sure you are complying with the licenses you are using. To me, the hardest part of complying with open source software licenses is knowing what licenses you are using. Sometimes projects contain lots of different licenses or the project you want to use depends on a number of other projects, all with their own license. Tools like Fossology and OpenLogic’s OLEX can help determine which licenses you are using.
  5. Track and audit. Show that you are tracking what open source software you are using and periodically auditing it and I am sure that if you are apporached by the FSF or SFLC, that they will be more than happy to work with you.

The SFLC is not suing to make money for the BusyBox developers – they are suing to make sure that people are using GPL licensed software appropriately. I did mention a few lawsuits in my talk but it wasn’t to point out how much money people were making (I’m not sure anyone has made any money off suing for misbehavior around open source software) but rather to give specific examples of what could happen. All too often I think people don’t use open source software because they are afraid of "being sued" and they aren’t even really sure what they could be sued for.

To make a long story short, I think there’s little chance that a company that is trying to do the right thing will get sued for using open source software. Especially if they have clear policies and processes that show they are actively tracking, reviewing and managing the open source software they use just like they would track their use of proprietary software.

Open source users aren’t your average beta testers

Scoble just lost all his calendar events to a Mobile Me bug. He points out that:

Apple’s secrecy keeps them from properly testing out their apps with
tons of users, the way other companies do who aren’t so worried about

When people talk about open source software, they talk about the advantage of lots of testers. For example, Marten Mickos always talks about how he has two types of users with MySQL, those with lots of time and little money and those with lots of money and little time.

What I think doesn’t get enough attention is the fact that these "free users" aren’t your average user. They are usually very technical, very passionate, very active users. People that will help make sure you have the information to fix the problems they find. And if you label it a beta (as perhaps Apple should have done with Mobile Me), they know how to take appropriate precautions so that when terrible things happen, it doesn’t wipe out their data. Free and open source software developers can use and test your software in ways that the average user can’t or isn’t interested in doing.

Kids need “risky” play

I’m always glad to see an article promoting "risky" play (if you can call climbing trees risky) because I think we overprotect our children. We put them in carseats, helmets, only certain cribs, only toys that pass safety ratings, only direct supervised play, only …

(Warning, rant coming ahead.)

I don’t know why we’ve become so safety conscious (I think it’s more than just kids) but I think there are four main pressures promoting "safety" for kids:

  1. Social. It’s not socially acceptable to let you kids play with "dangerous" things. You might be a bad parent. I was on a fieldtrip last Friday morning and one of the other moms was taking about how her sister-in-law was letting her kid run around with a straw. She was going to tell her sister-in-law it was a bad idea when the kid poked himself in the eye. So, obviously, running around with a straw was a bad idea. (Even though the eye was fine.) Worse yet, several other people chimed in with stories about toothbrushes going through the roof of a mouth, flutes puncturing lips, etc. So I decided to tell them about the time Caleb was running around with a plastic drum stick and fell hard enough to break it. And I made sure to tell them, "He was fine." I let him continue running around with the other drum stick. (I could imagine bad things happening with almost every toy in his room. My imagination is good enough to come up with bad scenarios for each of them. Should I take them all away?)
  2. Laws. My daycare provider has to buy all new cribs next year because the current ones have slats on the sides and the ends. In 2010 cribs are only allowed to have slats on the sides because the end ones are dangerous. And she has to buy new playground equipment because tricycles, any moving equipment, will be dangerous then too. Tricycles. Next thing you know we’ll be told they can’t play on trikes at home. (They’re already supposed to wear helmets!)
  3. Doctors. My doctor told me Caleb was not allowed to sleep with a blanket until he was 12 months old because he might suffocate. I listened to him but this was hard. We live in Colorado and we turn the heat way down at night. Frank and I actually argued a couple of times about how low the heat could go and Caleb would still be ok! I’d really like to know how many 6-12 month olds have had serious trouble with a blankie. My doctor also warns me about seatbelts, foods that are dangerous, climbing, …
  4. Money. There are a lot of companies making big money from safe car seats, safe toys, monitors, … they’re going to help promote all those laws, social norms and medical advise.

Keeping kids too safe worries me because I feel like there’s so much social pressure to keep our kids safe that pretty soon we’ll have laws mandating all sorts of extreme safety measures. And then it will no longer be a choice. We’ll no longer be able to apply common sense.