Antifeatures Talk

The recordings for Linux Conf Australia 2010, held this year in Wellington, are finally online. The recordings include a video of my keynote on Antifeatures.

I was deeply honored to be invited to give a keynote at LCA and, as a result, felt more pressure than usual to put together something that was novel, relevant and entertaining and that spoke to core issues and problems facing free software.

Although it’s always hard for me to watch myself speaking, I’ve made it through the video and am reasonably happy with the result. Although perhaps it’s a minor distinction, I think this lecture is probably the best talk I’ve given given to date! I hope to give the talk again so, as always, I welcome comments and feedback.

If you’d like to watch it, the talk is available in a number of free and non-free formats:

Upcoming Travel

As is becoming my custom, I’m planning to spend much of December and January on the road. This time I’ll be in Seattle, Japan and Wellington, New Zealand. Here’s the rough schedule:

  • December 18-28: Seattle
  • December 28-January 2: Tokyo
  • January 2-14: Traveling in Japan
  • January 15-17: Boston to compete in the MIT Mystery Hunt
  • January 19-24: Wellington, New Zealand to give a talk at LCA

Mika will also be around for everything but the NZ leg and SJ seems likely to make an appearance in Japan during the first week of January.

Feel free to get in contact if you’d like to meet up in any of the places above for a coffee or beer. I’m also open to hanging out with giving talks at LUGs, GLUGs, Wikipedia groups, free culture groups, colleges or Universities along the way. Most of my time in Japan is still basically unstructured so I’m quite open to suggestions during the first couple weeks of January.


In preparation for LCA, I’m going to be giving my new Antifeatures talk a few times to smaller local audiences.

The first is going to be today in Boston (apologies for the late notice!) at Northeastern University at 11:45 and it’s being hosted by the ACM chapter there.

The second one will be at my alma mater Hampshire College in Amherst this Friday. A draft flier (ignore the unpluralized "antifeatue") is below.


Send Me Your Antifeatures, Win a Flessenlikker

At OSCON this year, I’m going to be giving a talk about "antifeatures." Antifeatures are a way to describe a particular practice made possible by locked down technologies. Antifeatures, as I describe them, are functionality (i.e., "features) that a technology developer will charge users not to include. You can read my short article on the topic published in the FSF bulletin in 2007 for a series of examples and a more in-depth description.

One thing I want to do is put together as large a collection of these antifeatures as possible before the talk. Please read the article if you haven’t already and send me examples of other antifeatures either as a comment or in email to Credit and my deep gratitude will be given to anybody who sends me something. A prize in the form of a real Dutch flessenlikker will given to the best example I get.

LibrePlanet 2009

If you’re interested in free software — and free network services in particular — and should try to join me in Boston for the weekend of March 21st and 22nd.

The FSF is organizing its annual members meeting again. This year the model is very different. For a start, the audience isn’t limited to FSF members and the conference is not just about FSF projects and work.

Instead, the meeting has been rebranded LibrePlanet and has been broken up into a two-day event that is going to talk about and then try to tackle some of the biggest problems facing the world of free and open source software. Saturday March 21st will feature a series of talks about major issues facing free software. Sunday March 22nd will be focused on an unconference attempt to tackle and explore several of the key themes or tracks: network services, high priority projects, and the nascent LibrePlanet activism network.

I’ll be focused on the track around free network services which I’m helping organize in part through For more information on that angle, please take a look at my blog post over at We’re going to have a great group of people at the track and I’m excited by the idea that that we’ll be able to make some real progress on the issues.

I encourage anyone who thinks they might be able to make it to consider doing so. There are details including travel, location, hotel information and much more on the event web page and wiki (login is required to RSVP). Please spread the word!

Change of Plans

One change and one addition to my current European tour.

First, it looks like we’ll be skipping Amsterdam this time and heading straight to London from Zagreb on the evening of January 10th. We’ll still plan to arrive in Cambridge before the 13th.

Second, I’ll be giving a redux of my Revealing Errors talk at Mama in Zagreb on January 10th at 14:00 as part of the normal skill sharing meeting. It’s the longer version of my OSCON keynote with many more examples. Folks who have seen earlier versions of the talk seem to think it’s a lot of fun.

If you are in or near Zagreb, you should come!

Recent and Upcoming Talks

I’ve been a bit remiss about keeping this space up to date with my upcoming talks over the last month or so. Here’s me playing catchup.

On Monday October 20th, I gave a talk on Selectricity for the IEEE Boston Section’s Society on Social Implications of Technology. It covered more or less the same ground I coverd in my OSCON talk on the same subject. Then next day, Tuesday October 21st, I gave a short talk on Revealing Errors as part of the MIT-Harvard-Yale Cyberscholars meeting.

There was nothing new or ground-breaking in either but it was good to spread the word on the projects — work continues on both.

I also have one more coming up: another Revealing Errors talk in Amherst, Massachusetts at my alma mater on October 31st (Halloween). If you are in Western Massachusetts and would like to meet up or attend the talk, let me know.


On the morning after the final US presidential debate that happened a week ago, I was invited onto the excellent new WNYC morning show The Takeaway — syndicated by Public Radio International. One of the hosts, John Hockenberry, was in Boston to tape that edition of the show.

