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Archive - 2007

December 11th

StarCamp - Lessons learned

StarCamp finally happened, and went off pretty well. I was a bit late for the first morning, since I had to move house (again), but the rest of the weekend was great.

From an infrastructure/organisational point of view, things were basically perfect. The large room where the talks were happening was fine for our needs, and there was enough space for everybody, although we had to open up the back to accomodate some more people at one stage. AIMS provided tea and coffee for everybody, and lunch on both days was a huge amount of great wraps from Kauai (generously sponsored by Sentient Communications and CLUG). ProsperIS sponsored computer equipment for the small venue, for the tutorials and sprints - these unfortunately only got set up halfway through the last day of *camp, which is something we must fix for next time. And, of course, there was Neil's Nintendo Wii, which provided some great fun, and was greatly enjoyed by the students at AIMS.

The talks were generally very interesting. As Ian says, the high points were probably the three talks by our foreign visitors - Alex and David from Princeton, on Electronic Voting and Net Neutrality respectively, and Phil Barrett from the UK on User Experience. I did enjoy quite a few of the others, although I'd like lots more non-technical talks next time. I think that in-depth nitty-gritty technical talks should be saved for either CLUG talks, or the tutorials: one can't take in enough from those talks for them to be useful otherwise.

The people were great. It was nice to see quite a few new faces (i.e. not part of the usual CLUG/GeekDinner crowd), although I wish we'd had a bigger turnout overall. This probably ties in with the talks: the nature of an Unconference is that the attendees shape the events, rather than the other way round, which is the norm for traditional conferences. If we had lots of artists, we'd have lots of art-related talks, if you see what I mean. I know that there were a few people who felt a bit trepid about attending, because they didn't think it was targetting them as an audience. This is not how an Unconference works! If you're in the audience, you participate, and you define how it goes.

Lessons learned

Venue, venue, venue: This is not so much a lesson we've learned from organising StarCamp, but a lesson I've picked up over a year of trying to organise this sort of event. If you don't have a venue, all other organisation stalls. You can't pick a date with absolute certainty unless you know the venue will be available on that date. You don't get attendees signing up unless they know what date they are signing up for (and, in some cases, how far they have to travel). You don't get speakers if you don't have attendees. Basically, it all boils down to finding a venue - once that is done, everything else falls into place. In this case, we only settled on AIMS a week before the event was due to happen, and even though everything went off beautifully after that, it was a bit touch-and-go up until then.

Attendees: We blogged the event, and sent out reminders on the mailing lists, and we got a fairly good sign-up rate, but it could have been so much better. Some of the best returns-on-investment in this regard were the personal invitations we sent out: directly approaching a person/group/company and saying "We're having this thing, and we want you to be there". Neil did an awesome job with this in the week before the event, but we really need to get the word out there beforehand, and make sure that people know what sort of event it will be (and that if they come, it'll be the sort of event which they want to attend).

Sponsors: people are surprising willing to sponsor things, if you ask them to. Make a note of that.

Set up: wasting half of the event time on setting up tables/power cables/a lab of computers is really counter-productive, and we lost some valuable presentation time because of this. But, of course, it's all a learning experience, and we know better for next time.

All in all, I think the event was a great success, and I'm really looking forward to the next one... Which we should start organising NOW.

December 6th

Final call for *camp

A recent mail from Neil to the StarCamp planning mailing list outlines what the current state is for StarCamp:

In case you were late and missed the previous email, we have a great venue at AIMS in Muizenburg. They're giving us a bunch of rooms on their ground floor, but they have some simple rules and requirements from us. But we should be able to have a good event there. We need some volunteers to man the doors and sign people in. We'll have some help from people at AIMS, but we should try be as little an inconvenience to them as possible.

We have T-shirts being made by Quirk. We have free lunch on both days provided by Sentient Communications. We have name tags and stickers from AlterSage. We have free drinks provided by the Western Cape Linux User Group. AIMS has connectivity, so we won't be using Amobia, but they'd be there if they were needed. Hopefully ProsperIS will cover the last-minute minutiae of infrastructure that AIMS doesn't have for us. We're in good shape in this department.

We have 21 talks/events offered over two days, as well as at least 4 others I'm trying to finalise. My expectation is that a few people will drop out at the last minute, but I think we're covered.

Our problem is that we only have 67 people signed up to attend. We have lunch for quite a few more people available. I'd hate for that lunch to go to waste.

CALL TO ACTION: So, the most important thing over these last two days before the event for you to do is invite people to attend StarCamp. Get them to sign up on the main event page (ie, not only on Facebook, if at all possible). Blog about it. Mention it to user groups you're part of. Mention it to your colleagues.

So, tell your friends, have a look at the wiki page, come along, and hope to see you there!

November 26th

GeekDinner, *camp, again

Once again, it's time for a Cape Town GeekDinner. The next one - dubbed Eccentric Eggplant - is being held upstairs at Ferryman's at the Waterfront, this Wednesday (the 28th of November), at about 7pm. We're getting sponsored wine from, and there are some talks which look quite interesting.

Something new that's happening at this GeekDinner is the Slideshow Karaoke. Bryn Divey and I are the victims in this case - we will be presenting two talks based on slides written by Russell Cloran and Jeremy Thurgood. We will not have seen the slides before, nor will we even know what subject they are on, until we start presenting the talk. It should be interesting, at the very least.

And then, of course, there's the *camp coming up. We're still struggling a little bit with the venue, although we have some good offers. Please, go look at the wiki, and come along!


