With a week to go before SIGCSE - the largest CS education conference in the world - begins, my inbox is starting to fill with emails about corporate sessions, enter-this-survey-to-win-this-fabulous-prize teasers, and other "industry attempts to talk with academics, insert shiny stuff here" messages. Is this... normal? Is this how companies and professors usually engage with each other? Good lord, how do people have conversations in all that noise? One of my biggest worries about the conference for myself is that I'll be so overwhelmed by the bigness of it all that I won't be able to step back and take time for the meaningful connections that I want to have. I'd rather have 5 excellent conversations than 500 spamlike rocket pitches, but I know that's my own (somewhat introverted) preference; I've always been on the shy side and not really one for crowds.

I've found writing to be a good way to let me get those deep experiences while also sharing them with a much wider audience - and so today we kicked off a planning discussion on opensource.com/education and TOS tag-teaming to cover SIGCSE.

I'd like to get a flood - nay, a tsunami, a malestroom - of content coming out of [SIGCSE] - stories that tell people who we are, what we do, and why we care so much about it.

We could use help with the following articles - anything from authors to take 'em (we've got editors and artists and whatnot to help) to feedback and suggestions on what to cover. So for anyone who's ever wondered what happens when over a thousand CS professors get together, we'd love some thoughts on:

  • Lay-of-the-land before the conference: What is SIGCSE like? I'd love to have someone who's been to SIGCSE before write this; holler if you're interested.
  • Which sessions should we cover? The schedule is huge - we obviously can't cover everything, so we're going to have to take requests. If you'd like a session covered for any reason (one you can't make but would like to find out about, one you're presenting and would love an article on), please holler - with the caveat that it's going to have to become an opensource.com article somehow, so we might have a tough time covering a panel on the benefits of NDAs, sorry. Also consider the HFOSS symposium while making these suggestions.
  • Who should we interview? I have a video camera and a sound recorder. Matt Jadud has a video camera and a sweet, sweet SLR. There's a giant list of presenters, and even more attendees. Who do you know at SIGCSE with a great open source story we should tell? How can we find them?
  • Post-conference roundup: This is an easy one for a remotee - if you wished you were coming
    to SIGCSE but can't make it this year, this would be a way to integrate
    yourself into the conference happenings from afar by synthesizing and summarizing everything that goes out during the conference, and poking authors there-in-person to go find out things for you.
  • Any other ideas?

Also of note: SIGCSE takes place in Raleigh next year, which is the location of Red Hat's headquarters. I'd love to see the Teaching Open Source, Fedora, and Red Hat crowd collectively mastermind something really bloody spectacular for this. Open the floodgates for ideas - what should we do? Custom Fedora SIGCSE remixes, a FAD happening in parallel, a big "I wish students would help my open source project!" contact list, a gallery of FOSS student work, dancing pandas?
Passing on a message from the Ada Initiative,
a group doing what I personally believe to be incredibly important work on gender representation in free and open source software, content, and culture - precisely the things the Fedora Project is working towards the rapid advancement of. The survey really does take less than 5 minutes; regardless of your gender, please give it a shot!

Take the Ada Initiative Census

The Ada Initiative is a newly-formed organisation which aims to support and promote women in open technology and culture. We’ve just launched our first annual census — a broad survey of open technology and culture participants — to find out more about what projects and communities people are involved in, and how they feel about women’s inclusion and representation in the field.

We use the term “open technology and culture” to refer to a wide range of activities and communities based around free/open licenses, and other forms of open, decentralised, and grassroots participation in technology and related fields. This includes:

Open source/free software
Open source hardware
Open geodata and maps
Open government
Open data
Open standards and formats
Open educational initiatives (open access journals, open source curricula, etc)
Open/decentralised social networking (including Diaspora, StatusNet, etc)
Creative Commons and free culture
Wikipedia and other wikis
Open crisis response and humanitarian projects
Barcamps and unconferences
Online/digital activism
Remix/mashup culture
Transformative works fandom, including fan fiction, fan art, and fan vidding
Maker/DIY community
Hacker spaces

If you’re involved in any of the above areas, we’d like to get to know who you are, what you’re working on, and your thoughts on how women are doing in your community. We welcome participation by people of any gender, although we are particularly interested in women’s responses.

The survey only takes about five minutes, and can be found at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/adacensus2011-email.