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Chamilo P@rty 2010, a success

The 7th of July of 2010 will definitely be a date to remember for the Latin American community of Chamilo.

Chamilo P@rty only lasted 2h30, yet we had time to

  • discuss open-source tools to manage the education process (by Yannick Warnier, Director, BeezNest) [slides]
  • present the challenges we face everyday in e-learning (by Sergio Correa, Director, NO2) [slides]
  • explain the Chamilo association and the development projects for 1.8 (Yannick Warnier) [slides]
  • present the new tools in Chamilo 1.8.7 (by Carlos Vargas, independent)
  • explain the development and usage of the Drupal – Chamilo module (by Fernando P. García, Drupal Association) [slides]

The context of the Expoelearning event, mostly oriented to businesses and private institutions, gave us a great environment and allowed us to meet a lot of corporate representatives, a type of users or potential users that we generally fail to get interested into our software.

BeezNest Latino represented the Chamilo Association (through its secretary) and the Chamilo community of Peru throughout the event with 6 staff members helping all visitors to find relevant information about Chamilo.

The event resulted in an increase in 10% of the website visits and a lot of inquiries about Chamilo.

You can check more pictures of the event on Picasa. Finally, for the Spanish speakers among you, we managed to record one hour of video about the new features in Chamilo 1.8.7.

Chamilo at Ubuntu Developers Summit, Brussels

I will be presenting Chamilo and our intention to make a Chamilo package for Ubuntu this year at the Ubuntu Developers Summit in Brussels, on Friday 14th of May (at the beginning of the afternoon). As a side gift, I will be meeting Jono Bacon (writer of “The Art of Community” and Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Ubuntu).

You can check the details of the UDS at https://wiki.ubuntu.com/UDS-M

PHP Day Lima 2009 – Retrospective

Before I forget all about it, I want to make a note of what happened, what was good and what could be improved for the PHP Day event we organized jointly with Mobile Bridges, another software development company in Lima.

The schedule was the following (translated to English for the purpose of this article):

  • 5.00-5.10pm: Welcome words
  • 5.10-6.00pm: High availability, efficiency, efficacy and interoperability in PHP – Humberto Bejarano, RPP
  • 6.00-6.50pm: Flash with PHP – Alexander Quevedo, Mobile Bridges
  • 6.50-7.40pm: Increasing the coverage of PHP solutions in scenarii of Microsoft platform – José Alania and Daniel Ramirez, Microsoft (or partners)
  • 7.40-8.00pm: Break
  • 8.00-8.50pm: Experiences with PHP: “El Comercio” case – César Soplín, El Comercio
  • 8.50-9.10pm: High efficiency of PHP applications in Firefox 3.5 – Percy Cabello, The Mozilla Foundation
  • 9.10-9.30pm: High efficiency of PHP applications in Internet Explorer 8 – Jorge Oblitas, The Mozilla Foundation
  • 9.30-9.45pm: Word from the organizing communities
  • 9.45pm-10.00pm: Words of closure

First, a few words about the program… The idea was to be really useful to the PHP developers community. The title “High efficiency of PHP applications in Internet Explorer 8” was actually proposed by Microsoft. As much as this title doesn’t make sense for me as a PHP developer, the title was imposed for the Firefox part (I opposed to that), so both talks sounded as ridiculous to me.

Enter the actual speeches.

The first speaker, after presenting the configuration of his media website, was holding the position that files (on disk) were the most efficient (=fast) way of caching data (faster than database and memory accesses). Any person having followed a Computer Architecture course would understand how impossible that is. A few assistants were surprised and asking to confirm that they heard well… the only point we got to was to make the speaker admit that *maybe* implementing an additional in-memory caching system would improve this further.

When asked to please continue the questions & answers in the next room to leave place to the next speaker (we were already 15 minutes out of schedule at that point, which was entirely caused by him), he denied and said he would be taking *just one more question*, and actually took 3 more, lasting 10 more minutes. On several occasions when sharing comments with speakers in other events (and notably one in France), I was told the most unrespectful thing to do for a speaker was to take more time than allowed (if not invited to), as it was actually directly reducing time for other speakers.

