DebConf 10: Day 3
Eben’s talk was on the same topic as his Internet Society talk in February, which I had downloaded and watched some time ago. He challenges the free software community to develop the software to power the “freedom box”, a small, efficient and inexpensive personal server.
Such a system would put users more in control of their online lives, give them better protection for it under the law, and provide a platform for many new federated services.
It sounds like a very interesting project, which I’d like to write more about.
Hanna is bringing together her interests in machine learning and free software by using machine learning techniques to analyze of publicly available data from free software communities. In doing so, she hopes to develop tools for studying the patterns of collaboration, innovation and other behavior in these communities.
Her methodology uses statistical topic models, which infer the topic of a document based on the occurrence of topical words, to group Debian mailing list posts by topic. Her example analyzed posts from the debian-project and debian-women mailing lists, inferring a set of topics and categorizing all of the posts according to which topic(s) were represented in them.
Using this data, she could plot over time the frequency of discussion of each topic, which revealed interesting patterns. The audience quickly zoned in on practical applications for things like flamewar and troll detection.
I organized this discussion session to share perspectives on Debian derivatives, in particular how we can improve cooperation between derivatives and Debian itself. The room was a bit hard to find, so attendance was relatively small, but this turned out to be a plus. With a smaller group, we were able to get acquainted with each other, and everyone participated.
Unsurprisingly, there were many more representatives from Ubuntu than other derivatives, and I was concerned that Ubuntu would dominate the discussion. It did, but I tried to draw out perspectives from other derivatives where possible.
On the whole, the tone was positive and constructive. This may be due in part to people self-selecting for the BoF, but I think there is a lot of genuine goodwill between Debian and Ubuntu.
Stefano Zacchiroli took notes in Gobby during the session, which I expect he will post somewhere public when he has a chance.