LISA Conference wrap-up

After a one-year hiatus, I returned to the LISA Conference as a member of the blog team. It was great to see old friends and make new ones. Continuing the theme from last year, the blog was less about daily summaries and more about telling stories. This was a lot more rewarding, but it was also more work. All told, I wrote 2822 words, which is less than normal, but I’d like to think the quality is better.

People stories

  • Alice Goldfuss — This year was Alice’s first LISA trip and first time presenting to a large conference. The reaction to her talk was overwhelmingly positive, and I’m sad I missed it.
  • Kyle Neumann — Kyle is another first-time attendee and loved his experience. He also gave me a lot of good ideas for how to make the first-timer experience better.
  • Jamie Riedesel — A long-time friend of this blog is recognized for contributions to the professional community.

Conference program

  • Government for better or for worse — The Wednesday keynote was delivered by the head of the US Digital Service and the Thursday keynote by a principal technologist at the ACLU. They provided contrasting perspectives on government.
  • The mini-tutorial experiment — Wednesday through Friday now has mini-tutorials interspersed with the conference program instead of being separate half- and full-day sessions.
  • Monday — Before I got into the groove of telling stories, I wrote what was basically a summary of my day.

Vendor articles

  • Midfin — This company just exited stealth and has an interesting product for making internal datacenters more nimble.
  • Xirrus — They donated equipment and engineering effort for the WiFi network.
  • JumpCloud — This company provides cloud-based Directory-as-a-Service, something I’ve been looking for at work.

Hurricane Joaquin forecast contest begins

Hey! The tropics have awoken and there’s a not-unreasonable chance that the newly-upgraded Hurricane Joaquin will make landfall. Here’s your chance to test your forecast skill:

Submit your forecast by 00 UTC on October 2 (8 PM EDT Thursday). If Joaquin does not make landfall, we’ll just pretend like this never happened. For previous forecast game results, see

New entries in the Forecast Discussion Hall of Fame

Radar estimates of wind speed aren’t always the most reliable for a variety of reasons, but on Friday, forecasters in Memphis, TN opted to believe the radar instead of the surface observation. Maybe because the Millington station was reporting a 343 MPH wind gust.

NWS forecasters are public servants dedicated to preserving life and property. It should come as no surprise that they are sometimes moved by uncontrollable bursts of patriotism. Chris Hattings in Riverton, WY felt very Jeffersonian on Independence Day.

Both of these discussions have been added to the Forecast Discussion Hall of Fame.

Impact of license selection on open source software quality

I’ve made several vague references to my master’s thesis on this blog, but I’ve never said much of substance. Your long wait is over though, as I’ve finally gotten around to uploading it and creating a research page on the website. If you don’t want to read the full thesis, there’s a condensed version that was presented at a conference in March (and won best paper in the session, I might add).

The even more condensed version is that my research shows (to my dismay) that copyleft projects tend to have higher technical debt than permissively-licensed projects. What’s more interesting than the results is the pile of questions that it brings up.

I’ll admit that my methods are not necessarily the most stringent, particularly when it comes to how quality is proxied (or even the quantification of technical debt). My methodology was partly driven by convenience and partly driven by the dearth of research available on the topic. Of course, the steep price of the C/C++ plugin hampered my ability to get a good sample.

I hope someone else picks up where I left off and does a more detailed analysis. For my own part, I hope to be able to conduct some research in my “spare time”. In addition to the mere study of differences in debt, I’d like to see how non-license project governance affects software quality. There was no analysis in my study of developer quantity, funding, etc. The ultimate goal is to develop concrete recommendations for FLOSS project leaders that would improve the quality of the finished product.


Building my website with blatter

I recently came across a project called “blatter”. It’s a Python script that uses jinja2’s template engine to build static websites. This is exactly the sort of thing I’d been looking for. I don’t do anything too fancy with, but every once in a while I want to make a change across all (or at least most) pages. For example, I recently updated the default content license from CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 United States to CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 International. It’s a relatively minor change, but changing it everywhere is a real pain.

Sure, I could switch to a real CMS (heck, I already have WordPress installed!) or re-do the site in PHP, but that sounded too much like effort. I like my static pages that are artisinally hand-crafted slapped together in vi, but I also like being able to make lazy changes. And I really like page-to-page consistency. With blatter, I can create a few small templates and suddenly changes can be made across the whole site in just a few seconds.

Blatter smoothly merges static and templated content. The only downside is that because it seems to touch all files every time it builds (blats), pushing the new content to my website becomes a larger task. That’s not a huge concern because of the relatively small size of the content, but it’s something that seems fixable. So pretty much all of the site has been blatterized now. For the most part, you shouldn’t really notice any changes.

Introducing redacted horoscopes

On Sunday,  I was sitting down with the newspaper. The crossword puzzle was proving to be more of a challenge than I particularly cared to tackle. My eyes wandered to the horoscopes. I started redacting words and realized that they became funny. Channeling my inner Yossarian, I ran my pen through the rest.

The horoscopes were short enough to tweet, so I did. They got a good reception, and I decided this should be A Thing [tm]. Thus, a new Twitter account (@RedactedHoros) and finally some content in the fun & games section. Redacted Horoscopes
will update most Sundays and also on the occasional weekday.

A new item on the weather humor page

The weather humor page hasn’t seen much love in a long time. It’s not that the weather stopped being funny (although this past winter stopped being funny in mid-January), I just haven’t added to it. Fortunately, my friend Scott noticed that the forecast office in Hastings, NE seems to have resumed its bad habit of canceling things it ought not cancel. Sure, it’s silly to pick on a poorly-worded product issued in the middle of a severe weather event, but silly is what I do.

New entry in the Forecast Discussion Hall of Fame

You have probably already seen an early-morning AFD from Juneau making the rounds on the Internet. The forecaster compares selecting a model to speed dating. Although the bulk of the humor is in the first paragraph, the theme persists through the rest. Certainly this is a cultural touchstone worthy of enshrining in the Forecast Discussion Hall of Fame.