That would explain why I was upset with such an answer. He also mentioned there was no recognized PHP certification, which is wrong (the Zend certification has been around for more than 5 years now and is internationally recognized).

The Flash with PHP stuff was actually interesting in terms of PHP development. It discussed a library that allowed conversation between PHP and Flash apps.

Now before I detail the third speech, let’s just say that we had specified to all speakers that the presentation had to focus on what is useful to PHP developers, and not be a commercial show, so to speak. Microsoft people approved that before being programmed, but apparently we have a different notion of what is a commercial speech. The second slide (after the title) was saying in huge letter: INTEROPERABILIDAD, and the speaker at the time explained how, as a huge development company, Microsoft was pushing towards interoperability. I had to laugh. When you know about Microsoft’s huge lawsuits in Europe because they don’t want to disclose how to work with their NTFS filesystem and about not making Internet Explorer independent of Windows, and so many other things around this…

Anyway, the talk was about the new integration work of PHP in Microsoft Server 2009’s IIS, and how it was faster than Linux. I wonder how much money Microsoft is pouring into the PHP integration marketing glass, but I’m sure it’s much more than what it is actually putting in development. Then a short explanation on how to install PHP on a Windows Server, actually passing over all the crispy bits (like the IIS configuration), and then flying over to their new web-based installer which allowed to install open-source software in PHP (Drupal, SugarCRM, …) which, “of course”, was not to be used in production because only the professional, paid-for, versions of open-source software were actually safe to use in production (referring to SugarCRM, between others). So basically, a kind of CPanel made by Microsoft to automatically install and configure open-source software, all the way calling it innovation. When detailing the efficiency of the solution, one comment that slipped through was that the IIS server was *just* a little slower than a Linux solution.

In the end, 3 speakers shared the 40 minutes speech, and one more (all Microsoft or Microsoft partners employees) helped answer the questions. It felt like they needed to actually be that many to answer questions about Microsoft’s movement of so-called “interoperability” and “high efficiency PHP integration”. The only question I had was why there was never an effort on developing a native PHP library for Active Directory, instead of passing through buggy, undocumented LDAP compatibility mode in order to be able to do that (and if Microsoft’s intention was so good, why not put 3 developers on it for a month). The answer was fuzzy, and then the Microsoft marketing clown, Jorge Oblitas, came to the rescue from the public (he wasn’t invited into this talk as far as I knew but hey, any help to answer my question was welcome) and explained that it *wasn’t that easy*. I agreed at the time that it was probably not that easy, but actually thinking back I don’t think 3 developers for a month would be a low estimate. It’s like taking the secret Active Directory documentation from inside the Microsoft’s library and developing a C library that respects the PHP libraries standard (and apparently they are keen to mention that they have a lot of people working on this).

Anyway, this talk got me upset because of the lack of accuracy, the lack of respect for the pre-set organization (two speakers on the list, one more appearing out of the blue and another answering questions of the public!?) and the underlying commercial features about how open Microsoft was.

I couldn’t assist to the fourth talk, mainly due to administrative stuff I had to do at that point, but I was told it was “good” and killed the Microsoft speech about how easy it was to install PHP on Windows, by an example of a, Ubuntu system and a sudo apt-get install apache2 libapache2-mod-php php5-mysql

Nor could I assist to the entire Firefox presentation, but people were reporting it was good and useful.

I did, however, assist to the Internet Explorer 8 speech, and it was neither useful for PHP developers, neither innovative and neither sincere. One of the most important stuff they hammered down was that it was *safer* than Firefox because it was actually reporting suspicious websites more than was Firefox. But we all know that, from the user base of Internet Explorers 6, 7 and 8, Microsoft gets much more visibility on what sites might actually be suspicious. Instead of sharing that database, making something really useful for everyone, they’re keeping that well locked down and consider it a primary feature of their new browser.