I was on to talk about Selectricity and some of other ways that we might use election technologies. I was on and off (mostly off) air for the whole second hour (7:00-8:00 AM) of taping and had a bit of a segment just into the second half of the hour. You can check out the website or download the podcast.

Although it’s definitely not as fun to listen to as my a last gig on public radio, it’s certainly more consequential. The role of the techno-pundit was also — unfortunately? — easier for me to fill.

Software Freedom Day Boston

It’s late notice but Boston area folks should drop by the local Software Freedom Day events today. It goes from 10:00-16:00 and is located in a great space in Chinatown. More information in on the wiki.

I’m teaming up with John Sullivan of the FSF to talk about free software on in your pocket on unexecpted platforms. We’ll show off CHDK (for cameras), the FreeRunner (a phone), and probably also talk about RockBox, iPodLinux, and more. It should be laid back and fun!

The whole point of SFD (and this SFD event in particular) is create a space that’s appropriate to folks that don’t already know about free and open source software and that aren’t necessary technical. If you are a hacker or an advocate, show up and meet some like minded folks and introduce new people to the ideas that inspire you. If you are just curious about this stuff this event is designed for you.

If you’re not in Boston, check the SFD webpage. There are hundreds of events around the world and may even be one near you!

Revealing Errors OSCON Keynote

When I gave a Revealing Errors talk at Lug Radio Live USA, I had the misfortune of being up against Robert Love’s talk on Android which many people at the conference wanted to see — myself included! One person who showed up to my talk anyway was Allison Randall. She was apparently entertained enough to invite me to give a short version of the talk as one of the keynote presentations at OSCON 2008!

In the talk, I covered the ideas behind my Revealing Errors project and quickly walked through a few examples that showcase what I’m trying to do. I’m happy with the result: a couple thousand people showed up for the talk despite the fact that it was at 8:45 AM after the biggest "party night" of the conference!

For those that missed it for whatever reason, you can watch a video recording that O’Reilly made and that I’ve embedded below.

A larger version of the Flash video as well as a QuickTime version is over on and I’ve created an OGG Theora version for all my freedom loving readers.

OSCON and More

I’m in Portland, Oregon for the week where I’ll be at OSCON. I’ll be giving two talks on the final day of the conference (July 25): the first will be a 15 minute keynote on Revealing Errors at 8:45 in the Portland Ballroom; the second is a full-length normal talk on Selectricity at 11:35AM in Portland 255. It will be my first long-form talk about Selectricity and I’m looking forward to it.

Because myself, a few Free Software Foundation staff members including Campaign Manager Joshua Gay, and quite a few FSF associate members will be in town, we’re going to hold a small FSF Associate Members event in Portland (the first outside Boston!). It’s going to be in the form of a pizza party with a few small talks from FSF folk including myself. Here are the details:

FSF Associate Members (& friends!) Event
July 22nd 6:30-9:00PM
Old Town Pizza
226 NW Davis St
Portland, OR 97209

It’s free and open to all but is designed to provide a forum for members and friends. If you are an FSF member, please consider coming. If you’re not a member yet, please don’t let it keep you away; staff will be able to sign up new members there. RSVPs to Deborah Nicholson aren’t necessary to attend but would be welcome.

I’ll be heading to Seattle right after the conference for a few days. If you would like to meet up in Seattle or Portland this week, please don’t hesitate to get in contact.

Stumping for Revealing Errors

Over the past couple months, I gave a couple talks on Revealing Errors — my project to try and use errors to teach non-technical people about technology, the effects it has on our lives, and the ways in which we (as users) might want to control it.

The first version was at LUG Radio Live USA and went off reasonably well. A couple weeks later, I gave a version of the talk again at PenguiCon which went great. Unfortunately, neither recording seems to have worked out.

I’ll be giving talks on the subject at least twice more this summer. The first will be on June 18th at Boston Linux Unix at 19:00 at MIT in E51-315. It will be my first talk to BLU in something like three years. I’m also currently scheduled to give an abbreviated version of the talk as a keynote at OSCON under the title Advocating Software Freedom by Revealing Errors.

In addition to all that, I’m having a whole lot of fun updating the Revealing Errors blog (although not as often as I’d like) and am currently in discussions about publishing a longer version of the Revealing Errors article as a book chapter at some point in the next year.

Thanks to everybody who has been supportive of the project and read the blog, has told their friends, and who has told me about telling technological errors they’ve seen around. Please keep it up!

Talks at CommunityOne

In the last leg of what has been marathon traveling over the last two months, I’m going to be heading back to San Francisco to give two talks at CommunityOne.

CommunityOne is a new one-day conference that Sun is putting on — along side it’s massive JavaOne conference — that focuses on free software, open source, and non-Sun projects.

I’m going to be there talking about free software and free culture. I will be giving updated versions of the two talks that I have at the FSF members meetings over first two years. In the first talk, I’ll be making the case for a strong free culture movement and in the second I’ll be talking about liberating network services.

If you will be at the conference, or just in the Bay area, and would like to meet up, I’ll be in the area for most of a week and would love to arrange something. Just get in contact.