October 4th

Matthew Gair

My friend Matthew Gair has recently produced an album of his awesome songs, which you can buy and download from Amie Street. It's really great stuff - have a listen here:

And go buy here!. It is, of course, DRM free. Downloads on Amie Street start out free, and go up by half a cent every time somebody buys it...

September 17th

The Open Content Party

On Saturday, we had the Open Content Party with Jimmy Wales and Heather Ford. I won't say much, since Arno and Christel have both given rather good roundups of the atmosphere at the place, and I can't really top that. It was a great evening, with all sorts of people bring what they could. Photos are up.

See you all at the GeekDinner next week!

September 10th

Fourth GeekDinner coming up

The fourth in the new series of Cape Town GeekDinners will be held on Thursday, September the 27th, at Summerville in Camps Bay, at 19:00 for 19:30.

Details can be found on the wiki page - head over there and sign up to the wiki if you want to come along.

We also need speakers - if you have an idea or something interesting that you want to talk about, let us know, or just add it to the wiki. Talks are only 5 minutes long, followed by a few minutes of questions, and everything is very informal.

September 7th


Ian Gilfillan has an excellent post on McDonalds as a corporation, and how we view it. He actually sums up my thoughts and experiences fairly well - the cognitive dissonance involved when you try to tell people how bad McDonalds is is unbelievable. I have spoken to people so many times who say "Man, I had McDonalds for lunch, and now I feel absolutely awful". And I've heard them say it so many times! But try to point out that that's completely unsurprising, and that McDonalds really, really is absolutely awful for you, and they just say "Yeah, but it tastes nice", and refuse to engage further.

People are a bit stupid, I think.

September 5th

Heather and Jimmy Wales Party on Software Freedom Day

Jimmy Wales (the founder of Wikipedia) and his wife Heather Ford from iCommons in Johannesburg have hatched a scheme to hold 50 parties in 50 cities around the world, with an Open Content/Creative Commons/Free Software sort of theme. You can read about it at iCommons or on Wikia, but what I'm most interested in is the Cape Town party, which is happening in a week and a half's time, on International Software Freedom Day.

Jimbo Wales will be here, and it should be good. It's at Deer Park Cafe in Vredehoek - head over to the wikia page and sign up!

Updated - I have no idea why I thought Heather was Jimbo's wife.

August 16th

That'll Show Them

He thought he could mess with me, eh?

Well, he didn't know that I have a blog!

hell hath no fury

Hah. That'll learn him.

Dear George

Sent by registered mail:

To: Mr George Hegarty,

This letter serves to confirm my position with respect to the termination of the lease governing my residence at 12 Silverhill Crescent, Kenilworth, Cape Town, that we signed in April of 2007.

Clause 8 of the lease states the following:

         Resident may terminate this agreement before Expiration of the original term by:
         (a) Giving management at least one month's written notice to be effective only on the last day of a 
         given month; plus
         (b) Paying all monies due through date of termination; plus
         (c) Paying an amount equal to one month's Rent; plus
         (d) Returning residence in a clean, ready to rent condition;
         (e) Paying for advertising necessary to rent residence.
Accordingly, on the 30th of July, 2007, I gave you written notice stating that I wished to terminate the lease effective on the last day of August, 2007. You have accepted this notice, as per your letter to me on the 6th of August, 2007. As a result of this, the lease will terminate on the 31st of August, 2007, contingent on my fulfilling the rest of the conditions of the clause.

As stated in writing at the bottom of page 1 of our lease, I gave you R5000 in April 2007, which covers “the first and last months rent”. Since August 2007 is now the last month of the lease, it is covered by this money. The notice I received from you regarding money for electricity and water was fulfilled immediately, so there are no more monies due from me to you through 31st August 2007, the date of termination described above.

On the 13th of August, 2007, I transferred a sum of R3000 into your bank account, which constitutes “an amount equal to one month's rent” as described in part (c) above. In addition, on the 12th of August, 2007, I removed all of my belongings from the property, and cleaned the room, leaving it in the state in which I found it. I will refund an invoice for a reasonable standard rental housing advertisement if presented to me.

As described above, I believe that I have fulfilled my obligations according to the lease which we signed. However, on the 5th of August, 2007, you confiscated my keys and ordered me to remove my car from your property. As determined by the Rental Housing Tribunal on the 8th of August, 2007, this constituted an act of illegal lockout, and you were ordered to return my keys to me.

Shortly after this, I went out of town on holiday. When I returned, I came to the residence at 12 Silverhill Crescent to find that you had removed my bed and several other items of furniture from the room, and had gone through my belongings and dumped them on the floor of the room. This violates points 4(2) and 4(3) of the Rental Housing Act of 1999. In addition, there was a notice in my room stating that you would be charging me R25 per day for parking on the property, and a notice on the gate control instructing the other tenants of the house not to open the gate for me. These constitute illegal unilateral alterations to the agreement we had between us.

At this point, some friends and I attempted to remove some of my belongings from the property, and you ordered them, with much profanity and a raised voice, to leave the premises immediately, threatening to call the police if they did not comply. Since they were bona fide visitors of mine, this constitutes a violation of point 4(4) of the Rental Housing Act of 1999.

I will be in further communication with you as regards the events described above, but I consider my obligations under the lease to be fulfilled. Accordingly, I will require you to refund me my deposit of R3000, plus interest accrued, at the end of August 2007, as detailed in point 5 of the Rental Housing Act of 1999.


Jonathan Hitchcock