When discussing the possibility of PHP developers to actually use Internet Explorer 8 to test their developments *without* the need to install Windows, the answer was pretty much “just buy a copy of Windows, it’s not that costly”, going down into the least it can cost you (US$100 if you’re under a campus agreement up to US$700 – for Windows 7, that is). Apparently this is what is considered “acceptable” by Microsoft and a real help to PHP developers. Apparently, this point actually upset the speaker and put him in a corner, where he started saying ungraceful stuff like that he thought that we preferred Linux because it was a better system, not because it was cheaper, which kind of got him a very bad press from the whole audience.

Finally, the community word allowed me to mention the bi-monthly PHP events we are organizing, and allowed the other organizers to indulge themselves with the great organization and thank the audience.

It did, however, prove interesting to get 77 PHP developers together that night, and I think I’d better get things done by myself next year, to make this really good and avoid a night of Microsoft commercials.

The PHP Perú forum is a great tool to get those PHP developers contacts together and organize meaningful events.

The free software activist game – draft

November 29, 2009 Leave a comment

If you are a free software activist like me and want people you expose free software to in conference, large meetings and other gatherings like that (preferably developer-oriented) to understand what the value of free software is, here is a game proposal for you to try out (please report on the success of this method if you do implement it). It is inspired from a recent SCRUM course we took here at BeezNest Latino.

General considerations

  • You will probably need 30 minutes at a minimum to implement the game
  • This should work for 30 to 150 people, which should all be in the same room
  • You will have to explain the rules to each teams category separately (they can already start working one you’re done explaining, but they will have to stop exactly 10 minutes after starting)

Material

  • 1 sheet of paper for each participant (can be a quarter of A4, or even smaller)
  • 1 pen for each participant (this might be costly, so you can depend on each participant having one or having minimum 2 pens per team)

Preparations

  • Try to use maximum 10 minutes for the whole preparation process, so max 2 minutes to get team leaders to line up in front of you, max 2 minutes for you to explain the rules to all categories, and max 2 minutes for them to get back to their seats and start working.
  • Try to plan for enough space to give each team its own round-circle
  • Plan to distribute pens and papers quickly and efficiently
  • Assistants will have to form teams of 5 (minimum 5 per team, can be up to 8 but you’d better ask for 5)
  • Teams will be split in three “types”: type A, type B, type C
  • Give one paper and one pen to each participant
  • In each team, there will be: 1 team leader, 1 salesman, 1 developer, 1 designer, 1 quality assurance guy (software tester)
  • You (and ideally a few other guys) will represent the Product Owner: that is, you will receive the work done by each team, through the salesmen, and decide which is best for your company. The price is considered equal for each feature.
  • If there are more people than what makes an equal number of teams in the three categories, assign more teams to category C

Rules

You will have to explain the rules to each category of teams at a time: first, teams A*, second, teams B*, third, teams C*. Try to give each team a number (A1, B5, C3, …)

The following rules are true for all teams, but there are a few rules specific to each team category:

All

  • Will have 10 minutes to complete the game (develop one feature – you can imagine something appropriate to the circumstances here, or you can use the list of features suggestions below)
  • The salesman will have to present his product to all product owner in 30 seconds
  • The product owner will decide (secretely) which team won for each category, and will ask the other categories to vote as well (on the back of their paper, or by folding the paper in a specific way)
  • All members of the group must write something on his paper
  • Team leaders help the other members of the team who are having difficulties (they are the scrummasters)
  • Salesmen make sure they understand the product and all its goodness (including quality and design)
  • Developers make sure they describe the feature in many details
  • Designers make sure they draw a set of screenshots for the salesmen to present at the end
  • Testers make sure they test every detail of the system (including the user interface) and confirm with the developer and designer that every feature works
  • Teams can choose whether to sell their software or the fruit of their work

Teams A

  • Will be considered as representing companies being located in the same city, so they will actually compete very closely with the other teams in category A
  • All of A teams will develop the *same*, proprietary, feature
  • Team leaders and salesmen can “spy” on other teams

