Spent yesterday at Notre Dame with Pascal Calarco, whom most of you will know as The Force Of Awesomeosity Behind Fedora Weekly News. And also Jesus. TOUCHDOWN JESUS.

(This is the best montage I could get of the three of us, composed of two photos taken with the time-honored "hold camera in outstretched hand" self-portrait method and shoved together in The GIMP so all three heads are at least somewhat visible - thanks to Pascal for the original pic sources!)

Pascal's department:

  1. is contagiously enthusiastic about open source; I wish I could have filmed these guys talking about the science of debugging, the way philosophy trains your critical thinking skills, and more generally about the joy - and the art - of contributing to the open source world. On their wishlist: teaching open source in classrooms. We'll be working on that.
  2. loves social justice and saving the world (though I believe this is a Notre Dame thing - the school places great importance on values and service, and that is a common refrain I heard and saw throughout the trip)
  3. has a dining hall that looks like Hogwarts. Seriously.

Notre Dame also has two new departments that are pretty sweet. One is Academic Technologies, run by a fellow named Paul Turner. It's Notre Dame's physical equivalent of Fedora Infra's publictest machines; profs, students, etc. can come in, try out technologies, and go "ooo shiny." Paul's lab will fix/customize/tweak/test things with them; the toys that work get deployed out into mainstream campus work (classes, research, and otherwise). The most amazing thing to me was such a sandbox with the capacity to Get Cool Toys exists and wasn't full to overflowing yet; we passed around the idea of doing an unconference to change that by building awareness and more self-initiated play-with-shiny-things momentum.

Another good point Paul brought up was tangibility, which is important for immediately attracting people to technologies when they're passing by and don't have time/interest set aside already. He pointed out a multitouch system by Microsoft sitting in the room (it is indeed extremely fun to play with), and a GigaPan, as examples of good-for-eyecatching tangible things. What are the comparable demos for Fedora?

The second department was Engineering and Science Computing, run by Ed Bensman. They maintain everything from desktops to benchtops to... basically, if scientists and engineers at Notre Dame use it, and it's computer-related, that's Ed's team. (With the exception of giant supercomputer stuff, which they coach users through, but don't maintain.) They would love to be able to start exploring new possibilities in terms of software services to offer, but as they're just starting up, it sounds like finding the bandwidth to do that is difficult (they already have a huge job). I suggested learning from Fedora Infrastructure and considering the option of having interested Notre Dame students wrangle VMS for publictest-like scratch workspaces (and yep, the logical follow-up to "here are interested students" would be pointing them here). So we'll see how this works out.

Ed also introduced me to LabMan, which was my first glimpse at a network of university technology admins (and a happy one). I wonder how we can Applaud And Support Great Awesome here - or how we are already doing it. Ed pointed out that, as measured by presentation topics at LabMan, the people there already love and use open source, and we should look and see how we can tap that and encourage it; I know some folks in the Fedora community *coughinode0cough* are rockin' this world, and I'm pretty sure there are many more there whom I haven't met yet... must learn more about this overlap! (Ideas on how to do so welcome.)

Many thanks to Pascal for making all this magic happen! What started out as a "hey, I'll be in Michigan City, and would love to swing by and buy you a drink" turned into "WHEE! AGENDA WHEREIN WE MEET LOTS OF AWESOME PEOPLE!" in something like 48 hours due to his total ninjahood. It'll be his first FUDCon this December, so make sure you get to say hello if you'll be coming to Toronto.

After dinner with Pascal & Family, I hit the road to K12 Open Minds, which will get notes posted here as well once the conference finishes up tomorrow.