These are notes from the POSSE panel we had at FOSSCon - thanks to everyone who helped take them on etherpad in realtime!

We started with an overview of the POSSE curriculum, which is all about open source development and teaching.

Day 1: Open (communication tools and culture)
Day 2: Source (getting, building, changing, making patches, committing)
Day 3: Development (diving into a real project, picking up a ticket, and making a contribution)
Day 4: And (development, continued)
Day 5: Teaching (pedagogical and practical considerations, aligning with release schedules, grading, etc)

Then we split into mixed groups, each group with RIT and outside-RIT-FOSS folks, to figure out a project that the FOSS group(s) and the RIT folks could do together, resulting in invitations to play at, the notion of a Drupal partnership (have RIT co-ops hacking on Drupal modules, and get a Drupal site up at RIT to tell those stories), working on CivX, and more.

One issue is lowering the barrier of entry for FOSS projects to work with RIT groups. For instance, some of the folks at RIT would like to offer mirroring for open source projects, but permission to actually do this with RIT's infrastructure is difficult to obtain. However, as a first step, RIT will be hosting for the Sugar Labs project by the end of summer.

We talked about Rochester's FOSS presence, and how the local LUG and the campus hacking community didn't seem to mix much. Luckily, some POSSE participants (Gary and Geoff, mainly) talked with Charles, the head of LUGOR, and it sounds like LUGOR might get meeting hosting, and that incoming freshmen to RIT will get some flyers about meetings on campus... it's not just LUGOR, too. The local Pythonistas are moving to the RIT Center for Student Innovation, and the OLPC User Group meets at RIT every 4th Thursday of the Month.

The current computing curriculum was another topic. Asheesh pointed out that open source development bears little resemblance to the computer science curriculum. In fact, the IT world looks very different from the computer science curriculum. As Gary pointed out soon afterwards, schools don't necessarily prepare students for the world they're about to graduate into; sometimes it prepares them for a world that passed a decade ago. At the same time, faculty are under great pressures that make it difficult for them to change the things they teach. How can we make it possible for this to change?

Chris talked about the success Seneca College has had working with upstreams like Fedora, Mozilla, and OpenOffice. For instance

  • Half of Mozilla's build team is composed of Seneca graduates.
  • Students who hacked on Firefox helped to close gaps in the university's infrastructure. After reconciling bugs in their "Learning Management Software", Firefox became the standard browser for staff all over campus.

The latter example brought up an interesting point - FOSS collaborations in education are actually three-way relationships: the academic experience (teachers/students learning skills), the FOSS community they work with, and the school's IT department that needs to deploy infrastructure, and can oftentimes use the code produced and maintained by the first two groups.

At this point, the panel session concluded, but we left with our list of FOSS/edu partnerships to start or continue, and we'll see where the conversation goes from here.
Panel participants:

  • Mel Chua, Red Hat/Fedora/Sugar Labs - POSSE ninja and FOSS + Edu geek in general. Sugar Labs board, Fedora Marketing. Community engineer.
  • Chris Tyler, Seneca College/Fedora Project - Professor, author, open source contributor, Fedora board member, event organizer, one of the founders of
  • Mike Quin, University of Stirling Sysadmin, freenode staffer
  • Laura Quin, Writer
  • Geoffrey Anderson, Rochester Institute of Technology - Database Tutor and Lab Instructor, Student in MS in Information Sciences and Technology -- Ubuntu and Oracle enthusiast
  • Kingdon Barrett, Rochester Institute of Technology - Computer Science Major (Bachelor) Graduate in August 2010.  Specialize in Virtualization and Web Software, EliveCD user!
  • Luke Macken, RIT Computer Science Alumni, Python Ninja @ Red Hat, Inc.
  • Remy DeCausemaker, Hacktivist & Storyteller, FOSS@RIT (
  • Mo Morsi, Syracuse University Alumni, Deltacloud / Ruby developer @ RH
  • Stephen Jacobs:, Game Design FOSSProf, Open Source dilettante,
  • Devin Zuczek: DLC Solutions/Drupal developer, CE/CME
  • Jonathan Dahan: Stony Brook University CS/Digital Arts hacker
  • Jonathan Simpson (JonathanD) freenode/fossevents and fosscon

Learn more:

#teachingopensource on

We're looking for:

  • schools to match with FOSS communities for a POSSE
  • FOSS communities to match with schools for a POSSE
  • infrastructure + support for folks who are teaching open source

If you're interested, please swing by and say hello!