Teams B

  • Will be considered as representing companies being located in different countries/states of your continent, so they will have to compete if they have a very competitive product
  • All of B teams will develop different, proprietary, features
  • Team leaders and salesmen can “spy” on other teams

Teams C

  • Will be considered as representing companies worldwide which already have a competitive product based on open-source software
  • All of C teams can decide to work with other teams in order to get several features back to their customer
  • They can only sell what they developed directly, they are forced to “give away” the rest

Features list suggestion

  • Store contacts
  • Send an e-mail to a contacts
  • Store an invoice
  • Request the status of a stock of products
  • Request information about a company
  • Chat
  • Find an address
  • Show a street on a map
  • Show a translation
  • Find an image
  • Find the definition of a word

Ending the game

The assistants have to put their sheets in the hands of the salesmen and the salesmen will stand-up and go line-up in front of the stage, once the time is up for their category. Teams not sending their salesmen in line will be eliminated (they delivered behind schedule).

Each salesman comes in a line to present his product (30 seconds max). He says his team number (e.g. A3) and starts describing his solution. He stays on stage until all salesmen have given their description (should be 2.5 minutes max for 5 teams)

At the end of each category, the other categories vote for the best team. You count the vote (“Put your hand in the air, all people voting for team A3”) and declare the winner.

Note that categories A and B should not know that category C was able to share their work. This is why categories A and B will actually understand better the point of free software.

Conclusions

Whatever the results are, they should always tend to these conclusions

  • a majority of teams of category C have performed better, because they were allowed to share, and they made an effort to learn from each other, while concentrating on its own customer’s satisfaction
  • the salesmen are necessary because they are the ones through which the work of the team is presented. The best salesmen give a considerable advantage to its team
  • sharing, in the same environment (which is a competitive international market), leads to better solutions than the equivalent non-sharing mode
  • all assistants will have spent a good time

These rules are to be considered licensed as Creative Commons BY-SA (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/)

Great speaker tips

October 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Tips on how to speak in front of an audience, by Professor Patrick Winston of the MIT. Great resource if you are doing a lot of presentations, be them courses, commercial presentations, motivational talks or any kind of meeting where you are the main focus of attention, actually.

Categories: Conferences, English, Talks Tags: ,

Dokeos event for Americas

DOKUDA - Dokeos Users Days America

DOKUDA - Dokeos Users Days America

If you’re a fan of Dokeos and plan to head to South America during the next few days, then you definitely want to get to DOKUDA, the 25th and 26th of June 2009.

We’ve been preparing the event for about a month now, and should get about 500 different people every day, over a two-days period. All the conferences are in Spanish, so you’d better understand it a little bit, but we are really welcoming warmly any North American or Canadian wanting to pay a visit to this international event.

All the information is on the afore-mentioned website, really, but there are a few things I’d like to point out:

  • the event will be free and non-for-profit (possible benefits will go into development of educational projects here in Peru)
  • the event has been advertised in an incredible amount of external websites, thanks to an amount just as incredible of people just motivated by Dokeos
  • the event is divided into two days of talks: one technical day and one business/institution day
  • we’re going to have the honor of having two speakers from Spain (+ one in videoconference) and two speakers from Uruguay, who will join the fun and talk about their experiences with Dokeos and the future of e-learning in America (Central and South, mostly)
  • a technological fair has been organized at the same time, so companies can show off their products
  • we’re going to have talks about new Dokeos 1.8.6 features and the plans for the future
  • we have invited national ministers to get to know how e-learning can help their institutions
  • we have over 16 talks in total, with topics all centered on Dokeos
  • some OLPC XO will be there, to show what can be done with Dokeos

In conclusion… this is going to be a GREAT event. Don’t miss it. Any doubt, just comment here or fill the contact form on the website!

Why do people go to conferences?

There’s a nice exhibition of survey results here that detail why people go to conferences. As we’re preparing more and more actively the Dokeos Users Days America 2009 (25th and 26th of June), we’re starting to get a little bit more nervous and start looking into a lot of information.

Categories: English, Talks Tags: , ,
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