This post has been migrated from http://blogs.fedoraproject.org/wp/sgordon/2011/01/28/in-search-of-unicorns/
Over the last week I have had the pleasure of attending linux.conf.au which was held in my home city of Brisbane, Australia. Overall it was a great experience and I hope to write up on some of the specific experiences I had which might be more specifically interesting to the Fedora community over the coming weeks.
Right now however I would like to touch on the ‘Training Allies’ session I attended as part of the Haeksen mini-conference. Effectively the session was an opportunity to review some examples of discrimination which arise from time to time in the FOSS world and indeed the IT industry as a whole.
One of the specific scenarios discussed was the use of pornographic and sexually explicit imagery in conference presentations. As those running the mini-conf detailed some experiences from their own pasts where they had seen this occur and others from the crowd chimed in I distinctly remember rolling my eyes somewhat. In my mind we have long since passed the point where anyone in the industry thought this was acceptable or in any way necessary, right?
Then Friday’s keynote speech rolled around. The full text of the speech and the slides can be found here. While not everyone might be offended by the slides I think most readers will be observant enough to work out which ones some might not have considered appropriate for a conference which draws attendees from all walks of life. I have no doubt Mark Pesce also realised that some slides would be controversial and this was the intention of including them but that still does not make it acceptable.
Some will debate the linux.conf.au rules word for word, others will be offended by the idea that conference presentations are being censored in some way (or not, as it turns out, otherwise we wouldn’t be having this dialog). I’m not going to try address every argument that either has been made or is likely to be made in defense of this presentation. In fact I’m not even going to directly address any.
The sole purpose of this post is to register that in my personal opinion that such events are not at all helpful in an environment where we are trying to attract individuals, businesses, and governments to open source. They are also completely avoidable and therefore un-necessary.
I will also say I am not sure what the point of having a rule regarding the use of sexually explicit images in presentations is if the enforcement to back it up consists of allowing the presentation to continue unhindered and issue a lame duck apology retrospectively. I do however appreciate the difficult position this scenario put the room organiser in. Ultimately conference organisers shouldn’t require such a rule and be able to rely on the professionalism of community members and people recognising the social consequences of their actions as is traditionally done, alas we can dream.